Friday, September 29, 2006

Two months

Can it really be? Already? The time is flying by here and it has felt that way since we arrived. Well, we are settling in and still enjoying ourselves. That is not to say, we are not missing friends and family and other familiarities. We have settled into a routine. Breanna and I teach school from 8am-12pm with one, sometimes two breaks. We teach Cameron or Grant for a week and then switch. I usually teach Noah at the same time or occasionally he attends afternoon kindergarten :)
I know you are waiting to hear that the kids are hating it, are home sick and want to come home. But thankfully I haven't heard any of that. Well I do know they are looking forward to going home but I don't hear any nagging or complaints. I have been concerned because there just isn't many opportunities for the kids to make friends while they are here. They don't go to the public school, we don't have kids in the neighborhood, they aren't involved in any sporting events here, yet when I questioned them about it they weren't too concerned. They have been playing very well with each other. I am sure it also helps that we have so much time available that we cater to them and try to keep them entertained. We take many bike rides, walks, play tennis and only half the time is it in the rain. We try to spend as much time as possible outside away from the television, computer and the gameboys.
After being here for two months, I am starting to form some opinions about life in Ireland. First, the people, as you may have heard, are very friendly and cheerful. They are ready to strike up a conversation anywhere and often when you are in queue (in a line at the grocery store, food court at the mall, bank) anywhere. I often find it hard to give an intelligent response as some of the accents are very hard to understand.
Food: expensive Infact the overall cost of living is very high compared to life in Utah. But grocery shopping is very costly. And I have to do a lot of planning since nearly all the meals must be prepared. Not a lot of easy or tasty prepackaged meals. The kids already miss some staples: Kraft macaroni and cheese, Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburger, and hotdogs to name a few. So I wouldn't recommend Ireland for the food (grocery or restaurant ) or the shopping.
Jay does not need to worry about me spending money on clothes here. I have yet to find a decent store for children's clothing or a great shoe store. We have found the closest thing to a Walmart. It is called Argos. You look through a catalog and write down the corresponding number. You can even check the inventory on an item. You then take your list to a cashier, who after paying, sends you over to a counter to pick up your items where they have been brought up from the warehouse space behind the counter.
Our church building is close about 10 minutes away. There are about 50-70 people in attendance. Cameron will be ordained a deacon in two weeks and there is one other deacon. He attended mutual for the first time last week and loved it. Everyone was so welcoming and nice. The ward is requesting our records and I am sure Jay and I will be asked to speak soon. We have already heard the bishopric or members of the bishopric speak twice. Jay and I go out weekly with the missionaries on balanced splits. Many of the people the missionaries teach are non-nationals. Last week they had a baptism for a woman from Africa. Jay and I took a two day trip down to Waterford (located on the southern coast) last week. We left after church and arrived in our Ramada hotel at about 6:30pm. When we stepped off the elevator,and the hotel room directly in front of us said "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Visitors Welcome" I stood there shocked and couldn't believe that a meeting was held in a hotel room. Jay said when he served in Ireland they would hold church in their flat and would have loved to have a hotel to meet in. When I talked to the missionaries here in Dublin, they said the members in Waterford had been looking for a better place to meet as the hotel they were meeting in before wasn't so nice. One Sunday we will take the kids down and attend their branch. General Conference is on between 5-7pm and 9-11pm at the stake center but I have decided to just watch it at home on the internet. We couldn't get a decent connection for the Chiefs game a couple of weeks ago but Conference comes in flawlessly. Hmm...
Jay is gone this week back to Utah and good food. I don't have any problems driving now I just have no idea where I am going:) but that is improving. Well just thought I'd give a brief update. My next post will probably be from Scotland in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Field Trip to the K Club

Jay and I took Cameron and Grant to the opening practice round of the Ryder Cup here in Kildare, Ireland. For those of you that may not know, it is a golf tournament between a European and American team. We drove to a park and ride spot about 45 minutes away and from there took a bus (about 20 minutes) to the K Club golf course. The course and the weather were absolutely beautiful.
We arrived at 9am and set out immediately to find the American team. They had teed off early and the first group, which included Tiger Woods, were on the 9th hole. Cameron held his ticket and Grant's for Tiger Woods to sign. When Tiger walked by going to the 13th hole he grabbed both of them but only signed Grant's. Needless to say, Cameron was very disappointed. He spent the next few holes trying to get an autograph, to no avail. His final chance was when they were leaving the 18th hole to go into the club house. He got into great position and while he still wasn't able to get Tiger's autograph, he was able to get Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, and Chad Campbell.
It was about 5 hours of walking, or stalking Tiger Woods, that it only allows you to watch a shot here and there. It also didn't allow us to get many photos of the other golfers. Infact we weren't even sure Phil Mickelson was there since he was only wearing a white shirt and the other US golfers had on brown sweater vest. But we had a good time and we all agreed we would rather go to a practice round than the regular tournament as the players are probably more relaxed and you can see much more of the game on television. They expect about 20,000 people at the practice rounds and twice as many on each day of the tournament.
So a good time was had by all and I have posted some pictures on the website. We really didn't get around much, most of them are of Tiger.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Home Again

It is nice to be back home after being so busy. School started this week. Our first day was Wednesday and it lasted a whole hour. Um, we were a bit unprepared. The curriculum we are using is online based and I didn't get access until Wednesday morning. But the last two days have been much smoother. We start at 8:00am and finish about 12:00 or 1:00pm with a couple of breaks. Cameron is in sixth grade, Grant in fourth and Noah in Kindergarten. It isn't too bad here where I don't have many obligations but for me, I would not attempt to homeschool under any other circumstances. I am so glad to have Breanna here helping me. But it is nice to see the kids learning and what they are learning. The absolute best part is being able to learn at their own pace. I can move them along faster or if they are struggling, spend more time on it.

We have changed our traveling plans a bit. My Italy trip wasn't falling into place so I have moved that to next Spring. We then thought about going over to London but after being in Paris, I need a break from a big city. So we are doing a road trip at the beginning of October. We will take a car ferry over to Holyhead and drive 3 hours to Windermere, a town in the English Lakes region in northern England. We will spend a few days there and drive another three hours to Edinburgh, Scotland. We will spend a few days there and then head for Belfast in Northern Ireland. Jay wants to attend church there to reunite with some members he knew from his mission. Then head back down to Dublin. A much more relaxed trip without all the demanding tourist and historical spots.

We finally got satellite television and the kids were thrilled to get a North American sports channel. So we have recorded about 17 hours of Major League baseball since most of the games are on in the middle of the night here. However Grant is very disappointed that he hasn't seen a Royals game. I think we get some of the NFL games but Jay has that covered just in case with Yahoo on the internet who now airs all the games.

Well, we are still waiting for our first visitors. We made sure we got a place with plenty of room for you. So send us your dates and we can pencil you in or meet you somewhere on this continent.

I might add that the vehicle we got is left hand drive (which is the opposite of everyone here) and it has made it so much easier for me to drive. It is a bit inconvenient for parking and toll booths so we just have to make sure we have someone in the passenger seat for that.

I started posting photos of France under my photo section but the map page is now up and I put additional photos there. I enjoy reading the posts on the guest book and feel free to comment on the blogs. I am going to start having the kids blog on Sundays. That should be interesting. You will get the real facts there. Take Care,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Au revoir Paris

After some very busy days and the loss of internet access I have to somehow condense our last few days in Paris into this post. We took the kids to Disneyland. It was an easy 35 minute train ride directly to the front gates. The kids enjoyed it but I thought we had just as much fun at the Jardin d' Acclimatation, a children's park with small rides and other attractions catering to mostly under 12's.
Jay picked up our van that we are leasing in Paris and we headed up to Normandy. We stopped in Giverny, which is home to Monet's house and gardens. It was great stop. The gardens, ponds and bridges were beautiful. We continued on to Bayeux, which was the small, quaint and quiet town we would be staying in while we drove to the World War II sites. It was a very nice change from the noise and busy-ness of Paris. We stayed at the Hotel d'Argouges which we would definitely recommend. We ate dinner and called it a night as we were finally going to wake up early. I struggled with deciding whether to hire a guide to take us around and finally decided against it. I think if it were only the older two boys with us we would have done a half day tour but with the two little ones it was good to be on our own schedule. I won't go into detail but I will say that the kids found all the sites interesting. They are just sponges and are so eager to learn and it doesn't hurt that they are boys immersed in war, guns, army vehicles, etc... although I won't go into detail here about each place you can read that in my book once it's published :) but we started out at the Arromanches, a museum dedicated to the artificial harbor. We then drove to Coleville Sur Mer, the American cemetery overlooking Omaha beach, amazing. We headed up to Pont du Hoc and the Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer museum. There were a few other places we had wanted to go, but I could see we could soon be pushing the limits for the little ones. So on a whim we decided to drive down to Mont St Michel a beautiful monastery which began construction in 1020. It was about an hour and half drive. I had wanted to go but didn't think we would have time. And even though it was too cold to walk around (as we didn't think to bring jackets) and the shops were closed, the sunset and the lights at night are breathtaking and we were there during the high tide. (If you don't know about this place you must go read about it. It is fascinating and the most popular tourist destination in France) Now I must say at this point in our trip, Jay's camera battery and mine had died so we were left with the kids cameras for the rest of the trip but I am sure they did it justice. ( I haven't actually downloaded them yet). This is definitely a place we would love to go back and tour.

We woke up the next morning and went to see the Bayeux tapestry. It is a 1000 year old tapestry depicting the story of William the conqueror defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Grant and Victoria lost interest, but for the rest of us it was an excellent history lesson. On our way back to Paris, I had wanted to stop in Caen to see a peace museum that I had read was a must see but I had not done much research on. It was to be a quick stop and on to Paris. However as we entered and looked through the brochure, it read "What to see if you only have a half of a day..." Half of a day? We had only planned on a quick 30 minutes. So we did go for about an hour and a half but certainly did not do it justice.

We arrived back in Paris and the next day Jay drove back with Cameron and Victoria to Dublin. They drove 2 1/2 hours north and boarded a train through the Euro tunnel to England. They spent the night in Birmingham. The next morning they drove to Liverpool and got some much needed provisions from Costco. They took a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin which takes about an hour and a half. Meanwhile, the rest of us stayed a couple of more days in Paris. I had tried to change my Ryanair tickets to come home a little early but I will spare you those irritating details. Our trip was great but maybe a couple of days too long. Nine days would have been perfect.

So we are home again in Ireland getting ready to start school on Wednesday and by the end of the week I am sure I will be ready to plan our next adventure.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Still loving Paris

So to report on last night. We did head over to the Eiffel tower and since there was no line and the boys were convincing, I decided to buy tickets and just go up to the first level. Well suffice it to say I should have just stood under the Eiffel tower and threw my euros into the air and walked away. Grant really felt like since the stairs were wide and so open that he could make it. He made it about 25 stairs when he got that glazed over look and crouching on the handrail. I sent Cameron and Brianna on up only to see them coming down a minute later. Cameron was almost to the first level but was too nervous. So we have decided that even the elevator wouldn't be good for Grant and Cameron refuses to get on the elevator so I don't think those two will be posting any pictures from the top of the Eiffel tower.
Wow, the day just flies by. We woke up and headed out about 11am. Victoria wasn't feeling well so Jay stayed in with her. He wasn't too disappointed about staying behind since he had already seen Paris in a day.
We started out at the Army Museum which was full of old war relics from many countries. Lots of body armour and horse armour which were beautifully decorated. Many guns, swords, shields and other weaponry that had intricate art on them. The kids really enjoyed this museum and especially the gift store. We then headed to the Dome church where Napoleon's tomb lies. The casket itself is made of 5 layers using different materials. Since it was so close we stopped at the Rodin museum to check out the Thinker statue. We ate lunch at a small cafe across the street but were a little disappointed compared to the food we've eaten so far.
We took our first ride on the Metro (Paris subway system) and is the only way to get around. We were on our way to the Orangerie museum that houses many of Monet's art. I read the kids "Linnea in Monet's Garden" and that alone has peaked their interest in seeing his work and going to his house in Giverny. But when we arrived there was a line so we decided to spend time in the Jardin de Tuileries. A park with a carousel, playground, trampolines and ponies amongst other things. We had ice cream and crepes and spent about an hour.
At this point is was about 6pm so we headed back to the apartment to meet up with Jay. He and Victoria had been out on the double decker tour bus and has found the Champ de Elysees. A street full of shops and tourist traps and French is the second most spoken language on that street. It is busy and loud and Jay and the kids found Planet Hollywood. After the delicious French brasseries that we had been finding in the nooks and crannies it paled in comparison and was very expensive.
Tomorrow we are going to try the Orangerie again, take in a couple more parks and take it easy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bonjour! from Paris

We flew into the Beauvais airport on Ryanair, who like Southwest, flies into regional airports as oppose to the main airports. If Southwest thinks it is the no frills airline, they haven't flown Ryanair. While you have to pay for drinks, food, and checked luggage, I thought they were pushing it when they wanted to charge me for the inflight magazine. I am glad the safety information card was affixed to the seat back in front of me. But we arrived safely nonetheless, on an 99 cent eruo fare (plus taxes it was about 85 US dollars round trip) and a mere 45 minutes later we arrived in our apartment. From the pictures you can see we are about 5 minutes from the Eiffel tower. It is in a quiet (usually) residential area in the 7th arrondissement. Each night we can just look outside and see at the top of every hour the tower flashing for ten minutes.
After getting settled we were hungry but most restaurants do not open until about 8:30pm. So we did the better thing and stopped by a pastry shop and bought baguettes, salads, pastries, drinks and headed to the grass under the Eiffel tower and enjoyed a very yummy picnic. Later we walked across the street for pizza and then more pastries and called it a night.

This morning we didn't wake up very early and headed out to the Latin Quarter. We didn't get to all the things we planned as we left late and of course, walked A LOT. We browsed Pont Neuf. We then went to the Notre Dame cathedral where we waited in line about 15 minutes. We bought a 4 day museum pass for the adults as the children get in free to almost everything. It is very impressive, huge and beautiful. I couldn't wait to take the kids to the top of the towers. The spiral stairway up is steep, narrow, and fully enclosed. Grant was nervous from the beginning. We reached the bells and he had had enough. The view was great from there but the height, enclosed stairways and the ringing of the bells made him a nervous wreck. Poor thing. I took him back down with Brianna and Noah while Jay, Cameron and Victoria headed to the top.
We then went to the Saint Chapelle to see the amazing stained glass windows. Our next stop was to be the Conciergerie to see Marie Antoinette's cell but we needed a bit of a rest. So we jumped on the Bateaux Vedettes du Pont-Neuf for a one hour boat tour of Paris along the Seine river. It was relaxing but a bit hard to follow the guide speaking English with a thick French accent. But it renewed us enough to walk back to the apartment. The Conciergerie will have to wait. I had originally wanted to walk to the Latin Quarter and take the metro back. I will plan the mass transit better in the future.
So our first full day in Paris did not disappoint. The weather in the upper 70,s, very small crowds, a city full of beautiful architecture and greenery. Now, I have no idea what Jay is going to blog but he said today he could already write a book on how to see Paris in a day. I hope you enjoy the pictures. It is 9:10 pm and we are off to the Eiffel tower maybe will try walking that tonight, well, maybe not Grant.