Welcome to 2017!

We’ve made it to yet another year. This year Ani will turn 17(!) in February, Cameron 16 in October, Fritz 11 in July, and Adrian will be 9 in June. I will be 39 in April, Jamie will turn 42 in November, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in June.

In the fall, Cameron will start 10th grade, Fritz will begin 6th (middle school!), and Adrian will be in 4th grade. Ani will graduate in June. Hopefully, she’ll be healthy enough by the fall to take at least some on-line college classes.

Cameron will test for his second degree black belt in June and with any luck (and some better health) Ani will test for hers in December.

Ani will be seeing an endocrinologist the end of this month. We’re really hoping for some good, solid answers, a diagnosis, and a plan for treating whatever the heck is wrong with her.

Jamie and I are planning a trip to visit his mom in Ireland at some point this year. It’s been almost four years since we’ve seen her in person. If all goes well, my parents will finally sell their house and move in with us… in 6 months to a year (it’s always 6 months to a year).

During Family Home Evening last night, we all set some goals for the new year.
Jamie: Grow food we regularly eat rather than what he things sounds cool
Me: Tell the kids what chores I want them to do rather than expect them to notice things that need to get done and get annoyed when they don’t notice or do it
Ani: Get diagnosed with what is wrong with her
Cameron: Do more stop motion animation
Fritz: Play with the sugar gliders more often
Adrian: Start a YouTube channel
Maddie, an almost 17-year-old who collects mothers because hers passed away and spends a lot of time at our house: Get a job
Whole Family (Maddie came up with this one): Go on a family date every other month

Between the things we know are going to happen and the goals we’ve set, it’s going to be a great year!

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Going and Coming

And here we have the last installment of our trip to Ireland. We left ridiculously early on March 19th from BWI airport on a little JetBlue airplane.
Going and Coming

When we arrived in New York City, the pilot let the kids check out the cockpit.
Going and Coming

We had a 9 hour layover before our flight was to leave for Ireland. We ventured out to the subway and found a nice pizza place to have lunch. Then we headed to Central Park. I have always wanted to go to Central Park. I just imagined going there when it was a little warmer and no snow on the ground. We spent a few hours finding places where the Doctor Who episode Angels Take Manhattan was filmed.
Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

We arrived in Ireland very, very early in the morning. I didn’t have the energy or brainpower to take pictures of the band and dancers who greeted us at Shannon Airport.

We spent the month (minus short trips to Dublin and Cork and a week in Clare) with Jamie’s mom. Jamie’s parents moved to Ireland when Cameron was a baby. This was the first time Fritz and Adrian ever saw their “Man” (Nan) outside of a computer screen (Jamie’s dad died while I was pregnant with Fritz).
Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

On April 18th we headed back to the US. This time our layover in New York was a much more reasonable two hours.
Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Going and Coming

Tralee

We went to Tralee is County Kerry on April 16th. First, we went to the Kerry County Museum. They had a section on the history of Kerry with lots of things to look at and touch.
Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

Downstairs is a sandbox kids (and adults) can dig in to find the bones and things that are buried in it.
Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

Ani really enjoyed the archaeology exhibits.
Tralee

Tralee

There is a walk-through re-creation of a medieval village including all the sights, sounds, and smells (yes, smells.. including sewage running through the street) that would have been typical of the time.
Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

After we left the museum, we walked to an incredible candy store. Wall to wall European candy (plus a small section of ridiculously expensive imported American candy). Among other things, we got Black Death, balls of the sourest candy you have ever tasted (think warheads, but 100 times more sour). Two of these things could burn your tongue. And so we all tried them with varying reactions. My salivary glands hurt just thinking about the one I ate!
Tralee

Then we went to the the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre. This included an exhibit about the animals and birds that live in the area as well as a boat trip around the wetlands out back.
Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

Tralee

Our tour guide had certainly made an excellent career choice. He was downright excited about everything having to do with the wetlands.
Tralee

Before we left, Jamie, Ani, Cameron, Fritz, and Adrian went out in the pond in front of the centre in a paddle boat. Ani started out as one of the paddlers (along with Cameron), but after one trip around switched places with Jamie.
Tralee

Tralee

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

When Jamie was little, his family lived in Wales and he has fond memories of playing in tide pools (turns out… he still enjoys it). So, on April 12th we headed to the rocky beach at Kilkee. It was pretty chilly that day, unlike when we went to Ballybunion, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Not far from the beach are huge rocks out in the water. The tide was coming in while we were there and it was just beautiful to watch the water crashing into them.
Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

We visited three playgrounds while we were in Ireland, too. One in Ennis, one at Blarney Castle, and one in Abbeyfeale.
Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Tide Pools and Playgrounds

Burial Grounds

The very old churches and monasteries and abbeys that have been turned into burial grounds absolutely fascinated me. I wanted to stop at all of them, but eventually the kids insisted I had seen enough. They were probably right.

Quin Friary
Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Clare Abbey
Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

I don’t know what this place is called, but it’s a very old church not far from the Cliffs of Moher. Many of the gravestones were so old they were unreadable. It’s right on water and the closer you get to the water (and outside the church grounds), the newer the graves. Inside the church appeared to be the oldest ones.
Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Burial Grounds

Ennis Friary
Burial Grounds
(The slightly different colored slabs on the floor mark graves.)

Burial Grounds

Craggaunowen

We visited Craggaunowen, a living past experience in County Clare,on April 10th. We were pretty much the only visitors that morning.

In the castle a woman showed us how to card and spin wool.
Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

The Crannog (a man-made island) shows how some people lived starting in the late Bronze Age.
Craggaunowen

This Iron Age road (dating to about 148 BC) was excavated elsewhere in Ireland and then part of it was moved to Craggaunowen in 1986. Roads like this one are found all over Europe.
Craggaunowen

Cooking sites like this one (a re-creation) are found in many places in Ireland. They were used from the late Stone Age until the 1600s.
Craggaunowen

The way the moss grows on the rocks and trees is so beautiful and really contributes to the overall green in Ireland.
Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

About 160 Portal Tombs (Dolmens) like this re-creation are known (including Poulnabrone Dolmen). They were used as communal burial sites. These tombs were used from about 2750 to 2000 BC.
Craggaunowen

About 40,000 ring fort sites have been identified in Ireland. They were lived in from the Iron Age (about 600 BC) to about 300 years ago. They were really more farmstead than fortification.
Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Inside one circular house in this re-creation was the entrance to the souterrain, an underground storage area perfect for keeping vegetables fresh through the winter and also could be an escape route if necessary.
Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

A few decades ago, Tim Severin built a leather hulled boat and sailed across the mid-Atlantic recreating the voyage of St. Brendan and the early Christian monks who it is claimed discovered American long before Columbus. The Brendan Boat (the one used in the modern re-creation of the voyage) is housed sitting in water in a glass hut at Craggaunowen.
Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen

In a pasture by the parking lot there was a beautiful donkey and her baby. The baby never got very close to us, but the mother was happy to let us feed her some grass by hand.
Craggaunowen

She also occasionally let loose with a loud heehaw. One of those times Adrian had been standing near her and as soon as she started bellowing, Adrian turned and ran flat out away from her as fast as he could (I can’t believe I actually got a picture of it).
Craggaunowen

Cliffs of Moher and the Roads

On April 8th we went to the Cliffs of Moher. They are gorgeous.
Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

O’Brien’s Tower is at the top of one of the cliffs. We didn’t go inside of it.

There are little shops and a visitor’s center built right into the side of the cliff.
Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

It was crazy windy!
Cliffs of Moher

The roads in Ireland are incredible. Some of them are barely wide enough for a single car, let alone two. They have a speed limit scheme that makes all of a certain kind of road across the country a certain speed limit. It doesn’t matter how narrow or winding the roads are. If they are classified a certain way, they are a certain speed. Everyone just kind of goes at a speed that makes sense and are very polite in trying to make room when passing another vehicle on a very narrow road. Combine all that with driving on the opposite side of the road and needless to say Jamie and his mom did all the driving. I happily stayed in the passenger seat (or, better, the backseat where I couldn’t see anything in front of me). These are all pictures of two lane roads.
Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Because of the speed limit scheme sometimes the road would narrow and increase in speed (in this case from 60 kph to 80 kph).
Cliffs of Moher

This one was just puzzling because in order to put gas in your vehicle, you’d have to be stopped in a driving lane.
Cliffs of Moher

And sometimes you have to wait for the cows to cross the road.
Cliffs of Moher