Another trip to Alright Pumpkin

October 21, 2019

At the top of our autumn bucket list this year was a return to Alright Pumpkin in Meath. Looking back on the photos from our trip last year, both Noah and I had much more hair! Ha!

We had another amazing weather day this year, and managed to get out on the first day they were open. Last year, it was more like the pumpkins had been deposited in a field. This year, a lot of them were still on the vine and there were tonnes more. Noah actually had a bit of a hard time walking around because he kept getting his legs stuck in trailing vines.

This was the moment she realised there was a slug on the bottom of the pumpkin she just picked. It was excitement she was screaming with, not fear.

There’s an old tractor set in the field for kids to climb on and Noah was in his element. He is in full digger mode and anything construction-related is right up his alley. He was so excited to get up in that seat and shift the gears.

If you’re based in the greater Dublin area, you’ve got one more weekend to make it to Alright Pumpkin before they’re closed for the season! If you go, pick up one of their greeny-blue pumpkins, they’re cute and they make delicious pie.

Hello again.

October 20, 2019

Well, hello.

I’m going to do this bullet point style, because good grief, it has been a very long time.

  • I’m still here. Just existing on the internet in other places, mostly Instagram stories and, where I took a full-time position as an editor from August to the end of January.
  • Noah turned two and Maya turned four since I last posted. It goes without saying that they are a total hoot. Noah has such a silly sense of humor, and Maya has a wonderful flair for the dramatic. Two of my favourite things are overhearing their imaginative worlds as they play with dolls or diggers or lizards or whatever the toy of the moment is.
  • I’ve found I really like editing, but I’ve also found commuting an hour each way to be exhausting. I miss my kids all week long, then try to cram in as much as I can into the weekends.
  • I’ve somehow gathered no fewer than 15 pumpkins and have lots of Halloween decorations around the house, many of which are kid-made and I love it.
  • Michael got a new job in his old Irish-speaking school and it has been a wonderful blessing for our family — more flexibility, even closer to our house, and a warm, welcoming staff and administration.
  • I chopped all my hair off. I think it toes the line between ultra mom haircut and pixie. It’s easy and I think it’s going to take me a decade to grow out, so it’s staying for now.
  • I have missed blogging, and I have things I’ve been wanting to share — especially about what Dublin is like currently/now/after several years away, and some fun things to do here with kids. Here’s hoping it won’t be months before I manage!
  • We took the kids to the beach with friends so the dads could jump in the sea (they’re all old and still play basketball so apparently this is therapeutic, like an ice bath). The photo above is of my two Houston babes, cosied up head to toe, holding hot chocolate and still grumpy about how cold it was!

Until next time, which I hope is soon, but make no guarantees. xx

Dublin With Kids: Newbridge House And Farm

July 20, 2019

I will be the first to admit that we had a rough and long winter. Maya and I were sick a ton, we weren’t used to proper winter, and the kids’ schedules meant that by the time they were up from naps, it was dark and therefore not a great time to explore.

So we are now trying to get out more, now that it’s at least light when the kids are up from their naps.

Last month, when it was still chilly in June, we bundled the kids and drove the quick 20 minutes to Newbridge House and Farm and it was super. It was deserted, partly because it had rained all day and also because it was pretty late in the day. The last entry is at 5 and it closes at 6. We spent an hour wandering around, looking at the animals, and it was just perfect for our age kids.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Dublin Zoo. It’s too much walking for not enough animal return. Plus, it’s twice as expensive as the family ticket for Newbridge House (€20, for two adults and two kids for the farm only), which fully satisfied the kids’ interest in creatures.

The best part was the peacocks that roam freely around the grounds. Noah was completely fearless and I was a little nervous he was going to grab at one of their feathers. Maya was nervous, too, and kept yanking him backward by the hood of his jacket. A few goats squeezed under their fences and were off looking for more hay, which was also hilarious. They were only the kids’ height, and clearly cared more about food than children.

I’m trying to build up some solid recommendations for people visiting Dublin with kids, and this would be at the top of my list at the moment!

Newbridge House and Farm, Hearse Rd, Newbridge Demesne, Donabate, Co. Dublin

Dublin With Kids: Deer Park Rhododendrons

June 17, 2019

We picked possibly the worst hour of the whole spring to head up to Deer Park to see the rhododendrons in bloom this summer. It was Ireland’s once yearly thunder storm, so our wander was cut short. But it was still a lovely time, and reminded me of when Maya used to call thunder ‘fun-der,’ and reminded me that Noah doesn’t remember hearing thunder from our time in Houston at all!

We’ve climbed Deer Park with the kids several times, but the time we let them both wander the path that runs just behind the golf course at the base of the hiking path. It runs under the most enormous rhododendron bushes that bloom usually in late May/early June. We called it a magic forest walk and the kids loved it.

I would suggest that if you go when it’s wet, rain boots aren’t the best choice. Maya had sneakers on (she refused her hiking boots and her sneakers are pretty washable) and they were much better for gripping than Noah’s wellies. In fact, Noah took a couple face plants in part because he’s not totally stable on uneven ground, but he would have been in much better shape with different shoes on. When it has been dry, you can probably get away with sneakers, but it can be muddy under the trees.

The only other thing you have to be careful of are nettle plants. Luckily, the kids were bundled from head to toe and there weren’t so many that they would have brushed them with their fingers.

We loved walking under the giant trees and looking up at the rhododendrons. I could have stayed for ages, but we did start to get a little wet after a while. You probably have another week or so of the rhododendrons in bloom if you haven’t been!

I love that last photo — Maya insisted on wearing a pair of leggings I picked up for next year and they kept sagging down her buns. She’s running while holding her pants up in this photo!

Tang: A Dublin Brunch Spot We Love

June 14, 2019

Michael and I haven’t managed to get out in the evening very much this year, but last weekend we decided we needed to start trying out new babysitters. Our kids are used to our family members who watch them sometimes, but we didn’t have anyone since our nanny went back to Uruguay who could watch them when no family members were available.

So because I wasn’t going to land the kids or the sitter with nap time or bedtime on the first go, that left us with a brunch date. And actually, it was delightful. The kids are happiest in the morning, so I wasn’t worried about them acting up or needing us too much, and let’s face it, brunch is cheaper than dinner anyway! Plus, I really do love brunch food.

We had been wanting to try Tang, on Lower Abbey Street, but it’s closed on Sundays when we’re usually around the corner for church. So we went a few weeks ago and it was as delicious as it was cute. The Luas goes right by and it feels like you’re right in the city.

The coffee was great (sometimes decaf lattes are hard to get right, but this was very right) and I haven’t stopped thinking about the mushrooms on toast since. I literally could have eaten it again a few hours later, it was that good. I mean, I was full, but it was so yummy. Michael had shakshuka and he loved it, too. A friend said their chicken salad is her fave, so that’ll be next on my lunch list to try.

We brought the kids back today since both kids were home and Michael is out of school for the summer. It was delightfully quiet mid-morning and Maya ate so. much. oatmeal. Which, of course, was probably because it was very delicious oatmeal, with coconut milk, honey, granola and toasted nuts. I think we need to step our home oatmeal situation up a level!

The kids have babyccino KeepCups and they are as good for the environment as they are for keeping spills from happening.

Managing the toddler chaos is definitely easier when there are benches and big tables involved!

Tang: 9A Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1

Sharing Our Adoption Story On The Radio

May 28, 2019

Michael and I dropped the kids with their uncle and grandpa early yesterday morning and headed across town to be on the radio! We were contacted by a researcher at the Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One who had seen my article on (which if you missed the print copy, you can check it out now online!) and wanted us to come chat about our journey to Houston and back.

You can listen to the full interview here (we start around 20 minutes in) and it actually goes on for 25 minutes! I could have stayed and chatted all day. The story of how our family was built is, by far, my favorite story of all time.

Ryan Tubridy was genuine and kind, on and off air. It’s nerve-racking to be speaking live, but he put us right at ease. I’d do it again tomorrow if they asked!

Hiking With Toddlers 101

February 26, 2019

I’ve gotten a bunch of questions, especially on Instagram, about hiking with our two kids. So here’s what we’ve learned!

I bought two hiking backpacks on secondhand sites (I’m a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace and use DoneDeal often as well). I didn’t know what the brands were when I bough them, but I asked the owners if they’d be good for carrying toddlers. They’re probably not the top of the line, but they’ve worked really well for us. I wasn’t ready to shell out big bucks because we weren’t sure if the kids were going to sit still in the packs long enough to make it worth it. So instead, I think I paid €65 for the two packs and I think we’ve used them probably ten times.

Noah’s pack is a Bush Baby and Maya’s pack doesn’t even seem to have a brand on it! Noah’s has a little head pillow which is nice, but they’re otherwise both fairly basic. They don’t have covers, so if it were to start pouring, we’d all get wet. We’ve hiked in the mist before, and we just put the kids in their wet gear, which also gives them another layer of warmth against the elements. Both packs have water bottle holders on both sides and big storage pouches at the back for snacks and any layers we shed as we hike.  We have light kids, which does make a difference. Noah’s twenty pounds at 18 months and Maya’s not yet thirty pounds at three years and three months old. If you had really heavy kids, I think you’d have to be stronger or go more often to get more practice!

We usually max out at about an hour of hiking. Sometimes the kids are done after an hour, and sometimes we’re exhausted by then, but an hour is usually our sweet spot. We typically end up with at least one kid asleep for part of it, and they always seem comfortable enough to snooze as we clomp along the trail.

We bring a billion snacks and that keeps our kids (who don’t sit still much) happy to sit in their packs for an hour. We’ve also instituted a hike-then-pub tradition, which Maya has really taken to. When we talk about hiking, she now puts the two together (good or bad, who knows!) and declares, “Yes, and then chippies.” Nothing like a little toddler positive reinforcement!

Our favorite hike is from the Martello tower in Sutton about halfway to Baily lighthouse, and then we walk back along the road to the car. We could probably hike to the lighthouse and then up to the Summit Inn, but we usually do the loop and drive the mile up the hill so we don’t have to wait on the bus to take us back down to the car. The kids otherwise don’t have a whole lot of fries in their lives, so they love it, and we definitely earn the snack (and maybe a glass of wine and a pint of Guinness) by the time we lug those kids around for an hour! We tried Maya with a short, 20-minute hike a few weeks ago, and we were shocked at how nimble she was. The key to her success seemed to be her own “hiking boots” — boots I bought before we moved back in case there was another snowy winter in Dublin. But they’re perfect for hiking because they’re pretty waterproof but also shearling lined. I wouldn’t take her on a hike where there isn’t a barrier between us and a cliff because I don’t trust her not to go flinging off the edge, but since she’s definitely getting heavier, I think we’re going to give her as much hiking practice as possible in these next few months!

If you have specific hiking with babies/toddlers questions, send them my way. We’re by no means experts, but we’ve loved being able to get out hiking as a family!

House Projects On Deck

February 12, 2019

A friend asked me the other day whether our house in Dublin was finished. Well, sort of. When we moved in we obviously did a ton of work before we moved in. It made more sense to do as much as we could before we moved two kids into the chaos. When we did move in, we figured we had a few large projects on the horizon in the coming years. We initially thought that renovating our upstairs bathroom would be first on that list, but I think we’ve switched our priorities.

We actually made some major improvements to the upstairs bathroom that make it less of a dungeon and more livable long term. I painted the bathroom floor and the shower wall tiles and that made all the difference. I think could live with it for years now.

But the other project that was on our list was adding a staircase to the third level. Our attic is finished, with a skylight and carpeting and lighting, but it only has a drop-down ladder as access from the second floor. We have a bed up there and we sleep there when we have guests who stay in our room, but adding a dormer with a staircase would make it a proper guest bedroom.

So that is our major project that we need to save for over the coming year or two.  In the meantime, we have two other categories of projects. First, I want to finish the finishing touches on just about every room in the house. They’re not big, but they’re keeping each of the rooms from feeling finished. Noah’s room needs a floor lamp for reading, since we only have the overhead for a kid who demands at least five books before every nap and bedtime. Maya’s room could use a rug, the master bedroom needs all the artwork hung on the wall and some sort of solution for the blinds. Downstairs, the bathroom needs to be wallpapered and I need to figure out shelving for both bathrooms so that kids stop getting into every single item every time we accidentally leave the door open.

The second category is the exterior. The house has been painted, but the front garden needs desperate help and the back garden needs personality and functionality. And really, what I want to do is figure out a way to DIY stucco all of the horrible concrete blocks they tend to make everything with in Ireland.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to share the kids’ bedrooms soon, and then potentially the upstairs bathroom with all that painted and stenciled tile. Those are the small goals before I start to tackle the bigger ones. Stay tuned!

Delightful Dublin With Kids / The Dead Zoo

February 6, 2019

I’m still really early in exploring Dublin with my kids, and I’ll blame that mostly on nap schedules and Dublin traffic which has increased astronomically in since we last lived here. I’m not quite ready to take both kids on the bus (we don’t live on the Dart line anymore, womp womp), so I prefer to drive in. But that means avoiding the kids’ naps which now run consecutively rather than concurrently, and the window in the afternoon before rush hour traffic hits is very, very small. All that to say, we have lots to explore and we’re only really getting started!

A few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I decided to take both kids into town to the Natural History Museum, traffic be damned. We needed a boost and a boost we did get. The Dead Zoo was on my list of places to visit with the kids, but I didn’t realize just how perfect it would be for two toddlers. It was very quiet on a Friday afternoon and we spent an hour just wandering from animal to animal. I followed their lead and we circled back around a few times. Maya loved the whole thing, upstairs and downstairs, and Noah loved following her around and stamping on the grates around some of the animal exhibits. They made a nice clanging noise I’m sure the few other people in the museum really enjoyed.

Right across the street from the Dead Zoo is Merrion Square Park, which has a great playground and a green for running around. But around the corner the other direction are cupcakes. Once we looked at enough animals, Maya decided it was too precarious for Noah to be almost touching all the animals and we needed to leave. She actually enlisted the very kind security guard to give Noah a stern talking to about trying to touch the zebra. So we walked up to KC Peaches and picked out a cupcake before heading home for bedtime. The traffic wasn’t great, but I had packed leftover pizza for them to munch in the car on the way home, so they were well occupied.

All in all, it’s a super outing with small kids who love animals. Or grates. Or ancient stairways. A few photos from a picture-perfect little adventure in Dublin.  And proof of mom on the way out the door taken by nice tourists!

Three North Dublin Playgrounds That Are Great

February 4, 2019

Maya and Noah are the perfect ages for playgrounds, and we are lucky that there are some incredible playgrounds that are a short trip away from us. I will never tire of a seaside playground. It might not be warm enough for a splash pad in Ireland, but the country does make up for it with playgrounds with serious views.

We’re in a tricky wintry season where there isn’t enough time between naps and darkness falling to really do much. But before that happened, we tried to take advantage of that post-nap, pre-dinner time with little adventures a few times a week. And in that time, we found three playgrounds we’re definitely going to be frequenting more often once there’s a longer stretch in the evenings. Maya still asks at lunchtime every day if it’s getting dark, so we’re not there yet, but hopefully in another month or so we’ll be back on the playground exploration circuit!

Here are three of our favorite playgrounds in North Dublin and one honorable mention.

Ardgillan Castle

First, Ardgillan Castle. It’s about thirty minutes north of Dublin and it’s a really good half-day excursion. The playground is awesome, with a zip line and lots of different climbing structures for kids of different ages. There’s also a lot of grass for running around, gardens for wandering, and a castle with a cafe for a special snack before heading home. I will say, though, that there is a very large hill between the main parking lot and the playground. Like very, very large. It makes for an incredible view, but it also makes for a pretty big workout pushing a double stroller back up. When we went, the small parking lot at the bottom of the hill was empty, but I’m not sure if you’re supposed to park there. It seemed like you could, but I’m not fully sure what the rules are.

We went on a day that was pretty grey and wet, but you can just about see in the distance – the sea! Also, Noah’s determination slays me. 

Skerries Seaside Playground

Skerries playground is a similar distance from Dublin and even closer to the sea. It’s smaller, but just steps away from a really yummy fish and chips spot and an ice cream shack and a cute coffee spot. It makes for a really nice evening getaway from the city where the adults can enjoy the cute seaside town and the kids get to play on the playground. This one’s probably better for smaller children.

St. Anne’s Park

St. Anne’s Park is much closer to the city, maybe ten minutes north, straight up the coast. It’s an enormous grassy park with lots of giant trees, a stunning rose garden, a cafe, and tons of paths for running, walking, strolling or scootering. It also has a huge playground with lots of fun things to climb and swing.

Honorable Mention

Malahide Castle gets an honorable mention, although I know a lot of people who really love it. Here’s why I’m not a fan: it has a sand pit. And I really just don’t like to mix sand with playgrounds. If we want to deal with the commitment to mess that is sand, we go to the beach. Playgrounds shouldn’t give me that amount of mess to deal with. Also, I am the kind of un-fun mom who doesn’t allow shoes off at the playground (broken glass! rusty nails! danger lurking below!), and it seems a lot of other parents are way more fun. Every time we’ve done Malahide Castle playground we’ve ended in a meltdown about sand and shoes staying on. Luckily, though, there isn’t a giant hill between the playground and the parking lot so we’ve been able to make slightly easier exits upon meltdown!

If you’re visiting Dublin with kids, the first three would be reliably good recommendations. If you’re local, do you have different favorites we should explore?