Friday, October 29, 2010

The Saint Patrick Centre

Today we took the opportunity to learn about Ireland's Patron Saint, Patrick. In the town of Downpatrick there is an exhibition that takes you through each stage of the saint's life. There were amazing works of art as well as modern techniques of displaying the information that kept the kids' interests through the whole tour. At each station there was a button to push to start the reenactment of Saint Patrick's life and hands on activities to explore more of who this man became to be after many hardships. The kids were given clip boards with pens and had to answer questions along the way which they thought was a very grown-up thing to do. Gabe wondered if he could keep his clip board.
A statue depicting Patrick at the age of 15 being captured by the Irish from his home in Britain.

Patrick was a slave to the Irishmen for six years, tending sheep in the hills and this was the time of his spiritual awakening. He was visited by an angel and told to escape with some sailors. Patrick escapes and travels with these sailors through a foreign land where they were rescued from starvation after Patrick prays to God asking for food. A little while later they came across a herd of pigs and were saved.
After years back in his home land he hears God's call for him to go back to Ireland to bring the gospel. He obeys but with much condemnation by his peers.

We ended the tour with a IMAX presentation on the influence of Saint Patrick on the rest of Ireland. Next, we traveled to Down Cathedral where the Saint is said to be buried.

The actual burial place of Saint Patrick is said to be under the church but no one really knows for sure. This stone was placed in the graveyard in the 19th century as a memorial to the fact that his burial place is on that hill.
Inside Down Cathedral. This location has been a place of Christian prayer and worship since the fifth century. We found the sanctuary intriguing as it includes unique boxpews and a Bishop's throne in the middle of the worship area which faces the Judges' Box. This is to serve as a reminder that there once were legal trials carried on in the cathedral. There are also stalls for the members of the Cathedral Chapter (kind of like box seats at a game). They sat higher than the rest of the congregation.
A Theologian in the making????
A preacher in the making????

I am overwhelmed with gratitude with the experiences our family has been given by our great Father. To hear Saint Patrick's story inspires and draws me deeper into the love of our Triune Creator. I was blessed today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Carrickfergus Castle

On Wednesday we drove 20 miles north to Carrickfergus where we toured a castle that was over 800 years old. The castle's history was steeped in many battles by the Scots, Irish, English, and French. It also served as an air raid shelter for the townspeople of Carrickfergus during WW II.
The Gatehouse where you could easily be attacked and trapped if you were a foe. You could have slops or hot tar poured from an opening above the portcullis.
Soldiers defending the castle against the French in 1760!

Inside the Banquet Hall. The gold boat was filled with salt and a status symbol. The more salt the richer you were.
The Courtyard where a statue of John de Courcy is depicted. He built the first part of the castle in 1177.
The Sea Tower. The towers allowed archers to protect the areas closest to the castle walls. It also housed the castle's prison.

Ready, Set, Fire!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Minnowburn and Puddle Jumping

Today was a much warmer day but it came with rain. We didn't want the rain to ruin our fun so we got on our "wellies" and rain gear and headed out. We found a place on Ednederry Road that has miles and miles of walking trails along the river. We walked about 3 miles along the towpath and found ducks, squirrels, cows, bridges, lots of big puddles, and another reason to praise our Father in heaven for the beauty He shares so freely no matter what country you are in.
"Look, Mum I can jump and splash bigger than..."
Avery quickly discovered a hole in her wellie so that ended that game.

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells..." Ps. 46:5

The Giant's Ring

It's hard to believe this is so close to the hustle and bustle of Belfast located 2 miles from our house. It's a Neolithic site that historians believe is over 4,000 years old. It is the largest ceremonial enclosure in Ireland which is about 590 feet in diameter with 5 gaps around the edge. In the middle of the ring are five upright stones that support a large capstone. They believe this was a well-known place for ritual and other gatherings in ancient times. It could have been a sacred burial site.
The view from on top of the circular wall. The Lagan Valley and Belfast Hills.

Can U Spy Us?

Mid-Term Break

This week the kids and Cam have the whole week off of school. So, we are taking advantage of every day to find some adventure. On Monday it was a crisp, cool day with the high temperature of 4 degrees Celsius. We took off for Castle Ward which is a 30 minute drive from our house. The castle is situated on 820 acres with lots of walking trails, gardens, a farmyard, statues, historic buildings, and an adventure playland.

A view of some of the castle grounds.
The sunken garden with lots of beauty.

Huddling for warmth in front of the Classical side of the castle. Husband Ward and Wife Ward did not agree on anything including styles in which to build their new castle and so they compromised with building one side of it in the Classical style and the other side in Gothic.

The stable yard. Here is where they have a tea room, gift shop, picnic tables, benches, and offices.
The Gothic side of the castle.
Photography is not allowed inside the castle but we accidentally took one. Whoops! The kids loved seeking out the secret doors that were hidden throughout the castle. The tour guide let the kids open these doors and led us on. Avery decided she did not want to live in this castle because the kids could not come down from the nursery wing and had to blow kisses to their mom and dad through the stairwell. No bedtime stories and snuggle times with mommies and daddies seems so cruel. The girls had to be taught upstairs with a governess and the boys would get a chance to go to a boarding school at the age of six. The Ward kids would also perform music pieces for the adults after dinner. So, the Quinlan boys decided they didn't like that idea either. So, the kids have firmly decided they like living in the 21st century, even if we don't have secret doors in our house.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Streamvale Farm

We are homesick for the pumpkin patches and farms in Oregon. We haven't see the likes of a pumpkin growing in a field here in Belfast. So, we thought maybe visiting a local farm may bring us a pumpkin or two. No luck, but we found some great fun!

We saw lots of farm animals: chickens, ducks, cows, ponies, a sow and her piglets, puppies, a donkey, goats, mice, chicks, long hair steer, guinea pigs, and more.

The highlight was the barrel ride. The barrels were tied together and the kids sat in a little seat and the whole train was pulled by a 4 wheeler.

Sliding down a hay mound. The boys loved climbing underneath the hidden tunnel under the slides.

Enjoying the tractor rides!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church

For the past two months we have attended this Presbyterian church which is a 3 minute walk from our house. The church was established in 1843 and within that next forty years the building was enlarged on three occasions to meet the growing congregation who had moved into the area around the church. We have been drawn back to this congregation because of the warmth and friendliness of the people. The music is led by the choir, their director of music, and with the accompaniment of the large pipe organ. We often don't recognize the hymns or songs of worship but I am always in awe of the majestic sounds and the talent of the director who brings in a tenor trio and other instruments on occasion. This Sunday was one of those special days. It was a harvest celebration with fruit, flowers, pumpkins, and special music adorning the church halls. Rev. Orr gave a beautiful object lesson for the kids using different kinds of food to spell out the word THANKS. The music was done by many different instruments and ages. After the service we met in the hall for a light lunch with tea sandwiches, soup, biscuits, tea, and coffee. It was lovely and a great way for us to meet more people.

I had the privilege to attend a women's meeting last week which meets once a month for different activities and fellowship. I am looking forward to learning more from them and seeing what God is doing in the lives of these women.

The Birthdays

In the last two weeks we have had a flurry of activity in celebrating Ian and Gabe's birthdays. It has been different in many ways and yet the importance of family and friends have surrounded us as we try to make this year as close to home as we can. The cake baking was a challenge for me as I am finding out that our baking powder and soda are a bit different in the States then here in Ireland. So, I resigned to baking a cake out of a box. :-) The kids didn't seem to mind and really it was much simpler. I am amazed by the friendships that the kids have made in such a short amount of time. God has blessed us with friendly people from around the neighborhood and the school and so our house was filled with laughter and lots of little bodies enjoying the festivities. Thank you to all who posted cards all the way to Ireland. The boys' loved getting mail and I know it helped them feel more at home.

Exploris: The Northern Ireland Aquarium

Yesterday we went to an aquarium located in Portaferry. It is about a 20 minute drive from Belfast along the Strangford Lough. It's a beautiful drive especially during the change of the season. The highlight for the kids was the touch tank in which they got to feel a manta ray, a sea urchin, a scallop, a starfish, and a dogfish. Ian was delighted by the scallop's antics. While he was holding the scallop it decided to snap shut, spraying Elise with sea water. Elise wasn't so enthused by this new sea creature. I don't blame her. The aquarium rescues baby seals who have been orphaned or hurt in some way. Currently they have six baby seals all in their little hospital pens. They were adorable and fun to watch as they begged for their food. We had a great day and enjoyed our time looking at the open sea tank, the kelp community, the sand harbor, the jelly fish, the wave tank, and the Causeway tank.