Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rough Days

You know your day is going to be rough when your baby looks like this at the breakfast table. Our time here as been absolutely amazing with many joys, emotional ups and downs, frustrations, wonderment, confusion, stresses, sicknesses, incredible sights, huge God moments, and spiritual challenges. It is such a mix that I can not even begin to sort out my feelings about it all. One thing that I have to express is the incredible struggle we have had with sickness this year. I don't think I have ever experienced so many "mommy, I am not feeling good," days in my life in such a short amount of time.
This morning I woke up without much of a voice and feeling crummy. While trying to get the rest of the kids up and ready for school, Cam was trying frantically to get into our car! The automatic key lock would not work. It set the car alarm off and he couldn't get it turned off. Every button he pushed would get no response. Finally, it shut off automatically but there was no way he could open the doors because the car was armed. So, he ended up calling a co-worker to come pick him up to take him to work. Thankfully, she hadn't left for work yet. This all happened as Elise was steadily feeling sicker and finally threw up as Cam walked out the door and the other kids needed to get to school. So, I was left to send my kiddos to walk to school on their own while I cleaned up and tried to sort the morning right side up again. LOL! I don't even know what to say...and this is just a glimpse of one of the many days that have come our way.

So, what have I learned through these moments? That our Father in Heaven continues to BE even in the moments when it looks like chaos reigns. He still IS when I can't feel, sense, or see that He is. My faith has been strengthen more by the history of what I have known to be true in Who He is from past experiences. This has carried me through the times when I can't sense that He loves or cares for me. And to ride in these moments by letting myself rest in His love and trust that the cosmic battle that is raging here will be subdued by following His lead.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tollymore Forest Park

Through a recommendation of some friends we found another treasure in Ireland. Tollymore Forest park is found in the Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are two rivers that join together in the park, 16 bridges varying in age from 1726 to present day, two hills that offer stunning views from the top, a hermitage, and camping sites.
We took our time and walked through part of the River trail. I think that we walked about three miles.
Having a walking stick makes the walk so much more adventurous!
The kids were thrilled to have a chance to throw rocks into the clear river water. I am pretty sure they scared all the fish and had fun getting themselves and each other wet.

The hermitage is a stone structure that was built in the 1770s by James Hamilton. When the ladies of the day needed shelter, while the gentlemen fished they would sit in it for shelter.

More of the natural beauty. The stone bridges were just amazing set against the backdrop of God's Almighty Artwork!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our Outings

We packed as much as we could into the six full days that Heather was here. On Tuesday, Elise and I took her to the "mums and tots" group here where we played with other toddlers and meet other mommies. On Wednesday, Heather, Elise, and I took the bus downtown and did some shopping and sight seeing of the City Hall, the Welcome Center, and St. Anne's Cathedral. On Thursday, we all had the day off to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by watching the parade.

After the parade, Heather and I got the chance to visit Belfast Castle and then we hiked to the top of Cave Hill. The Hill and trail overlooks all of Belfast. It was chilly and windy but the view was well worth the climb.
Here we are at the top!

On Friday, we visited the Ulster museum and the Botanic Gardens.
At the museum they had a 3D show about the planets, stars, and cosmos. The kids loved it, especially the cool looking glasses.

On Saturday we took our favorite drive up Torr Head Road to the North Coast. The weather was perfect for taking pictures. The temperature was chilly but it was clear with no rain so we were happy.
Some of the wildlife along the way.
Hanging out at the Giant's Causeway. This was our second time there but our first time going down to the Causeway all at the same time. So, we were excited to get family pictures of us all climbing the rocks. Elise slipped and fell in one of the little tide pools after 3 minutes of being down there. So, Cam took her back up to the car to change her because we knew she would freeze with the wind whipping through the rocks. Oh, well we managed to get one picture of all of us there at least.

The kids discovered coins stuck in between the rocks right here. They would have spent the rest of their days scavenging them out if they could have, pretending to be pirates.
From the Giant's Causeway we headed to the seaside town of Portrush. This town is known for it's amusement park during the spring and summer season. It has a great sandy beach in which we walked along and the kids played in the sand a bit. We ended the day with a great dinner at Coast Italian.

The sunset over Portrush.
On Sunday, we took Heather to one of the churches we have attended while here in Belfast. After church we took the Belfast City Bus tour. The tour gave a brief history of the city and took us along the murals on the peace wall. This wall used to divide the city between the Protestants and Catholics.
This is a mural of Bobby Sands, the leader of the 1981 hunger strikers.
Queen's University in Belfast. After our history tour Heather and I ended our day at a cozy Starbucks and had a lovely chat. It does a soul good to have a sister chat! Heather left bright and early Tuesday morning and is safely back in her home in the States. It was hard to say good-bye but knowing that we will be home soon made it a little easier. Thank you Heather for an amazing visit and building life long memories!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Friend From Afar

This last week I was blessed to have one of my closest and longest lifetime friend come visit me all the way from home. She left her family of four kiddos with her husband and mother and crossed the seas to spend time with our family. Now, I call that brave. We had a great time and we were thrilled to show Heather around Belfast and the North Coast. She easily fit into our daily routines and the kids wanted her to do everything with them. I would say she was the resident "star" in our household especially when she brought us our most missed foods from home like fruit snacks, Goldfish crackers, tortilla chips, a Costco sized chocolate chip bag, and Fiber One bars.
Heather's timing was perfect for an authentic celebration of St. Patrick's Day. We went to the St. Pat's parade in downtown Belfast. We saw lots of dragons, dinosaurs, bikes, bagpipes, gymnastics, and much more.
Our new "gear" for celebrating the big day in.

Having a bit of fun at the Belfast Welcome Center.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pancake Tuesday

We discovered a new tradition here in the UK. Before the start of Lent the tradition is to finish off all the eggs, flour, and sugar in the pantry in the use of pancakes. So, every Tuesday before Ash Wednesday they celebrate their day by eating and tossing pancakes. There are even pancake races. So, of course we joined in the eating of pancakes topped with lemon juice and a bit of sugar. I think I would like to carry this tradition home with us.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tickets Home

After many months of striving over the most economical way to get home we finally found a way. So, July 17th we head out of Dublin and arrive at PDX around 7 pm or so. It amazing that now that we have an end in sight and how we are realizing there will be many things we will miss here. We have made some friendships that we will miss. We have discovered some new tastes in foods here and will especially miss all the different breads. We have been blessed by all the new experiences that have come our way.