Little Citizens of the World


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Fostering Puppies

The kids have always wanted a dog, what child doesn’t, but because we travel, a pet just isn’t a possibility right now.  However, the idea that we could foster was a revelation, and I immediately called a local rescue on the Vineyard to see if there was any need for foster families.  There was!  After a very impatient week, we took in a mama and her 2 insane puppies.  Mama was brought to the Cape from a high kill shelter in Arkansas, and was absolutely terrified.  Her puppies were typical licky, jumpy, pee on the floor, crazy.  We had a pen for the puppies, and Mama had a bed nearby so she could get some peace.  It was tragic to see Mama with her tail tucked and her head held low all the time, but after a few days, she did start to relax a teeny bit.

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Walking the 3 of them was like some kind of nightmare I can’t even describe.  I had Mama’s lead and the girls each had a puppy.  Within seconds of walking out the front door, the puppies had crossed paths, gone behind the kids, between myself and Mama and thoroughly tied everyone in a knot.  Oblivious to their predicament, they continued to try and make a run for the driveway.  This continued for the entire walk down to the beach (approx. 15 minutes away) and back.  The girls tried their best to swoop and dive over and under each others lead as the puppies ran back and forth.  We managed to get there and back without any major injury and I concluded that, in future, the puppies would be walked separately.  This was also a plus for Mama as she could go alone with the girls and walk without tripping over leads, and pee without one baby jumping on her face and the other trying to sniff her bum.  I honestly felt her pain as a mother on that first walk.

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The babies have a bit of Jack Russell in them, so besides being energetic because they’re puppies, they are super charged.  My brother came over and fenced in a portion of the backyard so they could run, which was a lifesaver!  (I had expected the puppies to be only a few weeks old and do a lot of sleeping)  Thankfully, I didn’t have to get up in the night to take them out, they were paper trained, but when they figured out how to escape the pen, and did their business all over my new rug, then walked through it, climbed/jumped (?) over the baby gate and came upstairs, the fun was over.

Puppies went outside while I cleaned.  Mama, who had always been too afraid to climb the stairs, had followed her babies up, and was now stuck.  Sparrow and Sky took turns sitting with her on the landing for 3 hours until my brother could come over and carry her down.

I had messaged the shelter on the Vineyard at 6:10am, while scrubbing my carpet, to let them know, it just wasn’t going to work out anymore.  Once the puppies figured out how to jail break their pen AND the baby gate, it was too out of control for this OCD mama to handle.  So as sad as it was to watch them go after only 7 days, we brought them down to the ferry the next day, and they went to another foster family.  I still miss Mama a lot, but I know she’ll be happier with a true dog person.  I really lean more in the cat direction..

It was a great experience for us though, and I really think that anyone on the fence about adopting a pet, should foster first, that way there are no regrets!

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Third time’s the charm, right?

We are headed back to Ireland in April!  Our plan has always been to stay long term, but little glitches here and there have kept us from realizing our dream.  This time, however, I am hopeful that with a little extra paper work and several international phone calls we will be successful in our wild pursuit of Irish living.

We will be cruising, as always, but on a new line this time.  This time, we will be taking a Princess cruise.  As you may have read in my past posts, we absolutely LOVE Holland America Line, but they don’t get us close enough to the British Isles.  We have taken Queen Mary in the past and experienced the worst cruising possible, as you may also have read.  So although they are the most convenient to us, it’s not going to happen.

I am really excited to see what Princess cruising is like, but also apprehensive, as  I like to know what to expect ahead of time.  (Seriously, I Google Street Map my way through a new area before I go there, so I feel more familiar with it when I get there!)   I think I’m just a little wary due to our problems with Queen Mary II.

We’ll be staying in Cork City, our favourite place in the world, and we’re already planning all the places we’ll be visiting as soon as we get there.  The kids want to go to Fitzgerald Park and the city library, I can’t wait to go to the The Natural Foods Bakery (oh my gosh, their spelt hummous sandwiches!!) and Waterstones bookstore. And of course, we are desperate to see all of our friends again!

The previous two times we’ve been to Ireland, we’ve arrived in late summer/early autumn, and been back in the States by Christmas.  This time we get to spend spring and summer there!  I’m really looking forward to being there in different seasons, although the temperature in spring and summer is not much different than that of autumn!!

So we are planning and planning, I know it’s still 8 months away, but we have so much to do to get our house ready for rental season next summer.  Because we just bought our house, there are a lot of things we have to do immediately, rather than as needed, like we would do if we were staying in our home long term.  We’ve had to spend quite a bit at the garden center, so the yard will look nice come next spring.  I also have to consider having irrigation put in.  That’s not an expense I was anticipating.  Right now, we are going through a heat wave and everything is so dry.  Most of my neighbours have given up on watering their yards, which are now as brown and crunchy as overdone chocolate chip cookies.  Because I’ve got new plantings, I have to water everyday, early in the morning and after the sun goes down.  My sprinkler is on close to 8 hours a day.  I don’t want to know what my water bill is going to look like.

We have the last of our furniture being delivered early next week and, hopefully, that will be the end of big purchases for a while.  I’m hoping to spend most of September and October going through boxes in the basement, many of them have been packed up since before our Australia trip in 2012!

So that’s what’s happening in our lives right now, it’s all go as usual!

If any of you have taken a Princess cruise, I’d love to hear about it.  Leave a comment, or a link to your blog post!  In the meantime, enjoy some photos from the garden today!

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The Butterfly Weed for the Monarchs is forming tall seed pods.

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Bees are incredibly difficult to photograph, they’re all over the place.  Busy bees indeed!

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I love my wild roses

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One of three resident bunnies that have been feasting on our new plantings.

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The Holly berries are starting to turn!!!

 

 

 

 


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Leaving Home for Home

Leaving the Vineyard is always a bit sad.  The girls miss it so much, and even though we are just across the sound on the Cape, it’s a world away.  We had a great time at the fair, but it’s time to head back to our house, and continue to unpack and sift though all the boxes I have yet to open.  It’s strange to now live on the Cape instead of the island, but we’re making it work, and enjoying our new neighbourhood.

We took the freight boat back, and watched the Vineyard slowly drift away.

Until next time…

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Let’s go to the fair!

On the third weekend in August, on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard, the air is tingling with the thrill of the annual Agricultural Fair.  This year was the 115th fair and it didn’t disappoint. There are only 2 occasions where we have missed the Ag Fair, and that’s when we were out of the country.  I have pictures of Sparrow at her first fair when she was 3 months old!

Originally, the fair was 3 days, but due to the massive summer crowds, they’ve expanded to 4 days.  Friday night is fireworks night, so to encourage more people to the fairgrounds, and discourage deserters to the fireworks, bracelets are sold for $25 a piece, ensuring the wearer free, unlimited rides from 6pm – 10pm.  This is, of course, much more cost effective if you have children that go mental and ride everything they make the height cut off for over and over and over.  Most of the rides are $5 a piece, and when 2 kids can ride close to 70 rides between 6 and 10, the bracelet is a god send.

The organised chaos of the rides, the jubilant crowds, the sounds from the barn, the beckoning smells from the food booths, it all makes for an overwhelming feast for the senses.

We arrived clean, fresh and full of anticipation at about 4:30pm and left filthy, exhausted and completely satisfied at 11pm.  Everyone needed a shower before bed, you just can’t get 6.5 hours worth of dust off with a sponge bath.  Sky and Sparrow were both asleep before I got out of the shower.  All in all, another successful year at the MV Ag. Fair!

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Seal Release!

We went to Scusset Beach in Sagamore this evening to see 3 seals released.  The release was part of the National Marine Life Center of Buzzards Bay’s rehab program.   It was fantastic!  We went a few hours early so the kids could play and at around 7pm, the seals were carried down to the shore in large dog crates.  A huge crowd gathered around as close to the taped off line as possible, and everyone stood frozen with anticipation as the 3 staff members each opened the crates simultaneously.  Everyone held their breath, expecting the seals to take off towards the water, but they didn’t.  They sort of came out slowly, had a look around, gave each other a sniff, looked around some more, then tried to head back up to the beach.  The staff members held  boards to block them from the crowds and beach and, eventually, they wandered casually into the surf.  They goofed off for a bit a few feet offshore, then decided they wanted to come in again.  So the staff again got their boards out and tried to keep the crowd (that had thinned by now) back and let the seals explore.  We were there watching for about 2 hours after the release, and because the seals didn’t go far from shore, the staff had to stay until it was quite dark, just to make sure none of the spectators got too close.  I spoke with one of the staffers, and she said they will probably come up onto the beach for the night, and maybe go through the Cape Cod Canal towards Chatham.  It was a great experience, the kids really enjoyed it, and learned quite a bit.

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Ready for the release!

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Hundreds of spectators turned out.

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After a quick swim, they decided it was time to come back on shore.


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House buying

So, as soon as I wrote the title, I thought I’d better change it to ‘Home buying’, because it not only sounds better, it’s what people actually say.  It sounds more natural, more personal.  I left it the way I wrote it originally because, for me, this is just a means to an end and, subconsciously, I don’t think I’m feeling the attachment.  Don’t get me wrong, I am VERY happy to be buying a house for my family, and feel truly grateful to be able to do that, but my greatest desire is to get back to Ireland as soon as financially possible.

We have had most of our life in storage since 2012, when we went to Australia, and it will be wonderful to see all of those goodies again.  I’m sure most of it will go to donations as there will be tons of clothes that are years too small and toys that will also be long outgrown.  But it will be lovely to see our things again.  I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination.  I want, as Maureen O’Hara says in the film The Quiet Man, “my own things about me”.  I can’t wait to get all of those boxes out of storage and go through them, finding places to put them, it will be fantastic.

However, the house we are putting an offer in, is small at 1300 sqft.  That may not be small to some, but it is for someone who has, about 11,000 sqft of stuff!  I can’t wait to get settled and just take a huge deep breath.  It won’t last long though, I want to get it ready to be rented out by summer of 2017, so we can get back to Ireland.  Why did I buy a house on Cape Cod just to leave it for Ireland?  Because although my heart belongs to Ireland, my family live on Martha’s Vineyard, and this will give us the security of knowing there will always be a place for us close to home, if we need it.

 

 

 


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Queen Mary II Rant

I didn’t want to go there, I really didn’t, but I need to.  We had taken Queen Mary once before when we went to Ireland the first time.  I didn’t write about how awful it was, because I didn’t want the negativity on my blog.  Unfortunately, as we have now had the experience a second time, I think it needs to be said.

When we went over to Ireland the first time, we left New York on the trans Atlantic crossing to Southampton, UK.  It took 7 days.  On two separate occasions, staff members were not only rude, but condescending to me.  The food choices were so limited, the kids ate dinner rolls almost exclusively for the whole crossing.  Seriously.  One night while they were in the kids club (which they enjoyed immensely) I was actually crying in my room because I hated how they were always saying they were hungry and nothing tasted good.  Oh, and there was hair in the shower drain, not one or two, a lot!  I don’t think the shower had been cleaned.  I wanted to gag.

After that, I swore I’d never take that ship again.  Fast forward to our second trip to Ireland, and we were faced with flying home, overstaying our visa, or taking Queen Mary again.  I don’t fly.  I would never overstay a visa.  Reluctantly, I booked QM II and hoped it was just a bad crossing and this would be better.

WAITING FOR COACH TRANSFER: We were told to meet at Kings Cross Station London, by the arrival gates for our coach transfer to Southampton.  I arrived 2 hours early, because I have anxiety about missing connections, and dragged my kiddos all over that station asking everyone and their mother where the arrival gates were, no one knew.  When I finally found a security guard, he pointed to two silver doors that only opened from the outside.  There was no sign, there were no people waiting, there was nothing there except two solid metal doors between the many shops.  I was in a quiet panic as the meeting time approached and there was still no sign of anyone or anything that said Cunard.  Finally, as I returned to the plain doors for a third time, after running a few more loops through the station, with the kids and 6 bags, hoping to find someone, there was one couple standing there looking slightly out of place.  I asked if they were waiting for a coach by any chance and they were!  Hurrah!  At least I wouldn’t miss it alone.  About 10 minutes after the very strict (according to the email) meeting time, a woman showed up with a Cunard clip board.  We were then led to a cafe to await the coach.  Now, just so you don’t think it was just me being neurotic about the time, the couple waiting with me made several phone calls to Cunard trying to figure out if we were in the right place.  There should have been a sign.  Just a single sheet of paper taped to the door that said Cunard would have been fine.  So not very well planned out.  Seriously, why couldn’t we have all just met in the cafe????

UPON BOARDING:  For some reason, they decided to take fancy photos within 10 feet of walking onboard, thus holding up the line.  I didn’t want photos, I just wanted to get to my room.  I said ‘no, thank you’ to the photography staff and asked if they could tell me what deck I could find our cabin on.  I was abruptly pushed aside by photography staff so they could take photos of the next people in line (money over service).  No one answered my question.  I was actually standing there with tons of staff standing all around being completely ignored.  I went over to the nearest staff member and gave him my room number, he said we were lucky, as our cabin was on deck four, and that this was deck four.  We were not on deck four, we were on deck three.

We found our way to our cabin and I put in my key card.  Red light.  It didn’t work.  Now please keep in mind, I am not wealthy, I don’t have a driver to take me door to door, I don’t have a butler to carry our 6 bags, I don’t have a nanny to keep an eye on the kids, I have me.  So with the key not working, I’m getting a little frazzled.  I see a housekeeper further down the hall and explain my situation.  She doesn’t have a master key and can’t open the door (she turned out to be our housekeeper so I don’t know why her key card wouldn’t work)  I asked if she could please find someone to open the door for us.  She said unfortunately, we would have to go to the main desk and get a new key made up.  This is where I couldn’t take it anymore.  I said there was no way I was dragging all 6 of our bags and my two kids back through the chaos of new passengers boarding to get a new key that should have been working in the first place.  She said she would try to find someone.  15 minutes later, she returned with someone and they opened our door.  Finally.

No one was rude this time around, in fact, everyone was very, very nice.  It was Sky’s birthday and they were able to get a cake done up for her and they sang Happy Birthday that night at dinner.  She truly enjoyed it.  The dining room staff were wonderful.

THE LIDO: The food options were still the same.  I can’t understand it.  Let me give you an example of the one and only salad bar, there’s a bowl of lettuce (not a very big bowl, something you might use for a dinner party of 8 -10 guests) then 3 very small bowls with different sides, say onion, tomatoes and olives and your option of two dressings, vinaigrette, or raspberry vinaigrette.  This is just ridiculous.  Even I barely ate anything on this crossing.  So again, rolls were the main dish.   They do have a small kids menu, and the kids tried to eat the fish fingers but didn’t like them and the same with plain old cheeseburgers, they were gross, like something you’d get at a fast food place.

I did order room service one day when Sky was not well, and it was very good.  The room service menu was small, but far exceeded the Lido, so I ended up ordering lunch in every day.  There were no real options for the kids though.  They ate a lot of apples, french fries and, again, dinner rolls.

We also ordered breakfast in our rooms due to the lido being extremely busy in the morning, limited seating and the kids desire to get to Kids Zone on time.  Every day they got something wrong.  It became almost funny, the kids would ask, ” what did they mess up today?”  It was unacceptable.  I know I sound like a snob, but I’m absolutely not, and I’m telling you, this was so bad!  The kids toast and bagels arrived cold, every time!  Sometimes they brought sugar for my tea, sometimes they didn’t.  Fruit plate?  Yeah right!  Here’s a slice of melon and 3 strawberries.  I ordered orange juice for the kids every morning.  Sometimes it came, sometimes it didn’t.

THE KIDS ZONE:  This is where the kids hang out most of the day.  The ladies there are absolutely amazing!  I can’t say enough good things about them, they are wonderful.  The girls loved going there and were very sad to leave at the end of the week.  Truly, they were the one sliver of sunshine, and I am grateful to them.  Five stars and then some to Kids Zone.

OUR ROOM: There was more excitement when I moved the nightstand to push the two twin beds together the first night.  They ask you before you get on if you prefer two twins or a king, it doesn’t matter.  I had chosen twins, but Sparrow wanted to be closer (Sky was on the fold out couch).  So I moved the nightstand out from between the two beds and pushed Sparrows bed over.  I then tripped over a platform sandal that had been under her bed.  There was also a t-shirt.  I was pretty disgusted that no one had bothered to clean under the bed and kicked them both back under with the toe of my shoe.  I then moved Sparrows nightstand over so I could put the other nightstand (that I had moved from between the beds) beside it.  There was the other sandal.  Gross.  The rooms hadn’t been properly cleaned and checked over.

It wasn’t too long after that Sky dropped a tiny stuffed animal down between the mattress and side of the fold out couch.  When I half folded it up, so I could get the little toy, there were used wads of tissues, used ear plugs, and candy wrappers all underneath.  If I could have tossed the little stuffed toy in the trash, I would have done immediately.  I felt sick to my stomach.

THE HALLWAYS:  They stunk of cigarette smoke and the maids carts fill the entire length of the halls ALL DAY.  If you were a wheelchair user, you’d have to flag a housekeeper down (good luck finding one) and ask them to move each one, and the vacuums so you could get in/out of your hallway and to the lifts.  Depending on where your room is, this could be as many as 6+ carts.

The final straw that sunk the Queen Mary II for us was within 3 days, Sky had a few bumps on her hands that she said itched.  They were tiny and I didn’t think much of it, so said the typical mom thing, “try not to itch them, and they’ll go away.”  They didn’t, and she had a few more show up during the week.  The morning after we arrived home, her arms were covered with rows of tiny bumps that itched terribly.  Two days after arriving home, I had about 20 itchy bumps on my hands and forearms too.  Yes, bed bugs.  This put me over the edge.  I will never, EVER take the Queen Mary II again.  I had to throw away all of my luggage, put all the stuffed animals in a bag in the freezer and hope beyond hope that they hadn’t come with us off the ship.  Luckily, they had not and within a few days, the bumps were gone.

That is my rant on Queen Mary II.  I wish it weren’t like that.  I wish it had been a wonderful experience like we have always had on Holland America, but it was not.  The fact that you pay just as much for a 7 day crossing on Cunard, with no shore days, that you would pay on a 20+ day crossing on Holland America, with many shore days, is just insane.  You are truly paying for a name only.

I was so disgusted with this ship, I didn’t even bother to take pictures.  I was just too put off , I hardly left the room.  The next time we take a cruise, it will be with Holland America, and I’ll take tons of photos so you can see how absolutely amazing their ships are.

Thanks for listening.