(Haha... there should be a road sign in that picture that says: Super Long Post Ahead... But, there's not. BUT, there is... just advance warning. Also in warning: the words "great", "wonderful", "fun", "lovely" etc. are all used entirely too much. I'm too tired to think of more unique words. Zac's out of town. That should explain it. Anyway...)
We arrived in Dublin Saturday evening. Nuala threw up a ton on the flight in (mostly in the air-sickness bag, but also on her pants, shoes, backpack, and, as we pulled up to the gate, finally in the toilet. It was really, really fun.) and then the car rental place we had reserved our car at was deserted and the number we called for them just kept ringing and ringing, but we got another one and made it out to Shane's by about 11:30. Phew! He and his girlfriend, Louise, had set the house up sooo nicely for us! Bran and Nuala had little fold-up cots with lovely, fluffy blankets in one room, and in ours, Louise had set up a little crib for Maeve! Complete with Winnie the Pooh bumper, little blankets, and a stuffed teddy bear. It was perfect and so sweet.
The next morning we went to find church in Mullingar. Mom had gone to church there for a few Sundays last May/June when she was visiting, and at the end of Sacrament meeting, before everyone split for classes, the man sitting in front of us turned around and said, "And your mother was here last year!" Apparently I look like her. Last time we were in Ireland (four years ago), I popped into a local pub (Dillon's) to ask directions and Peter Dillon, whom I had never met before... at least not that I remember... said right away, "you must be Pauline's daughter!" So, yeah. I look like her. Anyway, that was fun. And I got to go to Relief Society, at least for most of the class, and that was refreshing, too. I love being with the kids in Primary, I do, but it's nice to be "nourished" instead of being the "nourisher" sometimes, you know?
Anyway, after that, we went to Auntie Eliz's house! She fed us a lovely lunch, and three of my cousins were there: Tanya, with her little Joseph, who just turned seven, Laura, with her Shannon who is coming up on 13 and is getting so tall, and Jenny. James was away at a football match, but his wife Mary stopped by and I got to finally meet her, which was great. We had a long, wonderful visit there! They're so much fun.
Here's Auntie Eliz with Nuala, as we're about to go gallivanting about in their fields. She was armed with her stick, which came in very handy when the cows all decided to closely follow us. Isn't she cute? And still manages to look glamorous, somehow!
Zac, Maeve, Nuala, Bran and Joseph. N&B loved Joseph (we all did!), and they got along so well! He was pointing out his calf and his heifer to us, and I can't for the life of me remember their names right now... he was so cute telling them to us... hmmm... maybe Angela was one of them? They were very pretty cows :)
Beautiful fields.Joe, Bran, and Nuala playing in the field full of long, delicious (for cows) grass. It was so soft. I plunked in it, too, and it felt very nice, I must admit. Maeve wasn't too sold on it. I think she didn't like the whole feeling of being swallowed up.
She was VERY sold on the dogs. And the horses and cows, but the dogs, especially. Poor babe needs a dog! At least a cat.
Here's the gang at Eliz's. Jenny, Joseph, Laura, Nuala, me, Bran, Maeve, Shannon, Tanya, Eliz. Uncle Pee had already headed off to work, and I didn't take a pic with Mary in time.
After leaving the McEntire's, we stopped at Uncle Padraic's house. Bran had been talking about Uncle Padraic for DAYS, ever since he emailed me and said that the tykes were very welcome to shoot his gun. Dream come true for the Bran-Man. Here they are learning a bit about guns.
And here they are with Z and Uncle Padraic, ready to shoot! ...oh, Bran. Sigh.This pic demonstrates some awesome photography skills. Look at that white balloon! Or what's left of it, floating off at the right of the pic... Great gun skills, too! Nice shot, Bran!
This is after one of Nuala's shots, and now I can't remember which balloon she just massacred... not that it matters, but if I went and looked up all the originals I could tell. Sigh. It's bugging me. Well, anyway... this was after a successful shot. Look how happy Uncle Padraic is. He was so great with them. They looooved him.
And here is the group shot at his house. Aunt Bernadette, Uncle Padraic, a sleeping Nuala, me, Bran, Maeve and cousin Susan. We missed the other two, Mary and Michael, what with school and work and all... Oh, Maeve LOVED their black cat. She chased that poor thing back and forth and was all over her. And she was so patient. And now I can't remember the cat's name! Grrr... But Maeve had a blast there. As we all did. And treacle bread! Susan made the most deeeelicious treacle bread... Granny's recipe, which I need to get.
The next morning we went to visit Auntie Helen. My mom's youngest sister and kind of her twin. They look a lot alike. Except I don't think I really look like her, but I think she and my mom look alike, but if my mom and I look alike... hmmmm... anyway, she took us to see her cows, too.
The cows weren't too thrilled to see us. Bran asked if he could ride one. Um...no.Auntie Helen solidified her awesomeness with Bran when she pulled out a bucket of old cars and trucks that her boys (Paul and David) played with when they were small.
Here we are with my cousin David and Auntie Helen. I feel lame-o. Later we went back and I got to see Uncle Seamus and my other cousin, Paul, and meet his wife, Sarah. I did NOT take a single pic... Take my word for it, they look great and we had fun! And Sarah brought lots of delicious treats. Rocky road cake...yummm Auntie Helen sang and danced and put kids in trees, and Paul and David played with N&B... Auntie Eliz and Jenny came by and Eliz sang and danced with Helen and the kids and me and it was all just lots and lots of fun. It was hard to leave.
Anyway, after the morning visit with Helen, not the one that came later that was hard to leave... even though it's of COURSE always hard to leave... you know what I mean. Anyway, then it was on to Auntie Margaret's house! She fed us platefuls of boxty, bacon and sasages. My goodness, it was honestly one of the most delicious meals I've had. Yummmm.... Bran and Nuala wolfed theirs down so they could go play with Toby and Roxy, the dogs. They loved them! Roxy is an awesome ball-catcher, and N&B couldn't get enough of them. Neither could Maeve, naturally. Toby especially liked her, she was right at his face level. My cousin Linda happened to be there and played with Nuala and Bran so much, too. They sure had fun with her and the dogs.
Auntie Margaret and Uncle Paddy's huge pile of turf. There's a kitty perched on the top, see?
And Toby! He's trained to go and fetch turf, a piece at a time! He's quite awesome.Bran in the tractor after looking at Auntie Margaret's quite impressive garden. Looks like a natural up there, huh? It was super windy that day, and we went in after a while. Cousin Laura come by, too, and we got to chat with her for awhile, which was great! The kids were exhausted. They both fell asleep. Bran tucked up by Uncle Paddy, and Nuala in a chair. They were not pleased to be awoken.
The group shot: Uncle Paddy, Laura, Zac with the very-grumpy-twins-who-wished-they-were-still-sleeping, Auntie Margaret with Maeve, and Linda behind her. My other two cousins from this family, James and Padriac, were working/at school. It's very hard to catch everyone now that the cousins are all grown up and busy with their lives. We'll take what we can get, though! ;) We had a GREAT time with the Martins. Really, I have such fun aunts! And uncles and cousins!
The next day we went to Clonmacnoise, which I'll touch on in the touring post, and that evening went over to Auntie Helen's again where we had the super fun visit with her whole family, and also Auntie Eliz and Jenny. Then we went over to Uncle Seamus's house. He'd been on the road to Tipperary for business, so we didn't get to see as much of him as we would have liked... guess we'll hafta go back! Here is Bran with Mark, his youngest son, who is just about to do his Leaving Certs, which is basically graduating high school. But with much harder exams. Mark's my youngest cousin, and he was great with the kids. All the cousins were, it's true. He let N&B play his guitar and was overall a very cool guy. He even was singing a solo in the graduation Mass for his class the following day, which would have been really neat to have gone to, but we had to leave that morning. Bran had a lot of fun with Mark. We were at Uncle Seamus's until almost midnight. Teresa made us delicious sandwiches and had loads of cake and cookies. You can't go anywhere in Ireland without eating. Over and over and over... it's great! We had a wonderful time there, and I know I say that about all of the visits, and all the relatives, but it's 100% true. I wish we could see them more often.
The group shot at Seamus's: Uncle Seamus, Teresa, Mark with Bran, cousin Patrick standing, me with Nuala. Maeve was conked out on the couch. Uncle Seamus's two red-headed boys, Gary and Philip, are working in Australia right now, and Shane (who we stayed with) is his oldest.
Here's Maeve "asleep" in her little crib at Shane's house. We propped her up in there, and she right away turned her head and closed her eyes. She was totally trying to pretend she was asleep! She started giggling and did it again. She's a funny one, that Maeve...
The morning we left Uncle Padraic stopped by to say goodbye, and I finally had the presence of mind to snap a pic of Louise, Shane's girlfriend who is awesome. The tykes and I were still in our pjs.
Shane with Z, Z's hair, N, & B. He's so good. So, so, so good. Was a wonderful host. He's made a lot of changes to Granny's house. The range behind him was what Granny used to heat the house, she burned turf in it, but Shane put in heating, and redid the whole bathroom, etc, and bit by bit is making these improvements himself. I admit, I did miss the turf-burning, but he's quite handy, he is. The house is looking and doing great!
The front of Shane's/Granny's house. Ahhh, the memories. Kind of strange to see my little ones in front of it. Actually, Bran and Nuala have been here before. We went to Ireland when they were about 5 months old, but to have kids who can now ROMP around the place... that's a little strange.
Bran out in the field behind the house.Bran in front of the Pikeman of Ballinamuck statue. Ballinamuck was the site of a big battle back in 1798. The French were trying to help the Irish fight the British, and there was quite the defeat of the Irish/French here. As wikipedia puts it: The Battle of Ballinamuck marked the defeat of the main force of the French incursion during the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.
And here are some (very close-up) pictures of the Ninety-Eight pub in Ballinamuck, where I remember Grandad liking to go on occasion. Once my older sister and I got to sing on the stage there. Good times, good times.
As a last goodbye to Ballinamuck, we went to visit Granny, Grandad, and Auntie Rosaleen's graves in the graveyard. I love them and miss them, and I'm so glad we know about the whole "Families are Forever" thing. It'll be so good to be with all of them again someday. Not too soon, of course, but someday... ;) Bran was a bit disappointed that he didn't see any zombies. No joke. As we were walking out, he said, "But, that was a graveyard? Why did we not see any zombies??" Thank you, Scooby-Doo.
And from the graveyard, with Ballinamuck in the background. I know I'm seldom there, and it sounds cheesy, but I just loooove going back. The family is so amazing. They truly make us feel at home and treat us like it's just been a short time since we've seen them. And they're all so FUN and funny and loving... It's great craic, altogether!! ;)