Sunday Evening Reading

Hi All!

Did you have a wonderful Halloween?  Any trick-or-treaters show up at your doorstep?  Halloween was a cold and rainy one here, which takes a bit of fun out of trick-or-treating.  The next morning was bright and crisp.  We took a hop-on, hop-off tour of Dublin.  In the three years that we have lived here, we have never taken the tour.  It was fun to be a local tourist for the day.  While I prep for the week ahead, a few links for your enjoyment:

The cost of high-speed internet around the world.  Nice to see that Dublin wasn’t the most expensive, for a change!

We Need to Stop Saying “Babies Ruin Bodies”. I stumbled upon GOOD magazine when we were in the US this past summer. It is a great read.

I loved this interview of Debora Spar, President of Barnard College.

This pictorial of the Indo-European Linguistic Tree is beautiful and incredibly interesting.  For those that are curious, the Irish language is a part of “Gaelic” on this map.

Finally, food for thought: do unequal societies encourage “pushy parenting“?

Have a great weekend!

x Rheagan

Our experience with an au pair

One of the challenging things about becoming an expat is how often I have to eat my words, “I would never…”  When you’re  thrown into a situation you really never expected, no amount of planning can account for all differences in culture and environment.  Some examples in my life include:

I would never have a baby in another country.

I would never fly with an infant younger than a month.  What sort of parent does that?

I would never be the stay-at-home parent.  I have two masters degrees. NO thank you!

And the latest one to bite the dust:

I would never have an au pair live with us.  That’s just too awkward.

A few weeks ago, we had a chance to host a temporary au pair in our home for 12 days.  A friend of mine was looking for someone to take the au pair she had originally contracted with.  Her family was going out of town, and she didn’t need the au pair as expected.  We decided this was a great time to try out an au pair and see how it might work for our family.  Au Pairs aren’t really common in the US, but they are very common in Ireland. There are all sorts of au-pair arrangements: live-in, live-out, temporary, full-time…  One program for temporary au pairs is called Workaway, also known as a “Cultural Exchange Volunteer”.  In this arrangement, in exchange for room and board, you can contract with an individual to work in your home for 4-5 hours per day.  They could do housecleaning, cooking, child minding, or other forms of light manual labor.

I was really nervous about the whole idea, even though I am the one who volunteered to host her!  We spoke with her several times and exchanged numerous emails.  I know that constantly watching 3 young kids can be mentally and physically exhausting.  What if she didn’t like kids?  What if it was too stressful for her, or we didn’t have good communication? What if all she wanted was a free place to sleep while she did some sightseeing?  What if she stayed out late partying every night?  What if I met her and decided I didn’t trust her?

In reality, all my fears were overblown.  Jenny stayed with us for 12 days, and it was AMAZING.  We picked up Jenny from the train station, and from the start, she was outgoing, kind, fun, and responsible.  She had just turned 25, graduated from university, and completed an internship.  She decided to do a Workaway trip to practice her English, and see Ireland, before starting her full-time job back in Germany.  She played with the kids, helped out around the house, and was genuinely interested in how we came to living in Ireland.  She watched the kids for 4 hours a day, while I worked.  One day, she took the kids to a museum in town.  She even watched the kids on Saturday night so Brad and I could sneak away for a date, and then came to church with us the next morning.  The rest of the time, she did sightseeing in and around Dublin.  We gave her a train/bus card (Leap card), so she could get around on public transit.

I was nervous that it might be awkward having someone else living with us, but we have a spare bedroom, and it really worked out well.  Her English was great, and more importantly, she jumped right in to our family.  It was wonderful to have someone dependable at home.  One of my friends described having an au pair was like having a wife, in that there was always someone at home to watch the kids, move laundry, load the dishwasher, and all the other little things that can fall by the wayside, especially when life gets busy. We will definitely consider an au pair as a viable option for childcare in the future.   Do you think you would consider an au pair, if you had the opportunity?

 

Oh, the picture above was taken at one of our favourite coffee shops in Dublin, and Liesl is at that stage where she gives a fake grin in every picture…

School lunches in Ireland

A few weeks back, I wrote about school in Ireland and alluded to the differences in the lunch system between here and the US.  The few months leading up to Isaac starting school, I envisioned that Isaac would eat lunch in the cafeteria, just like I did in the US.  In fact, when I went to register him for school, it didn’t even occur to me to ask about lunches.  Of course he would either bring his lunch or eat at school – in the cafeteria!  Except…not.  Here in Ireland, most schools do not have a cafeteria, (also known as a canteen).  Instead, all students bring their lunch and eat in the classroom, at their desks. They can have a small portion of their lunch during their first break, and the rest during their lunch break.

The lunch must not need refrigeration, and there is no access to a microwave or kettle to heat up food.  Moreover, there are specific requirements for what can and cannot be included in the lunch.  Items not allowed include:

[checklist icon=”fa-times” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Nuts of any type, including peanut butter[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Sweets, including candy, cookies/biscuits, sweet buns, cakes, and chocolate[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Chips or crisps – this includes any similar “foil wrapped products like popcorn or pretzels[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]No fizzy (carbonated) drinks, including fruit-based drinks[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Juice is discouraged[/li_item]
[/checklist]

What is most interesting to me is that this policy is enforced every day. All year.  As frustrating as it is that we don’t have another option except to pack a lunch for Isaac, I really do like that the school reinforces the eating habits we have established at home.  Easy on the sweets and junk food.  No carbonated drinks. Focus on whole foods.  It also begs the question – what exactly do you pack in your child’s lunch besides ham and cheese, that fits within these guidelines?  For someone who ate peanut butter and jam growing up, this is very challenging! After trial and error – here is what we have come up with for Isaac’s lunch:

[checklist icon=”fa-cutlery” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”small” class=”” id=””]
[li_item icon=””]Ham and cheese[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Cream cheese and jam[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Egg salad or egg mayo[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Shredded carrot, shredded cheddar, and cream cheese sandwich[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Quesadillas[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Hamburger, turkey burger, or lentil burger (leftovers)[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Pitas, hummus and tzatziki[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Leftover fried rice[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Leftover frittata[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]Mini Quiches[/li_item]
[li_item icon=””]And Isaac’s favorite – Runzas, a stuffed pastry with ground beef and cabbage. Definitely related to Brad for this one![/li_item]
[/checklist]

I usually include some chopped veggies such as carrot sticks, bell pepper sticks, cucumber or celery, along with fruit or yogurt.  He also takes a water bottle.  Obviously not every school has this policy.  I know of several schools that provide hot lunches, and schools in economically disadvantaged areas have also started breakfast clubs to ensure students have the opportunity to eat breakfast.  In general, parents do not come to school and eat lunch with their child, or bring fast food to share with their child.  The school day is much shorter anyway, so if I want to take Isaac to McDonald’s, I can do that after I collect him at 1:30.

School lunches in Ireland – yet another thing that I didn’t expect to be different, but we have grown to like it anyway.

Sunday Evening Reading

The costume creation was a success…until we arrived at the party in the middle of a rainstorm (ah Ireland).  The costumes held up in the rain, although I am going to fix a few things on Isaac’s costume before Round 2: School Halloween Day.  I have pictures of Liesl and Isaac. – basically running from car to car in “Trunk or Treat”.   All of the pictures of Patrick also have other kids in them, and I don’t want to post them online without permission from other parents.  We have two more Halloween events, so I’m sure I’ll get more pictures between now and then.

While I recover from my weekend of costume building and a Halloween candy-induced coma, some Sunday reading for you.

Motherhood:

Oh, how I love McSweeney’s for a snarky dose of satire.

Lists like this one make the rounds every holiday season, but it is a great reminder that some of the best gifts aren’t toys.

Expat Life:

Nine Expats You’ll Meet Abroad.  I know several of these people, and a few more hit a little too close to home!

The Literary United States map.  I found this map fascinating!

Food:

We are making this tonight to go with our sliders, because Ireland has no shortage of potatoes…

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

x Rheagan

Halloween Costume Purgatory

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts this week.  Tonight, Brad and I have been in Halloween costume purgatory.  The annual expat Halloween party is tomorrow, and we hadn’t started finished the kids’ costumes.  This year, I made the mistake of asking the kids, “What would you like to be for Halloween?”  rather than suggesting some cheap/easy to find costumes.

  • Isaac requested Dusty from Planes. Super. That should be easy to find on this island.
  • Liesl requested Rosie from Thomas the Tank Engine. “Because purple is my favorite color!”
  • Patrick wanted to be a fire truck.  Never mind that perfectly good fireMAN costume we already have.  Oh no…if his siblings were going as something original, so was he.

So, Brad and I spent most of the evening cutting, painting, and sewing.

There was the cutting of the panels

The drying of the panels.

The realization that the paint was not drying, and thus an effort to speed it along.

The cutting, trimming, and raiding the Halloween candy stash.

And the carnage at the end.

 

We’re not done yet, but the paint has to dry overnight.  Next year, all the kids are going as ghosts.

Goodnight all, xRheagan