We’ve been spinning off our axis for the past 2 weeks. Everyday has alternated between feeling like a Saturday or Sunday. Schedules were for the birds. We went to bed way past our standard bedtime and woke up whenever the heck we wanted. We survived on a diet that was largely sugar based and we filled our days with lots of little adventures and caught up with family and friends. Its been so nice, its been liberating and its been relaxing. I’ve really taken to this more free flowing less scheduled lifestyle. The boys are back to school this week and I’m a tad concerned about my ability to get the routine back on track. We may be that family that can’t get their sh*t together for the first few days. Showing up after the school gate has been closed, in a frenzied hurry looking mostly disheveled. But whatever, we won’t worry about that right now. Instead, lets chat about Santa and how he brought the boys everything they asked for, and of course some tings they didn’t. But Santa did get upstaged in the gift department, by Granny. Granny, being the creative, clever women she is, got the boys a gift that not only fits perfectly into our love of travel and adventure, but that makes the less enjoyable elements of travel, I’m talking about hours spent in airports, way more fun. She got the boys backpacks, that become scooters!! Yes, genius. I wish this invention was my own genius idea. Cos its genius. For once in our travel life, there was absolutely zero whining and zero complaints from the boys. We had 2 delays, our flight out of Dublin was delayed and our connecting flight out of Philadelphia was delayed. And at no point was there any gripping from the boys. In fact, they were happy to have the extra time to scoot. Like I said, backpack scooter is genius. Granny absolutely wins Christmas this year.

Here we are, owning the airport terminals.

Living our best scooter lives.

We’ve even got tricks.

And believe it or not, we were incident free. There were a couple of close calls, but overall, there were no injuries caused to ourselves or our fellow passengers.


No sure why, but Cullen decided he needed to rest. Right there. Middle of the terminal.

Up and ready to roll.

A flight delay meant plenty of extra time to enjoy the terminal ramp.

Wahooo!

Our confidence is clearly soaring.

The Santa Encounter

December 20, 2018

We are days away from Christmas. And we are even fewer days away from flying to Ireland. This year we’ll be spending our Christmas in the Emerald Isle. So this is my official announcement of a 2 week break from shooting and sharing. This has been a pretty rough year for my family and I, and Christmas is especially tough when you’ve suffered any kind of major loss or are going through a major struggle. So this is my way of giving myself some space. Stepping back from the small things to focus on the important stuff, time spent with others.

This week we also made sure to visit Santa Claus, so we could go over our wish list for Christmas and to let him know that this year he would be delivering our gifts to Ireland. Keane leading the way to Santa’s grotto.

Cullen going at his own happy pace.

Lots of fabulous Christmas trees.

Waiting to get in and see the big man.

Keane’s excited.

There he is, Santa! Listening and making sure he’s clear on the boys wish list and also on where to make the delivery.

Look at Cullen, keeping an eye on the big man.

More chit-chat.

The boys get candy canes.

Santa gets a hug.

After the Santa encounter, the boys went on a deer hunt.

The wishing fountain.

Gingerbread House Party 2018

December 16, 2018

The gingerbread decorating party. This has become an annual event for the boys and their friends. One of the many things they look forward to each festive season. But just like the Santa Express, it almost didn’t happen. Again, weather was the issue. A middle of the night storm took down some trees around our property and one of those trees took with it an electrical cable. And you don’t need to have done honors physics in your Leaving Cert to know, no electrical cable = no electricity. Initially it was very exciting. The kids walking around with flashlights and candles in the pre-dawn darkness. A cozy fire first thing in the morning to try and stay warm. All the blankets from all the beds pilled up in front of the fire felt like camping. But slowly, the fun turned sour. When the reality of no power began to really sink in. When the much anticipated gingerbread house party was now at risk of not happening, no power became no fun. The power company fix-it crew showed up late morning and told me they would have us up and running in a few hours. A few hours? Are we talking 2 hrs? 3 hrs? Come on lads, more details. Be specific. 2 kids need answers. Not to mention the other 9 kids scheduled to arrive in a few hours, who were now currently in a holding pattern, awaiting more information on the no-power situation. Fix-it crew foreman told me not to cancel the party. That he would do his best but was confident they would restore power in time. And 63 mins before everyone was due to arrive, POWER WAS RESTORED! Nothing but love of those power crew men. Saviors, all of them.

Once the power came back, we got busy. We had only 63 mins and counting before all of the friends started to arrive. Santa Keane here proved to be an excellent helper.

As was Cullen. Filling lots of little cups, with lots of different candies. Ensuring there was enough frosting for everyone.

Cullen’s good friend Ashton arrived early. So we enlisted his assistance with preparation too.

So much joy and excitement.

Keane claiming his preferred house.

Our friends are here! Lets get decorating!

Cullen and his 2 little besties Henry and Ashton.

Henry’s creation.

Hmm, lots of this happening. See now why everyone had their own frosting? Inhaling it straight from the tube.

Master decorators in action.

Cullen’s house is coming along nicely.

Logan is in the zone.

Eli working on his Christmas tree.

Some for the house, some for himself. That was Keane’s decorating system.

Donavan being very systematic.

Justin favoring the chocolate chips and gum drops in his design.

Ella frosting her Christmas tree.

The brothers Luke & Logan.

And still more inhaling of the frosting.

Ashton’s house is coming together fabulously.

When they think the mommas are not looking, lots of candy is being consumed.

Hard at it.

Keane told me his was using the “pointillism technique” for his roof. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. I had to.

Checking each others work.

Ella still ingesting.

Ah yes, the sugar is kicking in now.

Eli did a very impressive job with his house.

Everyone is high on sugar and running in every direction. Trying to get them back to the table for a group shot, was like herding drunk cats.

Eventually we got them back and I snapped quickly before losing them to their sugar highs again.

Santa Express

December 12, 2018

Last year we missed out. Leaving it too late to get tickets for the Blue Ridge Santa Express. This year it looked like we’d done it again. My friend Aisha and I went online a few weeks ago to try and book tickets, only to see that every train ride, on all 4 weekends leading up to Christmas, were again, “Sold Out”. Shit! But late Friday evening, a tiny Christmas miracle happened, some seats opened up for the 4pm Saturday train ride. Without thinking, we pounced. Booking 2 mommas and 3 kids to ride Santa’s Express. Only after we booked did we realize why tickets had opened up, the weather. Snow storms and plummeting temperatures were pounding the states North of where we were headed. My friend Aisha and I became weather tracking hounds. Constantly checking TV reports, refreshing weather apps on our phone, wondering if in our hast and excitement to secure the much coveted Santa Express tickets, we failed to consider the bad weather we might encounter. All reports indicated that North Georgia (the place we were headed) would be safe from the snow storm, at least until Sunday. Just rain, lots or rain, and chilly but not freezing temps. So after much back and forth and a few rounds of the second guessing game, we did one final check of the weather app 30 mins before we were to begin the 1 and a half hour drive. Feeling confident that we, and the storm, were not planning to hit the same destination, at least not that day, we powered on with our plan to ride the Santa Express.

No day long downpour. No threatening snow storm or frigidity temps are going to stop us getting on the Santa Express.

Up close and personal with the decorations.

Bryson spotted a very big fish.

The big sea creature fan that he is, this made Cullen very happy.

Trackside and ready for our train to arrive.

We see it! We see it!

Wahoo! Spotted by the Grinch and Rudolph.

We are all aboard.

Bryson brought a book on bugs, and everyone wanted a look in.

Here comes the Grinch. Making his way down the train. Stopping to say “Hi” to everyone.

Cullen and Bryson were a little nervous/scared/shy.

But within a few minutes, everyone was friends.

Grinchy hi-fives.

The Grinch gave the boys some coloring books. See, he’s not all bad.

A while later Rudolph stopped by.

Cullen was happy to see that nose light up.

A Christmas story read by the magic Christmas tree.

Cullen and Bryson sitting front row, not so they can hear the story better, so they can get a few sneaky touches of her lights.

Rumor has it Santa is coming. Everyone scrambling for their seats.

Keane checking out the view, while also keeping an eye out for the big man.

There he is! Santa!

Keane looking really uncomfortable. Desperately trying to keep his eye on the man with the power to bring or not bring his Christmas presents.

A candy cane treat from Mrs. Claus.

Santa gave the boys silver bells. Having just watched the Polar Express, Keane and Bryson were super excited.

An hour later and we are back at the station. And back out into the rain.

Of course we had to get the over priced memory photo. Cos, well, memories.

Yarn + Art = Yart

December 9, 2018

Feeling left out each time we went to the craft shop for yarn. But still lacking the dexterity to fully master crocheting, we found an alternative use of the yarn for Cullen. A use that still required him to graze the aisles with his older brother and friends, feeling like one of the big kids. Making his yarn selections for what was going to be a sea creature masterpiece. Once home, while Keane was busy getting stuck into his crochet, Cullen and I got busy sketching out the vision for his ocean masterpiece. Then armed with scissors, glue and endless stripes of yarn, we began to slowly turn the vision, into an artistic reality.

The first to be sketched and yarn glued was of course, our favorite ocean creature, the great white shark.

A completed great white and now Cullen is sketching a baby orca.

The cutting and the gluing for the yarn took a while. Each creature could take almost an hour. But it kept us busy for most of the day.

After a break for lunch Cullen decided to add a little sunshine.

Looking good.

Let there be light.

More sketching.

Its all coming together nicely.

You can tell Cullen has put in a big effort and is now starting to hit the wall.

So we decided to take a break for the day, letting all the glued pieces dry so we can continue to add even more creatures over the coming days.