Today we learned about Irish hares. We saw some at the “dead zoo” (National Museum of Ireland – Natural History) so today I’m sharing pictures of the first couple days we spent in Dublin.

We took the train to get there on March 26th. The free wifi on board came in handy once everyone got bored of looking out the windows and just seeing fields full of sheep.

We randomly ran into a bunch of huge decorated eggs set up in a little mall.

On March 27th, we toured Kilmainham Gaol. That morning it was snowing (mostly a cross between snow and hail… ice pellets covered in fluffy snow).



Later on the 27th, we went to the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History. It is full of very old animal specimens. Some of them are from the 1800s!






A security guard saw me taking lots of pictures and pulled me over to see this little hedgehog. The guard said it is his very favorite animal in the whole museum because it looks like it’s smiling.

As we were walking back to the Luas (tram) to get back to our hotel, we noticed a news van across the street from one of the government buildings. A couple minutes later my mother-in-law called to say she had just seen us on TV! She happened to be watching the news at that exact moment we were walking by and we happened to be on camera for several seconds while the field reporter talked. Talk about incredible random timing!

Ring of Kerry

Today we learned about Carrauntoohil and Galway sheep. When we went on the Ring of Kerry tour on March 22nd we saw that mountain and lots of sheep. So today I’m sharing pictures of that tour.

We boarded a bus with a very jolly and funny fellow as our guide.

We stopped at the Kerry Bog Village.





We saw a random Charlie Chaplin statue. Adrian really wanted his picture taken with Charlie.

The boys took turns pretending to be the driver of our bus (we didn’t get a picture of Fritz in the driver’s seat).

Cameron even wore the driver’s hat.

The views around the Ring are amazing.








Blarney Castle

Today the boys are learning about the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle, so here are some pictures I took when we went there on April 3rd.

The benches behind the castle are way cool.

You can go pretty much anywhere in the castle. They expect you to be smart and not fall out.


The little guys are dancing because isn’t that what you do in the Great Hall of a real 15th century castle?


At the end of that line you can be hung upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone (it’s perfectly safe nowadays since they put a grate there so if you fall you only fall a few inches onto your head). Fritz was the only one of us even remotely interested in kissing it, but he was too young (they recommend 8+). I’m sure they would’ve let him anyway because it was so quiet that day, but kissing it is really unhygienic. So we just looked at the Stone and moved on.

Going down was way scarier than climbing up because I could see where I was going.

Right next to the castle is the Poison Garden. Some of the plants are specially covered to keep people and animals out. Others are just out in the open. There’s a sign that says not to touch, eat, or smell anything in the garden because everything is truly poisonous (but many are also useful) in one way or another. It was interesting how many of the plants are mentioned in the Harry Potter books.

Fritz took the warnings very seriously. He didn’t want to die from walking through the garden.

There was a random small cave near the castle that we got to explore.

Adrian wanted me to take this picture. He is, apparently, the king of this cave.

The Burren

Last spring we spent a month in Ireland. This week the boys and I are doing the Download N Go Expedition Ireland (Fritz’s choice). It’s so fun to learn about places and things we saw while we were over there. As we were looking at pictures this morning it occurred to me that I never posted pictures of our trip on our blog. So here are a few in The Burren in County Clare (since that’s what we learned about today). We went there April 8th.

On our way there we happened upon the ruins of O’Dea Castle. It was built in 1480.

The grounds around it were fascinating. It’s on the edge of The Burren so there are the rocks, but instead of bare rocks they have mossy grass growing over them.

This is a very old church on the inside edge of The Burren. You can see more exposed rock. The church is typical missing its roof. Many of the old churches, abbeys, and monasteries were converted into burial grounds. I’m not sure if this one had any graves inside because it was roped off so we couldn’t get very close to it.

Further on we happened upon Caherconnell Fort. Forts like that one were built and used in the early medieval period between the 5th and 10th centuries. It was quite fascinating to wander around and touch it and see the excavating they are doing.



About a kilometer past Caherconnell was what we were really wanting to see. Poulnabrone Dolmen. These amazing stone slabs marked the tomb of about two dozen people, both adults and children, along with other artifacts. The tomb is dated to about 3600 BC.


The amazing thing about The Burren is the rocks. There’s a saying that in The Burren there is no tree on which to hang a man, no water in which to drown a man, and when he finally dies, it’s too rocky to bury a man. The exposed limestone has been worn away by rain and wind (the wind in The Burren literally howls, but it’s a beautiful sound) and so has ended up in some incredible shapes.





Watch Your Example

Yesterday a family was baptized in our ward. The son is in a few of Cameron’s classes at school. A few weeks ago, while learning about the priesthood, the son said he had noticed Cameron passing the Sacrament. Without even knowing it, Cameron (and the other little Deacons) had been a good example of a worthy priesthood holder both at church and school.

This got me thinking how we truly never know if someone might be watching us. What kind of example do we want to be? If we want to be a good example (and we should) we need to watch what we do all the time because someone might be watching. We may never know they were, or we may find out like Cameron did. I just hope that the other person will always think our example was a good one.

Bulldog With Pride

Every 6 weeks the teachers at Cameron’s middle school pick four students per team (each team is 150+ students) to receive the Bulldog With Pride award. This 6 weeks, Cameron was one of the kids chosen. Yesterday we all went to his school for the awards ceremony. Each recipient got a t-shirt, a front of the line pass, a certificate, and a sticker for their parent’s car window. A little blurb was given about each student who was receiving the award. Cameron’s English teacher had written about their team’s winning kids in poetry form.


The kids who are chosen for the award represent their school in a positive way and embody the parts of the Bulldog Creed (which is printed on the t-shirts they were given):
Driven by determination
Motivated to reach the goal
Tenacious during competition
But always respectful
As our tradition of excellence continues
Success is our destiny, integrity above all

Homeschooling Again

Yesterday we pulled the little guys out of the elementary school. That was hard. We love that school. The people are fabulous. But in the end we had to decide what would work best for the kids. The withdrawal process was super easy and everyone was totally supportive. I think I’m most sad about not being able to volunteer anymore.

Since it’s getting closer to when we would work on enrolling the kids in the virtual school (Fritz was 100% set on coming home – he’s been asking to be homeschooled again since November), I looked at some sample lessons and thought about it and decided I really didn’t want to go with that after all. Free plus all planned out is nice, but I’m not sure it would have been that great for him. And of course if we weren’t going to do the virtual school, but were going to pull him out, why wait.

We gave Adrian the choice to stay in kindergarten or come home. He thought about it and ended up deciding to come home. School has become all about his behavior. He hasn’t learned to read like he wanted (though in the last couple weeks me working with him after school has helped him along nicely). He kept saying he was a bad boy and the other kids told him he’d never be anything but a bad boy. He already has one in school suspension on his record (he bit a kid – not unprovoked, but he could have totally handled it way better and done a million other things instead of biting her). When he said good-bye to his teacher he told her he can do school in a shorter time at home and she said that is exactly what he needs.

We realized Fritz had actually lost skills since starting school. His teacher was doing her best to challenge him but it wasn’t enough. I hate the idea of afterschooling because I feel like once they’ve been in school 7 hours, plus done their homework, they shouldn’t have to do more school work. And yet I was doing a few things with him after school. More troubling is Fritz was starting to talk less and less. He would “talk in his head” most of the time at school. He started doing that to make sure he didn’t go down on the behavior chart (the entire year he always ended the day at or above the middle mark where they all start), but it was becoming a bit of a habit for him all the time.

It was fun having all the kids in school for a few months. It’s been even more fun having the little guys home again. Ani will almost definitely graduate from public school. She loves school and is doing great. Cameron will probably stay in school, but it will always be up to him each year what he does (as it will always be up to Ani, too). For him, the virtual school would be perfect. He is doing incredibly well and thriving in middle school, though, so I am pretty sure he’ll stay in for at least the next couple years.

These kids are amazing

Every morning the high school kids from three wards plus part of another ward get up way too early while it’s still totally dark and go to church where they gather in 5 classes (one for each grade plus an extra for the freshmen) and spend 50 minutes, starting at 6 am, learning from the scriptures (Book of Mormon this year). This happens all over the place where early morning seminary is the norm.

Most of these kids are very busy. Many of them are in sports or band or other extra curricular activities. Many of them stay up late at night working on homework and so, really, get less than adequate sleep at night. High school doesn’t even start until 8:45 in our district so many of their non-member friends aren’t even getting out of bed for 2 or more hours after they do.

And, yet, for the most part, they do this willingly. They enjoy their seminary classes, they like learning the scriptures, and/or they have a goal of attending a church school for college and want/need to have four years of seminary attendance behind them. They are truly amazing kids.


We homeschooled in Maryland because we could give the kids a better education than they could get in the public schools. The district where we live now is one of the best and the schools our kids are zoned for are some of the best in the district. I am continually amazed and delighted (like, for example, Ani’s geography teacher was “supposed to” teach something on cartography according to the curriculum outline for the district, but she thought studying genocide would be more important and meaningful to the kids so she asked for, and got, permission to change the plans for her classes).

When we put the kids in school, we told them they could decide at the end of the year if they want to stay in school or come home and do a virtual school. The virtual school, academically, would be equal to what they do in school. But there are non-academic things that make these schools amazing, too.

As it stands now Ani wants to stay in school, Cameron probably does, and Fritz is set on coming home. Adrian isn’t old enough. He needs to do two more years in school before he can decide (if he could choose now he’d definitely stay in).

Some of the things that I can’t do at home include the pow-wow the kindergarteners did in November and the play the second graders will do in March, the author (Aaron Reynolds) visit the boys’ school just had, and the drama club the middle school has that Cameron just started participating in. It really would be a lot easier to make a final decision to pull the kids who want to come home out if these schools weren’t so darn awesome (we haven’t even had an issues socially with any of them)!

Lola is Good for Our Health

I’ve always heard that having a pet, and specifically a dog, is good for your health. I’ve pretty much always ignored that because the only dog I’ve ever had before Lola was a big, old mutt named Freckles when I was a kid. I loved her, but she died before I was teenager.


Now that we have Lola, I can totally see how owning a dog can be good for your health. One night I had a terrible, terrible stomachache. Lola climbed up beside me and I started petting her and the pain actually seemed to lessen. I don’t know if it was some actual physical thing or just because I was concentrating on methodically petting her, but, whatever, it helped.

Also, I tend to be on the go all the time. I get bored if I’m not doing something. I can’t even watch most TV shows without doing something else at the same time. Since having Lola I’ve noticed that I often will just sit and pet her for a few minutes, doing nothing else but relaxing and petting her. I am sure it’s good for me to have a little down time like that and Lola loves the attention, too.

We have had her for almost three months now. She is so sweet and usually a very good girl (especially now that we’ve all gotten used to never leaving clothes on the floor since she likes to chew on clothes a little too much). She makes us all happy. We are so glad we decided to adopt her.