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3 Jun

This weekend will go down as one of those unforgettable formative experiences our girls have ever had.  I know we moved to Ireland in part to give them a more rural life experience and with all the animals they have in their lives: cat, cows, rabbits, dog, they are certainly experiencing things they wouldn’t have in the city.  But I never would have guessed when we moved here that they’d have an experience like we did this weekend.

The gestation period for Jack Russell terriers is 9 weeks, so we’re guessing our dog Friday must have been about three weeks up the pole when she landed in our lives.  Of course Grace called the pregnancy before anyone else including the vet (there is some speculation that Grace thinks all our pets are pregnant so this isn’t particularly unusual…but she was “suuuuuurre of it and why doesn’t anyone believe me!!!”)

Our Girl Friday

Our Girl Friday

Well when Friday swelled up like a little football, everybody finally agreed with Grace who also incidentally called the delivery correctly…as far as date goes.  We had Friday in at the Vet for an exam on Friday (I know, confusing…) and Grace said “she’s going to have the babies this weekend” and the vet said “sorry honey, I think it’ll be another week or two”.  But Saturday morning, Mary and I were awoken by screams of joy and excitement when Grace and Tara discovered that Friday had delivered a tiny baby puppy.

By the time I got dressed and came down to look at the pup, it had passed away.  Life lesson #1: It’s tough.

The bitch continued whelping throughout the day (notice all the new words I learned from the vet) and we moved her house into the front hall so she and her impending pups wouldn’t be at risk from foxes or other local predators.

Friday's box is starting to look like Pandora's

Friday’s box is starting to look like Pandora’s

But in spite of a long day of encouragement and soothing from Tara and Grace, her labor hadn’t produced any new pups by the time we set out in the early evening for the memorial mass in Liscannor for our dear departed friend Howard who passed away six years ago.  When we returned home, the vet told us to bring Friday down for a look.   Because of the late hour, Grace and Mary stayed home and Tara and I put Friday into a basket of blankets and took the whelping bitch (sounds like something you’d call a woman you didn’t like) to the vet.

you go girl!

you go girl!

This being Ireland, the vet’s clinic is a room at the side of his house, so emergency after-hours visits are a little less trouble for the doctor than some fancy big-city pet hospital.  It also means that pet owners are rather more involved in the ensuing activites.

A quick examination determined that the only course of action likely to save the life of the dog and any pups was going to be a caesarean section.  Eugene the vet says to me “this is going to be messy, are you going to be ok with it?” I roll up the sleeves of my white dress shirt and nod affirmative to his sceptically raised eyebrow.  Eugene hands a bunch of paper towels to Tara and says “you’ll be in charge of the babies”.  Tara nervously agrees, looking like Audrey Hepburn in an elegant long dress with a Chanel-style bolero jacket.

I soon became glad I had endured so many of the hospital shows on TV with Mary because I credit those for my “being Ok” with the proceedings.  I also began to recall having seen some sort of caesarean video during one of the birth classes we took when Mary was pregnant with Tara or Grace.  This was just like I remembered: cut through the outer layer, blood, cut through inner layer, more blood, some other layer, mess, uterus, amniotic sac, then “pull this!”

As Eugene the vet squeezes some sort of organic greenish water-balloon looking organ which I assume is a uterus or something, I manage to pull out from the incision a dark soggy mass dragging and dripping strings of warm stuff and hand it to my eleven year old daughter.  Tara bravely embarks on her mission of cleaning, drying and trying to get the little pups to breathe.  The first three were a complete loss but Tara kept on trying to revive them and get them going until the vet told her it was hopeless.  The last little creature that came out Tara managed to get some activity from and clean it off, and got it breathing.


Now Eugene set out to try and save Friday.  I did what Eugene said and held what I was told to hold and squeezed flaps of whatever together wherever Eugene instructed, and just like on the TV shows, I squeezed, he sewed and we managed to put Friday back together.

Tara named the little white puppy Luna and was valiantly working to keep her warm and stimulated, but Eugene sadly looked at us and said it was a slim chance that either Friday or the baby would survive the night.

We called home, told Mary to boil the hot water bottles, light the fire and put on the coffee, we had a long night of nursing ahead of us.


By two am we had Luna nursing on the still struggling and unconscious Friday.  By four am we managed to get Friday to drink a little water from the dropper-style bottle left over from the rabbits.  Every drop she drank resulted in more alertness and vitality.  At six am Luna climbed up to lick Friday’s face and, like Sleeping Beauty, she awoke and started cleaning and minding her pup as if she had suddenly realised she had a baby.

It now looks like they both might make it.  But no matter what happens with the dogs, the girls lives have been forever impacted by the miracles of life, death, and the struggle we all share to survive.  These are the lessons you can’t plan to teach your kids, but you hope to encounter along the way.

Mangan’s Cross

21 Apr

Shortly after we moved to Ireland I asked my father-in-law if he wanted to go grab a pint with me and as we headed out from his house he suggested we go to the Sibín bar (Shebeen) and pay our respects at a wake for a neighbour that had passed away. As we turned at the crossroads, Jim says “she used to live in that cottage there” and I said “oh, Mrs. Mangan?” as if I might have known her.

"The Custom's House"

“The Custom’s House”

My father-in-law asked incredulously, “how do you know Mrs. Mangan?” and I said “I don’t, but everyone refers to that crossroads as Mangan’s Cross, so I just guessed”. We had a little laugh, but it occurred to me that like “The Bog Road”, so many of the crucial landmarks in Ireland have names that only the neighbours know – that don’t show up on the map and are only passed along orally and rarely referenced in text or print.

As we sipped our pints in this cozy pub in the tiny township of Doora, Jim told me about old fellows, long gone, that had sat on stools like ours and sung a song about the local boys who had volunteered to fight for England in WWI with the promise of being repaid with Irish independence.

Jim speculated that the old fellow who sang that song was probably the last one who remembered “The Doora Volunteers” and knew  the words that described the young soldiers’ humorous ineptitude. I wondered if Jim was now the only person left who knew that song.  How fast time erases history.

I wonder how many generations will continue to say “turn right at Mangan’s cross to get to the Sibín”?

(this post is dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Kay with gratitude for all the Arizona history she helped preserve RIP)

Nuts for health

19 Apr

I happened to look at Grace making her own lunch the other day, mainly candy corn mixed with a little chocolate.  Before I intervened I had to take a photo.

is candy corn a food group?

is candy corn a food group?

“Why are you taking a picture, Dad?” “Because I can’t believe you thought this would be an acceptable lunch.” “But I’m adding nuts to make it healthy.”

Fresh meat

14 Apr

I knew spring had sprung when I looked out the bathroom window the other morning and saw the cattle.  Mary calls fromthe bedroom “what are you doing in there?”  “Taking a picture out the window” says I.


Young, freshly gelded bullocks romping in the field marks the beginning of this year’s meat production cycle.  With it comes Grace’s annual declaration that she is a vegetarian.  That lasted almost a whole day.


26 Feb

When the sun comes out in the West of Ireland one makes the most out of it. Sunday was a perfect day for sun because after a week of long days at work and the MBA program I had promised myself to spend the whole day focused on family related activities.


So with the thermometer at 1 degree we bundled up and headed for the under-15 Munster Rugby final where our friend’s son won the championship. The girls had never seen such brutality up close and Tara had to avert her eyes from the primal sight of males beating the heck out of each other.

After the match we headed up to the Cratloe woods where there is a big play area for the kids and endless woods to walk in.

The walk ended with a picnic on the boot of the car which I continue to assert is called the trunk.

I told them to try and not look like they had food in their mouths…Tara listened.


12 Feb

Is “shrove” the past tense for “shrive”? Does making pancakes count as Shriving? Who knows?

Happy “pancake Tuesday” and Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

Christmas recap

13 Jan

Just a quick recap of Christmas to start off 2013. (I downloaded the WordPress blogging app for my phone so maybe I will get back to posting more frequently)

A quiet Christmas Eve at home by the fire watching “The Sound of Music” culminated in setting up treats for Santa. Grace wrote her letter to Santa this year in “Viking” – runes she and her cousin had learned from a book he has about Vikings. She said “if Santa is real, he’ll be able to read Viking”
Well apparently he is, because Christmas morning there was a letter written back to Grace in the same strange script.

Christmas morning was a treat for all: Santa brought Grace new skates and a book about wizards, he brought Tara a digital camera. Mary and I got a beautiful morning in a beautiful house and many fine gifts from family and friends.

After a nice morning at Sonas, we headed in for mass at the Cathedral. Town was sunny and quiet. Unlike the U.S. where there are a significant number of non-Christians, in Ireland the entire country closes for business on Christmas Day…all except the Churches.

After mass, it was out to Quin Road and a phenomenal feast with all the Lyons clan and requisite cousins. 15 of us in all – for a very merry Christmas indeed.



9 Oct

Tara and Grace lobbied us so hard for pet rabbits that we finally gave in.  We decided that to keep the peace between the girls we would get two rabbits so there wouldn’t be fighting over the attentions of a single creature.  Our only condition was that the two rabbits would be of the same sex, so we could limit our commitment to just two pets.  Thus we became the proud owners of two female rabbits.

The only concern we had was that one of the rabbits kept jumping on the back of the other rabbit in a rather, shall we say, lusty manner.  We called the vets who assured us that the rabbits were both female and that they sometimes behaved in this way, so we figured we had lesbian rabbits which we found on on the interwebs is rather common…who knew?

Until they weren’t lesbians at all….

Mary thought a rat had crawled into the hutch because there was this squirmy wormy gross hairless thing in there with our lesbian rabbits.  Turns out one of them had babies.  Four of them.   They were hidden in a nest of hay so you couldn’t really see them (photo above) but when you looked closely they were the wierdest ugliest things you ever saw….and there were four of them.

We immediately had to purchase a new hutch and sequester the “dominent female” who was starting to look suspiciously like a male rabbit who had just fathered his first litter of bunnies.  The girls changed his name from Caramel to Snickers..Tara says “Caramel is still inside, but he’s got nuts now”.  Very funny, but how do kids even know this stuff?

After a week or so, the squirmy wormy rabbit babies grew fur and turned out to be super duper cute (one died though so we had to process that on the way).  

Anyone want to adopt a baby bunny?

Daddyyy….I want a ponyyy

6 Oct

There seem to be a lot of horse related events lately.  So at the risk of having it look like all we do is horse-y stuff I am going to tell you about the Show Jumping  Championships that were held in Ennis this year.  (we really do a lot of stuff that isn’t related to horses….really)

Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool that our little town hosted this event.  I’m not really familiar with the Show Jumping scene here in Ireland, but we saw a lot of this type of thing in the Olympics this year and with all the recent interest in Horse riding, it seemed like a no-brainer to head over to the Show Grounds and check out the jumping.

I never saw horses do jumps like this in Arizona when I was younger.  I guess it all has to do with how you treat your fences.  Out in the American West you ride alongside the fences looking for weak spots the cattle could get through, here you leap the fences chasing foxes.  It changes the way you ride I suppose.  Either way, the girls seemed to enjoy the event.

Julie’s Visit

29 Sep

Two interesting things happen when you’re an expat and someone visits you from home: 1. There is an interesting sweet/sad emotion that comes from the combination of  joyful re-connecting and wistful homesickness.  2. There is an emergence of a particularly prideful eagerness to show off everything you think is wonderful about where you are.

Our close friend Julie came to visit recently and in doing so, she garnered the honor of being the first (non-Ennis-native) person to come to Ireland from San Francisco to see us.

We did our best to show her not only where, but how, we were living here.  We had ten amazing – but too brief – days full of experiences both ordinary and extraordinary. 

A perfect example was the very first day of Julie’s visit when we picked up the girls from school (ordinary) and then went into town to tour the ancient Franciscan Abbey (extraordinary) built in the year 1240 which makes it one of the oldest buildings in town.

Even though we had been there a few times before, I think you learn more when you are sharing your experiences with someone new.  This time, I realized that since Saint Francis founded his order in 1209, this abbey on this little island not too close to Italy must be one of the earliest Franciscan Abbeys in the world.

But our visit to the Ennis Abbey was only one small moment of Julie’s trip and there were many many more memorable moments….some of which may even get a blog post here.

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