W. Ireland

Westward Woes

I have struggled to find the best way to write this post.  Finding the right words to describe our weekend last weekend has proven to be quite difficult.  Maybe it’s that we are a little embarrassed with some of the choices we made, or maybe it wasn’t as eventful as some of our other adventures thus far.  

Undoubtedly so, we have had a remarkable time traveling around and visiting different parts of Ireland.  However, it was bound to happen at some point in time that Murphy’s Law would strike.

We took a trip out to the West coast of Ireland with a destination of County Clare.  We had full plans down to the finest of detail of everything we were going to do.  We spent two nights at our landlords’ house, a big, beautiful Victorian-style home.  They were so very hospitable and loved having the boys running around their house!

Friday afternoon we headed into Ennis and spent some time at the Ennis Friary.  We weren’t really sure what a friary was, but it looked pretty cool from the Google Maps images!  We arrived into the little town of Ennis.  Onward we went, into a cold yet beautiful friary.  From once a church to a now, well-known burial site, everyone in and connected to the Church was allowed to be buried on the grounds.  The architecture was beautiful, although in ruins.

Friday night, we spent our first night at the house to gear up for a much anticipated Saturday.  Although, we had no idea what lied ahead of us.  In hindsight, we were thrilled to get the rest we did!

Saturday morning greeted us with an early wake-up call, and an anxious Kieghan.  The weather was cloudy, but nothing to scuff our boots about.  That was until we arrived at the Doolin pier, less than an hour away from the house in Ennis.  Getting out of the car, the winds enveloped us and pushed us around.  Andy and I had the short, abbreviated conversation somewhere along these lines:

Kristen: “Do you think we should continue to do this?”
Andy: “Well, now is the time to decide before moving forward.”
Kristen: “I’m not really sure it’s a good idea.”
Andy: “Well, we have already paid, so let’s just chance it.  It may be better once we get there”
Kristen: “Ok…”

On we went, to gather our tickets for the ferry and get in queue.  Meanwhile, it continued to be pretty windy, and there were some definite white caps on the tides rolling into the pier.  We didn’t put much thought into it any further.  We boarded the ferry along with everyone else.  There were no seats inside the little seating area under the roof, so we gussied up and sat on a bench on the deck.  We knew we weren’t quite as prepared as others when they began pulling our their heavy duty ponchos, but again, didn’t put any further thought into it. 

The ferry began, and it was a bit rocky.  Waves would seep through the sides of the boat, so we played a little game of “pick up your feet” with Kieghan to keep him entertained.  It was all fun and games until the boat started to rock, and really rock.  We instantly decided, for the sake of the kids, to find some space in the seating area inside.  It was quite difficult to make it the 6-8 steps from our bench to the under-roof area.  Meanwhile, the boat was taking on some pretty big waves at this point.  We felt like rag dolls being tossed around on a little toy boat.  Trying to keep our balance and trying not to be thrown into the opposite wall, we had to really plant our feet into the floor and our backs against the wall.  It was not an easy feat.

Lesson 1: Trust your instinct: ALWAYS.
There is no greater regret  one can have than not trusting an instinct, especially as a parent.  If you are questioning whether or not something is truly a good idea or not, you probably shouldn’t “just chance it.”  This is especially true if the kids are in tow.

Whether or not you have ever seen the movie Leap Year with Amy Adams, watch the scene below when she catches a ride on the boat from Dublin to Cork. 

It felt like we were living this scene firsthand, just minus the lightning and lessen the waves by 20%.  So, as you can imagine, with all the rocking and rolling, Kieghan and Andy were having quite a difficult time.  Seasickness hit them, and the rest of the passengers on the boat.  It was not so pretty.

Lesson 2: ALWAYS keep plastic shopping bags on hand
I read from another mommy blogger, whom I wish I could remember so that I could give her credit, that having plastic bags on hand and at the ready make any situation instantly easier.  They are especially handy in dealing with carsickness in a (rental) car, extra food waste from the kids that you have no idea where it came from or why it looks like that, dirty clothes (be it from accidents, spills, or again, how the heck did you turn a cookie into plaster all over your shirt?!), etc.  You simply just never know when or why you may need them.  And they are worth gold, GOLD I tell ya, in a country where plastic bags are hard to come by!

Lesson 3: Do not ever (I repeat NEVER!) put Andy nor Kieghan on a boat in the middle of the ocean at high seas.
Having one seasick family member on a boat is bad enough, but having two made the 45 minute boat ride feel more like 4 and a half hours.  The even more difficult part was having to convince both of them to get back on the boat.  Kieghan wasn’t having any of it. Then again, see Lesson 2 and add seasickness to the list as well.

The boat (finally!) docked at the first of the three islands, Inis Oirr (Inisheer).  We paid to go to the third island, Inis Mor, but that was clearly not going to happen.  Andy didn’t care where we were, really, he just wanted to get off the d*** boat!

Lesson 4: Don’t plan
Now I say this in the sense of, don’t plan everything down to the finest detail.  Chances are something will not go as planned, and therefore, you should have some flexibility in the schedule.  Spontaneity has rendered more useful than planning, at least for us with two small kids.  Allowing ourselves to have a general idea of things to do, and then seeing what time and weather allow for us to partake in, has been the best way to travel.

With our feet planted on firm ground, we headed for the first place to sit down.  A small bar/hotel was quiet and empty when we arrived.  It was a nice place to regroup and figure out if we should eat or drink or not do anything.  We were there for a good hour or two at best.  About 15-20 minutes in, the dining area filled with about 30 students, we presumed arriving as a large group.  I met the director in queue in the ladies’ room.  She was pretty shook up, so I casually asked if they had just gotten off the ferry, too.  The fear in her eyes followed by the next line was all she needed to say: “We have about 30 kids, and they were ALL sick.  I can’t convince any of them to get back on the boat!”

I understood what she was saying.  I was having the same issue with Andy and Kieghan.  There was absolutely no way that they were getting back on a boat to go back home.  In fact, Andy was researching the plane options back to Galway to take a cab back to Doolin.  We finally came to the conclusion that there was really no better option than to suck it up and get back on the ferry.  No matter how much we didn’t want to.

Lesson 5: Parenting fails can become the most successful parenting wins.
What a contradiction, you may be saying.  However, as a parent, you learn a lot in times where you doubt your decisions.  There was a moment where Andy and I turned to each other and said, “What were we thinking?!”  Yet, during those moments we became wiser and stronger, showing and proving to the kids, especially Kieghan, that we can always learn from our mistakes.  Facing fears, doing things we really don’t want to do, and realizing that sometimes, a good idea may not be the best idea are all good lessons to learn.

To ease the stress (and the anxiety), we took up an offer by a local to give us a horse tour of the island.  It was a great way to get out of the rain and off our feet.  In fact, Kieghan thought it was “a great way to spend our time before getting on the boat again!”  The gentleman was very nice, giving us a tour of some of the few landmarks of the island., including a view of The Plassey, an old shipwreck that washed up in the 60’s.  A recount of its history can be found here.

We also learned that each person on the island was given a small plot of land, though not necessarily next to their house.  However, the plot of land is naturally made of hard stone.  The residents must go out and break up the stone by hand with a sledgehammer.  They, then, reuse the broken stones to create walls around their plot.  Once all of the stone is dug up, seaweed is dragged from the sea to begin the growth of plants within the stone walls.

Upon the conclusion of our nice, calm tour of the smallest of the Aran Islands, it was time to get in queue for the next ferry ride.  A dreaded process to get back to the mainland.

It was quite the conversation as we were in queue, with every one contemplating if the ride was going to be as rough as we had all previously experienced.  Fortunately, for everyone’s sake, the boat was much bigger with a larger seating area inside the boat.  Andy fell asleep to curb his seasickness on the way back.  Though other passengers couldn’t escape their seasickness, including poor little Kieghan who had had a rather difficult time, too.  Poor baby!

We docked in Doolin after 45-minutes, but getting off the boat was not as easy as we had thought.  Kieghan was not a fan of moving on a boat, much less trying to get off the boat.  We eventually coerced him to get off the boat and back onto firm ground.

Lesson 6: Adventures are called adventures for a reason.
In fact, the word adventure, according to good ol’ Mr. Webster, is defined as:

as an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity
a daring and exciting activity dealing for enterprises and enthusiasm.

So naturally, one adventure is not equal to the next.  It can go off without a hitch, or it can be a complete disaster.  However, at the end of the day, not to mention the end of the adventure, new memories will be made, and the stories that come with such experiences will carry a weight that will last for years to come.  Although, looking back, we will talk about our experiences with a laugh and a smile.

It was quite an experience to say the least!  And with all this excitement in one day, it goes without question that we waited to visit the Cliffs of Moher for another weekend!

Upon reflection, if we were being tested for our parenting skills, I am not certain that we would have passed the test.  In fact, I am quite certain that we would have failed.  Although, through all bad comes good.  I firmly believe this, and through the toughest times we experienced over the weekend, we became more aware, more lenient, and a whole lot stronger as a couple, and as a family.

“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed.  But in the eyes of your child, you are Super Mom [and Dad, too!].”

-Stephanie Prescourt