So I started to write what would have been a very long post describing the events of the past few weeks. And while that would be mildly interesting to some, I think this space might be better put to use by summing up some of what I have learned over that time. I’ll add in some photos to supplement; maybe they will serve better than the few thousand words I would have written about them.

Since the last post we have experienced quite a few changes…transformations if you will. We transformed from a fairly quiet household of four to a raucous home filled with nine people, then down to seven, then down to six, and finally settling in at five…for one more night…then it’s back to four again.

On August 10, Barb (Lisa’s mom), and Mekenzey arrived from the US — Barb for two weeks, and Kenz for two years…actually three. They brought with them a deluge of rain that lasted a few days, but was probably good as they needed some down time to adjust to the new surroundings. Barb’s notoriously bad back did not do so well on the very long trip over the pond. The rain kept things pretty low key and that helped with her recovery.

Kenz left behind nearly her whole world to start a new life chapter here in Ireland. To say that it was an adjustment is an understatement. At 18 it’s tough to know exactly what you want to do with your life—I know I was pretty clueless at that age. To leave everything you know, everything that is safe and stable in your life, to move to another country, to start a college career, to start a whole new kind of life, is a pretty daunting undertaking at any age and it was anything but easy for her.

As a parent (or step-parent, as the case may be) it is extremely hard to watch your kid struggle with change. When they are legally considered adults and are “leaving the nest,” watching them learn to fly can be downright painful. Just as no mother bird can flap her baby’s wings for them, we as parents have to let our kids learn to flap their own wings. At times all Lisa and I could do is console one another and know that love was the best thing we could give as watched the growing and adjusting happen before our eyes.

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Just a couple days into their stay in Ireland we had another guest arrive, and then two more! Sylvia, Lisa’s aunt from Holland, came to surprise Barb and Kenz and to be with Lisa on her birthday. Her arrival was a welcome distraction from the pains of travel and she brought with her a healthy dose of healing energy. She is a wonderfully loving and caring person with a great sense of humor which she delightfully injected into the household.

A day after she arrived, on Lisa’s birthday, we were graced with a surprise visit from Sylvia’s daughter, Yori, and her boyfriend Okke. No one knew they were coming until they called from the front gate wondering if we would let them in. Of course we did, with mouths agape and surprise in our eyes. And so, with a house full of people, we were set for a weekend filled with laughter, music, storytelling and adventure. That evening we ate great food, drank Guinness and wine, had a basketball competition out back, and were regaled with songs from Yori and Okke (both of whom are professional musicians). It was a wonderful celebration of life being surrounded by loved ones.

The next day we drove to Waterford for a pre-planned stay at the Waterford Castle, with a short tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory as an added bonus. Fortunately we had reserved a condo that easily accommodated all nine of us. And once again we had a night filled with good food, stories and music, only this time the setting happened to be on an island with a huge castle and amazing grounds to explore. There are certain magical things that happen in Ireland that would tough, if not impossible, to have happen in any other place in the world.

The good chi was flowing and working its magic inside everyone in the unique special way that each person needed. You could almost see transformations happening as each person soaked up the good energy. We extended the night as long as our bodies would allow before retiring, only to awaken the next day to try and eek out a few more good vibes before heading back home.

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On the way back home we dropped off Okke at the airport as he headed to his next gig, and the rest of us made our way to Malahide. That afternoon, the sun was shining and the air felt like being wrapped in the most perfect blanket, the kind that that is not too hot and not too cold—just right. We broke into smaller groups, some opting to chill at home, some heading to the beach for an energetic walk, and I headed to a sunny field of tall grass on the grounds of the castle just around the corner to bask in the glorious Irish sunshine and tap into the inspiration that was flowing all around me. It was an afternoon of rejuvenation for everyone.

That evening, more inspiration was in store—this time for Kenzey and Yori. As I said, Yori is a professional musician, and Kenzey is going to be studying music at UCD. Being the young guns they are, they wanted a night out together before Yori left the next day. They headed into the village, bound for Gibney’s Pub. Unbeknownst to them, it happened to be Open Mic Night. When they arrived, a couple guys played songs and sang but the energy in the room was fairly sublime. The girls conspired to get on stage, first Yori, then the two of them.

Yori grabbed a guitar and launched into one of her original songs. She is incredible to listen to and immediately grabbed the attention of the whole room. After her song, Kenz joined her and they effortlessly eased into Jason Mraz’s “I Wont’ Give Up”, a song the two of them had recorded together a few summers back. The crowd was electrified and before they were finished, there was a string of girls lined up behind them waiting for their turn to take the stage. Afterwards, Kenzey and Yori were quickly approached by several people. One guy wanted to write a song for Mekenzey to record with him. Another was a local producer. Yet another girl said she, too, was going to UCD and wanted to be friends with Kenz. In short, what set out to be just another night out turned out to be a transformative experience that beautifully and serendipitously set Mekenzey’s journey into Irish culture and her forthcoming collegiate experience on a whole new tact. It’s these kinds of experiences that you can’t plan and you can’t predict—they just HAPPEN, in their own mysterious times and ways—and they are beautiful when they do.

That evening, back at home, well into the wee hours of the morning, Kenz and Yori sat down and wrote a song. I wonder what life that song will have down the road…

The next day, Yori headed back to Holland and our house was down to seven people. We had one more night with Sylvia, which we spent in our sun room, talking over a bit of wine and reflecting on the past few days. Sylvia is a special kind of person. For years she has taught art to children and she is one of those people who is deeply connected with her own soul and spirituality. Combined with the wisdom of her years, she has a unique insight into people and life in general which she was more than happy to share with us. In a way, listening to her in her Dutch accent, was like listening to a guru of sorts; when she speaks, you feel compelled to listen and take in her words. It’s almost like being in a class on life. I probably should have taken some notes!

The next day we bid her goodbye and the house was now down to six. For the next week we got enjoy Barb’s company as we rode out the last days of summer vacation. It was so nice to spend time with her with no agenda and nothing pulling us in any direction we didn’t want to go. We did what we wanted when we wanted, even if what we wanted was to do nothing. And we did a lot of that! But that is what was called for at the time. Sometimes it’s nice to just be. We would have coffee in the morning then go for walks on the beach. She got to spend some alone time with the girls. The hours just seemed to easily slip from one to the next. The days followed suit and before we knew it, it was time for her to leave as well.

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Saying goodbye to family is never easy. With so much physical distance between us, and knowing that we will be in Ireland for the next two years, this goodbye was no exception. So, with more than a few tears, we bid her adieu until next time, grateful for the time we had together.

A few short days later, the little girls started their school adventure in Ireland. We spent the meantime gathering uniforms and school supplies and trying to prepare ourselves for this new chapter. We could tell that they were a little nervous, but overall they were excited to see what lay in store. For the first time in their lives they are riding a bus to school. They weren’t sure what to think about that, but when the bus pulled up that first morning, I think their fears were put to rest. Their bus is no yellow school bus with vinyl seats like I used to ride. This is a cush Mercedes coach with cloth seats, AC and tinted windows. If I didn’t know better I would have thought they were going to tour Ireland rather than get dropped off at school. And just like that, they transformed from American kids on a long summer break into Irish schoolgirls.

As I write, they are starting their third day at school and they are really enjoying it. Adi said yesterday she just wished the school was in America, then it would be perfect. They are making friends (but still missing their old friends…a LOT) and learning new things (like Gaelic and Field Hockey). They have a really good outlook on the year, so that is exciting. Lisa and I have met quite a few parents along the way, so that is nice. There is even a sizable Stay-At-Home Dad contingency so that makes me happy.

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Kenz moves into her dorm on Thursday, which is crazy for all of us to think about. But she is ready. She and Lisa stocked up on dorm supplies over the weekend. We picked up some school supplies as well. Yesterday, she and I rode the DART into Dublin in hopes of mapping out her route from school back home. We managed to find a route–not the most convenient route (the walk from the DART to her dorm is like 45 minutes!) but it’s a route nonetheless. We’ll work on a better one in the coming days and weeks.

The good news is, she is excited to be starting school and that is as much as any of us can ask for at this point. Having the right attitude is half the battle. The rest she can totally handle and figure out as she goes. It’s going to be tough to leave her there on Thursday, but knowing that she is just a short walk > bus > DART > walk away makes it a bit easier to swallow that pill.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, the past few weeks have been about transformation. Change is the only constant in life and we all have to be ready and willing to adapt to whatever comes our way. Some changes are easy and some are hard. Some are REALLY hard. The most important thing we can do is have an open mind and heart. The only control we have is the way we react to the situations that come our way. I am so thankful and blessed that my wife, my best friend and partner, is there to help me keep that in perspective. Together, we are an amazing team. When I am down she helps me up and I do the same for her. Having a partner like that is one of life’s greatest gifts and one that I try each and every day to appreciate and never take for granted. We try every day to be as present in the moment as we can be, even in the tough times. Those are, after all, the times when we grow the most.

Until next time, peace and love, my friends.

PS. Here is a little snippet of Yori and Okke singing in our kitchen with Yori jokingly sporting an oh-so-stylish headband 😉