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The past month could be christened the Month of Guests. We were showered with overnight guests, y’all. I’ve been marinating a post about them, and now I have to write it or I never will — and our guests deserve to be written about.

One of the first ones to arrive was my brother Marcus all the way from Liberia. He was on his way home on furlough and stopped in for a few days to see us and meet our children for the first time. (Yes, you read that correctly. Isn’t that SAD? But it happens when you and your sibling live on different continents and your extended family lives on yet another.) We had a lovely five days with him, visiting a falcon show and touring the new Titanic museum in Belfast.

We had more overnight guests throughout the month . . . such as Hannah, Libby, and Quentin who came up to hear the King’s Singers perform in Dublin. (Did Gabriel and Jennifer go? No, we were tired. That, my friends, is what being parents, facing final exams, and getting old does to you.) Most of our guests were here for a night and flew out of Dublin airport the next day or vice versa. Roman and Ruth Kauffman’s family came up for a night, bringing birthday cake and ice cream for our dessert. (I turned 31 in May. (Now I know you’re wondering if Gabriel is that old. 😛 He’s three years younger–but he finally has a gray hair! Progress.))

Our last group of visitors was four ladies from America. Three of them were from Georgia, and I’d known them casually when I was growing up in South Carolina. Let me just say that their visit was like the proverbial balm in Gilead. The past three years in Dublin have been a lonely season for me, and these wise, gracious, kind ladies, three with SOUTHERN ACCENTS, were sent straight from heaven. In the two days they were here, they blessed us so much. The first night they made me sit down while they cleared away the supper leftovers and washed and dried the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, and all the while Ruby gave me the best head and neck massage I’ve had in years. And that’s just one example. I’m not even going into the family photos that Marylou took of us or the lovely and thoughtful hostess gifts they left. The last evening, one of them told me that in a sense (I can’t remember her exact words) she feels called to minister to lonely missionaries, and I almost cried because although we’re not missionaries by definition, I KNEW she’d been sent from God to us that week. Thank you, Lois, Marylou, Ruby, and Carolyn.

The ladies left us early on the morning of May 31. I stayed in my pajamas all day and did laundry, and it was a singularly satisfying way to end the Month of Guests.

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I read somewhere (okay, here) that being a true New Yorker means:

  • you don’t gawk at celebrities on the street
  • you know how to maneuver through the tourists without breaking your pace
  • you can tell a cabbie the best route to take to get you to your destination
  • you don’t feel threatened when walking at night

I have accomplished all of those things in Dublin except the first, mainly because a) I don’t recognize many celebrities, and b) there aren’t many in Dublin. But man, it’s good to be at home here and feel like this is “our” neighborhood. Tomorrow I’ll feel like a foreigner and a dumb immigrant again, but that’s how culture shock works. Next week I’ll be back to feeling at home.

Don’t get me wrong — I still consider myself a country girl at heart, but I do see some advantages to city life. Choice of four grocery stores within a mile of your house? Doctor, pharmacy, convenience store, and lovely park within walking distance? Largest shopping centre in Ireland a ten-minute drive from your house? Yes, thanks, I’ll enjoy that while I have it.

(source)

Ten things you may not have known about living in Dublin:

1) Traffic is slow, clogged, and awful, but it’s not scary in the sense of NYC-traffic-scary. In fact, drivers here tend to be more courteous than the average American driver (and definitely more courteous than the average Canadian driver. Sorry if that offends any Canadians (but it’s true; even Gabriel admits it).). But the streets and roads were built for a horse-and-carriage society, and there just doesn’t seem to be room for expansion. Rush hour is a terrible time to drive anywhere. Once it took me an hour to drive seven kilometers. Ridiculous! The positive side, of course, is the courtesy. You can pull out in front of someone and it’s okay as long as you wave at them or put on your four-ways to say thanks. 🙂

2) The city water is free.

3) Dublin has some really, really nice parks. Just across the road from us is a beautiful one with a river, a walled-in garden, walking paths, and a museum. All free. Bronwyn and I like to go over there and just wander around. We’re also within a few kilometers of two other nice parks, both of which have great playgrounds for little tots and big kids.

4) There are three maternity hospitals in Dublin, all dedicated solely to the care of women and infants. I could write a lot more about the prenatal care here, and I plan to do that soon.

5) Just a ten-minute drive from our house is the largest shopping centre in the country. It has over eighteen acres of floor space and some of the narrowest parking spaces I’ve ever seen (just ask Mom how I managed an eleven-point turn while trying to park there one day when she was along).

6) Traffic again: streets are so, so poorly marked. About a year after we were here, Gabriel got a free phone with a package deal from a mobile phone company, and the phone has a GPS with downloadable maps. That has been invaluable to us SO many times; it would be such a pain to drive in Dublin without it. I really don’t know how anyone drives in Dublin without a GPS unless they grew up here and know all the streets and roads by memory.

7) It’s a windy city, probably because it’s so close to the coast. Gabriel checks the forecast and groans when he sees high wind predicted because it makes his cycle ride to school even worse than normal. (No, he doesn’t like cycling to school, but he does it for the health benefits and because it saves money, and because (traffic again!) it’s easier than fighting traffic.)

8) Homeowners paint their doors whatever color they feel like painting them.

9) Dublin is essentially a collection of villages that grew together. That’s why part of our address is “Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.” Each “village” usually has a parish centre/Catholic church, a bank, a butcher, a few shops, a druggist, a GP’s office, and if you’re lucky, a public library. And OF COURSE a pub.

10) The buses are double-decker. Riding on the top of a double-decker bus is one of the best ways to see the city.

Apparently I’ve been rendered incapable of producing a cohesive piece of writing, so here are some scattered observations on New Year’s Eve.

I’m listening to Bronwyn sing to herself as she plays with Duplo, her Christmas present from us. I didn’t know they’d be such a hit, but she’s been playing steadily with them ever since we gave them to her yesterday. We won’t tell her that the set was a thrift store find. She’s perfectly happy with it, and so are we.

We’re planning to sleep the New Year in. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Hopefully the neighbors have similar plans or else are invited far away for their parties.

Gabriel and I have spent a lot of time rocking, walking, bouncing, or jiggling Gregory to sleep–only to discover that often he goes to sleep perfectly well by himself, in his cot. Now for a way to get him to bed earlier than 10:30pm. No matter how I try, it seems he just can’t settle before then. But then he sleeps until 6:00 or 7:00, so I shouldn’t complain.

We celebrated four years of married life by going to Newgrange with Gabriel’s parents and sister, who were visiting us from Ukraine at the time. Newgrange is a burial mound/religious site that is older than Stonehenge, purportedly built a few hundred years after the Great Flood. (This is a must-see if you tour Ireland.) Each year at sunrise on winter solstice (the day that is also our anniversary), the sun shines into the entrance to the mound all the way to the back of the chamber. You can enter a drawing to be one of the few hundred allowed in to see it at sunrise over the few days this happens. We put our names in for next year. As it was, the day was cloudy, but we still got to enter Newgrange on winter solstice, on our anniversary.

Our Ford Galaxy van, which we love so much and which has made our weekly trips to church and back so much easier, has had the clutch go out and needs extensive repairs. At least it didn’t totally go out until exams were over. As it was, the first time it happened was to me on an early morning trip to the airport, the day of Gabriel’s last two exams. I couldn’t get it into gear, so Gabriel got a taxi to the airport (5:00am is too early for city buses) and drove it to the mechanic in second or third gear. Sometimes it would let him shift, but other times he’d have to turn it off, put it into second, turn it back on and immediately GO.

I mentioned airport trips. Living close to a major airport in a city with no other Mennonites means we get a decent number of overnight visitors heading to or from the airport. We enjoy it. One of Gabriel’s friends thinks we should have our own parking bay at the airport — not a bad idea considering how often we go there.

This story made me laugh out loud.

Here is one reason you (we) aren’t hearing much from Gabriel on this blog lately:

This is his schedule for next week. Now, it might look manageable until you consider that for every hour spent in class he should spend two or three out of class doing homework. We’ve quit saying “maybe next semester will be easier” and changed our mantra to “in so-and-so many months we’ll be done.”

I was telling him my brilliant idea for holiday cards this year, and he wondered if he’d be put through the torture of participating in a family photo shoot. He thought maybe I could Photoshop him into a picture of our family. I said I could do better than that; we could put his picture in an oval in the corner of the photo like they do for deceased family members. Underneath it we could print, “Gabriel Jantzi, dearly beloved husband and father. We look forward to reuniting with you in about 20 months when you’re done with that ding-dang-dong vet school.”

*** *** ***

Baby is due in a week and a half, more or less. My family doctor assured me yesterday that I’ll go into labour today “at 4:00, and it’ll all be over by tea time.” He was joking, of course, but I’m pleading with this baby not to take TOO long to come out, because if it does, Mama will go OFF HER HEAD.

*** *** ***

Last night from about 11:30 to 1:00 we listened to the neighbor’s adult son as he sat in front of their outdoor fireplace, listened to loud Christmas and country music, drank beer, and shouted randomly into the fire. (I got the giggles when “Country Roads, Take Me Home” came on. Does anyone else who worked at Yoder’s Restaurant remember Moose belting that out on his gittar?)

“Is he retarded?” Gabriel wondered. “Why would you drink yourself stupid all alone on a Friday night? How could be any fun?”

I suppose someone else might look at the schedule above  and wonder how that could be any fun, too. These are the mysteries we ponder at midnight.

Bronwyn is all into coloring right now. I'm not sure which she likes better: coloring on paper or eating the crayons.

A friend recently closed her email to me with the hope that I could find common things to be grateful for. I feel like there’s been an abundance of those around here:

>Clean windows (and the energy to have washed them)

>A child who’s happy even though she’s in a body cast

>A surprise baby shower (!) on Saturday, held by some of our friends from Gabriel’s class at school. Gabriel had known about it for a long time but just led me to think that we were getting together with a few of them for tea, because Bronwyn and I hadn’t seen them much since school started this fall. When we walked into the house, I saw a pile of gifts, which seemed odd, but it still didn’t register until everyone yelled, “Surprise!” I was completely shocked and still feel overwhelmed at their kindness. We had a great afternoon, full of good food, games, and fun. It was nice to get to know those girls a tiny bit better.

>While I partied, Gabriel came home and worked in our front flowerbeds. (We don’t have much landscaping around here, but what’s here has been neglected and overgrown for years.) We had started earlier in the day, and I figured that was all that would get done since I thought he’d be at this “tea” in the afternoon too. When we came home a few hours later, the flowerbeds were raked free of litter, dug up, weeded, perennials thinned out, and mulched. It blesses me every time I look out the window and see those beds. The amount of work they needed felt overwhelming to me, and I’m so grateful for Gabriel taking the time (a big sacrifice for him) from other priorities to do outside work for us.

>The fact that it’s only a matter of about four weeks until this baby comes. (Eeek!)

>The kindness of strangers. Here’s the story: I need to get a learner’s permit to drive our car, since we changed insurance policies to one that requires each driver to have at least a learner’s. (I had been driving on my Canadian license, but this company doesn’t accept that.) I’m not especially grateful for THAT, but the blessing here is how I’m getting the training CD that helps you prepare for the test. I could buy it, but I didn’t really want to spend twenty euro on it. This morning I called UCD’s library to see if they have it, hoping Gabriel could pick it up for me. The librarian I talked to said, no, they didn’t have it, but she has one at home that I can borrow. If Gabriel can come in tomorrow, she’ll bring it to work with her. !!!

I should do this more often; it reminds me just how many “common” blessings I have.

Happy Monday to you!

~Jennifer

1. Gabriel and I baked together in our (more) spacious kitchen last night. We made the bars pictured above.  You can find the recipe here. They are decadent, except next time I think I’ll add less sugar. I could hardly eat them without coffee to cut the sweetness. (I live a hard life.)

2. Bronwyn is slowly learning how to crawl in her cast. This morning she moved from our bedroom to the bathroom and, true to form, went straight for the toilet brush. It made me so happy to see this part of her personality again that I didn’t have the heart to scold her.

3. We’re going on holidays next week. We had dreamed of a road trip through Scotland and Wales this summer, but that isn’t going to happen for several reasons out of our control. So we’re taking up a friend on the invitation to his house in Co. Kerry, a few hours to the west of here. We’re hoping to take a few day trips from there. Exploring Cork or the Ring of Dingle, anyone?

4. It made me happy to wake up to the sound of rain on our roof this morning. I’ve missed that sound in the last two years of living in apartment buildings.

5. Gabriel is working only a few minutes away from home at his current externship position at a small animal vet clinic. He comes home for lunch every day instead of packing a lunch to eat there. Can’t say I mind! 😉

6. On Tuesday, I got into our manual-transmission car, with the steering wheel on the right side, and drove on the left side of the road through busy Dublin streets to a shopping centre where I bought things for my family. I felt like a big girl.

7. Three weeks down with the cast, hopefully only nine more to go.

8. Six months down with the pregnancy, three more to go (hopefully very quickly).

Happy Thursday to you,

Jennifer

The surgery went well and the cast is on!

There was a fantastic play room where we waited to be called for surgery. A sectioned-off play area for the littles, and a table with all kinds of arts and crafts for the big kids. There was even a Wii and a PlayStation!  Not that Bronwyn cared, but the other toys distracted her from the fact that she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since she got up at 6:00.

Getting weighed. (9.9 kg)

This nurse was Kenyan, she told us. She was really sweet.

We were told to be there by 8:00 and naively thought we’d be out of there by 11:00 at the latest. Ha. At 10:30 they finally called for Bronwyn to go into surgery, and at 12:30 we were told we could go to her in recovery. She came back on a stretcher, crying her heart out.

We shed a few tears, too. I didn’t know it would be so hard to see your child in pain and discomfort when there is so little you can do about it.

She was not a happy camper when she woke up, but after a bottle she drifted off to sleep again.

We were told we could go home as soon as the plaster nurse (the one who actually put on her cast) came around to check Bronwyn and see if she fit in her car seat. The nurse had told us earlier that, after looking at our car seat, she thought Bronwyn would probably fit. Well. We tried and tried to get her to fit into it. She pitched a royal fit the whole time. Finally the nurse told us that she doesn’t think it will fit, but she can’t discharge us until we have one that fits. So Gabriel took the bus into city centre to buy a car seat that the nurse recommended, while I stayed in recovery with our very unimpressed little girl. She finally drifted off to sleep again so I could go get some lunch. When Gabriel came back with the car seat, I was walking the halls with Bronwyn trying to get her distracted from her troubles. She just barely fit into the new seat, so we were finally discharged around 4:30.

Anyway. We went home, and Bronwyn perked up around bedtime, after we went on a long walk in the park.

I was so glad for Gabriel’s foresight in getting this rocking chair a few days ago. I didn’t think we really needed one before the baby comes, but we’ve been so glad for it the last few days. One positive thing of this whole ordeal is that Bronwyn has never been so cuddly with me in her life!

She slept fairly well that night and woke up feeling some better. She was pretty tickled to be sitting on her car! As you can see, the cast starts below her armpits and goes to her toes on the right leg and just above the knee on the left. I wasn’t expecting her to have her left leg free; I think that’ll be such a blessing! She’s already learning how to use it to push her car around.

We went shopping yesterday and bought a bunch of stuff for her: a car seat (one that fits better than the one Gabriel got yesterday; we returned that one), a booster seat that she can sit in at the table, a magna doodle, and some other little activities. Any ideas for table activities for a one-year-old? 🙂

If every day shows as much improvement as the last two, we’ll be sailing smooth for the next few months! We sure are grateful for your prayers for us . . . the grace has definitely been there right when we needed it!

-Jennifer

Did I tell you that we’ve been house hunting? Yes, again. We weren’t planning to move again while we live in Dublin, but then I got pregnant. Suddenly our two-bedroom apartment looked a lot smaller. Bronwyn already goes nuts if we stay at home all day, because we have no direct access to the outdoors, and there are only so many places to play in our small apartment. So we started looking. Eventually we narrowed our requirements down to three things: location (should be closer to university), access to a secure garden, and more space.

Last Saturday we had to get out of our apartment for an hour so the landlord could show it to some potential tenants, so we decided to go view some other houses while we out. So far nothing we’d seen had worked—either the place was too dumpy, or the rent was too much, or it wasn’t enough space, or the back garden was gravel (not very nice for children to play), or something else that didn’t work for us. So we didn’t have a lot of hope of finding something that day.

The first place we saw was very close to university. It was a small cottage with not a lot of storage space, but I was ready to take it. We decided to view the other house on our list before giving a final answer, so we left to do that. After we drove away, Gabriel suddenly said, “Hey, where was the table in that place?” Huh. Neither of us could remember seeing one, and there definitely wouldn’t have been space to put one anywhere. So that place was out. Maybe some people could survive without a table, but not us with two children.

We drove over to the next house. It was further from university, maybe about a kilometer closer than we are now. But it was in a quiet neighborhood. (I almost felt like it was too posh for us, remember we’re moving from Crumlin! ;)) The owners were there, doing some painting when we got there. The wife had lived in it for a few years before she got married. My ears perked up when I heard that; it’s always a good sign when the owner has lived there because they tend to keep their own houses in better shape than a strictly tenant-occupied house. The owners also struck me as being genuine, honest, down-to-earth people. I don’t know why that’s so important to me, but it means a lot.

Anyway, the house has far more space than we need, a lovely back garden with rose bushes and an apple tree, and lots of room for guests. Plus, it wasn’t (too far) out of our price range, and we feel we can sacrifice more money for that much extra space. Hopefully we’ll be able to use it lots for hospitality!

We sealed the deal that very day. While we were there, our current landlord rang Gabriel and said he’d found someone to take our apartment in two weeks. So that seemed like extra confirmation that we were making the right decision. Now we’re moving in a week and a half! We’re so excited about this house…come visit us and we’ll show you where the guest bedroom is. 🙂

-Jennifer

I have a wonderful supervisor at work. One of the things I like about Aisling is the way she saves me from myself. Last week I made some remark that somehow remotely implied that this Canadian didn’t know about the June Bank Holiday. Aisling picked up on it and warned me not to come in to work today.  (The first Monday in June is a public holiday.)

A few days ago I was chatting with a coworker, and during the course of the conversation, I mentioned that had my supervisor not reminded me about the upcoming bank holiday, well, I would have come to work that day.

“Well,” my coworker commented, “that’s dedication.”

“No,” I said, thinking about having a lie in (sleeping in), “that’s stupidity [or ignorance; I forget exactly what I said].”

We laughed together.  You see, there we were in the vet school, amidst all the students spending precious years of their lives, chuckling at silly people who can’t see the difference between dedication and stupidity.

We were laughing at ourselves.

~ 09250671

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