Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home again

We arrived at our home six hours ago - 10.30 am local time, after a twenty something hour day. Everyone crashed all over the house and are in various stages of being woken up in order to try and make sense of the time.

The journey was okay - we're all intact :) Airline travel with six kids was never going to be a picnic. The check in procedure at Dulles was relatively fast but not without it's frustrations. TG was taken through quickly but the search was something else. I can understand the taking off of shoes but I think removing flip flops and T's teeny little shoes were probably taking doing it by the book too far. I also had to remove her from her chair and hold her for an age while it was given a going over (can't imagine them doing that to every disabled adult) and her food was banned so a supervisor had to be called for permission to be granted for us to take it on board. Priority boarding was a joke as everyone was on top of each other and I wound up on the wrong row with all the kids through no fault of my own with some cranky adults who decided to behave like children breathing down my neck. At this point hubby was back at the gate dismantling the chairs and I was in the row behind where we were supposed to be, holding TG. Bubs was giving his lungs a fantastic workout and EJ was having a two year old protest in the isle while the world and it's baggage was trying to get past. After herding everyone on like cattle, there was a backlog in baggage so we ended up with a long sit anyway.

Once on board EJ cried himself to sleep, much to the annoyance of the group behind who repaid us by shining their lights onto us during nap time :) The cabin crew weren't as nice as on the outbound flight - I formed that opinion before ds2 vomited all over the isle. After landing I was actually asked to get off the plane (with bags and kids) alone. Had been waiting for hubby to come back from getting the buggies to the gate - something that should have been done for us. Seven pieces of hand luggage and three little ones later...

Someone asked me recently about the differences I found between the USA and Ireland. Well, there are many but this morning's arrival springs to mind. Security was a doddle - the guy on passport control was dressed in regular clothes, made eye contact and chatted. However, the lift we were to take to baggage reclaim was broken and we were all instructed to go in another - 2 buggies, 8 of us and an airport customer care person, which really should only have held one buggy and adult. I have no idea how we did it. This took us to departures from which we had a 10 minute walk through the bones of the terminal. Welcome to laid back Ireland! The staff in the USA are very well trained in customer care everywhere you go and although the staff in Dublin were pleasant enough, I guess the pace of life is slower ... or they're oblivious ... or something.

This was evident on public transport. In Williamsburg the shuttle bus was fast and efficient and came with a hydraulic ramp for us to board TG. Once installed she was properly strapped down by a very helpful driver. However, we weren't permitted to bring the buggy with youngest two on unless it was collapsed, even though there was stacks of room. Al ended up walking. This morning, the driver on our bus didn't get out, parked way too far from the kerb and as for a disabled ramp - forget it. I struggled with the boys buggy and another passenger helped Al with TG. Once on board the driver was indifferent to the safety of the kids but it was handy none the less.

But I'm rambling here and the old brain is more foggy than normal lol. The main thing is we were brought back home safely which is something to be thankful for. We've had a really great time and the kids have learned lots. It has been truly wonderful.

Thank you to my visitors here. I hope you have enjoyed following our little adventure. I'll be tweaking and adding to this over the next wee while. The kids have so much to tell and want to post about their Jamestowne, Yorktown and Williamsburg experiences.

For now, the suitcases and washing await :/

Monday, May 26, 2008

Birthday girl

We are currently in the east coast of Virginia in the historic Williamsburg area which is wonderful. (Check out but I will blog about that later.
Today was a special day as TG superstar turned seven years old. Here are some photos of her big day.
(I have no idea why the first few photos are repeating. If you bear with it, they will all be displayed)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

North Carolina

On our way back up north we drove through North Carolina and stopped in Raleigh to meet Colleen and Maggie. It had a slightly surreal feel to it. We have mailed for a while and it was over in a blink. Thank you so much for coming out to meet us. I could have talked all day lol. Will post a picture here once I've done a dump from the small camera.

Prior to coming here, I'd no clue as to what the states we'd be driving through were like by way of scenery. In Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and the south of North Carolina, we were amazed at the sheer volume of trees and the huge wonderful hills. The only place I can liken it to is the dense native bush up north in the Coromandel region of New Zealand ... only this is continuous for hundreds of miles. It has a wild and wonderful feel to it and bar the highway exits with a huge range of fast food places (which we are most grateful for) and the other motorists on the road, you get the feeling that the place is totally unpopulated! Road trip snapshots (to follow)

We drove through NC in two days, breaking it overnight near Asheville and then in Raleigh having visited the Children's Museum in Oak ridge TN (thanks Brian) which was a really fun stop. I liked the fact that the kids were able to interact with everything in all the exhibits - the motto of the museum is "please touch". We also learned a little about the history of Oak Ridge which was established in the early 1940s as a base for the Manhattan Project - the massive U.S. government operation that developed the atomic bomb.
Other unplanned breaks were Fort Dodds - a historic site dating back to the French and Indian War of 1754 and Halifax - an early 1700s colonial town in the Roanoak Valley.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cherokee by AJ

The kids are keeping journals on the road. Here is an extract from AJ's. He is doing a wonderful job!

This morning we went to the Cherokee Indian Reservation. First everyone went into the museum where I learned all about the history of the Cherokee Indians, what they did and what they used for tools and weapons. We saw all types of weapons such as tomahawks, flint arrow heads and spear heads. We also saw different objects that they would have traded for other things from the settlers.
After this, we visited the Cherokee Village and our tour guide showed us our way around. We saw the huts that they lived in. They never lived in wigwams like other tribes did as they were a settled people and farmed the land. The tour guide took us to bits of the village where we saw people making arrow heads out of flint, which they used for hunting and war, making baskets out of river cane, weaving belts and mats, bead making and man making blow darts. He gave a demonstration of one and shot at a target, it was very accurate.
There was a man making wooden masks for sale in the shop. Masks were used in ceremonies. There also was a man that told us the Cherokee culture and way of life and about the different tribes in the Cherokee Nation. We saw different types of traps that they used to trap game such as a bird trap. There was also a bear trap and a fish trap that was placed in a stream. All of the traps that we saw were one third of their real size.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Kids are asleep and my wireless is working tonight so had to blog about the wonderful time we had this week with Pam and her family. Pam is a blog buddy from homeschool blogger and has also been my trip advisor lol. The kids were soooo excited and had counted down the days.

We met in Chattanooga Tennessee where we were staying and rode the Incline Railway which was amazing (and not really as scary as it looks). From the top (lookout mountain) we got fantastic views of Tennessee and Georgia. It is such a beautiful place and it would have been easy to spend a day there just watching the paddle boats on the river.

From here we went to lunch at Steak and Shake - another neat dining experience. We've never tasted shakes like it! Then onto Chickamauga (Georgia) to visit the battle fields.

CJ has requested that he blog about the visit to the stream, fire snappers and the rest. But I must mention that we went back to Pam's house for a lovely meal - and even went away with some of the scrumptious desserts which we indulged in late in to the night once the kids were asleep, hehe. Thank you so much Pam - your caramel pie and brownie trifle as soooooo good and tell your MIL that we really enjoyed her cake :)

It was great to meet you all and found it hard to extract the kids from your house. I can see why the neighbour's kids have adopted you lol. Next time you'll have to come visit us!

Brian & Pam at the Gordon Lee Mansion
Thanks for showing us your town.

For more show & tell posts visit our host Mary in Canada!
More photos here
ps may I present the lovely Pam. I always thought her HSB profile pic was mysterious ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Big Rock

After our flying visit to the Mammoth cave area, we headed back north west to Daniel Boone Forest. (I'd sack the travel agent for bad planning but that would be me!)

We had a lovely two nights at Big Rock Cabin which is the real deal. Very reasonably priced, it was simply beautiful ... more
On the Saturday we drove an hour to Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Park and spent a sore but enjoyable afternoon there ~ the kids had been saving to go on a horse ride so mother was coaxed along too! Beanie was in her element. more horsie photos!

Daniel Boone Forest is very pretty and yesterday we visited the red river gorge before a very long drive to where we are currently staying. Hubby decided upon a scenic route (we really hadn't a clue where we were going - wasn't even on the sat nav) which, admittedly was very pretty but added quite a while onto the drive. Just as we hit the major highways, we experienced real torrential rain and fork lightening which was rather spectacular but slowed things up somewhat. I'd hoped to get to church down here but it just wasn't possible.

I guess we wouldn't have seen these fellas on the highway (yes it was a gravel road!)

Which brings me to today which was truly amazing. We visited the Cherokee reservation doing both the Museum of the Cherokee and the Oconoluftee Indian Village. I will write more next chance I get about these wonderful, gentle people and post some photos of our visit (each one has to be resized which is time consuming) Another travel tale! (album added)

Best get some shut eye before heading off to Chattanooga tomorrow. It really has been an education. Whether chatting to Silas, the elderly man in the Daniel Boone forest trading post who told the kids all about his family and their experience of the civil war, who had tears in his eyes when he said goodbye to us, or the elderly Cherokee gentleman who signed their guides today and told them of his reconciliation tour to Ireland two years ago. It is a moving and humbling experience to share.

Update from the Smokies

Weyyyy, we have wireless! I'm perched precariously at the edge of a loft ladder in a grossly over priced cabin - location, Yogi in the Smokies (of bear fame) camping, North Carolina.
After I got over the sheer joy of being reunited with the world wide web and checked the mail, I figured I'd squeeze in a brief update before hitting the hay.

Wednesday we left Ohio and drove to a cheesy but fun, wigwam motel type place near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. We had a not planned incident that evening as I found a tick merrily burrowing it's way into our two year old's head. Uggghhh. Poor little guy. I'm happy to report that one very late night trip to the hospital and some antibiotics later, he's doing just fine and cracking us all up as per usual. Funny kid.

On the way down, we visited the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hills (north KY). As it was late in the day they were very sweet and didn't charge admission but we still got a couple of hours to look around and missed the couple of hundred school kids that they'd had through earlier on in the day. The staff there are brilliant. I'm sure they were ready to knock off but took time with our guys, engaging them in conversation (not hard if you've met them) and explaining everything to them. Although the religious sect dissolved in the early 1900's and there are only three known Shakers alive today, the community has been wonderfully preserved and the handcrafts sold are all made locally. I'd recommend a visit and really can't praise all the staff highly enough. Will write about it in more depth at a later date on my other blog. New photos

In the Mammoth Cave area we visited Kentucky Downunder. Although it's not a big flashy park, it is unusual in that the kids get a real hands on experience and included in the price of the admission, is a tour of Onyx Cave. After the large groups of kids left around 2pm, we basically had the park to ourselves and few other tourists. Not realising that we were on central time an extra hour was gained, thus enabling us to squeeze in all the activities they had on offer.

Miss T got to feel a rabbit and Kangaroo (which she wasn't too sure about). The older ones touched some reptiles and snakes and had a lesson on the didgeridoo! Nothing prepares you for the bird feeding. Yes I'd been told that when I entered the enclosure, carrying some nectar that these things would land on me, but it was still unnerving none the less!

Some more of the way too many photos, here ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thank you ...

Pizza Casserole

Master chef

Thank you Bill, Nancy and Corinne for the lovely evening and really yummy dinner. Pizza casserole is great! We will remember it as fondly as the games of corn hole. (Mail us the recipe!) It was a privilege to meet your family and hope to see you in Ireland or downunder!! Kids say thanks for the swim. x

Monday, May 12, 2008

Last note from Ohio

Having some down days before heading south to Kentucky on Wednesday. The kids are enjoying the weather and being outdoors. Out the back there is a creek and some woodland so they're having a great time exploring. Saturday evening we decided to light a campfire and make smores. We went shopping for the ingredients and Mike, the neighbour lit his fire in their garden at tea time and gave our guys a smore making lesson. The kids then lit the one in the woods and ate up large on s'more! We've also enjoyed playing corn hole. Bill and Nancy, the neighbours on the other side taught the kids how to play this game and every couple of days they are found over there. Both sets of neighbours are lovely people and have been extremely kind and welcoming. This weekend I also had the pleasure of meeting Caron. We've been emailing for a bit and it was like meeting a second self!

We have had such a lovely time here in the home of the V family. It has been a time of real relaxation.
Better finish up here and try and plan our our last week. On Wednesday coming we'll be here three weeks which is really hard to believe. Time has flown so quickly. From here, we drive south and have two nights near Mammoth Caves and another two in Daniel Boon Forest (Both Kentucky). After this we drive down to North Carolina and have another couple of nights near the Cherokee Indian reservation before heading to Tennessee and Georgia. From Georgia the vague plan is to drive up to North Carolina and Virginia. As it's Memorial Day weekend, I'd best book up the accommodation now. TG will celebrate her seventh birthday on the 26th, two days before we fly home which will be special. Hopefully will be able to update from time to time on the road. D

Snaps from the campfire

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Appalachian Festival

Yesterday we attended the 39th annual Appalachian Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Upon arrival there were yellow school buses as far as the eye could see (which blew my theory about it being quieter on a weekday) however after a couple of hours the place emptied which made it easier to navigate.

I don't fully understand my son's fascination with dead animal body-parts. I felt sorry for the headless bear! Finds included some skins and a coyote tooth. Dd got a prairie dress and apron as part of her birthday present from me which is really pretty and hand made. The appalachian way of life is very interesting and is how most of the traders we met, actually live.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Holmes County

Yesterday we headed up to Holmes County to visit the Amish Community which was a mixed experience.
To date, our tomtom has been one of the best investments ever. We've used it in Europe and it has more than payed for itself over here in the USA. The map reader (that would be me) is happily relishing her redundant status!

ahhhhh this is the life

Yesterday however, tomtom added an extra hour onto our journey. Instead of taking us to Berlin, we were miles out making our drive a total of four hours. What we had come to see, was the much advertised 'Amish Flea Market' at Walnut Creek which boasts 500 sellers under one roof.
Upon entering the building we were confronted with the biggest lot of trash I've ever encountered not under my kid's beds. No kidding. Firstly (should anyone think I'm being too harsh or critical) the majority (98%) of the sellers were not Amish. Secondly, if I'd wanted to buy football gear, star wars figurines, nasty jewellery, dream catchers, pictures of Marilyn, skull ornaments or any of the other plastic junk, I'd simply have visited one of the many flea markets near where we're based, thus conserving the fuel budget.
On the ground level, we did happen upon a booth manned by a couple of Amish ladies selling lovely American country stuff (also found just up the road) BUT upon closer inspection, the rugs were made in India, the quilts imported from China and the lovely wood carvings all had the same woodworm holes and knots in the same place. Turns out they were moulded resin. The tie dyed lady with the rasta hat had brought her stuff over from Nepal. Great items in another setting.
I asked a couple of sellers, one Amish, if there was any non imported, hand made, authentic crafts being sold here. They stated that they didn't know and for me to ask at the information desk. We then went upstairs to find stall after stall of more fairground rubbish :( I passed another Americana store and inspected the quilt label to the embarrassment of my dear family. The owner yelled out that she'd give me $2 off the $20.00 price. I explained that I wasn't looking for a price tag but to see if this item was also imported. We talked for a bit and basically this was just another flea market. Why it was plugged as the genuine thing is anyone's guess! What would you think?

Things did pick up as we drove a couple of miles into Berlin and stopped at Schrock's Farm. There the kids and I got talking to a lovely Mennonite gentleman who was making candles. He was such a nice guy and is going to email the kids when we get home. We chatted at length about various things and I burned his ears with my flea market experience. Basically, people come here to cash in on the tourist trade and sell anything and everything. The Amish themselves can buy things made overseas for cheaper than the cost to make it, so that's what they do which is incredibly sad. He put on a CD to let me hear of Mennonite singing. I can honestly say that I've never heard such beautiful music. There is a richness, depth and purity that has to be heard to be appreciated. I managed to find one CD to buy at a bookstore in the town which we listen to in the car and is currently playing here in the house. I've always figured that my much needed voice box will come with the new body, but these guys are already sorted. Who needs instruments in when they harmonize like this!

We also got a look in the quilting barn (fantastic) and in town, the general store. The kids went to a puppy store in Schrock's farm. I'm surprised none were smuggled out!

AJ & CJ - smiles say it all!
Kids activity page


Wednesday we had a down day and in the afternoon took a quick spin up to nearby Waynesville, a charming old town (founded 1797) that is unique for it's antique shops. As the little ones were in the car the eldest and I took a quick look into a few of the main shops before returning home. Miss T is enjoying the jacuzzi (must put it on her wish list) and checking out the different Baby Einstein and Cedarmount DVDs here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Creation Museum Kentucky


Once mother finally surfaced for the day it was decided that we would head down to Kentucky to the Creation Museum which is just under a one hour drive from where we are.

It was well worth the visit and I would highly recommend it. We did skip one gallery but the rest was great. And yes, I did see Ken Ham. It was kinda funny as I was coming back from the ladies bathroom wheeling my two little guys and flew round a corner just as he was heading into a room. I must have had that strange 'it really is him' look on my face as he chuckled and said hi. I'd told the kids that he wouldn't be there as he's due to be lecturing at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast later on this week which I guess threw me a little.

Deb's tips ...
If you are BF, wear appropriate gear. I didn't and there are no nursing rooms. I wound up feeding my little guy, standing up in the disabled loos :/
If you are in a wheelchair, take someone with you to open the doors. Excellent new building but no obvious automatic doors at entrance and bathroom doors I found difficult to manage with a buggy.
Tickets are pretty expensive (hubby and kids also did the planetarium) but comparable with theme parks. They do a good work though, it's well staffed and the exhibits are brilliant. (If you live here, a family pass would be worthwhile.) I felt that they could have thrown in the Disney type photo for free :) Maybe wishful thinking on my part as I was torn between thinking that it would be a really neat souvenir, but didn't want to part with $15/$20 for one/two Polaroid photos. (In the end I bought t-shirts for the boys on sale for the same amount.) Their squished penny machine is twice the price of all the others (I'm being picky now.) Maybe I'll write to them lol.

Footnote to my readers. I appreciate that we all have differing world views and I enjoy the mutual respect to be found here in blogsphere. You guys like 99% of others, are really great. However, if you disagree with my beliefs (Christian and creationist) and anything I write is offensive to you (which I try not to be) you don't have to read this. In my last blog I was left nasty comments, something which I personally would never do to anyone.

If you are interested in finding out more about what I believe, feel free to get in touch and I'd love to share.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Caesar Creek Park

Playing blog catch up again. I was the last to be wiped out with the 24 hour gastric flu that has done the rounds - that should teach me not to be so smug. Sunday morning I felt queasy so CJ stayed with me as a runner when hubby and two of the others attended church. By evening I was well and truly dying, or so it felt at the time. (Another lesson in giving sympathy to sick husband).

By Monday afternoon, I was still a bit green around the gills but able to take a fifteen minute walk around the Pioneer Village at Caesar's Creek which is only a short drive from where we're staying. A non-profit organization, this park is 'dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of the history of Southwestern Ohio Frontier during its settlement from 1793-1812'. You can tell I nicked that bit from the web.

Dandelion clocks

We were able just to park and wander around at our leisure. As a non staffed site, the buildings are generally kept locked and opened for events, however we got talking to a couple who were doing some maintenance and they were able to let us into the general store and opened up the school house for the kids to have a look at. ~Read more/photos ~

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Airforce Museum Dayton

This morning we had heavy rain initially so headed back to Dayton to visit the Airforce Museum - the largest of it's kind in the world apparently. It is run by the Air force and admission/parking is free which for us, was surprising.

They have everything here, from the Wright brothers exhibit through to the latest missiles :/ The male folks really enjoyed it and I could see the educational value :) We learned a bit about the cold war and saw the plane devastated Nagasaki. The holocaust memorial section was, as to be expected, very moving but good for the kids to see.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Home exchange

Friday night

We have another casualty here to the tummy bug so I'm still getting caught up. Miss T is the latest to go down with it which is a pity as we managed to get her in for an adaptive swim lesson at the YMCA this afternoon and had to cancel. They run them every Friday and we were so keen to attend as we have nothing like this back home. Hubby has taken the older boys are over there now and hopefully they'll get to use the climbing wall.

It doesn't seem like long ago that I discovered a family from the USA had joined CHEF (the Christian Home Exchange fellowship that we're members of) and sent off a hopeful email to them. Now it has become a reality and we are installed in their home in Lebanon OH, and they in ours! I guess it was the AIG Creation Museum in Kentucky that planted the original seed.

We arrived on here on Monday afternoon to spend some time with the family who left for Ireland on Wednesday. It was great to meet them and they were wonderful taking time before their own big trip to settle us in and show us around.

Monday evening we went to a Mongolian restaurant which was fun although hubby couldn't eat anything and EJ vomited :/ It works by filling one bowl with veggies and meat, and another with sauce. The fellas in the above photo cook it up for you. Extremely yum!

The following day S took us all up to the Boonshoft Children's Museum in Dayton which was wonderful. They joined up for us which means we can access all different museums that take part in the scheme and likewise we joined up the National Trust back home which will allow them to visit historic homes and parks. The kids had a fabulous time. ~slideshow~

That evening C had arranged a potluck tea with neighbours and friends from their church. It was a great evening and we really enjoyed meeting everyone. The food was A1 and we had our first taste of sweet tea! The boys met a like minded young man who collects fossils (this area has heaps) and they found a snake outside. If you are reading this, thanks a million guys and the kitties are doing fine!

Virginia to Ohio

After our rest up we hit the trail once again, completing the remainder of the Skyline drive and a small part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This great 469 mile scenic drive follows closely the highest ridges between the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attaining altitudes of more than 6000 feet and averaging between 3000 and 4000 feet. We'd loved to have driven on down, (just as I have this hankering to keep on driving through all of the states :) but made it to the visitor center at mile 5 to visit the Mountain Farm exhibits. I find this way of life, fascinating. ~read more/photo album~

From here we drove into West Virginia and grabbed some shuteye before leaving the following day to meet our host family in Ohio.


After exiting the Skyline drive at Rockfish Gap, we camped out in another cabin which fronted onto the Shenadoah river. The first was on the north branch of the river and this one, the south.

The following day the gentleman next door who was down for the weekend, took hubby and the kids out for a trip on the river in his pontoon. He had life jackets for all as he does this with his grandkids which is really great. Once again we experienced wonderful southern hospitality. On their return, they moored at his little jetty and he got tyre tubes and fishing rods for the kids so they stayed there and paddled around the river. The boys were also able to use the canoe which was supplied.

We drove into the little town of Shenadoah to pick up supplies. As the photos show, entertainment need not be expensive. We have checked out everything, from fire hydrants to fire engines! Even the thunderstorms were fun!

Miss T is travelling very well and loves the close proximity of everyone together when we go on holiday. Here she is in the cabin working away on her laptop (which I'm borrowing to write this post :) ~ More photos ~