Day Trip to Rathlin Island

ry=400-2At some point we realized that all of the kids would be off school here in a couple weeks and everything would start getting super busy. We’d talked about visiting Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island for a while and so we made an impromptu trip to go see what we could find.

The ferry to Rathlin Island leaves from Ballycastle, a nice town on the North coast. You can find timetables on this website. We arrived just in time to catch the next departure and got seats on the roof for our 25 minute journey. Our 2 year old enjoyed the view and waved “bye bye” to Northern Ireland as we sailed away. The baby, on the other hand, must’ve been trying to compete with the wind and waves because he sure was making his voice heard! ry=400-1

Once we landed, we decided to pop in and get some food at McCuaig’s Bar. Arriving a bit before the lunch rush, we had most of the place to ourselves! Any feelings of awkwardness from bringing our children into a pub (totally normal around here) were quickly dispelled by looking at the pub’s only other customers at the time, another family with two young kids 🙂 Our fish and chips were delicious by the way! I should note that there is an ATM inside just in case you need cash.

ry=400This is when we stumbled on a nice playground and let our 2 year old run off some steam. Swings, a see-saw, slides, etc made him really happy! There’s even a few picnic tables inside the enclosure so you can bring/eat your own food.

After getting some wiggles out at the playground, we hopped aboard the Puffin Bus for a trip up to the sea bird viewpoint. It was maybe a 20 minute journey and the driver stopped along the way to point out interesting “fun facts”, like the hill that is said to be a viking burial site! Rathlin Island is supposedly the first place in the whole of Ireland where Vikings settled.

ry=400-5We entered the viewpoint through a Visitor’s Centre (they had water and biscuits available, too!) and took some photos of the gorgeous view we saw!

You know that bird poop smell? That’s what filled our noses over here. BUT, it didn’t take away from the stunning panoramic coastline views!! There were binoculars available for use and a kind employee offered a child’s pair to our toddler. He was absolutely thrilled and LOVED “taking pictures” of the birds. All the black and white dots on these rocks show the vast variety of seabirds that the island receives every year. We learned about puffins, fulmars (in the albatross family), guillemots, kittiwakes, and razorbills. I’ve never been super interested in birds but it was fascinating to see so many and ask questions of the knowledgeable staff members. ry=400-6

Instead of taking the bus, there were several groups of people who chose to hike or cycle up to the viewpoint. If we’d had the foresight, we would’ve checked with the bicycle rental company to see if they offered bike trailers for children. Next time we visit I hope we can walk one of the 8 hikes and/or cycle too.

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“Look, mommy! I can see a puffin with my binoculars!”

 

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We caught the Puffin Bus back to our starting point and admired the coastline for a while longer. We didn’t see them, but supposedly you can watch seals splashing in the sea during the summer!

ry=400-3We had a wonderful day trip to Rathlin Island and it would be fun to go back! We even saw accommodation; I think this would make a great overnight trip.

After riding the ferry back to Ballycastle, you can round out your day with a Maud’s Ice Cream and more playground time (both within walking distance of the ferry car park!)

ry=400-8 Have you been? What did you think?!

Tuesday in Barcelona

Tuesday in Barcelona brought more adventure for our family. We made breakfast in our flat from food we had purchased at La Boquería the day before. Then we started our journey toward the Montserrat Monastery. 11406383_3509396332269_1837135984225481299_oThe day before, we stumbled on a tourism office where we asked about visiting the monastery. Located an hour and a half outside of Barcelona, we weren’t sure of the best way to get there but they were very helpful. We bought combo tickets for the metro, train, and cable car, as well as lunch vouchers and entrance into the museum. (You can also just purchase each ticket as you need it, it’s not necessary to buy the whole package at once.) The train ride was beautiful, and the cable car ride up the mountain was absolutely breathtaking! Our 2 year old loved being so high up in the sky.

11539258_3509483054437_7951664123699721357_oOnce at the top, we explored all around this monastic city. We saw the basilica and took pictures of stunning panoramas. Being up high in the mountains gave me a sense of peace and we SO enjoyed admiring God’s beautiful creation.  11537918_3509485134489_4748210015018689511_o11392893_3509484014461_2575753407304696057_o

 

 

Our 2 year old found a cat that he followed around, and we finally got someone to take a family photo for us! “Selfies” are great, but my arms must not be long enough because our baby rarely gets featured.

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We had purchased tickets to the self-serve restaurant and enjoyed a huge meal there. It was a big cafeteria type place but the food actually tasted pretty good! And we enjoyed a beautiful mountain view while we ate; a nice setting always improves things doesn’t it?!

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Another neat thing we loved was the street of food vendors! There were several people selling fig cakes, nuts, various infused herbal honeys, fruit, almond and hazelnut cookies (biscuits if you’re reading from the UK), and THE BEST sheep/goat/cow cheese you’ve ever tasted! These people make the cheese themselves and they are all different. The vendors are happy to offer you pieces of each kind to sample. Our 2 year old loved this (and so did we)! We realized later that we probably could’ve gone without our huge meal in the cafeteria, and instead just enjoyed a meal of cheese, nuts, and fruit! Of course we bought some to take home 🙂

11221305_3509484414471_4955177375500297351_oSupposedly there is a boy’s choir that sings in the basilica every day at noon, but we arrived right at noon and must have missed it. Before heading back down we got some gelato so we could enjoy the view just a little while longer.

This made such a wonderful day trip! Visiting the monastery was my favorite part of our trip and I’m so glad we made the effort to catch all the different transportation from Barcelona to Montserrat. 11053268_3509395892258_2337244627388278642_oAs a side note, there is a rule on the trains/metro that people should give up their seats for parents with small children and the elderly. The train was so packed on the way home and no one offered to give me their seat. I was okay just standing because my 8 month old likes to move around anyway, but an elderly gentleman eventually offered me his seat. I thought this was so kind and it opened the door for me to have a lovely conversation with him and his 4 friends. They joked about how they had decided that the youngest among them would give me his seat, and they were completely enamored with our blonde boys! Speaking Spanish to these guys was a highlight of my visit!

11411923_3509496654777_3512938180592776513_oEven after a long day, we decided to venture out again for dinner. We ended up at an adorable outdoor restaurant called El Jardí. This place has a lovely garden with paths that occupied our 2 year old while we enjoyed tapas for dinner! 11393327_3509496214766_1351906999960376541_o

 

We got plates of assorted cheeses and meats, pan con tomate, and patatas bravas (potatoes covered in a spicy mayo-type sauce, our new favorite food item!). Our oldest son had a milkshake and our youngest son munched on meat/cheese in his chair.

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One of the main reasons we purchased this specific baby carrier (the Onya) was because it could transform into a seat! El Jardí was the first place where we tried it out and it was so brilliant. Our baby loved it, and we were hands free to enjoy our meal together. After all, this was our anniversary trip!

Read about our Sunday and Monday in Barcelona, and stay tuned for Wednesday in Barcelona too!

On Being Perfect

A lot of people think I’ve got my life “together”. Maybe I do, maybe i don’t.
But as it turns out, I fail every single day.
I’m the girl who once drove off with a glass casserole dish on the roof of her car and, yep, it shattered into a thousand pieces in the middle of an intersection. One time I walked into the bedroom only to catch my 5 month old who was LITERALLY FALLING out of his swing because I didn’t buckle him in. I usually wait until dirty dishes cover every available counter space before i start washing them. I get irritable with my kids and seem to lose my patience every single day. Sometimes I feel like I try so hard to be perfect that my imperfections stand out even more.
You know what I’m starting to realize though?
No one is perfect except for The One.
I’m so grateful for God’s perfection because it’s super hard trying to be something you’re not. Understanding His perfection helps me to accept his grace in my moments of failure. It also encourages me to show grace to my own kids when my fuse is running short.
Because you know what else I’m starting to realize?
Raising kids is just as much about teaching yourself how to be a good person as it is about teaching them. 11108219_3411021752966_6257950281463444392_n
Sometimes (a lot of times) i need a wake-up call to notice my own self-centeredness. It’s not just my kids who are being selfish, but me too. It’s not just my 2 year old wanting his way RIGHT NOW, but me too. It’s not just the baby wanting to be fed RIGHT NOW, but me too (I get hungry).
Just as Christ set himself aside to love us, so we must also set ourselves aside to love our kids and show them grace.
I’m not perfect. God is.
He shows me grace. I (am learning to) show my kids grace.