We've been back from Ireland for two weeks.  I'm still tired.  I don't know if jet lag gets harder to kick with age or if the whirlwind of returning to my demanding job and hectic routine have just worn me out.  I do know that when I look back at the pictures, all of the effort (and resulting exhaustion!) was totally worth it.  

As you may know, there was a lot of emotion tied up in our decision to take five relatively tiny tots to Ireland.  A big part of why we went was to honor the memory of my brother-in-law, Conor -- a fine fella who died far too soon and we miss more than words can say.  I'm not quite ready to articulate and share the emotional aftermath of our experiences but I can't resist sharing some of the highlights of our trip -- the great times we had and sights we saw that absolutely should not be missed.  The details for many of these family-friendly outings can be found right here on Irish Central but here are a few of our personal favorites:

Playground at St. Stephen's Green
In case you can't tell by the five smiling faces (which is a rarity to catch on film!), the amazing playground at St. Stephen's Green was a hit.  We visited on numerous occasions en route to or from our daily adventures.  I think this is a great tip for traveling with tots; if you can work a playground into your daily routine, you'll be guaranteed some smiles -- and, the added benefit of tuckering the little ones out!  Speaking of added benefits, another perk of this fantastic park in the center of Dublin is the opportunity to feed the ducks... and swans!  It's just beautiful and a crowd pleaser for all ages.

The National Museum of Ireland, also known as the "Dead Zoo" was another top destination.  The first floor is full of Ireland's four-footed and winged creatures of days past; they are beautifully stuffed and displayed with a few "hands on" opportunities for those who just can't resist.  The second floor has a whole host of animals arranged in evolutionary sequence for those who are bright enough to notice; I admit, I was not! It  includes life-size rhinos and giraffes which our kids observed with that wide-eyed wonder I absolutely adore and would bottle if I could.

While the "Dead Zoo" had our kids enthralled and is a great way to spend an hour or two on an overcast day, it naturally pales in comparison to the real deal.  The Dublin Zoo is one of the best zoos I've ever been to... and I've been to a LOT of zoos!  We spent Ciara's 5th birthday here, taking in the sights, sounds and yes, even the smells of Mother Nature's most amazing creatures.  We laughed at the monkeys, pretended to be penguins, roared at the lions and got much closer to the elephants than we did on our honeymoon adventure to   Kruger National Park -- we even got to see an elephant take a bath, which was a highlight not only of our trip to the zoo, but our entire ten days in Ireland.  If you've never seen an elephant submerge itself in a watering hole, kick up a leg and then shower himself with his mighty trunk, I'd highly recommend it.  I'd also recommend you do it with a trio of two year olds, who can't help but make comments like "where his towel, mama?" and "I think his mom's gonna get him some lotion and pajamas now."  

In the weeks to come, I'll share more of our adventures. For now, I'm just so glad for the time we had, the warm welcome we received and for the memories, which I know will last a lifetime.