Hello New York. Those scorching days of summer are slowly drawing to a close.
The kids of St. Barnabas, PS 19, and Yonkers Montessori Academy are getting ready to go back to school. You moms over there are welcoming the routine no doubt.
Tibbetts Park will be getting quieter, the J-1 students will be bidding adieu to their summer of fun, and the Halloween decorations will soon be on display in Walmart and Target.
It’s the same here. In fact a lot of kids, both in primary and secondary, are back to school this week in Ireland. The roads are already busier at 8:30 a.m.
A new season is approaching and life is taking a turn like it does every September, and that’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way, isn’t it?
We are back in Ireland now a little over three months. By we, I mean my husband John (a Limerick man), our son Colum (21-months) our daughter Sadie (six-months) and I (from Kerry). We moved back to Limerick in May after nine wonderful years in New York.
I think I can safely say we are finally settled, emotionally and physically.
It probably took longer physically than emotionally. What I mean by that is in our hearts we always knew Ireland was the place we want to be, the place we want to raise our kids and the place we want to grow old together, so the emotional transition (aside from the sadness of leaving our great friends behind in New York) has been easier.
Physically it was difficult as one can imagine. Finding a house, furnishing it (with our furniture from the U.S.), purchasing, insuring and taxing cars. Setting up phones, bank accounts, televisions, all that stuff.
There are still unpacked boxes scattered throughout the house, and if I’m being honest, because where we live at the moment is a rental I’m thinking of shutting the door on the boxes and leaving them be until we finally buy a home in a year or two.
I think it’s only in the last week or two that we’ve had a chance to breathe. In between working, creating a normal environment for the kids and getting organized it’s been a little hectic to say the least.
People ask me all the time what are the differences between life in America and life in Ireland. There isn’t any drastic difference, but there are some minor ones.
I suppose the top four are as follows -- the cost of living, our social lives, a family support network, and the kids.
I think I could write a whole article on the cost of living. When we came home three years ago to get married everything was a lot more expensive.
People turned their noses up at discount supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl (German owned supermarkets which are a lot cheaper than Dunnes and Tescos). People went out for expensive meals and drank fine wine that they couldn’t pronounce the name of. They drove brand new cars, outdid each other with birthday parties and vacationed in Europe twice a year.
If we moved home to this Ireland three years ago, living expenses would have been a lot higher and our lives wouldn’t be as comfortable as they are now.
I do 90 percent of my shopping in the Aldi down the road. Several of their products are Irish sourced and packaged too. I only go to Tescos for baby formula simply because Aldi doesn’t carry any.
I even use the German diapers (or nappies as they are called here). They are almost 60 percent cheaper than Pampers and Huggies. Their quality is equal to that of the big brand names we’ve become slaves to over the past few years.
The same size packet of pasta in Dunnes (Dunnes own brand) is €1.59. It is 69 cent in Aldi. My total weekly shop (and remember I’ve two kids) is less than €90 ($70) and that feeds us for the week.
In New York I would easily spend double that in Stop n Shop and I would buy the kids diapers, formula, toilet paper, baby wipes and water in bulk at BJs on a monthly basis. (Our BJ’s bill always hit over the $400 mark).
If we go out for a meal here in Limerick we can enjoy a few glasses of wine, a nice dinner and a taxi home for about €80. If we avail of the early bird (dinner between 5-7 p.m.) we can even do it a little cheaper. And having family around to babysit helps with the cost of a sitter.
In New York (in our single days before the kids) we would easily spent $200 on a night out and a guaranteed $300 if we went all out with a sitter in the past two years.
It’s rare now to see a 2012 car parked in any front yard here. Car sales are down enormously, much to our advantage when we got home.
However, the cost of a car is still a lot cheaper in the U.S. and currently the gas prices in Ireland are about to hit a record high this year, thus making traveling a lot more expensive. People are now foregoing the Sunday afternoon dinners with family a few towns over for a lazy day on the couch because of the rising fuel prices.
I’m on the road a lot with work so I spend about €150 ($110) a week on diesel. John, who works 15 minutes from the house, spends about €100 every two weeks. He also has a diesel car.
Gone are the days of big birthday parties for the kids in expensive outdoor/indoor play areas.
People are reverting back to having a few children over at the house, making rice-crispy buns and playing games.
It makes it a lot more affordable and also a lot more personal. People had lost the run of themselves there for a while, trying to out-do one another.
And people are back vacationing in Ireland. It’s nice. It really is.
We took the kids to Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork two weeks ago. We stayed overnight at the amazing Garryvoe Hotel in Ballycotton, right on the water.
We had a fantastic, memorable trip and we weren’t alone. The hotel was booked out with Irish visitors.
I asked the girl at reception and she said nearly all their customers that week were from various parts of Ireland. People can’t afford to take a family to Europe anymore, so they sacrifice a few days in the sun to spend time in rainy Ireland and they make the most of it. It’s fun.
Like New York, there are many activities close to us all. Because the country is so small everything is within driving distance if you want it to be.
Before leaving New York we took the kids to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. I honestly thought we would never see the likes of this in Ireland and then I arrive home to hear about Tayto Park, a similar themed park full of fun for the kids. Ireland really does have a lot to offer families on holidays.
Our social lives in New York had taken a back seat for the past two years, mainly because we had two kids in that short space of time. And now I feel we have it back.
And no, I don’t mean we’re out rocking the clubs of Limerick every Saturday night. What I mean is I now have a house big enough to have friends over for dinner (we do this at least twice a week) and enough bedrooms to have friends with kids come and stay.
Because we have the space (which we never had in New York) we utilize it as much as possible to socialize with our friends and family and I love every minute of it (well, not so much the washing-up).
And one of the most notable differences between our lives in New York and Ireland is having the family around to support us when needed. John’s sisters and mother have been fantastic in offering to babysit at short notice, and my own mother has been awesome.
We are having Sadie’s christening this coming Saturday and Nana Liz has it all under control from the food to the layout of the house. (We are having family back to the house after the church).
We did have wonderful friends who gave up their time in New York to help us out with the kids and we’ll always be grateful to them for that. And now it’s just nice to have family close by to help out, and more importantly, for them to be part of our kids’ lives.
And lastly, the kids. Seeing Colum run around the back garden kicking his ball, pushing his bike, picking up pegs from the grass or chasing spiders (much to his mommy’s horror) is worth it all. He has the space and freedom to do it here.
When his friends come around (or my friends with their kids who will soon become his friends) they go outside and entertain themselves. And when it’s raining they come inside to the playroom and fight over the toys.
Seeing Colum and Sadie getting to know their aunts, uncles, cousins and nanas is priceless.
There is no doubt Colum and Sadie would have had a great life in New York too, but John and I feel that we’re giving them so much more here in Ireland and that will always outweigh any doubts that may ever arise about our move home.