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Leaving the country for six weeks is a big deal that entails a lot of planning and tying up of loose ends. Bills to pay and organize; clothing to gather, wash and pack; prescriptions to fill; guinea pigs to farm out; hair to cut; a house to clean; extra keys made and distributed; instructions given to those staying behind…  and, most importantly, adult children to see as much of as possible so that I may soak them up and bring them along in spirit, if not in person.

With life’s occasions – such as end of school year events, birthdays, graduations, Father’s Day and the aftermath of violent thunder storms – all unwilling to step aside for a bit of trip planning, a lot has been left until the last-minute and therefore there is still much to do. So, for both procrastination and inspiration, I was cruising YouTube for some of my favorite Irish tunes in hopes that they will inspire me to get a move on so that there is not chaos the last couple of days before we leave for Ireland. While on my search for inspiration, I ran across one of my favorite Irish songs…

“The Homes of Donegal” was written around 1955 by a Donegal school teacher, Seán McBride, with the melody probably dating back 150 years or more. This version is beautifully performed by Paul Brady. Perhaps this lovely song, combined with the Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade that Declan just brought home to me, will do the trick and I will tie up a few loose ends tonight before bedtime. Wish me luck!

The Hancock Center and Sears (Willis) Tower, courtesy DailyMail.co.uk

Eóin is, officially, ready to go to Ireland. Wednesday’s storm that ripped through the Chicagoland area, making a path straight through Elmhurst as it headed east into the city, was the last straw for him.

Rain and storms have been the theme of June in our area this year, but the storm we experienced this past Wednesday was the worst yet. Anton called to warn me that he had received an email at work from the Chicago Police Department warning of severe and dangerous storms approaching Chicago from the west, so I had enough time to do the only thing I could think of to prepare – I closed the umbrella that had been open, outside on our deck. Almost immediately, I began to hear approaching thunder and knew that Anton’s warning was correct, a storm was approaching. At first it was the usual, thunder, lightning and lashing rain. Eóin had dozed off while I was reading him a few chapters of Roald Dahl’s, The BFG, and since he is very frightened of storms, I decided I would let him sleep through this one and perhaps avoid some anxiety. However, within minutes the storm turned into what looked like a hurricane, with winds so strong and rain so heavy that it formed a thick wall that made it nearly impossible to see the trees in the parkway or the street and houses beyond. Alarmed, I decided to wake Eóin and bring him down to the basement. By the time we were downstairs the emergency sirens began to go off and I knew waking and bringing my son to the basement had been the correct thing to do. Moments later, I was not surprised when the power blinked twice and then finally, shut off.

When the alarms had stopped and the wind and rain seemed to calm down, we made our way upstairs. Eoin was very concerned that Rosie, our guinea pig, had been frightened by the storm and he was not very happy with me for leaving her upstairs. However, I have a rule – I never pick up this adorable creature because just below her “adorable” appearance, is the nasty temperament of a guinea pig who bites. Neither one of us wanted to pick up Ms. Nasty, so she was left in her cage, to take her chances with the storm! In the end, she was fine and as far as I could tell, totally oblivious to any danger she may have faced.

When the rain stopped and the thunder quieted down, we stepped outside the front door and beheld the damage the storm had left. Three doors north of us a huge, old tree lay uprooted, completely blocking the street. Two doors south a tree had split nearly in two with one half laying in a heap in a neighbor’s driveway, and at the end of our block a two-story evergreen tree, also uprooted, laid across a lawn. Less dramatic, but adding to the scene of disorder left by the storm, were smaller branches, sticks and clumps of leaves scattered everywhere on the street, lawns and driveways. Even a metal lamp-post, which once stood next to a neighbor’s front walkway, lay bent in half with a huge branch laying on top of it. Almost immediately people began to emerge from their homes and wandered up and down the sidewalks and street assessing the damage and removing the scattered branches from the street and sidewalks, laying them in piles on the parkways. No more that 15 minutes passed before I heard the sound of a power saw working on the enormous tree that lay blocking the street, surrounded by nearly a dozen people who carried away the branches as they were sliced off. Meanwhile, I stood on my front step and watched webs of electricity zigzagging from side to side very low in the sky, just a few feet above the trees, and certainly not far enough above the heads of the people below to make it safe for them to be outside. I’ve never seen lightning like it and thought that the clean up really should have waited until the lightning show was over. I instructed Eóin to stay on the porch or in the house until the lightning finally decided to move along and catch up with the storm, which by now was well on its way into the city of Chicago. For at least an hour afterward I could still see webs of fork lightning zigzagging across the sky in the east over Chicago.

After the excitement was over the sounds around us changed from the violence of the storm to the buzzing of electric saws and the loud hum of generators providing back up electrical power to sump pumps and I presume, a few refrigerators. As it turned out, we were without electricity for about 28 hours, when it was finally returned to us on Thursday night at around 9:30pm. The good news was that the sweltering heat we had experienced before the storm had been replaced with a fresh breeze, which stayed through the night, and provided comfort when our air conditioners were of no use.

Eóin remarked afterward that he was, “glad we’re going to Ireland so we can get away from storms and tornados.” … This sounded like famous last words to me – so I immediately knocked on wood – for safety’s sake!

Webs of electricity over Chicago, courtesy DailyMail.co.uk

Yes, people do surf in Ireland! Here for a bit of fun, are some surfers in Lahinch, on the coast of West Clare… notice the wetsuits!

Lately, this blog has been more about family events than anything else. It cannot be helped because in our family, spring is teeming with all the males’ birthdays. Add to the birthdays, a college graduation, and we have been very busy! So, I am sure folks can understand that under the circumstances, bean an tí – the woman of the house – has recently been short of time for her blog!

Father and son taking it easy at Klein Creek Farm in West Chicago, Illinois.

Well, today is another big day in our household. Like most other families, we’ll be celebrating Father’s Day, however in Declan’s case, today is also his birthday! So in the spirit of a double-header, we are celebrating both Declan’s birthday and Father’s Day! Therefore, today is Declan’s Day!

Happy Birthday, to an Irishman whose courage helped him defy middle age by moving away from the land of his birth and leaving all the familiar and comfortable trappings of Dublin – along with 4 weeks paid holiday leave and many bank holidays – for the American rat race, dealing with culture shock and weather shock, so that he could be with us!

and

Happy Father’s Day, to a man who often finds himself occupied with various activities, which may be unusual for a man of a certain age, such as playing soccer with his 8-year-old son and the neighbor children in the back yard, or swimming with his son at the local pool during family swim, or battling in DS video games against an 8-year-old son who can’t get enough of these battles – when it would feel much more natural, as well as easier on his back, to relax and take a snooze in his hammock, which sits waiting in vain in the back garden!

Happy Declan’s Day, Declan! …. and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

It has been a very busy and exciting weekend for our family! My daughter Kate received her B.F.A. degree in Acting from DePaul University Theatre School on Saturday! How do I add, magna cum laude, without sounding like a proud mom? I guess I don’t… so I’ll just add it anyway, guilty as charged! The commencement ceremony took place at the beautiful Civic Opera House in Chicago, followed by a dinner party celebration back in Elmhurst.

Congratulations Kate, may your dreams come true – with some delightful surprises along the way!

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