My wife wrote a book - The Mystery of the Cursed Elves (The Magic Cube Book 1) -

Swinford trip

TLDR Rented a car, for a road trip. Staying in a farmhouse near Swinford for the kids’ break. Visited Sligo, Swinford, Foxford, Ballina, and a few others. Roxi got Hand Foot Mouth, Khaleesi had a Fever. Mila had a horrible cough, and Maddex bought Rubber boots.

Becoming Car People 

Travel day one started off early. Maddex came along with chief and I on our morning walk at 0600. An hour later with a happier dog, we returned home for about five minutes before setting off on the LUAS to hire a car for the week. Kids are off school for a week and Michelle has booked us a road trip vacation to the Atlantic Northwest (ANW) of Ireland near Sligo. To get there we are renting a car from a place in city center. At Charlemont stop, we de-trained and started walking. Maddex volunteered to be the Navigator to Hertz. Twenty-two minutes and some chatter later we’re in front of Hertz with 18 minutes to kill before they open the doors.

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On the walk to get the car – The question “By standing here is Maddex the School Warden, OR, is he breaking the rules standing here? “

The rental agreement indicated we need to pick up our car at 0830 or we’d be charged a late fee. We all know rental companies love to add extra fees where ever possible. We’ve arrived before 0830 to avoid any fees. The agreement failed to mention 0830 was the time they opened the door. After they finally let us in, while filling out the paperwork Maddex noticed a social distancing sign at the window was lit up green until he was too close to me when it would turn red. Testing the sign entertained him for a good 6 minutes.

Finally, around 0900 we’ve obtained a car, a Škoda Kodiaq 7 passenger car with plenty of space for 6 people and a dog; Perfect for the MillFam. On the road, nope I do not miss driving. So much data processing to avoid hitting things, staying in the right lane, right speed, obeying signs, working out where the buttons are, finding the right music, not hitting other cars. making the correct turns – So much stress! I managed to pull it all together and get us home taking Stillorgan road. 

At home, the kids all immediately ran to the car and started setting up. No hesitation, we’re going on a road trip; boy they sure are excited. The dog jumped right in the back like he knows what he is doing; he’s excited too. Mom and I packed the car quickly and off we go on the road for some adventure. First stop, a park in the town Mullingar in county WestMeath. The park has a brilliant playground, sadly everything is too wet to play on; back in the car off to find a rest stop with a toilet. Everyone needs to pee.

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In the car with snacks and phones and Dramamine

The closer to our destination we progressed the narrower the roads became and the more the brush on the side of the roads encroached into the driving space. By the time we arrived, there is brush rubbing the sides of the car. The centerline of the pavement is so untouched it’s covered in moss that’s growing grass in places. Irish country roads are something else, the speed limit / speed challenge on these roads is 80 KPH (about 50MPH). I did 80 once to feel what it was like and we all screamed for fear of death.  I wonder if these roads are paid for by homeowners or taxpayers or a bit of both? We’ve seen kilometer long roads for two houses.  Bummer we arrived a few hours early and the owners are still cleaning the place. No bother gives us time to visit a shop for some food – Off to Tescos

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Paved Irish country road, so narrow no one drives in the middle giving space for moss to grow and become grass.

We’re on vacation, sure shows in our Tesco trolley, it’s filled with processed junk food and treats! Plus some boots for Maddex and throwaway shoes for me. It’s muddy out where we are staying and I don’t want to ruin my new 4x wide Asics on the morning walks  – 15€ throwaway shoes are worth it to save the nice shoes. Would have bought the hiking boots I’m looking for but did not find any. The next time we arrived at the farmhouse it was all ready for us to move in.

Kids are right back in travel mode rushing into the house claiming rooms and setting up their nests. While they were setting up mom and I established ourselves in the kitchen putting food away and baking chips. Exploring everything mom found a menu for Chinese which sounds great to us for dinner. Maddex and I set off in the car to Foxford to buy Chinese from Golden Sea. Walking around Foxford we were unable to find the place until the rain hit hard and we were rushing back to the car. The restaurant was on the second floor with a tiny sign up high we did not notice looking for chairs and tables through the windows. No wonder we walked by it twice. Waiting for our order we checked out a few shops and bought treats before heading back home with dinner.

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Setting up in the living room eating chips
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House we are staying at complete with Solar panels

Day one Sligo

Maddex is four days in a row walking with me and the dog in the morning. We set out at about 0620 with torches walking in the dark; no street lights as far as the eyes can see. We made it about an hour and still no sunrise. Bought Maddex a hand crank torch at Tesco the day before. Whenever the torch would dim he’d crank it some more! I think we would have walked longer had maddex not been startled by a car coming over a hill in the dark. I made him and the dog stand as far to the side as we could while the car passed.

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Walking in the dark with rubber boots in a puddle

Conversation from our walk after he expresses fear or cars and mosters in the dark

Maddex – it’s kind of scary out here walking in the dark.
Me – <makes monster sounds>
Mad – I know it’s you not scary
Me – I’m going to download a motion sensor app on my phone and leave it on the side of the road. When we walk back by it will make crazy monster sounds and scare you!!
Mad – now I know your evil plan and it will never work <Maddex laughs at me>
Me – doh was I monologging !

At home drying, the dog off the towel came away with some blood on it. Narrowed it down to one of his front paws as the source. No clue how that happened. Did not seem to be bugging him, but we don’t want bloody prints all over the house. The dog stayed in the mudroom on a towel while his cut scabbed over. Gave him a bowl of wet food and some treats to make it less horrible trapped in the small room on a towel separated from his pack.

Conversation Roxi and when Roxi came in to snuggle with Michelle in bed before starting the day. Roxi has some amazing storytelling skills. Roxi is also sick with hand foot mouth. Her face has broken out in spots. Mila told her she looks like a teenager with zits.

Michelle – did you snuggle with Khaleesi last night ?
Roxi – do you see the rings on the curtain rods up there ?
Michelle – yes
Roxi – so you see the two close together almost touching but not touching ?
Michelle – yes?
Roxi – that’s how we slept.

Mila was up all night with a cough sounding like she has the croupe, and Roxi is almost over her fever. Would not be a Millfam trip without sick kids. Kids ate, mom and I had some eggs before we packed up the car, so odd to have a car, not used to it yet. Off we drove about 0910 headed on an hour drive to Sligo. We made it about 40 minutes before we had to stop and go for a walk. No seasick pills today plus Roxi and Khaleesi are both sick they started to look a bit green in the car. We stopped to let them and walked around a church. Must have worked no one vomited in the car or at all. No one vomited all day long for that matter.

We parked at a 3€ a day car park near the city center with a real person taking the money and watching the cars. She took down our car plate before we had gotten out of the car. Walking around the city we picked up some outfits for the girls, new shoes for me, chips, tacos, macaroons, and a croissant cupcake for Michelle. The tacos came from tucos.ie probably the best taco shop in all of Ireland. Mega good tacos – Complete failure on my part for not taking pictures of the tacos.

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The girls were on a mission to shop At Penny’s from the moment we woke up. Worked out for them, they all came out with an outfit while Maddex and I walked the dog around the town waiting for them to come out. Kids have randomly mentioned they want to try macaroons a few times. Maddex and I found a shop, Le Fournil, on our walk selling macaroons.  They were not cheap but we are on vacation, why not? The smiles from the kid’s excitement made up for the cost. Going with a whatever, buy all of the things attitude on this trip

I found some hiking shoes that actually fit my extra wide feet in a shop that wrapped our shopping for the day. From the shopping zone, we walked along the river towards a park with a playground. After about half an hour of walking, we looked on the internet maps and it turns out we’re only halfway to the playground. Kids are starting to run low on energy and the rain is getting annoying, so we turned about back to the car. On the walk back we picked up chips, twice, from a food truck and bought the Tuco’s tacos. Back at the car park, we drove to Rosses beach. Tomorrow is my brother Ross’s birthday and everyone normally loves beaches – we had to go to Rosses beach.

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Happy Dog on the Happy sand

Seems only Chief and I loved the beach today. A wave came in and almost ran everyone over, it was windy and cold. We left the beach shortly after we arrived; major bummer dude. On the drive back to our farmhouse Mila played DJ until she fell asleep. It’s impressive to me, Milas phone is connected to my phone via WiFi for internet access used to download music from Spotify. Her phone is also connected to the car stereo via Bluetooth to play music throughout the car. Living in the future is rad.

Halfway home the kids were mostly passed out. Roxi has picked at some of her hand foot mouth spots and Khaleesi has still a bit of a fever. Bet she is getting spots tomorrow (Guessed wrong no spots). Anyhow, halfway home we drove by a playground, slammed on the brakes to stop, and let the kids play. Next to the playground is a large parking lot void of cars and many things to hit. Perfect to give maddex a go at driving; He’s been asking ever since we booked the trip. The kid grinned the whole time and for a while afterward. Let him do a few loops around the parking lot; probably the best part of the trip for him. Only had a few slams of the breaks out of fear; he did well.

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Kids were happy to be home relaxing in their sicknesses. We still needed a few more things for eating.  Mila and I set off for the Tesco to do some shopping. Mila did not drive on the trip. Dinner was pasta night followed by some games then the Lorax on the TV. The internet in the house is provided for Three Celluar and it’s about 5mb. Enough to stream one show. For Michelle and I to watch Castle off of Plex back home we had to turn off Youtube for the kids when we put them to bed; such selfish parents we are hogging all of the internets.

Day 2 – Westport and Castlebar

Last night telling the kids tomorrow we’re going to Castlebar to hang out at the bar Maddex responded “ dad we can’t drink. Underage drinking is against the law” – good math, Maddex I approve. Took the dog for a 90-minute walk in the dark all by myself this morning. Finished the quantum magician book 3 and moved on to a murder bot book. Like Murderbot with episodes of The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, I needed some good comfort media. We came across one car and a jogger with a headlamp on our walk.

Roxi is mostly healed minus the red sores on her face. Khaleesi still has a bit of a fever. We gave her some drugs and she came back to life. Out the door around 0930. First stop Tesco to buy Maddex dry shoes. He was jumping on a trampoline in a playground with a pool under it yesterday and drenched his feet and legs. He forgot to put them on a heater / we forgot to put them on a heater last night and they are still drenched this morning. Oh well I bought throw away shoes guess we can do the same for Maddex. Girls bought some socks because why not?

From Tesco it’s off to Westport. The Drive to Westport took longer then expected due to road resurfacing delays. We had to wait and wait and wait some more for about 30 minutes before we made it through the construction. Oh well more time for DJ Mila to play us some music. We parked in a random car park for 2€ today and walked down a section of the Great Western Greenway for a bit to a skate park.

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Khaleesi sliding down a wall in the skate park
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Hiding one of moms books in a tunnel

Michelle stashed one of her books in a tunnel for someone to find later and we carried on to walk a round the city center. The kids each got a treat in a 2€ shop and that was the extent of our shopping. The kids of course wanted some McDonald’s. We figured ok there’s one in Castlebar we can stop at. Too bad it had a line of cars out the road for the drive through and a line out the door to dine in.

We noped out of the McDonald’s, paid to park at a Tesco and walked around the city center. Maddex went from Apache for pizza to burgers from Supermac to Subway and ended up with pizza from Papa John’s after we found the Subway was closed / out of business. Much prefer walking around a city vs driving in one. – with loads of food from Supermac Papa Johns we walked back to the car and drove about 7 minutes past the pink house mom stayed in on her last mom break and had lunch at a play ground. The playground has one of those spinning teter toter things the kids love. After a birthday party worth of boys let the kids have their turn on It- they had a blast.

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Rad teeter totter thing that spins
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Taking the dog for a swing

About 20 minutes from home Maddex Rick rolled us. Mila has been playing DJ in the car. Her phone is synced to the car stereo with Bluetooth and she picked songs on Spotify. We have a single Spotify device license for the family, thanks Wes. Maddex had the idea that he could login to Spotify on his phone and control what Mila’s phone played and he picked never gonna give you up – he was laughing his little head off. Michelle says “how did you even know what this song is? And how did you change the song ?” – the little trickster. I’m super impressed with his creativity.

Back at home I had a chat with the owner Kathleen. Her husband grew up in the house we’re in, they currently live next door. They’ve been married for over 50 years and both grew up around here. They owns bunches of land and cows and donkeys. She invited the kids over the feed the donkey. Wow did they motivate the kids when I told them. They put shoes on and sprinted to the fence to feed the donkeys. Maddex was most excited that one do the donkeys quickly took a liking to him and let him pet it.

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Day 3 Ballina

Walk with Maddex again at 0620 for about an hour. We explored around the local school before turning around back home. Todays destination is a fairy walk and play ground in Ballina (pronounced Ball-in-knaw) a town about 30 minutes away. Big news for the day – Mom is driving this morning! This will be her first official time driving a car since we moved to Ireland. Every car we’ve rented to date has been a manual and she never learned to drive a manual. Our Skoda is an automatic for some odd reasons.

I was a complete ass hat twice screaming because she was so close to the bushes on the passenger side of the car. She was not going to hit it by my inner lizard brain felt like she was; bad Kev.  The roads are narrow and it’s odd finding lane position the first time you drive on the wrong side of the road. My freaking out was not helping. I tried to set still and not look but the bushes were so close. Bad kev. When I was learning to drive my mother taught me to visualize your gas pedal foot over the grease line in the center of a lane to feel lane position. That lesson has stuck with me. In Ireland, the gas pedal is on the side of the car vs in the middle like it would be in the US. Feeling the grease line in the lane is a horrible idea in Ireland.

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We made it to the playground without hitting anything or Michelle hitting me. She did a great job her first time driving in Ireland. The playground was fun with all of the usual things plus some walking trails for the dog. Park containing the playground was next to a fairly quick-running river, the River Moy.

The next stop was a Lidl parking lot to hide the car while we walked around the city center exploring the exciting town. It was early still and not much was open. We skipped the shopping and simply walked about. From Lidl it’s about 8 minutes drive to the fairy forest around Belleek castle. The walk had a wide collection of fairy doors and a paved path along the river. Michelle and the kids left a few of her fairy door books with free to good home notes on them along the fairy walk  

Kids were a bit worn out for the morning and we did not have any other plans. Home we went to work on the leftovers. Fried rice, pasta, and garlic bread for lunch. Movie for the kids and nap for mom and I. Not used to driving and the stress of driving in tiny cities and on narrow one-lane roads is getting to me; time for a nap and snuggle.

Slides and Spiders at Tuckin

After nap, we drove to a different playground with a small fairy walk in Swinford for a slide and fun. On the drive back we stopped into Tesco for socks and more ice cream; can never have too much ice cream. Home to feed the donkeys again, a movie, showers and sleepy time. At sleepy time we found a big ole wolf spider in the girl’s room and in Maddex’s room. Dad bravely sucked them up with the hoover. Mom tossed the hoover outside for the night.

Let me try better to express the spider incident. At bedtime the girls found the spider in their room and came running downstairs screaming. Seconds later Maddex found one in his room and ran downstairs too. The spider in the girl’s room was up high. I had to stand on a stool to reach it; not too bad. The spider in Maddex’s room was above his bed. I got on the bed to hoover it up and it jumped at me onto the bed. I jumped back and regrouped. The Spider was on Maddex’s Pillow I tried to suck it up off of the pillow and it ran to the backside of his pillow. Tore the blankets off the bed and flipped the pillow over. The Spider ran along the side of the mattress under the bed. I turned the mattress over and finally sucked him up.  The Girls were ok sleeping in their room, they had each other. Maddex closed the door to his room and vowed never to enter the room again.

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Drive home

Maddex skipped the last morning’s dog walk. The walk started off with a super clear low-light polluted sky. Have not seen this many stars in a long time. The spectacular stars in the sky took my attention for the start of the walk. About halfway on our walk, the clear sky turned to a cloudy sky. Then the clouds dropped and became deep heavy fog. On the way back the fog was so deep I missed the turn back to the house. Chief knew where to turn but I told him not too and we kept walking in the wrong direction until we made it to the school and I knew we had missed the turn.  I listened to chief on the way back.  

Michelle was already in cleaning and packing mode when chief and I made it back.  I jumped right in to help feed the kids and pack up. We were cleaned, feed, and packed out the door around 0900.  The drive home was lacking in much more than some sleeping kids and DJ Mila playing some music. We had a great trip, thanks babe for planning another fun trip.  

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