Category Archives: Mom Camp International

Mom Camp 2015 Signing Off….

Each year of Mom Camp is different.  But this year, I feel as if Mom Camp never really got off the ground.  We took a LOT trips (Ireland, Boston/Maine, Tahoe, LA)  and it was one big whirlwind of packing, traveling, touring, traveling, unpacking and laundry with a sprinkle of Mom Camp Days thrown in here and there.

I know the kids certainly missed our traditional Mom Camp activities and Cinco is still talking about how he simply did not get enough time with our Greek Days.  The Princess on the other hand was disappointed in general that we didn’t have more days spent on our activities.  I truly cannot blame them because we barely made it to 30 days of Mom Camp this year… YIKES!

All of our travels did lead one positive experience, lovely hard-bound journals for the kids.  Every Mom Camp I hit on a ‘thing’. One year it was paper stove-pipe hats.  It was as if every activity included a paper hat…..  Circus Ring Master,  4th of July and Uncle Sam, and on and on.  The following year I had an penchant for peg dolls.  We made a peg doll Ben Franklin, peg doll colonial solders, peg doll colonial women, and peg doll Egyptians,  Last year, I hit on paper crafts.  We made a paper Globe Theatre, a paper Big Ben, paper dolls (Romans, Vikings, Victorians and Elsa and Anna).   

 This year it was journals.

I created a hard-bound, personalized glossy journal for each child for our adventures.  They not only had a space to write about their experiences, but the journals included historical lessons, projects and other puzzles and game to keep the kids happy and engaged in their summer travels.  

 I love that they were hard-bound this year.  I tried something similar last year on the trip to Great Britain.  But, I used spiral notebooks and they did not fair very well when they came home.  I hope this year’s treasures will stay with the children for years to come and be a reminder of our Mom Camp 2015 Adventures. 

 This is Mom Camp 2015 signing off until next summer….

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Last Day on the Emerald Isle (MCD 10-11)

It was time to leave Ashford Castle and head off to our next castle– Cabra! On the way we planned to visit a bit of ancient Ireland.   

 We head east back toward Dublin and planned to stop a Loghcrew. It’s sister site to the famous New Grange. Loghcrew’s burrial mounds are coordinated to vernal (spring) equinox. Although much smaller than New Grange, Loghcrew’s is a very intimate site. Small groups of visitors (when I say small our family of four barely fit in the tomb)are able to enter the mound with a small flash light and examiners wall carvings. 

  Then we hit the car and drove to Cabra Castle. It was more of a faux castle than the real thing. It made me feel as if I was in a Scooby Doo cartoon. All kinds of strange pictures lined the walls and it was certainly possible that a pair of creepy eyes were staring out of them at me! Not to meantion several beat-up suits of armor. I thought a ‘ghostly’ villain would pop out of the parlor at any minute.  

The following day it was time to get up and hit the airport for our million hour journey home.  Lots of delays and craziness made the trip take 22 hours door to door.  

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Ashford Castle: MCD 9

This would prove to be an especially exciting day!  We awoke in the castle and headed down to the formal dining room to have our breakfast complete with hot chocolate for the kiddos.  At breakfest we met the boat captain who offers tours of the lake and he talked us into a delighful one hour boat tour.  We had to be back on shore by noon sharp because we had a special appointment at 12:30.

Castle View from the Boat

  The tour lasted an hour and The Princess even got a chance to steer the ship.  Those of you who have watched John Ford and John Wayne’s Quite Man will recognize the name Inisfree! 

The next stop was the school of falconry.

The Captain it would be cool if we scheduled our own falconry lesson for the family. While I personally wouldn’t have chosen this activity, I wasn’t against the idea and booked it.  It turned out to be one of the best experiences of the whole trip.

We worked with Red Tail Hawks, not Falcons.   It seems these hocks do better with people they don’t know because unlike

Just a little something the birds caught

Just a little something the birds caught

Falcons and most other birds of prey the Red Tails hunt in groups.  Another funny thing about this bird, is that it’s from the American Southwest not Ireland. And when we got home to America and we’re visiting the Las Vegas Springs preserve we actually saw a plaque about the Redtailed Hawk!

Our guide was delightful and gave us an almost 90 minute course on the Hawks, other birds, and falconry in general. He was truly passionate about the subject and a delight with which to work.

me and the hawk

Everyone (both Cinco and The Princess) held the hawks and took a turn sending them out to hunt.  I think the kiddos were a little nervous at first, but they never shied away from the birds even one.  The hawks were named after famous Irish writers– Wilde and Stoker.  Our guide told them apart based on the color of their claws (something I never really got the hang of in our 90 minute lesson.)

Post hawking it was time for a walk of the grounds.  IMG_1881  Including a number of hidden gardens.

Next stop was a stroll into town for a little something to eat.  A pretty good day, I’d say

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Leaving Galway we decided to make a stop by Athenry before heading to Ashford Castle.  Like any good Irish family, we are fans of the song Fields of Athenry.  The Captain and The Princess often play the song on the guitar and sing together.  With a little extra time on our hands we decided a trip to Athenry was in order.

Athenry Castle

We toured the castle… Which really wasn’t much compared to other castles in England and Ireland. And we tried to go to the Athenry priory.  But, it was closed.

Then it was on to Cong home of Ashford Castle and the town were some of the John Ford film The Quite Man was filmed.

In Cong there are a number of deep caves and caverns.  We decided on a nature walk before checking in at the castle.  Our first stop was Pigeonhole Cave.

view looking up from the bottom of the cave

We also took the Pigeonhole Cave walking loop–without the actually researching how long the loop was!  It seemed to simply never end.  It was alively walk in the woods along a stream, but the kiddos started to get a bit grousey after the 1st 45 minutes.

One bonus was the path lead us to Cong Abbey. It was located right on the river and the ruins included an old stone fishing house the monks used.

Cong Abbey cloister ruins

When we finally made it back to our car it was time to head out to Ahford Castle!

The castle welcomed us with personalized cookies and tour.  After discovering welcome gifts for the kids (a bear for The Princess and a sword for Cinco), we set work exploring…


The Billard Room


watching Ben Hur in the movie room

After dinner in the Dungeon it was bedtime for all!


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The Long Drive: MCD 8

After the day in Dingle, the Captain took us on the long drive.  We we’re trapped in the car for almost 7 hours!!!!  Okay.  It wasn’t all bad.  But we certainly spent more time going the LONG WAY than I would have liked. 

The drive did include a ride on a ferry, which was a new experience for the kids.  

We also hit the famous Cliffs of Moher.  It was probably the most crowded tourist spot we encountered during the whole trip.  

At the end of the longest day we made it to Galway.  We walked the Latin Quarter and had dinner in a nice little pub with live Irish music.  That made The Captain very happy. 


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It’s Dingle, Darling: MCD 6 

Mom Camp Day 6

Before leaving Cork, we needed to grab a picnic lunch for our drive to Dingle. We decided to stop by the Cork English Market. The place was fantastic. We only had 45 minutes to stay and I wish we had had longer. It had everything you could want Greek olives, fresh fish, chocolate, fresh produce and of course Irish tea.   The Captain and the kids had a delightful time roaming the stalls.

Then it was off for the drive to Dingle.  But of course along the way I had to insist on a stop on the mom tour of the of the obscure!  Took a quick detour to see where Michael Collins was assassinated–Beal na Blath.  The site has a tasteful memorial cross dedicated to Collins.    

Inch beach was the next stop. We did some amazing shell collecting and stopped for a beachside picnic lunch. 

Before hitting the village of Dingle itself, we stopped by the South Pole Inn.  This little bar was operated by local hero Tom Crean.  For those who don’t know, Crean was 2nd command on the Endurance. 


The South Pole Inn

We started hitting the Dingle sites after that.





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Time to Meet the Duggans: MCD 5

Waking up in Kilkenny we took a final look at the hotel grounds and made for the famous Rock of Cashel.  The Rock was an important religious site in Ireland for many centuries.   

frescos from the chapel at the Rock Cashel


Carvings from Cashel


kids @ Cashel

 We toured the area and looked at many of the remaining frescos.  We also enjoyed the views from The Rock.  We toured the restored choir hall and took a quick walk through the town.    

Cashel Abbey through a slit in the wall


Next stop was Blarney Castle to kiss the stone!  I was surprised there wasn’t a major line to kiss the stone.  Cinco and The Princess weren’t really interested in getting up close and personal with the stone– both because they thought it was scary and a little gross. While walking the grounds on the way to the castle, The Princess declared it was, ‘neither sanitary nor entertaining.’  Haha.  I had to agree. 

The Captain, however had childhood memories of kissing the stone.  It seems his parents took him to Blarney back in the day and he even had a certificate to prove he had indeed kissed the stone. 

I was forced to kiss the stone to provide a good example for the kiddos!  But this didn’t  help.  Both kids made an attempt to kiss it, but neither could follow through.  Personally, I don’t blame them.  It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be.  We were traveling in the shoulder season, so maybe the crowds were fewer.  But, the drop down is pretty unnerving.  The Princess is only 6 and I do not think it WOULD HAPPEN, but I could see a senerio where she could have fallen through!!!  

While castle is something of a tourist must do, it does have lovely and extensive grounds, including a tiki garden and fairy forest.  We wondered for a little while but had to get a move on and meet the Cork Duggans.

You see part of my father’s family still lives in outside Blarney near Cork!  He’s 100% Irish and even has an Irish passport!  We Americans still keep contact and so of course we had to pay a visit. 

The night was delightful and the Duggans all lived on the same road so MANY of the cousins came by.  Even better there were some younger ones in hand for Cinco and The Princess to play with!!!  We got to see their farm and share dinner.  

We got to hear some family history and I even saws photo of another cousin (absent) who shared some facial features.

The kids started to get pooped so we had to depart around 10pm.  But it was highlight of the trip meeting them! 

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Ireland Day 4: Things go sideways

Mom Camp Day 4: This was one of those days when things just seem to go sideways on you. We spent the night at a rather odd hotel in New Ross (a town founded by the Marshal) and we overslept.  We had a full day’s agenda that had to be majorly altered.  We skipped the Dunbrody Famine Ship as well as Waterford and made our way to the Irish Tintern Abbey.  

We made a trip the parent Abbey in Wales last year, (for those interested in the original Abbey).  For those of you who don’t know, the Irish Tintern Abbey was founded by the Marshal.  He had a pretty rough sea crossing to Ireland.  He pledged to found a new Abbey if he made it to shore.  Thankfully he made it and he was as good as his word and founded the Abbey.

Personally, having been to both, I prefer the Irish Abbey.  The grounds at the Irish Tintern are far more lush and evocative of the past.   Unlike it’s parent abbey in Wales, the Irish Tintern is surrounded by lovely forests and walking paths.  It also features a lovely bridge that crosses over a small river near the abbey.  It is very picturesque!  My only complaint was that we didn’t have more time to spend there!

inside the abbey 

Next, it was off to Kilkenny another Anglo-Norman city. In Kilkenny we stayed in the castle’s old carriage house that has been converted to a hotel.  Very nice.  It had an English style garden between the carriage house and the castle across the way.

Kilkenny also prides itself on maintaining a lot of its medieval history.  They have the medieval mile you can walk and imagine what the city might have looked it. In town there is also a pub that date backs to the 1300s.  Back in the day it was run by a witch!  Of course it’s a tourist trap.  But with two kids, who could skip it?  We were treated to an Irish drum circle lesson.

The Captain also discovered Kilkenny is where Smithwick’s Beer is brewed.  So we stopped into the shop for a t-shirt.

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Out of Dublin: MCD 3

Day 3: By day 3 it was time to leave Dublin. We drove down the old military road and the Sally Gap on the way to Glendalough.

We stopped road side to explore a stream and the poor Princess fell in! We had to do a roadside outfit change… It was horribly cold for a Vegas kid with soaked pants and all… Then it was get back in the car for another bit of driving. 

At Glendalough we walked the grounds and forests. It’s easy to see how the Irish folk tales started about various bad fairies. The woods were far more lush than our trip to the 100 acre woods in England. Darker and certainty more mysterious! 

There we also a high number of ferns!!! This of course was very exciting for us because we love the Incorrigible books (See our reviews: book #2, book #3, book #4.  We are still reading #5.  But, look for a review of it soon!) In the books, there are A LOT of side bars on the different types of ferns.  The desert kids loved seeing them in their natural environment.  

And speaking of ferns leaving Glendalough it was time to rush to Ferns! Okay, why Ferns you might ask?  Well, it was the seat of power for the kingdom of Leinster.  The castle there was built by none other than William Marshal (Shameless plug for my book here!).  

Ferns Castle built by William Marshal


Two fire places at Ferns. The lower more primative fireplace may have been built by Strongbow


We made it to the castle just in time for the last tour of the day.  Our guide was a delightful young man who was pleased to see we were interested in the Marshal, Strongbow and Diarmait Mac Murchada (Modern Irish: Diarmaid Mac Murchadha), anglicised as Dermot MacMurrough or Dermod MacMurrough.   He spent a long time with us discussing the castle history and the history of those men. 

Dry moat at Ferns

We also made our way to the Abbey founded by Strongbow as well as the place thought be be Dermot MacMurrough’s grave site.  After visiting the grave a small lady bug and we took it as sign from the warlord himself. 

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