It was a hectic end to 2004.

Christmas took us to Ireland this year, to see the cousins, aunts and uncles, and Grandad. Upon our arrival at Clontarf Castle, Orla informed us she was the princess, and her pet dragon would soon meet us there. Eoghan was equally enthralled with the dragon story. They both loved the knights and the ambience of the hotel, enjoying looking at the suits of armour and checking up on the dragon’s lair. Daddy was more interested in knocking back some Irish coffees, and enjoying a quiet read in the lobby.

Our first meal in Ireland was at The Beachcomber, because Orla insisted on having her favourite dessert (that she’s been talking about since last Christmas) – Bailey’s cheesecake.

Christmas Eve saw me in Neary’s for his annual get-together session, while Jenn and the kids went shopping on a bustling Grafton Street, and battled the crowds in the Westbury. This was the 20th anniversary session; we’re all a little older (and maybe wiser) than we were back in December 1984.

It was, as usual, good to catch up with our friends, including Frank, who had been the last man standing, but now appears to be completely besotted with Noriko and blissfully happy to settle down as a culchie in the depths of Wicklow (or rather, Wickla).

Christmas Dinner was at Ann’s house. Jenn and I got to have a quiet meal, since Caitriona was by now old enough to take care of the other kids. The children all played games and opened their presents without shedding any tears – although Orla and Sean were a little unsure of each other; Orla thought Sean wasn’t sharing, and he thought she was “bossy and cross” !

There was only one heist that night – perpetrated by the Nativity Thief, Orla, who pocketed the donkey from the crib. This theft was more successful than her previous brazen attempt at morning mass, when she tried to make a run for it with Baby Jesus, in broad daylight.

On St. Stephen’s Day we didn’t manage to make it out to the races at Leopardstown, since the kids are still young, but we managed to have a quiet dinner with family at the castle.

The kids did pretty well on the trip, although the jet lag kept them up most nights. One night, at about 3 in the morning, in an effort to help them sleep we separated them, Jenn taking Eoghan and I took Orla. Unfortunately, Orla missed her brother too much and informed me

Daddy, I need Eoghan. I miss the cute little guy.

All in all, we all had a wonderful time, although tiring; the kids in particular were thrilled to play with their cousins. Unfortunately Donal wasn’t at home for Christmas, as he was in England with his parents, undergoing cardiac surgery, but so far the progress seems promising. We’re all continuing to say prayers for him.

Then on the trip back, who was sitting beside us only my cousin Ciaran. Fortunately, the kids weren’t too obstreperous on the flight… 


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