Posts Tagged ‘Family Road Trip’

IMG_4192As we round out week three on our epic road trip across North-West America, our foursome has become a threesome. My wonderfully gifted, beautiful, sweet, funny, eldest daughter is staying at Concordia for an extra immersion experience. She loves languages and has proficiency in three of them, including Irish. We’ll pick her up in less than ten days and return home to Ireland, but it was with a heavy heart that I kissed her today and said good-bye.

She’s growing up fast…this baby girl of mine…faster than I expected. Not yet a real teen, she is looking beyond the safety of our home and wondering about the world around her.  Secondary school, boys, make up, fashion, parties, dating…I can hardly believe it’s time for us to address these issues in depth. Heck, what I mean to say is it’s hard to believe we’re actually having to LIVE these issues in depth. We’ve talked about them plenty. The dress rehearsal is over and the real show is just beginning. Where has the time gone?

DSC_0100I remember her Baptism day like it was just yesterday. She wasn’t even a month old. I was doing up the pearl buttons on the back of her Irish Christening gown, while my husband held her to his chest. “Why are you crying?”, he asked. “Are you ok?” My lovely husband…so concerned and so bewildered at the same time. “No, Love. Don’t you know? This is the first of her five white dresses.”, I choked out between sobs. “Her what?!”

Her five white dresses.

Growing up a Catholic girl, I can define my life in a series of dresses…all of them white. There’s the Baptism gown, followed by the Communion, Confirmation, graduation, and, finally, the wedding gown. On that special day so many years ago, I realised that our daughter’s Baptism day was the beginning of the end. The first time I understood that precious babies, placed carefully in our arms, are only ours on loan for a {brief} period of time. These amazing children we so desperately want and love are ours by the grace of God and we don’t get to keep them. He gives them to us and then demands we let them go.

We’re only two dresses into her life right now, but I am already struggling with the idea of letting go. Three dresses remain. Most likely she’ll leave our Irish home long before she dons the final dress. It makes me sad and I can hardly bear thinking about it. But, I must…for her sake…and for mine.

Little by little, I let the sadness escape. I liken it to fiddling with a balloon. Because you don’t want to let all the air out at once, you pull back on the sides of the mouth piece and let a little out at a time.  Today was one of those times. We hugged. We kissed. I imparted a few gems of wisdom and then turned completely on my heels {with a glance or two back}, got in the car, waved, and drove away. Through tears, I could see her in my rear view mirror, standing in the gravel car park, waving back.

IMG_4142The last few weeks have been tough. Four of us, strong personalities, in a car traveling the highways of North-West America. Those roads are pretty dull, yet our experience has been anything but. We’ve argued. We’ve cried. We’ve shouted. We’ve smelled bad. We’ve been sick. Through it all…we’ve been together. I know it has not always been easy but it has been special. There’s still several hundred miles ahead of us. I don’t have to wonder any more whether this adventure has been worth it. I already know that it has.

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Gathering round the evening campfire.

Gathering round the evening campfire.

It has been several weeks since I last blogged but you’ll understand when I explain that our traveling four-some has been deep in foreign-language country.

Technically we were in north-west Minnesota, at a camp run by Concordia Language Villages, but the immersion of the camp was so deep that we might as well have been abroad. From food to spoken word, we were in another world.

Language learning through crafts.

Language learning through crafts.

So how was it? It was wonderful. Interestingly, each of us had a different experience. The two girls seemed to thrive because they did what all kids do…they just got out there and spent time with their peers. With no real effort, their language proficiency grew with each passing day.  And God bless my dad, after three years of taking a foreign language at his local university, he had no problems whatsoever with the cultural shift. He found the adult group talks about politics, religion, and social issues a very pleasant and invigorating way to test his skills. Getting sick mid-way through the camp didn’t even set him back much. As for me…I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride of exhaustion and breakthroughs the entire time. For a few days, I was fine and then, suddenly, I was unable to think or speak. Our camp administrator said this was a perfectly normal adult reaction to full language immersion. In other words, “Don’t give up, Love.”  Sure enough, about every three days, I hit a wall and then, after a good night sleep, was able to translate words in my head and speak them with relative ease.

Camp counselors hamming it up.

Camp counselors hamming it up.

If you’re not familiar with Concordia Language Villages, here’s the scoop: Concordia is the premiere language and cultural immersion program in the United States. For 50 years they have helped learners develop a deeper appreciation and skill base for going out into the non-English-speaking cultures of the world. Concordia offers courses in 15 different languages and uses skits, songs, meals, games, activities, class sessions and general conversation as their teaching methods. From the minute you check into a camp, you feel as though you have left the United States and entered into the country whose language you wish to learn. There are programs for youths, adults, and families, and classes are available year round.

Remarkably, few people have heard of Concordia. Case in point, while we were staying in Detroit Lakes we mentioned to people that we were on our way to a foreign immersion camp nearby. No one we spoke with knew there was a clutch of foreign language schools just a few hours away! Such a pity.

Meringues (14)If you’re interested in a foreign language immersion experience that isn’t in the Gaeltacht (the Irish-speaking region of Ireland), perhaps Concordia Language Villages is the place for you. We certainly enjoyed it.

And, speaking of things this Irish family enjoys…today I am passing along this easy-to-make recipe for mini-meringues. They keep well for weeks in an airtight container or ziplock bag and are a great snack in the kid’s lunch boxes or for when you want a little something sweet with a cuppa. They even make an adorable pudding (dessert) when served sandwich-style with a dollop of cream, caramel or jam between two of them. Mmmmhhh….wish we’d brought some along for this road trip. Enjoy!


Makes 24


2 egg whites, room temperature

½ cup/4oz/100g caster sugar (granulated sugar)


1. Preheat oven to 225°F/110°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper (parchment paper).

2. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. (You know you’ve whipped it enough when the mixture holds a stiff  a peak that looks like shaving foam.)

3. Using two teaspoons, spoon 24 little blobs on the greaseproof paper. Bake for 40 minutes or until crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for another 5 minutes, if you like your meringues crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, or 20 minutes, if you like them crispy inside and out.

4. When completely cool, put in an airtight container. Meringues will keep for weeks.

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