An Irish Vacation

When it comes to vacations as a nanny, you are entirely at the mercy of your employer’s work schedule. You can’t very well say “I’m going to head out for a week next month” if you don’t know that they can get that week off, because if they can’t and you go anyway the children will be left to their own devices and will start a cruel and warlike society in your absence.

Instead, I typically take my vacations wherever I can get them, and they’re frequently a surprise. When Mrs. Parent caught hold of me one day and announced that there was a week at the end of June I could take, it sent me into a panicked frenzy because I only had a month and a half to book plane tickets to somewhere, and plane tickets cost lots of money when you order them a year in advance. Ordering them a month in advance means they cost several lots of money.

I was going to fly back to Idaho to see my family, the way I did last year, but it suddenly dawned on me as I was browsing plane tickets that I could go anywhere. Just… anywhere.

So I booked tickets to Ireland.

I’ve always wanted to go, you see. I can’t claim to have more than a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve always devoured any scrap of Celtic mythology, history, or culture I could get my hands on. Even those stupid touristy things. I will buy literally anything with some Celtic knotwork on it; if you engrave it on a toilet I’ll take five.

I was going to go on my own, but my boyfriend James has a lovely job that’s highly flexible and pays well, which is what you get when you’re very intelligent and go to college instead of nanny school, so he was able to come along.

I stressed for a good three weeks about all the interesting places I wanted to see, before I realized there was no way to plan it all and I had better just do all the neat tourist destinations my first time around, on the basis that they’re popular for a reason. In the end, I contacted an Irish travel agent, Maria, who set me up with a rental car, maps and guides, and hotel reservations in four different Irish cities.

I highly recommend a travel agent if you’re completely clueless. They’re used to it.

Our plan via the travel agent was to arrive in Dublin on Monday morning, and to go from there to Galway, and from Galway to Kilkenny, and from Kilkenny to Killarney, and then back to Dublin again, for a total of seven days. We would do this all via rental car, which James had to drive because I’m not the minimum age of twenty-four.

James puts up with a lot.

We took an overnight flight out on a Sunday, because my employers had me working that weekend. We flew with Aer Lingus, and while I dislike receiving countless unrelated emails from them, I have to admit that they’re one of the better airlines I’ve flown on.


For instance, we got a real meal while we were on that flight, completely for free, in addition to their later free snack and tea service. This little meal included a roll, a cauliflower salad, a great pasta meal, and a little strawberry cream desert. Having only ever flown on the most terrible airlines, this was incredible to me.


Each of the seats also had a built in TV screen, featuring free movies and games, with an attached remote/controller, and free earbuds. James and I were stunned. We kept expecting a paywall to come up when we selected a movie, but no. Free.

I specifically booked a window seat as we flew in, and it was worth it for the views of Ireland in the morning light. Funnily enough, I don’t think I ever registered just how populated the island is. When I used to speak about living there, my dad said “I think you’ll find that it’s smaller than you realize,” and he was right. You really take the vast distances between things in the U.S. for granted.



All of it’s like this, at least in the middle-south. I don’t think we ever drove through a part that didn’t have at least one house visible somewhere int he distance. It’s fields and fields and fields.


Not that it’s not beautiful. Like the Shire all over. That’s a golf course, but even when it’s not a golf course, Ireland’s a golf course.

I’ll cover each of the cities whenever I can force myself to get around to it; I took a lot of pictures and most of them were terrible, so it requires some sorting. Just know that I highly recommend Ireland, but I also recommend going for longer and speaking to more people and learning more than we did. We’ll do that the second time around.


Vacation Like a Rich Person

If you want to escape it all for the weekend, to commune with nature in the wildest parts of America, I highly recommend anywhere besides the Poconos, which might have been nature at one point but is now just a lot of rich people pretending.

Still fun, though.

On the weekend my board gaming friends booked a “cabin” in the “woods,” although in this case “cabin” means “fancy wood-paneled home with Jacuzzi”, and “woods” means “some trees in a gated community surrounding a ski hill.” I had figured going into it that we were in danger of being hunted down by serial killers as we lay defenseless in our ramshackle cabin, but there was a security system and you couldn’t get through the gate if you looked like a murderer.


It’s a cabin because it’s brown.

While there were technically woods surrounding us, all the houses were very closely packed in, lining the twisting roads like an otherworldly suburb. It was quite nice, actually- they had clearly put in an effort to preserve the trees when they built, and regular suburbs could benefit from the increased amounts of nature.


All the other “cabins” were at least partially hidden by the trees, allowing you to pretend you weren’t within 200 yards of another vacationing family.

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and we had hundreds of board games to get through. It was heaven.


I came very prepared for St. Patrick’s Day.


The hot tub was built into the enclosed porch, which was excellent because it allowed us to get very hot, step outside, roll around in the snow, and submerge ourselves again while icy.





I may have taken a creepy picture of two of my friends talking in the early morning, but they were very cute, and I have no shame.

We spent most of our time in intense relaxation, being as we are all introverts who need a little space throughout the day. We would converge in the kitchen for meals, feast merrily for an hour, and then retreat to quiet corners and watch Planet Earth for a time before board games commenced again. It was lovely.


And then, when it got too stuffy indoors, a group of us adults would swarm the nearby sledding hill and show the local kids just how slowly you could slide down a hill on a sled that was the 1971 Chevy C10 of racecars.

We returned to our normal lives reluctantly, but satisfied in the knowledge that we had made a lot of exceptionally lazy memories. We also learned that there’s no limit to how sick you can get in a minivan with six other people on a winding hilly road in the Poconos.

Disney Nannying: The Third Day

Wednesday was our “vacation from vacation,” in which we didn’t attend any parks. Instead, we spent time on the boardwalk, swam in the pool, and the kids had more fun than at any other point in the vacation.


To be fair, the Boardwalk is spectacular. Lined with shops, restaurants, and clubs, it’s open all hours of the day and far into the night. Every evening you can walk by a number of interesting street shows along the lines of magic tricks and juggling. It really hit the perfect line between child-friendly and adult.

It was at this point that the kids saw the multiple-person “bicycles” for rent. Costing a mere $24 per half hour, these strange contraptions allowed the whole (normal-sized) family to squeeze in and circle the entire boardwalk.

Amazingly, they allowed all six to nine of us to squeeze onto the device. I had hoped I would be excused from this family event, but they needed someone else who could reach the pedals, and since I (sadly) made the height requirement by two inches, I was instructed to come along.


Florida is actually quite nice in November, but only when it’s cloudy and not humid and you don’t have to live there.

It was not quite as bad as I had feared, although there was a colossal spat about who got to ring the bell, which resulted in us careening down the boardwalk, frantically ringing the bell at each and every passerby to warn them that The Family was there and that we couldn’t slow down because we were too busy trying to separate some squabbling octopuses.

After this ordeal we were all hot and sticky, so we changed and made our way down to the pool. This pool, I should note, was pretty spectacular. It was massive. There was a bar. There was a hot tub. There was a kiddie pool with an attached playground. There was an elaborate twisting water slide.


Naturally, the only picture I took of it was of this lizard, who was admittedly very cute.

We spent all afternoon in the pool. I introduced the younger boys (not yet good swimmers) to the idea of a hot tub, which became their new favorite invention and from which they had to be coaxed regularly so they did not overheat. The older boys, meanwhile, went down the water slide approximately eighty times.

After a few hours of this, everyone was given baths and dressed in nice shirts and slacks, because we had a reservation at “Flying Fish” on the boardwalk. It turns out Flying Fish is far, far fancier than it sounds.


But still fish-themed. These are the chandeliers.

I tried not to take too many pictures; it seemed inappropriate given the circumstances. Fortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to be tempted to do so, as I immediately went into damage-control mode. I sat with a few of the boys on my end of the table, and devoted everything I had to keeping them seated, facing forwards, not fighting, not yelling, not playing with the wine glasses. We played an outrageous number of games of “I Spy”.

When we were given the menus I sorted out what they wanted first (fish and chips. All of them) before I picked up the menu for myself and realized I was thoroughly out of my depth.

I’m still convinced most of the dish names were in some strange medly of Italian and French, and therefor completely unpronounceable. The descriptions were cryptic at best, promising things like “ancient grains”, “Mascarpone-laced Risotto di Carnaroli with Prosciutto di Parma Cracklins“, and “Red Wine-Cassis Butter Reduction“. In the end, I chose the cheapest dish I could find ($37). It had “salmon” in the name, which I was reasonable sure I could pronounce.

When it arrived, the entire dish was the size of my palm and had some strange pea-sized orange orbs sitting on the top. I surmised that these were a new type of caviar, as when you ate them they burst in your mouth with a sudden fishy taste.

I scraped them off and hid them under the sauce, and thought about the fact that I could be eating 37 McChickens for that price.

The desert menu’s tea featured aromas, palates, AND notes, a sure sign that this place was too classy for me.

I put all of my nanny school training into eating dinner correctly, foggily recalling my 800 page etiquette book and the extensive chapters on dining, but I needn’t have bothered because absolutely no one else in the restaurant was bothering to do the same.

I ordered the only desert that sounded human, and it was… well, it was a fancy restaurant desert.


No wonder the service in this place was so slow.

All things considered, it really was a good thing that the portion sizes were so small, because I could have eaten eight of whatever strange, chocolatey thing they gave me.

Two hours and seven trips to the bathroom later, The Family and I stumbled back to our rooms, thoroughly exhausted by our vacation from vacation. After a while of listening to the chaos in the room next to me, I went for a walk on the Boardwalk by myself. It’s really not so bad when you can choose where to go and what to do on your own.


Disney Nannying: The First Day

If you’ve never experienced waking up at 3:30 to wrangle three to six boys into a two hour car ride to an airport that will take you another two hours to a bus ride that will take you a half an hour to another bus that will then take you to Disney’s The Magic Kingdom (only half an hour back in the direction you started from, effectively canceling the first bus ride), I advise you never to try it. Instead, experience Disney World as it was meant to be experienced, via your own private helicopter.

But lacking a private helicopter, on Monday I wrangled three to six boys (and two parents, for a total party of six to nine people) into Disney World the old fashioned way.


Very bland picture snapped over the head of a child on the bus from the airport to the resort. I was mostly interested in the palm trees. Palm trees!

I’d never been to Disney World. I’d been to Disneyland back in 2007, and I don’t remember much of it besides dragging my poor grandfather on the Indiana Jones ride approximately thirty times. I was at an age where meeting characters was highly embarrassing, and I don’t recall much of my experience besides some admittedly nice snippets of pirates and jungles.

Pulling up to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort was a surprise. I was going into this place blind. Not only did I know little about the park itself, but I had no idea where we were staying.


Hey, this place is pretty nice.


…Hey, this place is REALLY nice.

Stepping into the Boardwalk hotel was everything I expected of a place for rich people to stay. I went back and forth in my head for quite a while about how ritzy it really was. Did it just look ritzy because it was Disney and Disney has high standards? Or was this actually where the elite stayed? The rooms themselves were not overly remarkable, but the hotel and its surroundings were magnificent.


It had multiple chandeliers in the front lobby. It really only takes one chandelier for a place to be out of my league.

I thought about this for a very long time before I remembered I had a smart phone and looked it up. ~$500 a room per night. Two rooms for the employer/nanny party (they all packed into one and let me have my own). Five nights. (For those who can’t do math properly, this is around $178,000 for the total stay.)


It’s a lot fancier than the hotel I used to work at. For a start, this one leaves you chocolate. On your bed! CHOCOLATE! You can keep it and everything, and they bring you MORE.

At this point, it was back into the bus to head to The Magic Kingdom. The boys squabbled. The parents stressed. I was conflicted because I had at that point been working eight hours and it was barely noon, but on the other hand, Disney.

(I note here that people often think I’m younger than I am and I frequently get mistaken as the oldest child of The Family I work for. On the way through the gates, the cheerful Cast Member directed me to scan my Magic Band by way of saying “Over here please, Princess.” Guess what nickname will follow me for the rest of my life.)


After subjecting the poor security people to my endlessly deep nanny bag (I swear I don’t have a gun under all these Wet Ones), we shuffled through to the main entrance. While the whole family stopped to line up and pretend they were happy and relaxed for a Disney photographer, I got a quick picture of the clock on top of the train station.

It was at this point that I also realized I would never get an actually decent picture at Disney World, because I had no time to do anything but follow closely and herd children. All pictures seen here are the result of me holding up my phone and running sideways to stop a small boy from obliviously following the wrong family.


Also, this was “Jersey Week,” when the entire population of New Jersey and six or seven of their closest relations attend Disney World while school is out. There would never not be a crowd in my pictures.

It quickly became clear that none of us had any idea what we were doing, where we were going, or even what we would like to do. I say “we” here, but I was working so I had as much say in the matter as the next random stranger on the street. Vacations with the family can be slightly stressful due to the high pressure to relax.

(And the fourteen hour days.)

We had a few Fast Passes under our belt, but even then that didn’t give us much direction. After stopping to pick up some lunch, we blundered our way down various confusing streets and ended up at one of the places I clearly remember from my California experience.


Because you can never, ever forget it.

Predictably, the eldest boy hated it because it had dolls, and they were dancing, and they were singing, and they had dresses on, and it was girly. Hatred of everything would become a recurring theme on this trip.

To make up for dragging Grumpy through The Worst Most Embarrassing Ride Ever, we split our group by age and I accompanied Mr. Parent and the few older boys to Space Mountain, which fortunately did not feature dolls or girls.


We did not have a Fast Pass for this ride. This is mostly what I remember of it. There was about an hour and a half of this.

When you finally reach the end of the line in Space Mountain you’re loaded into a line of single-seat cars and shot off in the dark through a series of sharp twists, turns, and dips. It would have been more thrilling if I hadn’t been approaching a “working thirteen hours” headache, and I came away with the conclusion that it wasn’t really worth spending an hour and a half in line for.


Picture of the thrilling interior of Space Mountain.

Naturally, when we stepped off the cars the very first thing out of the boys’ mouths was “CAN WE GO AGAIN?!” as though waiting in line was not a real thing.

But by the time we got out, it was dark, and we had dinner reservations approaching, so we hustled out of Tomorrowland and headed back for the buses. We had managed a whole two rides that day, which was a rousing success with six to nine people to keep track of in Jersey Week.


But the thing was… even though I had been working sixteen hours at that point, even though the boys had not stopped squabbling once, even though this vacation (like many past vacations) only served to stress The Family out more… it was magical. Every bit of it. All the waiting in line and the crowds and the brief glimpses of princesses from afar. Seeing that ridiculous, lovely castle lit up under all the “snow” was outrageously beautiful.

Sure, it wasn’t my vacation. I was there to do a job, and nannying with the parents there is doubly difficult, and it was hot and tense and a little bit awful at times. But that first mangled half day was still strangely wonderful.

Leave it to Walt Disney World to make my day so conflicting.