Category Archives: adventures

Getting to first base

At some point a long time ago, in my teenagehood, I suppose, I met the terms “first base,” “second base,” and so on – in a romantic sense, let’s say. In a book or a film or something. I had a vague idea of what they referred to, but I wasn’t so hot on the specifics. A lot of questions remained unanswered for many years: Which way did the sequence go – was “first” the very beginning or the final target? (First is the winning place, after all.) But then if first was the start, how many bases were there – was this an open-ended thing? Could you define your own bases, perhaps, to infinitely frustrate the boys?

The problem was that while I read American books and watched American films, I had no knowledge of American sports. Sure, I’ve seen Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, I can say something came out of left field or talk about home runs, but I’d never actually been to a baseball game. And those phrases, it turns out, about the bases – they’re talking about baseball. Well, except when they’re not, obviously.

And then. Dash took up baseball this season. He’s playing “machine pitch,” which is what they do for the seven- and eight-year-olds. It’s slightly harder than T-ball (where the ball is propped up on a stand to be struck) but easier than expecting the kids to pitch a hittable ball as well as hit it – a machine sends the balls at them in what’s supposed to be a steady stream of nicely centered, not-too-fast pitches.

Looking good

But after a couple of practices, B. pointed out to me that the poor boy has no notion what he’s meant to be doing, beyond the hitting and the catching (which are not as easy as they look). He’s never even watched a game on the TV, never mind in real life. So we decided we should take in a game.

I’ve never been one for sports, really, and I’m lucky enough to be married to a man who is also not very interested in watching the game, whatever game it might be. I’m pretty sure that the only time I’ve ever been to a professional sporting event before, it was (ironically enough) an exhibition game of American football in Dublin that we got free tickets to, and it was incredibly boring and totally incomprehensible.

Maybe I had lumped baseball with football and decided that it too would be incredibly boring. Maybe I felt that not going to a game was the last bastion of not being American that I wished to hold out on. Maybe I just had no reason and no interest. But however it came about, after ten years in the country, yesterday I finally went to a real actual proper ballgame.

Looks authentic, no?

Not the big leagues, of course. We started small, with a minor league game close to home – but still professional baseball. The weather was just right – warm enough but not too hot or sunny. The game was well-attended but not too crowded. Dash wore his shorts in case they needed an extra player at the last minute.

Dash demonstrates his swing
The genius of the people who plan these things, though, is that they understand that baseball is sometimes not the most thrilling of spectator sports. So it’s not like you’re watching Federer serve at Wimbledon, being shushed by the umpire if you sneeze. The place had lots of families, babies, dogs (is that a thing, or was it a special bring-your-pooch-to-the-game day yesterday?), and the players just did their thing regardless of whether my children were running up and down or clambering over the seats or wailing because their giant ice-cream cone was dripping all over their hands. 
“Need some help with that?”
And when they got too bored to keep watching, and we’d done the pizza and the ice-cream and refused the cotton candy, there was a carousel and a bouncy castle and pitching and hitting games right there to help parents donate even more dollars to the nice baseball people, and then hot dogs and popcorn. Not to mention the between-innings competitions and adorably bad pre-game show and requisite toe-curling rendition of the national anthem. And I think I’d even have quite enjoyed watching the baseball players if I’d had more than five minutes to pay attention to what they were doing.
We stayed for about an hour and a half before calling it quits just as a sprinkle of rain was beginning. I think we’ll probably do it again, it was that good.
What’s more, I would probably be able to reliably go back in time and let my teenage self know what was what with the bases. Just in case she ever needed to know.


The people in the waiting room had taken the American government’s vague requirement to be “properly attired” in a fascinating variety of ways. There was a diminutive, aged Indian woman in a pale blue sari with silver embroidery. There were men in suits. There was a Rastafarian in his best dreadlock-covering hat, his best leisure wear and silver chain. There were women clearly dressed in their “good” dark-denim jeans with a plain sweater and clogs. There was Sunday-best and dressed-for-work. Some people kept their important documents in a plastic bag, some held manila envelopes. Mine were in a green cardstock file folder.

Mostly people came and went through the heavy door at the back of the room without expression, without incident. I read my book and tried to ignore the 24-hour news channel exploring an unimportant incident in far too much depth, from all the wrong angles. A young black woman bounced out of the room, smiling and making jubilant motions in the direction of her husband, who was minding the baby. She had obviously dressed with care: her tiny frame sported a shiny, teal, drainpipe-legged pantsuit, finished off with bright white bouncy sneakers. Her long cornrow braids shook with triumph as she kissed her little boy.

I had gone through at least three outfits the night before, rejecting the trousers that don’t really fit any more because it was eight years and two babies ago when I used to wear them to work, and ended up in the exact outfit I wore for my mother-in-law’s funeral last February: purple dress, teal slim cardigan, black boots. I was comfortable and felt like myself, not some other version of me that’s not around any more or never was. And I looked as if I’d made an effort, which is all that “proper attire” turned out to mean.

My name was called. I followed the lady back to her room, where she shuffled and hole-punched and checkmarked pieces of paper as she asked me rote questions in a routine voice. First I had to stand up and promise to tell the truth, as if that would make any difference to an unscrupulous person. She wrote with her left hand at right angles to the pages, initialing and circling and numbering in red ink as she went, checking a whole row of boxes at once to catch up to what I’d already answered. I remained calm and collected and was a model student, getting all my civics questions right first time, even that elusively random number of Representatives in the House: 435. I wanted to say “Guam. Ask me the one about Guam. And that Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General of the United States. Those are my favourites,” but I didn’t, and she didn’t.

Then she asked me about my family, and whether I’d ever been in prison, and whether I’d ever conspired against the goverment, or been a Communist, and some other questions. And then told me that she’d be recommending that I be granted what I had come for. I could take the Oath at two this afternoon if I liked.

I didn’t like. My town has a Naturalization ceremony once a month and I’d assumed I’d do it at that; I hadn’t planned to be away all day. Beyond that, I wasn’t ready to seal the deal just yet. One step at a time, without thinking too hard, is the way I’m doing this.

Midway through the questions, I had almost started thinking about what I was doing, as she leafed through my Irish passport looking for stamps and dates. There’s no requirement to give up my Irish passport; I’m allowed to keep it. I’ll never not be Irish. I just don’t like that one line that goes “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…” That’s a lot to take on. That’s a lot to ask.

I’m just going to say it and not think about it, which I’m sure is exactly not what the people intended, but there you go. It makes sense to do this, it’s the practical thing to do for our family, to make sure we can stay here, where we’ve made our home, as long as we want to rather than finding ourselves chucked out at some sudden date if things go wrong and funding goes away and the letter of the law must be adhered to. I’m a sensible person. In the end, it makes no difference to my day-to-day life. America needs me, I tell myself, to be a sensible liberal-leaning democrat-voting, atheist, lactivist supporter for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’ll say it, and I’ll do it.

But always and forever, if you cut me, I’ll bleed green.

The long long weekend

It was cosy in the basement, and we couldn’t even hear the winds that were lightly battering the house (like tempura) and not actually, in the event, felling any of the surrounding trees or even tossing the neighbour’s un-put-away deck furniture at our windows. What’s more, and against all expectations, the stairs light shone all night and the alarm clock I’d optimistically plugged in beside our mattresses on the floor glowed the time redly all the way to 6:23, when Mabel could be restrained by boobies no longer and demanded that Daddy play magnetic dress-up with her.

I’d imagined that opening the door at the top of the stairs this morning would be like entering a post-apocalyptic world, with the possibility (if not the actuality) of strewn possessions, shards of window-glass and broken ornaments, maybe a huge bough coming through the ceiling, scattering wet leaves on our bed and letting the cold wind blow through the house. Maybe no house at all, just grey open sky and the leaves of a sodden paperback whipping back and forth in the cold breeze.

(Maybe zombies. Having an American house with a basement of the sort that is always spooky in movies used to disconcert me a bit. But last night, the basement was homely and comforting. Also, I’m pretty sure all the crickets down there are dead by now.)

Instead of devastation, of course, there was just the usual debris of a day spent at home with no energy left to clean up at the end. Lego people, cushions, pieces of paper with scribbled notes that must be kept forever, half crayons. A couple of dirty coffee cups, some glasses of half-drunk water, cookie crumbs on countertops. Lovely electric light emanating from the microwave and the stove and the inside of the fridge.

Nothing new, nothing dramatic. Home the way it should be, the way it always is. Lucky us.

It was pretty wild outside last night as Hurricane Sandy made landfall up the coast from us, but we didn’t flood, we didn’t lose power, and no trees fell on our house – or anywhere nearby that I can see. We’ve had two extra days of weekend in which to bake and clean and play family games and obsessively refresh Twitter. We’ll move ahead into the rest of the week – trick-or-treating tomorrow, Mabel’s birthday party on Sunday – refreshed and reinvigorated, if somewhat weighed down with too many cups of tea and oatmeal cookies.

Not everyone gets to be so lucky, and we’re thankful.

BunBun II: The fluffening

The rest of the story is a bit of an anticlimax, but there are cute pictures, so stick around.

Nobody has claimed the bunny. Nobody has called the local shelter or the police to report a missing fluffy wabbit. Nobody has read the neighbourhood mailing list to thrill at the retrieval of their beloved pet. Nobody has posted “Wanted: Woolly lap-warmer” signs on nearby lampposts. Maybe BunBun escaped from indentured servitude or a mitten factory, or a house with no phones and no internet.

First thing this morning, we rang the local shelter and ascertained that they would take the bunny later in the day. It’s a no-kill shelter, lest anyone accuse us of heartlessness, and will keep him until he’s claimed, or adopted if nobody claims him within a reasonable time. Once that was done, I felt it was safe to let the children know there was an animal on the premises.

They were excited to hear there was a surprise – that we would not be keeping – in the basement, but once they saw it they were understandably puzzled.
“It’s a dog!”
“It’s a cat!”
“Here, BunBun!” I said, trying to coax the fluffball out of its cage so we could change his newspaper.
“It’s a … bunny?”

We took BunBun upstairs for a look around.

Mabel was more interested in sorting out the family of wrenches she’d found in the basement.

Dash wanted me to take a photo of his newly decorated new pencil box.

I think B was the one most taken with the rabbit.
“You love him!” I accused.
“He’s just so fluffy,” replied my very macho husband, cradling him like a baby.

Actually, I think I was trying to keep my distance so I wouldn’t start loving him myself. When you see him from this angle, he’s pretty darn adorable. And very, very fluffy.

So this afternoon, BunBun (Bunster, says Dash) went to the shelter. We might visit him in a few days’ time, but we’re not planning to adopt him when and if he comes on the market. I really hope he finds his family. For one thing, I want to know what his name is.

It’s probably Arthur. 


It’s one of those times when I have to blog the start of a story without knowing how it ends.

But for once, it’s not the story of how I tried to get Mabel to sleep all night, or do without the booboo (that’s what it’s called around here these days; mumeet is long gone), or talk Dash into eating more than one nibble of baby carrot every three weeks. Though baby carrots are involved, come to think of it.

This morning, B had gone for his run when the kids and I left to go to an open gym, followed by some playground time. When we got home I was a little surprised to find him still there, only just out of the shower, but sometimes he works from home if it’s quiet, so it wasn’t that unusual. His demeanour was a bit odd, though, as he acted guilty/excited and told me to look downstairs and see what he’d brought home. Just temporarily, he said.

This is what I found in my basement:

It seemed we had acquired a large wire cage, some newspaper pages, half a cabbage, and a very fluffy thing with a snuffly, twitchy nose.

“What the?” I inquired sotto voce when I got back upstairs. Luckily, the children were too busy telling Daddy about their time on the trampolines to listen in on our conversation. (This is very unusual: most of the time, Dash is the nosiest child on the planet and won’t let anyone make the most inconsequential of throwaway remarks without a thorough investigation into exactly what they said and why they said it.)

Not to mention “Whence?” and “When is it going back?”

“It’s an Angora rabbit,” B said, all knowledgeable about this. I’d left a physicist in my kitchen at 8.45 and come home to a lagomorphologist at 11.15, apparently. (I had to look that up. I was going to say lepidopterist, based on the fact that I knew that was a word, and rabbit is lapin in French so that seemed close enough; but no, a lepidopterist studies butterflies and moths. Aren’t you glad you came?)

Could’ve fooled me. Looks more like a fluffy Yorkshire terrier. I still haven’t worked out if he actually has shorter ears than a regular bunny or it just looks that way because of all the fur. But it’s a very different shape from your regular common-or-garden Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail.

Anyway. What had happened was that at some point along the road on his morning run, B had seen this animal in the undergrowth, and realised immediately that it was not a groundhog or a racoon, or any of the other middle-sized mammals you might meet in this neck of the woods, nor even a Persian cat out for a stroll, but some poor, terrified creature who did not belong in the wilds at all. Seeing a man nearby getting out of his car, B asked him if he knew of anyone near there who might have lost a rabbit. The man turned out to be vaguely familiar to B  – in fact, he proceded to take his daugher, who is the same age as Mabel and so I run into them at the playground now and then, out of the car – and he was the one who knew it was an Angora.

Between the two of them and another neighbor, who provided the cage, Bunny was brought back to our house, to repose in the basement while his owners are sought. B went out to the pet store in the afternoon and brought back some grassy stuff for him to nibble on, and he has fresh water and we’ve changed the newspaper twice now. He is not interested in the lettuce and baby carrots from the fridge, and a single strawberry remains untouched. We took him out a few minutes ago and he hopped around checking out the foam light sabers from Dash’s birthday party and the bag of wrapping paper and the boxes of baby clothes that I’m gradually whittling down and the other assorted crap we are storing mindfully in the basement area.

The terrible thing is that there has been a rabbit in the house practically all day – a real, live, fluffy snuffly twitchy-nosed rabbit – and we haven’t told the children. They went to the dentist (no cavities, yay!), got things at Target (I went in for milk and toothpaste and spent $75, you know how it is), and spent the afternoon fighting over who got which identical plate, just like any other day, and there was a bunny in the basement the whole time. I think when they get to the therapist’s couch, this is the thing that will be burning a hole in their psyches.

I would like to tell them, but not until the bunny is leaving. If we don’t hear from his owners tomorrow (by which time everyone on the neighbourhood mailing list will have to have seen the posting), he’s going to the local animal shelter, because we are not set up for a bunny. We have no desire for a bunny. We are not bunny people. The fact that B calls him Sampras and I call him Snuffles does not mean we have named him and therefore must keep him. And anyway, when it came to it and I had to coax him out of the cage this evening, I ended up addressing him as BunBun. I’m sure he was highly offended. He could be a she, for all I know.

So that’s not the end of the story, and I don’t know yet what the end is. But when the universe drops a fluffy reason to blog right in your basement, you can’t always wait for things to be neatly tied up before you pass it on.

Tune in tomorrow to find out what happens to Mr(s) BunBun Sampras Snuffles.

Christmas in July

Last Saturday we went to the National Harbor to see the Gaylord Christmas in July preview event, because now that I’m a DCMom I get to do all sorts of cool stuff. (Really, I just wanted another place to write. I wasn’t thinking about events or freebies at all. But apparently sometimes those happen too.)

I hope you don’t think I’m selling out if I talk about this stuff here too. I’ll keep the proper reviews to the DCMoms site where they belong, but sometimes the experiences might be just too interesting to keep to myself.

Because I have to say it was a weird sensation – being marketed to, being handed a media packet even as my daughter insisted on being carried and my son demanded something or other, and knowing that these people actually wanted me to bring the children, so they couldn’t complain if they were a little loud. It was odd to be anywhere in a sort of quasi-professional capacity, especially when that capacity was mostly being my non-professional parent self.

Some thoughts that occurred to my non-professional parent self, then:

  • If you’re going to hand out sticky green candy canes to keep the kids occupied during the presentation part of the goings-on, please provide some wipes as well. Otherwise, there may be tacky handprints all over your nice upholstered chairs that even the most assiduous parent can’t avoid.
  • I never turn down free food, but why put the candy and ice-cream first and the hot-dogs two hours later? Where is the logic in that? But thank you for including the fresh fruit. It was a nice idea, even if my kids scorned it.
Green-flavour cotton candy (that’s lime, not mint).
  • But ooh, pretty, unseasonal, Christmas. 
Soap-bubble snow
  • Santa? Seriously? Oh well. Apparently, children aren’t at all bothered by the fact that he’s not supposed to be around in July. Mabel told him she wants a princess, and he said he’d get right on that.
They got Shrek ears. (I was wearing Mabel’s.)
  • Also, those pictures of giant ice-sculptured Shrek characters you keep showing us look unpleasantly as if they were made from enormous gobs of glistening snot. I am not attracted to them. Ogres look better when matte, not slimy.
Hugging Puss ‘n’ Boots. I hope I didn’t miss Antonio Banderas in there.

We actually went to the National Harbor for the lighting of the tree last year – hey, I blogged it, even – and happened to walk through the atrium of the Gaylord where all their very impressive Christmas stuff was out in full force – gigantic tree, acres of lights, gingerbread houses to decorate, Dreamworks Characters being posed with. It looked great, though we scuttled past it all pretty quickly, denying the children things left and right. It was a lot of fun on Saturday to experience some of the same things for free, even if it was in a much smaller room and at the wrong time of year.


After the indoor part, there was an outdoor part to showcase all the fun times one can have at the national harbor this summer. Sadly, the weather decided to make it Christmas – or maybe a dismal November – outside too, just for this one day, so I think it was far from what the planners had envisaged. They had a canopy that I’m sure was supposed to shade us from the blazing sunshine, but instead it could do only a half-assed job of keeping us dry. Every now and then I’d look out and think it was really coming down, and then the rain would kick it up another notch. Luckily, we’d brought the raincoats.

Grey skies, grey water

The kids got balloon animals and a really excellent face painter, as well as a stilt walker and a lady-clown-plate-spinner, so they were happy. The boat rides would have been lovely on any other day, but as it was, we all just kept to wet land.

A happy clown and a mysterious cheetah

Lovely weather for ducks, it was.

So how was your Memorial Day?

Things I would have done differently yesterday if I had an ounce of sense:

  • Looked at the forecast, noticed the number 93 beside the letter F, stayed home.
  • On exiting the metro in downtown DC, set off towards the Capitol, where there was allegedly some free music happening, rather than in the opposite direction, because after one and a half monuments, and not even the one I wanted to see (the new Martin Luther King memorial) we were drooping from the heat and the kids were demanding lunch.
  • Brought a packed lunch instead of a snack which was devoured in five minutes as soon as we stepped off the train, because all the food in Washington DC is on the other side of the Mall and even if you know where the cheap food court is so you don’t have to pay museum-cafe prices, (we do; it’s in the Old Post Office) Dash still won’t eat anything except bare nachos, otherwise known as tortilla chips, and then whine for the next twenty minutes because he didn’t get an ice cream for “dessert”. 
  • Explained up front that tortilla chips don’t count as lunch, so dessert is not merited. It’s not like anyone else had ice cream either.
  • Made a bigger effort to get Mabel to use the bathroom at the last place we were, so that she wouldn’t spend the  entire metro journey home spinning around a pole and almost firing herself off – head exactly level with chair arms – because she couldn’t sit still because she desperately needed to pee.

Things at least I did do:

  • Wear sunscreen, put it on the kids. 
  • Wear a hat.
  • Bring water.
  • Bring a stroller.
  • Not have to watch helplessly as my child peed her pants on the train, because she held it all the way home.

Then we got home, collapsed in a heap, and made the kids watch Star Wars so they would shut up and leave us in peace. That was a good move too, but in all I can’t help thinking the day would have been better spent at the pool.

I took the BART in San Francisco (but not this time)

I left part of my heart in San Francisco in the summer of 1994, and since then I’ve been lucky enough to go back a few times and check that it’s still there. I have cousins who grew up in Dublin but now live near San Jose, and a while ago I realised I could marry my husband’s penchant for running long distances in new places to my desire to see cities other than our hometown. So on Sunday he ran the Big Sur marathon, and we made it a long weekend in California. 
Mabel balancing on a log and flagrantly disregarding the amazing view
Last time we were there was only two and a half years ago, but in the life of a child that makes a pretty big difference. We decided there wasn’t much point going into the city that time, as at the ages of three and almost one, there was nothing they’d really remember, and B and I had both been before. But this past Friday, we drove up from our hotel right beside the crashing Pacific and swooped down to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, immortalised in Monsters V Aliens. The kids, of course, were mostly unimpressed and much more interested in climbing on dangerous objects than posing for photos, but I did my best to inhale the vista of the beautiful bay.  

Dash ditto

(Being on East-Coast time was also a great advantage, once we’d got through the two hours everyone was awake before it was even daylight. We had breakfast promptly at six, and were in the city before 9am, with plenty of parking spaces right beside tourist attractions.)  

The amazing view
Then we turned around, went back over the bridge, and headed to Lombard St, the twistiest street in the world. I had never been there, despite a summer working directly opposite it, so it was fun for all of us to wend our way down in our enormous rental SUV. (The smell of rental cars is the smell of California to me, even though I have rented cars in other states too.)  

Twisty turny

After that, it was up the other side to Coit Tower for some more views, and then a stop in North Beach for coffee in Caffe Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola and his buddies used to hang out in the Beat days.  The summer I spent in the city, I worked in a cafe just up the street, at Grant and Green, but it’s long since been turned into a club of some sort, because – ridiculously – that was 18 years ago and I was already an adult back then. So whenever I go to San Francisco, I have to go to North Beach and Columbus Avenue, because that’s my part of town. 

That’s an iced coffee, not a beer. I promise.
After coffee we went to City Lights and bought a couple of books for the kids, and looked briefly into Vesuvios to be told that the bartender was not only married to a man from County Cavan but went to school within five miles of where we live in Maryland – we said we’d say hi to her mom for her.
Beat poet central
At this point, Mabel was well overdue for a nap by either time zone, so we bought the kids a bread roll each to gnaw on and went back to the car to drive south to my cousins’ house.  We even saw a cable car go by as we drove up the hill.  

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities (not that I’m as seasoned a global traveller as many of my friends) and the opportunity to show some of it to my offspring – well, I think that’s one of the reasons we have children, isn’t it?


But the water bottle, you ask. What happened with the water bottle?

Funny story, actually.

That afternoon as we waited for our little darlings to exit, be-stickered and suitably exercised, from their dance class, one of the other mothers asked me “So, was the bottle there?”

First I had to recover from the shock of having someone from My Life Version A (real life, that is) reveal that they are also privy to My Life Version B (the blog) – not that it was a terrible surprise, since I have told a carefully selected group of my friends and acquaintances – the ones who have kids, whom I think might conceivably enjoy reading such things, and whom I can count on to probably not judge me too harshly in person – about the blog. Every few months I get crazy and publish a Facebook update to just those people, telling them about it and also how clicking the Facebook Like button here (have you noticed it?) will make fluffy bunnies hop all over their screens in an endearing manner or some such enticing nonsense. (It’s true. Just try it and see.) It’s called marketing, I believe, or shameless self-promotion, and like many other secret/semi-secret bloggers, I’m never quite sure how I feel about it.

Anyway, my friend had, in one fell swoop, payed me the compliment of letting me know that she read the blog that day and that she was engaged enough in the story to want to know how it turned out. So I told her that the bottle had still been in the playground when we went by a little earlier.

Our third friend wanted to know what on earth we were talking about, so I had to explain. The condensed version, for people who aren’t waiting for me to fill a whole page with little black words:

“I found a water bottle at the playground, and I took it home because I thought I knew who it belonged to, but I was wrong so then I had to put it back, and it’s still there.” As I said it, a thought ocurred to me, but very slowly, like molasses, or perhaps a glacier.

“Like yours. You know, the expensive one your sister gave you.”

At this point, you would think that I would have put two and two together. Not a hope.

We discussed further how fancy those bottles are and how my friend felt her life as a SAHM of two always-grubby little boys did not merit one. She lives across the road from me. Her son is in Mabel’s class. I probably talk to her every day, as we watch our kids zoom around on each other’s bikes or I return a purloined plastic frog to her playroom, that sort of thing.

Later that evening, I had a text from her:

“You know that water bottle you found – was it white? Because the last time I remember having mine was at the playground on Monday evening…”

You would think I might have mentioned at dance class that it was white – not just like, but exactly like the one her sister gave her. Apparently I hadn’t. And she hadn’t realised it was missing at that point – she assumed it was in one of those places things usually are, like the stroller basket or the car or being buried in the sandbox by some stray tyke.

So there you have it. She got it back. The blog saves the day.


It’s the perfect spring morning here, after last week’s excesses and the weekend’s grey chilliness (or “normal” weather, as we Irish call it) and my washing line is crying out for some sheets to billow upon it in the mild breeze. White petals are falling from the pear trees, skittering along the road in eddies and waves, looking like a host of tiny racers surging forward at the start of a marathon.

Or maybe that’s just the image that comes to mind because B was off running another one of those yesterday. Meanwhile, I stayed at home and forced the kids to watch TV while I made his birthday cake. This one, and I have to admit that I’m very close to getting myself a slice to go with my cup of coffee in a minute. Perilously close.

But, because grey days get me moving, yesterday we went to the zoo. (Hah. You know, I went looking for that post to link to because I remembered the title, but I had no idea that it was also about going to the zoo. Apparently I only have one activity in my repertoire. Maybe there’s something hidden in my subconscious that links drizzle with zoo trips. Maybe it always drizzled when I went to Dublin Zoo to see the incongruous flamingoes and the sad polar bear.)

It would be lovely to have arranged to go to the zoo with some friends, taken our picnic lunch, and hung out with other people. But spontaneity is where it’s at, when you have kids, and at least with two they can entertain/bug each other. I mean, if we’d arranged to go to the zoo and meet friends, the weather would have been either scorching or pelting, we’d all have slept badly, the Beltway would have been backed up, we’d have arrived late, we’d never have found a parking space, we’d have had to rush home after two barely sighted animals for Mabel’s nap.

As it was, we all got up late after a pretty good night. I decided in leisurely fashion that I could probably manage a zoo trip before I mentioned it to the kids at the vital moment to get them enthusiastic – and therefore dressed quickly. We left under surprisingly little stress, in no rush because I knew Mabel would manage without a nap today. It took us one hour to get there, front door to cheetahs, including free parking in the side streets near the zoo (score!). We wandered pretty happily, and despite the sometime drizzle and Mabel’s penchant for jumping in puddles wearing non-waterproof shoes, we saw a good selection of animals.

The highlight, again, was the orangutan who came and sat right up against the window to inspect the children ranged in front of her – clearly from her perspective, we bring the human zoo to her house for her entertainment.

Looking at that other post, I find I have to compare and contrast some other aspects of this zoo trip almost a year later:

  • Free parking: I have learned and grown as a person, and my parallel parking was awesome.
  • Mabel wet her pants in the car before we’d even got there, but luckily I had brought spares, and she did use the zoo bathrooms once, so we managed: surprisingly little progress on that front.
  • More reptiles, no lions and tigers this time.
  • Requisite fighting over statue to pose on:

We shared a popcorn, found the car again, and drove home basking in the glow of having done something, for once.