Category Archives: B the B

So close

My husband ran the Boston marathon in 2009 and 2010.

The second year, we all went up and made a family trip of it. I had a great, if stressful, time smushing myself and my enormous stroller and my almost-four-year-old on and off public transport trying to find a good place to spot my runner, surrounded by hordes of friendly game-goers and marathon-supporters. Patriots’ Day is not a generally observed public holiday elsewhere in this country, but in Boston (and Massachusettes in general, I suppose) it’s like St Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July all rolled into one, with ballgames and races and parades.

I have no pictures of the race because I was too busy trying to hold onto the children.
But this is that afternoon, outside the very excellent Boston Children’s Museum.
B looks pretty good for a man who ran 26.2 miles that morning, doesn’t he?

We weren’t at the finish line because it was too hard to get to, too deep with people, but we met up near there after he’d run his race and been given his finisher’s medal and his shiny insulating blanket and eaten a banana or three and picked up his bag, and we all went back together to our not-quite-central hotel.

This morning, the day after the race, the streets around Copley Plaza are usually strewn with litter: discarded paper cups, water bottles, leaflets, banana peels, and sandwich wrappers flipping idly in the breeze, waiting for some efficient street-cleaning machine to show up and restore order. Today, judging from the photos I’ve seen (but not sought out), the streets are zigzagged and splotched with blood, scattered with glass shards.

There are no words to express how wrong this is. I am angry. Sick and angry. And Boston isn’t even my city; the people are not my people, except that all runners are a family and I’ve met nothing but cameraderie and helpfulness when toting my children to watch their dad in New York, Boston, and Chicago.

The boy who died was eight years old. He was with his sister and his mom, watching his dad run. His sister lost a leg and his mother is seriously injured.

As I scoured the first news article I read yesterday, I realised the information I was looking for was the time the explosions happened. I wanted to know if my husband would have been one of the runners coming in then, had he been running this year. It’s irrational, but we always search for the links, looking to make sure that even if we had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, we wouldn’t have been the exact ones hurt. When I saw that it happened just about at the four-hour mark, some tiny part of me lifted: he would probably have been past the line and we’d all have moved to a less crowded spot to reunite.

But that’s ridiculously selfish. We could have been there, we could have been hurt; other people were; and in the big picture it doesn’t really matter that they were not us and we were not them. It shouldn’t have happened.

Right now, I don’t want to take the kids to watch any more big marathons. I don’t want B to run any, really. Sometimes when I am home alone and my husband has gone out for a long run or travelled alone to run a marathon, I refer to myself as a running widow. I don’t think I’ll be saying that any more.

Boston, our hearts go out to you.

Milestones, tangentially

I am solo-parenting right now because B is at a conference in Denver. The night before he left, bedtime was horrible and went on for hours, and I was a bit worried about the state of my sanity if trying to go it alone for five nights in a row, but the next morning I stocked up on dollar-store bribes and so far we’re doing well. When he comes home then we’ll have the problem of trying to continue the peaceful bedtimes without bribes, but I’m prepared to cross that bridge when I come to it. This is known as willful ignorance, or ostrich parenting. (I shall write a book and rake in the profits.)

In my bid to exhaust the children, leading to easier bedtimes, I had to take them swimming today. Whereupon Dash swam underwater (with goggles), which I’m pretty sure I don’t remember him doing before, and Mabel took her first ever strokes without wearing a floatie or keeping a toe on the bottom. At not quite four and a half, she beats her brother by a little over six months, her mother by more than three years, and her father by some enormous amount. I need to find my milestones list* and add this.

The reason bedtimes are harder again at the moment – I realise I haven’t told you this – is because I don’t nurse Mabel to sleep any more. Not ever. (I know, she’s only almost 4.5. Don’t think I hadn’t noticed.) Not even in dire circumstances like having nobody to spell me when telling her stories for hours on end. I don’t nurse her back to sleep in the middle of the night either, and she’s sleeping much better (sometimes) (andIdidn’tsaythatpleasedon’tsmiteme) and slept for ten hours straight last night. Alone, in her own bed. Other nights she wakes up twice and then again at 5.15, but she doesn’t get any booboo until 6am, when it’s waking-up boob rather than going back to sleep boob. (Okay, if she happens to nod off again and we all get some extra shut-eye until 7.45 I’m not going to quibble. But mostly, it’s waking up.)

Then we rode our bikes to the playground at Dash’s school – which is very close but was a novelty for two out of the three of us – and Mabel swung all the way along the monkey bars for the first time too. I think her arms will be aching tomorrow.

The weather this weekend was exactly perfect and the way it should be and I want to marry it and have its babies. If it could just stay this way until, maybe, at least July, that would be ideal, thanks.

Blossom, blossom, everywhere

*My milestones list. Don’t you have one? It’s like a baby book, except it’s just a page from a notebook that I started writing on a long time ago and somehow have managed not to lose. I had a baby book once, but it was too nice to write in, so I gave it away.


April Fool’s Day, we decided, was our relationship anniversary date. We weren’t quite sure, when we were established enough to be trying to figure it out, exactly which day the party had been on, but it was the last Thursday of the Easter break from college that year. Not that we were officially “going out” instantly – it took a few weeks, maybe a month, to be sure we were allowed use the boyfriend/girlfriend tag for each other. We knew it had been about a week after B had turned 20, so April first seemed right. I decided not to be insulted by the date’s practical-joke connotations. It was an omen of laughter, nothing more.

But it’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since I first heard all of Negotiations and Love Songs for the first time, whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon in his house. What makes it sound so long ago is that it was before we’d ever sent an e-mail, before we’d seen a digital camera, long before we all had phones we could take with us, before anyone had thought of Facebook or Twitter or blogging. We managed to conduct a romance perfectly well without text messages or status updates. We called each other on the home phone; when we arranged to meet in town, we showed up. We used payphones now and then. There was cherry blossom and Paul Simon and pizza and the last Dart home and losing whole afternoons in kisses. And missing the last Dart home.

That was the first beginning, of course. There were endings and beginnings a-plenty again after that, because we both had other things to do and people to see and places to go. It was eleven and a half years before we sealed the deal, and not due to what you might call a long engagement. Just a long and chequered courtship, all the longer for not knowing that it would all turn our right in the end.

But the tipping point has arrived and now we’ve known each other for longer than we haven’t; and I’m surprised it took so long because it feels like we should have known each other for ever and also in previous lives.


And then you have children and the whole thing goes into overdrive and you wake up one morning and wonder how you got to be almost forty, and how you got so lucky as to have everything you ever wanted. And a mobile phone to boot.

Happy 20, B the B.

The bad wife

I’m a terrible, awful, no-good wife.

It’s my husband’s birthday. Not just any birthday, but one of those ones with a zero on the end. I have no present to give him, no card, and there’s no bread in the house for him to make toast with. (He likes toast.) “Here, I made you two beautiful children!” isn’t going to quite cut it.

In my defence, we did have a big party yesterday. There were bellinis and beer and juice boxes and Indonesian ginger chicken wings and tabouli and quesadillas and salsa and pigs-in-blankets and two sorts of cake. There were kids running riot and grownups talking about physics and of course Mabel fell off the back of the sofa straight onto her head, but she was giggling a few minutes later and there’s no bump to be seen this morning.

Tomorrow morning, I thought as I fell asleep last night, I’ll go to the shops and find something, some sort of token present at least, something that I can give him on the day itself, something to provide a tiny indication of how wonderful he is and how happy I am to be here, to be us, to have done what we did and arrived at this point, which I hope is only the midpoint of everything, if that. Surely I can find some sort of something.

And then we woke up to four inches of snow this morning, and the schools are on a two-hour delay, which means that Dash starts at eleven but Mabel at ten, so you bring one child to school and then you bring the other child to school and by then it’s pretty much time to turn around and pick up the first child and your morning is done. And there were wet socks and wet jeans and missing gloves and wet inside-of-snowboots and all the things that happen when they’ve spent an hour sledding before school to deal with, and now I’m here typing like the wind instead of out buying the perfect meaningful and symbolic token of appreciation.

Here, I got you a blog post. And a snowy vista. Love you.

March 25, 2013

Incidentally, is it bad parenting if I find myself saying, “Okay, if you must eat the snow, just don’t eat snow that’s grey or brown or yellow. Make sure it’s nice and white.”? I think that’s just accepting the inevitable and working with it.

A very parenthetical list

So I thought if I put my to-do list here maybe it would shame me into getting something done. Something other than drinking cups of coffee and convincing myself that pie is a perfectly valid mid-morning snack. (It was apple pie. That’s fruit.)

(We have an apple pie because I went to a bloggers’ meetup last night and I felt so guilty about leaving B to get Mabel to sleep while simultaneously getting Dash to shut up and stay in his room and go to sleep that I made him a pie. Also because I’d intended to make it on Sunday but then I went shopping instead and bought lots of tops for me on clearance, and didn’t even look at children’s clothes, which is a thing of which I am very proud.)

(I have to give a shoutout to all the lovely DCMoms bloggers I met last night at the Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan where Jennifer and I went to break out of our comfort zones and meet new people and put not so much faces to names as heads on bodies. When you know people as a series of square headshots, it’s always surprising to find that they’re not all on the same level in real life – they’re tall and short and narrow and wide and simultaneously older looking and younger looking and more gorgeous and more approachable and more real in real life than you could possibly imagine from photos. I met Sandie and Allison and Rebecca and Jessica and Jean and Aimee and Elaine and Michelle and Robin and other people too, who I am not managing to remember just now, sorry.  And we ate delicious pizza and the people at the restaurant were really nice to us because they’re lovely people and you should check it out if you’re downtown.)

So without further ado here is my to-do list:

  • Make D’s dentist appointment
  • Fill in application to vote
  • Make appointment at post office for passport application
  • Make shopping list for the weekend’s baking extravaganza*
  • Clean house (but not too soon) (only downstairs)
  • Get B a birthday present of some sort
  • Bake something and freeze it to get a jump on the aforementioned baking extravaganza? 
  • Make pumpkin bread or black-bean brownies for school-lunch desserts
  • Bake bread for my insatiable carb-loving family
  • Sort out that big pile of papers over there
Messy pile of paper

*I have to explain about the baking extravaganza, and for that matter, why I only need to clean downstairs. It’s not that upstairs stays magically sparkly all by itself, but more that nobody will be seeing it so it doesn’t matter right now. We somehow have managed to schedule all our social events for the spring into this weekend – on Friday there’s a block party potluck thingy, for which I have to make something (it’ll be my old faithful kale and quinoa salad, because it’s yummy, vegetarian (even vegan), and can be eaten at any temperature). Then on Saturday there’s a house-party fundraiser for the nursery school, to which I said I’d bring a dessert – as yet undecided; what goes with delicious white sangria made by a real Spaniard? Something fruity . . . jello shots, maybe? And then on Sunday we’re having a party here, hence the house-cleaning part.

Not a kids’ party either. An honest-to-goodness real grown-up party, although it will essentially end up being like all the kids’ parties with grownups that we’ve thrown in the past. But my my adored and much-put-upon husband is turning a significant multiple of ten (hint: more than 30, less than 50) on the 25th, and since I have no idea what to give him, I’m baking him a Guinness cake and making other things he likes and inviting over some of his friends and their children and hoping everyone will have a pretty nice time.

So I have to get plenty of sleep and not have any hangovers and be on top of my game for all that. Yup, that’ll happen. Tell you what, you bribe Mabel to stay asleep all night, and I’ll bake a cake for you as well.

Perfect two

Years ago, years and years ago, we took a few days in the Wesht of Ireland, and we drove there in my tiny wafer-thin car, and at some point along the road to Clifden, or Roundstone, or somewhere like that, I conjured up our imaginary future children in the back seat and made some brave, foolhardy even, remark about how young Ermingarde and Lavinia would react to whatever nonsense had just been said. Not to mention the little fella. We had to think for the little fella’s name, but settled on Murgatroyd, which is the name of a duck, for reasons that are not actually clear to me.

To be honest, I don’t even know if Lavinia was Lavinia, though I know Ermingarde was definitely Ermingarde, unless she was Ermintrude.

That was probably the first time we discussed our imaginary offspring. No, that’s not true. We first discussed names when we’d been going out only a few months, less than a year, certainly; and at the tender age of not yet 21, that’s a long time to be dating and still early on for such weighty discussions. We were in Lisbon, on a bench in the gardens of the Monastery of Jeronimos, I believe, though that’s not important; I’m just giving you a sense of place. B had mentioned that he was partial to a particular girl’s name, and I commented that, since putting it together with his last name would make the name of a famous film star, that would not be practical. Our friend appeared around the corner just as I was saying, “Well, if we have a girl, I’m not naming her that,” and was justifiably a little concerned, no matter how much I reassured her that the whole conversation was extremely hypothetical.

But by the time we were driving to Roundstone it was eight years later and it was all just that little bit less hypothetical, even though at that point our permanent residences were an ocean apart and we hadn’t quite figured out how to get around that fact. This was the trip where we both agreed that we wanted to get around it, although it took another 18 months for events to conspire to let that happen. 

And I think it was then, after conjuring Ermingarde and Murgatroyd and their sister, whoever she was, that we agreed that 2.5 was a good number of children. Two and a half. Very sensible, though maybe not entirely practical. Two, with an option on a third, was how we left it.

And thus it stayed, for a long time. But the option has never been taken up, and it’s due to expire very soon, if it hasn’t already done so. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember what the other girl was called. Maybe it’s because I can’t even imagine having another girl or another boy; or not having one or the other. By which I mean, that if a hypothetical third child was a girl, I’d still be sorry about the boy she wasn’t. And if it was a boy, likewise.

So I think two is it. And two is perfect, because we have two perfect children, no matter how much and how often they drive us both demented, individually and one at a time, and we want to run away and drink a lot of wine and sleep forever. We’ll still keep ’em.

This post is part of a virtual baby shower in honour of two of the Irish bloggers who have welcomed and are about to welcome their own perfect second children. Many congratulations to Aine of (the currently on hiatus) AndMyBaby and Lisa of

Yesterday’s post in the bloghop was by Laura at My Internal World, and tomorrow’s will be from Kieran at Go Dad Go.

And today’s mystery letter is S.

Consumer index

I panicked at Target this morning.

So many of Target’s success stories probably start out that way. And by success stories I mean times they parted people from way more of their money than they went in intending to be parted from.

So I went in to get a pack of crayons for Dash (yes, we have eleventy million crayons in the house, but he needed a new pack for school, and taking some brand-new practically unused crayons out of our big box and putting them into a smaller box would not do, in spite of the fact that he and his sister scorn everything but markers at home but I digress) and maybe a couple of other school supplies his teacher said they were running short on (scissors; how do kids run out of scissors? What are they doing with them? Using them to cut up other pairs of scissors?) and some toothpaste because he won’t use the new “clean squeeze” tube I just got because it’s too minty, damnit, even though he likes mint, and then I thought maybe some new bathtub foam letters for Mabel to keep the grand universal scales of “you bought something for one child” level…

… and then I got to the Star Wars section of the toys and suddenly worried that Target would stop promoting Star Wars all of a sudden, because maybe something else is the next big thing and now that Disney has Star Wars (even though with JJ Abrams at the helm everyone knows that it’s going to be absolutely the thing to see, but maybe the 6-year-old set aren’t so well up on JJ Abrams’s oeuvre, not having watched all of Alias, probably) perhaps the cool kids won’t want lightsabers by April so I bought the damn Darth Maul red double-blade lightsaber that Dash has been begging for since some time last summer.

(I got into big, huge, trouble with him one night a few weeks ago when he suddenly remembered that he had thought he might get one for Christmas and then he didn’t, and I was the worst, cruelest mother on the planet (and probably also on Alderaan and Tatooine) for not giving him a double-blade for Christmas when I had promised I would (note: I hadn’t) and I should go out the very next morning and get him a double-blade to make up for it and when I wouldn’t agree that this was clearly the correct way for me to atone for my sins, he threw a long, long hissy that still gets revisited from time to time when he remembers to be very upset about the whole incident.)

So there, fine, now he’s getting his double-blade for his birthday (at the end of April; never say I don’t plan ahead), because you can’t just go out and buy people big presents when it’s not Christmas or birthday or the culmination of some long-worked-for sticker-chart extravaganza.

(In related news, Mabel is plotting how she can get another baby sooner than her November birthday. She asked me the other day if we could do another star chart for her using the toilet, since that worked so well the last time. I pointed out that she knew how to do that now, so no, that wouldn’t work. I wonder how I can leverage this desire of hers into some sort of necessary behaviour?)

But despite having the entire cave of wonders at my child-free-browsing disposal, I still didn’t manage to find anything nice or unexpected or quirky or even predictable to give my beloved husband on the occassion of tomorrow’s Annoying Hallmark Holiday. Looks like he’s getting two delightful children. Again.

Hey, this year they’re potty trained. It gets better.

Point of origin

I forgot to mention it here because I said it elsewhere, but I’ve been in the US for ten years this month. I think my anniversary was last Sunday, actually. I emigrated without even feeling like that was what I was doing – I was just moving in with my boyfriend. The fact that I had to painstakingly win the visa lottery, go through the green-card process, and move across an ocean to do it was just details, once it was all under the bridge.

For my writing course this morning I had to describe fifteen important minutes of my life. Tricky. I mean, I suppose they had to be minutes in my life, not just minutes that affected my life, because otherwise I’d have been duty-bound to envision my own conception, which is really not something anyone wants to have to put any amount of imaginative thought into. And they had to be minutes that were important to my life, not someone else’s – because who knows if something I said offhandedly in a supermarket queue or at a playdate or online had a deep and lasting effect on someone else’s life? I mean, it’s unlikely, but not impossible.

So I had to come up with a fifteen-minute episode that made a difference to my life. There are the birth stories, of course, but I’ve already written those. And the thing is, once the baby’s in there it has to come out one way or another, so while the births were great and life-affirming, they didn’t really change things. Finally, although it’s the epitome of cheese and terribly obvious, I found I had to go back to that house party in 1993 when I calculatedly but nonchalantly wandered into the kitchen after the boy who’d gone looking for a corkscrew, because I thought he was cute.

I won’t give you the blow-by-blow account here, but it was probably a pivotal moment. It’s possible that the same moment could have come later, or earlier, since we had a mutual good friend and would probably have encountered each other again if we hadn’t that day – if I hadn’t gone to the party, or he’d chatted up the Australian girl for a few more minutes, or he’d been wearing the sweater with the duck, for instance – but that’s how it happened.

There were probably lots of other important moments or sets of moments: when we broke up (numerous times), when we got back together (numerous times +1), when I filled in the visa application form, when some random-number-generator or bikini-clad lady pulled my application number out of the hundreds of others, when we dated other people and found them not measuring up to previously set high standards. But the fact stands that if things had gone differently that evening in Rathmines, I very easily might not be sitting here, emigrant, immigrant, runner’s wife, mother of these two particular amazing/appalling children. I might be writing somewhere, wherever, but that’s about the only thing that would be the same.

I don’t think I have to mention, do I, that I’m pretty happy with the way it has turned out so far?

Live and let die

As we rounded the gentle curves of Dublin’s M50 this afternoon, death was on the children’s minds. In the abstract, probably because we visited an old graveyard in Waterford two days ago and pottered around reading the interesting headstones in the almost-rain.

(Personally, I liked this one, which went off in a big old name-dropping tangent about her brother who had sailed with Captain Cook, even though he wasn’t buried there at all:

[This Stone was Erected in memory of M[iss] Mary Dinn of Passage E. a mark of her burial ground and in memory of her Father Nicholas, her Mother [indecipherable], her Brother Martin, her Sisters, particularly of her brother William Dinn (alias Doyle) who sailed round the globe with Capt. COOK  and was present at the death of that Great Circumnavigator at [illegible] and who died respected and regretted at Stoke near Devonport in England in June 1840 (?), having spent a long life as a warrant Officer in the Service of his Country.]


(Speaking of tangents. Ahem.)

This weekend I travelled the length and breadth of half the small country for bloggy meetups, wherein I was lucky enough to meet some of the Lovely Irish Bloggers (not their real name) and put names to faces and faces to blogs for Musings of a Hostage-Mother, Mind The Baby,, Proper Fud, and the currently-on-hiatus And My Baby.

As we drove back from today’s assignation, during which my most accommodating spouse had taken the children to IKEA, because why not, it’s like a little home from home with ice cream, we listened to the Bond theme tunes CD I had put on in the car as a tiny nod to his great service to the blogger good. So at the start of each track – or preferably just before the start, since they were playing in film order – he would announce to us all which song it would be and by what artist.

(You know the way some fathers wait impatiently for the day they can show their sons (or daughters) Star Wars? Well, Dash has seen all six Star Wars movies (in original airing order), but what his father is really waiting for is the day when they can both sit down and appreciate the full oevre of Connery through Craig, including Lazenby for completeness.)

In between these public service announcements, the children posed the following tricky questions:

Mabel: How do the dead people get into the coffins?

Dash: So, do people who go to church believe in ghosts except that they all exist in another universe?

The first was more easily answered than the second, which I think we are still working on.

(Edited after first posting to correct the date of death on the gravestone to a much more likely century. Sorry about that.)

Duvet vous?

The baby has stolen my blanket.

By which I mean that the four-year-old has taken the supersoft espresso-brown blanket that lives at the foot of her parents’ bed for the express purpose of keeping me, her longsuffering mother, warm at night – because I run about ten degrees colder than everyone else in this house, apparently – and is currently snuggling her tow-headed little self under it, fast asleep and away with the fairies to boot.

Not to mention the fact that she has a perfectly good duvet of her own, from Ikea, inside a very attractive duvet cover, also from Ikea, and additionally a big bright red fleece blanket purchased in Target not two months ago because she wouldn’t wear her coat in Chicago. So she’s sleeping on top of the red blanket, under the brown blanket, shunning the duvet, and sentencing me to another night of being just slightly not warm enough in bed. (This is the third night in a row.)

The things we put up with.

Meanwhile, in the parental bed – don’t worry, I’m not going into any salacious details: this is about linens – the sheet war is being waged with all the silence and indignance two tired parents can muster over such things. See, there’s a sheet under us, and a sheet over us, between us and the comforter. Raised as we were in a part of Europe that came late to duvets, but not as late as America, we’re not entirely used to the top sheet – but I really like my down comforter, and I’m not going to wash it every week, so that’s why the sheet is there. The sheet is turned down over the comforter when we sleep, but somehow – due no doubt to my inept bed-making skills – it doesn’t want to stay there and tends to flip up over our faces. I can deal with this. I calmly flip it down again. But B gets all pissy with the sheet in his sleep and ends up with it mangled and twisted and generally not where it should be.

At some point in the night, inevitably, I come back to bed from my sojourn in Mabel’s room, and, as I slip myself into the half-warm bed, I notice that the sheet on his side needs fixing. I pull it up and flip it neatly back where it should be. I suspect he thinks of me as the midnight sheet nazi. In turn, I grumpily wonder, every night, why he can do physics for the government but he can’t work a simple bedsheet.

Luckily for all of us, there are more important things in life, and by morning we’ve forgotten it all again. This morning I dreamed that I tweeted to Mabel the fact that it was 5.15 when I left her bed, and then regretted it because it was bound to wake her up.

Happily, she didn’t get my tweet because she stayed asleep for another hour, and all was right with the world.