Category Archives: blathering

I have a “Blathering” tag for a reason, you know

It’s not that the blog awards were over and suddenly I couldn’t be arsed blogging any more. It’s not even that I’m busy with real work, even though I am. I have at least three posts written in drafts, but they’re too boring to publish. I need some sort of random bulleted list kickstarter to just push me back in.

  • Yesterday for lunch I ate a salad of roasted golden beet with feta and maple-glazed roasted walnuts, in a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Today I’m eating  instant noodles, because sometimes you just need the MSG, and sometimes having to constantly think of what to eat is so very tedious.
  • We got Dash’s latest testing results: still dyslexic. No surprise there, because I think if you grow out of being dyslexic you probably weren’t actually in the first place. He’s also still not ADHD, he just finds it hard to settle down and concentrate on his homework because reading is HARD for him. School is going very well and his math teacher in particular is very impressed with him.
  • Our babysitter has gone off to college and even though I have a number and a recommendation for someone else, the idea of having to actually put the whole new-babysitter concept into motion is so hideous to me just now that I wonder if never going out again wouldn’t be easier. Bad, maybe. But easier.
  • The weather has moved delightfully into autumn and I am now wearing socks and jeans and a cardigan and accessorizing with a scarf as threatened, and I’m very happy.

Oh, someone give me a writing prompt. I clearly need direction here.


Sorry, Gene

I am a horrible person. I’ll tell you why. I don’t like Gene Wilder.

Even worse. I think the reason I don’t like him is mostly because he has curly hair. I don’t like men with curly hair.

I am the shallowest person on the planet, and I should suffer accordingly.

I also don’t like him because, in another unpopular move, I hate the Willy Wonka film. The first one, that he was in. Roald Dahl didn’t like it either, did you know, which is why it doesn’t have the same title as the book. When I first saw the film – randomly on television on a Sunday afternoon, I think – I was very excited to find a film of the book I loved so much that I didn’t even complain (much) when I got an extra copy as a tenth birthday present. I’d read it years before that. But the film was a betrayal. I was indignant at the liberties they took with the characters, the plot, the whole damn thing. It was awful. The cringingly seventies-ness of it all only made it worse – this was the mid eighties, you know, by which time we were all wearing fluorescent bat-wing sweaters and drainpipe stonewashed jeans and looking so much better than all those drab brown polonecks and curtain prints. We had spikes and mullets, not bowl cuts. So much better.

(It occurs to me just now that I think of them as curtain prints probably not because they were solely employed for curtains, but because clothes are cycled through much faster than home furnishings. All our houses probably still had curtains and sofas and carpets from the 70s when we were growing up in the 80s. Epiphany!)

(I did not have a fluorescent sweater, though I did have a blue batwing one. I did have jeans with zips at the bottom, but they were not drainpipe or stonewashed. I did not have a mullet, but I still had bad hair. But I still knew that the 70s were the epitome of stylelessness.)

Anyway, my Facebook feed is full of Gene Wilder right now and I feel very defensive about it all. I was actually fine with Young Frankenstein, which I found very funny, but I’ve sort of avoided his other films. I should probably (heaves sigh) do something about that. Blazing Saddles or something.


In other news, we got steroids for Dash’s poison ivy and they are working miraculously. Second grade is still going fine though there was a very meta meltdown yesterday when Mabel had problems writing a paragraph about how she finds it hard to write a paragraph. (Paragraphs are specific things, as you might not know if you studied, say, my paragraphs. They have an opening sentence, three detail sentences, and a closing sentence. Except rumour had it that in second grade you needed five details. This was causing some angst. Also, openings are hard.)

And I am very busy with book sale things. For details I will refer you to past posts on the subject. Next week I will be delightfully free, except for that book I said I’d edit and that other book I have to market and the one I have to get to at least second draft stage. So, books all round.

Dash just ate most of a grape. He couldn’t eat the whole thing because he says they get too fleshy at the end.

See, closing sentences are hard too.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Penguin edition

This was the birthday-present one. 1984 edition.



Story not story

I was trying to write something, but I wrote this instead.


This is a story about a boy
Who finds a shiny thing
And it changes him.

This is a story about a girl
Who fights something
But it turns out to be herself.

This is a story about a man
Who wants to run away
But he can’t escape from himself.

This is a story about a woman
Who sublimates her rage into cooking food for her family every night
But eventually she cracks. (Like an egg.)

This is a story about a place
Where the people are free
Or maybe they just think they are.

This is a story.

This is a story about a time
When nobody had love
But time passed and things got better.

This is a story about the sea
Because I like the sea.


“You need to put on your socks and brush your shoes,” I said. “No, your hair.”

Too late. She’d run off with a grin to grab a shoe and her hairbrush.


Sometimes inertia is really hard to beat. I feel like that at the moment: my writing has fizzled because – as always – I have an interesting setup and characters I like, but I don’t know what happens. And I lack motivation because nobody’s exactly knocking my door down looking to publish me. With the whole world open to me, I can only see the obstacles in the way of doing anything, and so I languish in doing nothing.


We woke up to pretty snow. The best sort, two inches deep on the grass and none to be seen on the roads. There wasn’t even a school delay. I took my camera and booted myself out the door for a walk to the lake, where everything looked like an unseasonal Christmas card, but the coating of snow was already melting and it barely showed up in photos.

Lake, trees, sprinkling of snow

I’m obsessed with capturing moments. I want to pin it down before it floats away, with words or in pictures: the mundane, the quotidian, the unexceptional. I want to take arty black-and-white documentary-style photos with my fancy camera, but my children either pose dramatically or run and hide, depending on how they’re feeling. They won’t just keep on keeping on, unless I happen to sneak up and get a lucky shot.

It might be something to do with the upcoming birthday. The tenth birthday. I’m not so overwhelmed by the fact that I’ve been a mother for a decade: sometimes it seems much longer, always, perhaps. But the fact that ten years ago there was nobody and now there is somebody: that’s astounding. And all the moments he’s gone through, we’ve gone through, to arrive at this point, all behind us, already. How can we not just dive back into a minute when he was two, or four and a half, or even eight? Where did it go?

My husband’s 25-year school reunion is tonight. He’s not going, because he’s here, but if he’s 25 years out of school this summer, then so must I be. I was sure it was still only 20, and that was bad enough. I feel as if I should have done more, and yet surely a degree, a move to another continent, and the making of two whole people is quite a lot, whatever about sundry paid employments I’ve had in between times.


I have to go and buy shoes now. Call it therapy.

Snow on pink blossoms



Blogging crisis post

Argh. So hackneyed. If I publish this, my faithful readers (lovelies, all both of you) will leap in to say that they don’t care what I write about, they like to read it anyway. And the rest of the world will respond with resounding silence because they don’t read my blog, and that’s fine because I don’t need them to.

But if I don’t need them to, then why not just post whatever I want? Why do I keep saving half-written drafts and then letting them just die?

I can give myself all the advice, because I’ve given it to others over and over. Write what you feel, write from the heart, write for yourself, write what you know. Write as if nobody’s reading. Decide on your direction and don’t lose focus. Take a break and wait for your mojo to regenerate. Don’t force it.

This is what I’m not writing about, and how I’m not writing it:

  • My lifestyle blog would be posting about our finally made-beautiful new shower and all the muffins I’ve baked recently.
  • My social conscience blog would be posting about abortion, and the relative situations in Ireland and the US.
  • My literary blog would be posting a lyrical description of the dappled sunshiney autumn outside my kitchen window right now.
  • My parenting blog would tell you how school is going for Dash and Mabel, some challenges we’ve faced or are facing or are muddling through, the way everyone does all the time, with no great insights.
  • My special-interest blog would tell you about the dyslexia-related book I’m reading and how it might or might not help you or your dyslexic loved one.
  • My ex-pat blog would … oh, I don’t know, come up with some subtle differences in language or accent or tone or signage to symbolize my sense of displacement and/or growing acceptance of life in America.
  • My hilarious humour blog would tell you a couple of vaguely amusing stories about the time when I texted the wrong number about a bike for sale, or thought Dash was on a conference call when it was actually one of his teachers, or how the guy who did our shower thought he’d found a paper bag of fifties under our floorboards. All of which were funny/mortifying at the time, but really, can I muster the energy…?
  • My writer blog would talk about what I’m writing, or not writing at the moment, and how that’s going and how I approach it and all that stuff that’s only interesting if it actually turns out I’m writing a book that will really be a book, not just a bunch of words on a computer that took a lot of time when I should have been contributing to the household finances.
  • My lazy blog would stick up a bulleted list or a bunch of pictures and call it done.

Which blog will I be today?

Mabel by a lake

Random photo. A walk on a proper Irish grey day. No dappled sunshine to be seen.

Write your own New Year’s blogpost

I’m pretty sure I know how this one goes. You can follow along with me if you like.


Obligatory sentence about how I can’t believe it’s 2015 already, how fast 2014 went, how I still think it’s 2007 at most, and how I must be getting old.

Hilarious demand for my flying car or at least my hover skateboard.

Seriously stated intention to (a) exercise more, and regularly, (b) waste less time on Facebook and related Internetty things, (c) write more things that are not Facebook, Twitter or even blog updates, and (d) eat more vegetables.

Parental aspirations such as (i) limiting screen time, (ii) reinstating nightly family dinners at the table that everyone attends, (iii) ensuring homework is done before rather than after dinner (see i and ii above), and/or making Mabel tidy up her own mess instead of doing it for her.

Wry acknowledgement that very little of that will actually come to fruition, so really what’s the point in starting?

Memorandum to self that Monday is the best day to start anything like this anyway, so until then we’re just putting the intentions in place, not actually doing anything about them.

Picture of tree still up. Promise to do something about that before the weekend’s over, because the sixth is Tuesday and I have a PTA meeting that day.

Something witty to finish it off on an amusing but tender note as we all look ahead with hope and optimism knowing that whatever comes this year, no matter how similar our resolutions look to last year’s, it will all be new and wonderful once again. Witty witty hilarious just lovely.

Imagining the New Year - A blog linkup with The Busy Mama's


Generation gap

I got into a conversation on Twitter today, as you do, with a total stranger who mistook The Princess Bride for The Princess Diaries.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

What happened was, there was this high-lair-ious hashtag going on called #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly, so after a little thought I contributed the following:

Well, I thought it was excellent. I sat back and waited for the accolades to roll in.

All I got was some bloke saying “Which film is that?”

I was going to be snarky, but then maybe I thought maybe it wasn’t as clear a reference as it was in my head, so I just told him. He said “Ah, and I’ve seen that.” And then “Have you seen the second one?” And then “I was totally thinking of Princess Diaries.”

“Very different film, Ted”, I replied, scathingly, prepared to close the door on this sorry encounter by puzzling him out of existence, but he actually got the Father Ted reference, so I let him be.

Still, this whole thing demonstrates a serious problem in our society. It’s called the Princess Bride Generation Gap. There are people like us, the sensible people who saw the film when it came out, or a few years later, as teenagers or young adults, and loved it, because to see it is to love it, and quoted it and delighted in it. And there are our children, who are growing up in the soft light of Rob Reiner, because all is right with the world and what child wouldn’t enjoy a film with swashbuckling and a princess and torture and a miracle man and a cast in a million.

But in between there are people who grew up in no-man’s-land, neither fish nor flesh, who have discovered the film neither in its first flush nor as a retro delight; people who are between perhaps 15 and 30 years of age.

It is our responsibility, nay, our duty, to bring this film to these poor benighted individuals, lest they go through their lives unbrightened by it, unable to understand the references and the quotes and the people who talk about land wars in Asia and bwessed awwangements.

But we must do it carefully, surreptitiously, leaving tiny clues for them rather than pushing them into it, so that they think they came to it themselves, all unawares. Because nothing’s worse than the stuff people 15 years older than you think is cool. Those people have terrible taste and no sense of irony.

This is your mission. Gather your holocaust cloaks, friends, and begin.

Missing, because children

Certain things are missing, or disappeared, or not where they’re meant to be, or just all gone, never to return. These are some of those things:

Enough tissues (Mabel has a cold)


Functioning flashlights

Any tennis balls (which I need once in a blue moon for the clothes dryer)

The remote control

remote control on countertop

Ah, there it is. Sometimes I forget where I’ve hidden it. Other times the kids “lose” it.

Bubble wrap (because as soon as it enters the house it gets popped)

My dignity

Any semblance of tidiness

The big soft brown woofly blanket (because it’s a roof for the dollshouse now)

My sunglasses

My replacement sunglasses

Pens that work

Pencils without broken leads


Pencils, pencils everywhere, but not a one that works

The pencil sharpener

Black permanent markers

The other sock

All the band-aids except the tiny ones that are no use to anyone

The big hairbrush

The little hairbrush

My favourite yoga pants (I think they atrophied through lack of use)


What’s missing in your house?

Other children

Last night I stood at the top of the stairs and identified with nobody so much as Mrs Doyle on the windowsill, because it seemed for a moment that the best way to get down would probably be just to launch myself skywards and hope for the best. Which is to say that my thighs are only slightly less painful today and I’ve given myself a rest day from exercise.

(Skip to 0.11 if you don’t see how this is relevant. I couldn’t find a shorter clip.)

I’m quite pathetic. You’d think I’d run a marathon at the weekend instead of done the teensiest bit of exercise. And of course my lovely husband who had actually run a 10K race on Saturday was being very kind and not taking the piss out of my situation at all. But lunges really are evil.

I am out of inspiration for writing other places so I’ve come back here to blather more personally for a while. Thank you for being the people who let me blather. It’s nice to have my own blathering space.


I find other people’s seven-into-eight-year-old boys quite terrifying. They’re bigger than mine, they’re more sophisticated than mine, they know about Minecraft and pop music and a lot more swear words than mine does, and they seem inclined to do all sorts of dangerous things. (I know you’re thinking mine knows the swear words and just isn’t telling me, but I’m pretty certain he doesn’t. We’ve talked about it.) In comparison, I tend to think that mine is really remarkably sensible and at least listens when I tell him something’s dangerous.

Maybe other people’s children are always unnerving when you’re used to your own. It’s nice, really, because it makes you appreciate what you’ve got when they go home. I can think, “Well, he won’t eat dinner, but at least he likes my cookies.” Or whatever.

It being now just about April, it’s time to think about his birthday party. He wants to go to laser tag, which he’s done just once before. I think rather than a whole (expensive) birthday party at the laser tag place, we’re going to let him take two friends to laser tag and then have a party separately at home, so he can invite whoever all his best friends are and I don’t have to worry about numbers and no-shows and RSVPs and transporting cakes and children and … and all I have to worry about is feeding and entertaining an unknown number of scary eight-year-old boys in my own home… how hard can it be?

Dash posing

Don’t answer that.

The trouble with writing parenting articles

The thing about writing serious parenting posts is that nobody really wants to read them. You might happen to catch someone just there at the point where they’re either pregnant and reading everything they can get their hands on, or going through exactly that problem and wanting to learn about it. But mostly people just want to read things that support what they’re already doing. Nobody wants to read an article slapping them on the wrist about the way they’re parenting badly. They’ll just click away. They want to be validated. They want to be told that the kid is like this because they’re a kid, that’s all. And that they’re doing the right thing. And possibly that they should trust their instincts, because that’s the same as saying “You were right all along.”

I know this is true because it’s how I approach articles. I read them if they appear, by the headline, to be confirming what I already believe. If they fall into the category of “other”, I might skim them in order to see if I can ridicule them, but I’m more likely to just ignore. I don’t want you to tell me all the things I’m doing wrong. I probably know about them already anyway, and I don’t surf the internet because I’m not feeling guilty enough already.

In fact, the longer I go on reading parenting articles the more likely I am not to bother reading any new ones at all, because I know what they’re going to say. Even if I write them myself (my favourite kind, of course, because I agree with every word), it’s all getting pretty boring and samey at this stage of the game. So unless you have genuinely come up with a new angle that I haven’t thought of yet – and can convey that to me before I decide not to bother reading your piece – I’m probably not going to bother.

If you’re funny, mind you, I might stick around. If you have nice pictures, you might reel me in. If you make pop culture references that I understand but are just niche enough for me to know not everyone will, you will make me feel smart, and I will listen more closely to what you have to say, because you think I’m smart.

So I’m unlikely to change anyone’s mind with anything I write. My bubble of Internet is one big circle of self-validating parents, high-fiving each other for our good choices and making in-jokes about Republicans/Gina Ford/people who don’t watch Doctor Who.

Converting others, then, is a lost cause. We may as well all just flex our tolerance muscles and stick to entertaining each other as best we can.