Category Archives: blathering

Words beget words

You know, here’s the thing: there are always more words.

I used to be afraid I’d use up all my words and there would be nothing left when it came time to write my magnum opus. That the infinite number of monkeys with the typewriters would have said it all first. That there must be a limit to the permutations and combinations, and that all mine would  be used up too soon. I felt I needed to mete it out, gingerly.

(I once worked in a department of editors, who are funny, intelligent, witty people who happen to enjoy a good hyphenation discussion just as much as the next oddly obsessive person. One of them proposed that when we get a new recruit we hand them a page covered with punctuation marks and tell them that was their quota of commas and full stops for the month.)

But words beget words. If you run out of words, you go for a walk and you read a good book and you stop trying, and the words replenish themselves. They’re all there and they keep coming, and even if there are only seven stories in the world and however many possible combinations of the eight notes in the scale, people keep telling new stories and people keep writing new songs and our well of invention is deep and infinite.

There are also plenty of commas, if you need commas.


Just us, then?

The sun came out this weekend and I shaved my legs. It was quite an event. I may need a new razor. That’s all I have to say about that.

I bought a gallon of milk at Target yesterday morning, and forgot to take it inside. It sat in the trunk/boot of the car until I glimpsed it as I took the kids to go skating about three hours later. We were already at the rink, so I said “Never mind, I’m sure it’s spoiled already. I’ll just get more milk.” By the time we got home (after a stop off at McDonald’s for ice-cream sundaes, which are apparently what you need after skating) I was too lazy to buy more, so I just put it in the fridge anyway. When I tasted it, it was fine. So does American milk never go off, or are we all going to die a slow and horrible death?

About to make dinner, I discovered that we needed an onion, so I ran out of the house ten minutes before the supermarket closed and bought an onion, a jar of sesame seeds, and some naan bread. I did not buy milk. I am living on the edge, people.

The rear-view mirror in our car falls down every time there are extremes of temperature. This means we spend all summer gluing it back up, and now, apparently, all winter too. You would think someone would have come up with a better design. The glue says not to use it when the temperature is below freezing, so we haven’t even tried lately. I’m very good at using my wing mirrors, but it occurs to me that it’s possibly illegal to drive without a functioning rear-view mirror. The last time it fell down it landed on the gearstick and shattered itself, too, so we now need a whole new mirror. Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just us?


Life, apparently

Life, apparently, is about bringing the person I am closer to the person I want to be, or accepting the chasm between those two things.

For instance, I want to be a person who plans the week’s meals before she goes shopping, who makes family dinners in the crockpot, who runs or otherwise exercises regularly, and who damn well writes a few hundred words in That Other Thing when she sits down to do it.

Instead, I am a person who builds some sort of half-assed plan for dinner as she roams the supermarket, who casts about for inspiration an hour before dinner time, who runs (ahem) once every two weeks or so, and who comes over here and writes a blog post instead.

These are all things that are within my control. I can change them. Sure I can.

If I actually want to.

Geese in a blue sky

Negotiations (no love songs)

You do this too, don’t you? Child says “I want to do blah,” but you want child to do blee. So you say “First you do blee and then you can do blah.” That’s how it works, right?

Maybe this will work better with a concrete example:

Me: Time to brush your teeth.
Mabel: Read me a story.
Me: First we’ll brush your teeth, and then I’ll read you a story.

But then she turns the tables on me.

Mabel: No. First, read me a story, and then I’ll brush my teeth.

And so it goes. The thing is, I can’t really come up with a convincing reason why we should do it my way round every time. Where’s the justice in that? “Because I’m the parent” is tempting but unconvincing, in spite of its undeniable truth. “Because I want to go downstairs and watch Sherlock before I turn into a pumpkin” will likewise win me no accolades from my tough audience.

And I feel like I should give her a chance to prove herself and agree to try it her way. Except that I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her (I mean, I could throw her, but I generally restrain myself) so I’m pretty much 100% certain that she’s going to renege on this deal.

But I need to show her that I do trust her, so sometimes I go along with it. And then – surprise! – she turns out to have been bluffing and I’m left without a leg to stand on and another story down and teeth no nearer brushed.

I’m clearly doing something wrong here.

Small mercies

The best Christmas present was the one I bought us last weekend in the sales: an electric blanket.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get one here. I had one in Ireland and when I got it I felt the same way – that this was utterly the Greatest Invention of Mankind, ever. It actually came over, mistakenly, in the Shipment of Stuff, and is utterly useless here because of the difference in voltage. Even with an adapter, it wouldn’t work. So maybe I felt guilty about that, or something, but for whatever reason it’s been a long cold ten years of winter bedtimes (except in Texas, I suppose) before I finally decided that I was allowed to be happy again in those exquisite few minutes after I get into bed and stretch my be-socked feet gingerly down into the otherwise Polar no-man’s-land of sheet.

I’m always the first one to go to bed, see. So I do all the dirty work of warming things up, and by the time B gets there I’m into furnace mode and everything’s hunky dory. (Or I’ve already abandoned the bed and gone into Mabel, but let’s assume that’s going to happen less as time goes on.) But the PEB (pre-electric-blanket) era was no so much fun. Every square inch of exposed skin had to be protected, with pyjama bottoms tucked into big fluffy socks and pyjama top tucked into bottoms (very fetching, especially when you’re short-waisted, but then who’s looking at me in bed?), and even then the chill of the sheets would stop my feet warming up for a long time and it was all very tragic, you understand.

Anyway, now, everything is wonderful. Getting into a warm bed on a cold winter’s night is a bliss that simply cannot be overstated.

Or maybe I’m just getting tragically old. It might be that, I suppose.

Things about me

But first I have to steal one of my husband’s points about himself, because it’s so wonderful that it deserves a wider audience:

For some period around the age of 7, I became convinced I was actually Orinoco Womble. The Wombles merchandising at the time included chocolate bars, and I would look at my miniature pointy-nosed face in confusion when visiting the newsagents.

For full enjoyment of this fact, you have to know what both parties looked like: 

Stunning resemblance, no? (Also, clearly there’s no argument about whose son Dash is.)

Now that there’s no topping that, here are some much less interesting random facts about me.

1. I played Miss Prism in selected scenes from The Importance of Being Ernest in high school. I knew everyone’s lines.

2. Around the same time that my future husband was posing as a womble, I used to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks appeared.

3. As soon as the weather gets cold, I lose all blood from my fingers and toes, which is very useful when I want to dress up as a corpse for Halloween but otherwise annoying.

4. I had three boyfriends in first grade, but not one more until after I turned 18.

5. I can still recite, phonetically and probably unrecognizably, the “We are now approaching a station; please mind the gap” phrase from the Prague city train system. I can also ask for two beers in Czech.

6. I have not, and never did have, any wisdom teeth. This does not mean that I am less wise than you, but rather that I am more highly evolved, so there.

Tell me a random fact about yourself.

How to blog in the summer vacation

  • Send the children on a treasure hunt. Forget to bury the treasure.
  • Start a game of hide and seek. Don’t seek.
  • Blog one sentence at a time.
  • Actually, just turn your whole blog over to your Twitter account.
  • Recycle old posts from when nobody used to read your blog. Pretend you just had that baby last week.
  • Send the children out to forage for food instead of going to the supermarket.
  • Make the children cook your dinner.
  • Drunkblog.
  • Send them to camp.
  • Send yourself to camp.
  • Hire a mother’s helper.
  • Hire a ghost writer.
  • Get all your friends to write guest posts.
  • Ask famous people to contribute guest posts. (This entry actually written by the Dalai Lama.)
  • Sacrifice your half hour of TV a night to a noble cause. 
  • Or use that time to blog.
  • Blog while watching TV. You won’t be Jon Stewart’s so funny distracted at all.
  • Stop doing Sporcle quizes.
  • Stop playing GeoGuessr.
  • Embrace the chaos. Liveblog the children’s fights.
  • Photo entries. Lots of photo entries.
Children climbing the walls

The momentous and the mundane

Oh, dinner, how you tease me with your needing to be made, every single damn night, unless I was organized and made lots the night before, which works well with winter dinners like chilli and lasagne but somehow rarely manages to cut it in the summer, when I have all these leaves and tomatoes and things.

I don’t know what we’re eating, don’t bug me. There’s hours yet to dinner time. Well, one hour, maybe. Dash has a baseball game to which his father will take him, and Mabel and I are on track for an early bedtime, seeing as how yesterday was one of those thankfully-not-common nights when I held her for several hours because she has a phlegmy cough (sorry, were you eating?) and was borderline feverish and I felt she needed to be propped up in bed but couldn’t engineer that unless she was actually on me. Which is not so conducive to me sleeping either. It was like old times with a snurfly newborn. Except she didn’t nurse. Which really is quite lovely and amazing, because it would have been a lot more tedious this time last year (or even a few months ago) when she’d have been latched on all night as well.

And you know, the funny thing is that she seems (seems, I say, not counting any chickens) to be dropping the morning nurse as well, the only one we have left, the one she was so adamant to keep. A few non-standard mornings have distracted her from remembering at the point when she normally would, and it’s possible – just possible – that we will have weaned at four-and-a-half after all. Which is nicely matching her brother’s age of weaning, and let me emphasize this may mean that I will soon be no longer lactating for the first time in seven years. Seven straight years. That’s a long time. For all I know, my boobs might schlurrpp themselves into tiny fried eggs when they figure out what’s going on. Or, more probably into the sort of things I could helpfully roll up before stuffing into a bra. Sigh.

This is not what I was going to say, but is it ever? Stream of consciousness, baby.

Oh, I know.

There are only thirteen and a half days left of school before summer. Hold me.

Four-year-old girl in stripey leggings
Gratuitous photo of Mabel, hiding around the corner the more safely to watch a scary part of The Princess Bride.

Rule of blog

There’s this thing about blogging. A sort of an unwritten rule. If something’s going wrong in your life, you’re not allowed blog about it until you’ve fixed it. If you do, you’re just a whiner and you’re bringing everyone down and that’s depressing and nobody will want to read about it.

Or else, which is sometimes worse, you do blog about it, just this once, and everyone thinks you were asking for advice, which you may or may not have been doing but you’re going to get it anyway, and nothing makes you feel more of a big fat failure than lots of helpful advice telling you to do the things you know you should do, but the whole point was that you don’t want to do them, or you can’t for whatever reason that may or may not be basically laziness or disinclination. Like if I said “Waahh, my sentences are too long,” and you said, “Well, there’s this great thing called a full stop,” and I said, “But I don’t wanna stop it there, I just wanted to whine for a minute.”

So while we all want to remain human and mortal and real in the eyes of our readers, we also want to present our best faces, the public ones – or semi-public – wherein if we get things wrong we then figure it out and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, by jimminy, and our lives get better because we’re Doing It Right, and what’s more, You Can Too.

It’s a bit of a no-win situation, to be honest. You want to be cheerful, you don’t want your readers to leave in droves because every time they click over to your blog you’re whinging on about that thing again, and if they wanted to hear whinging they could go talk to their own four-year-olds thank you very much. On the other hand, you don’t want to be one of those insufferable bloggers who has the perfect decor and the perfect children and the perfect life and the perfect housekeeping skills because we all hate those people. And if you only blog about the perfect and ignore the imperfect, that’s as good as pretending to be perfect, which is just as bad only duplicitous as well.

I have nothing wise to say on this subject. It’s just something I’ve thought lately. A blogger narrates their story as they choose, it’s our prerogative. We are unreliable narrators, of course, because we can’t see ourselves from above, and because we can’t tell everything even if we wanted to. As a reader, you takes what you gets, and you build a picture that might be true or false or somewhere in between. You impose your own expectations and assumptions and irrational likes and dislikes on what I’ve said, and I have no control over what you end up with. That’s your prerogative.

And somewhere way back along the line, all we wanted to do was pass the time, writer and reader both. Life is complicated.

Happy camper

I’m filling in summer camp forms for the children. I want them to take Mabel as well as her brother, so I’m just going to leave some sections of hers blank, I think.

You can figure out for yourselves which parts of this I’m not really submitting.

  • Child’s likes and dislikes: Likes: active play, imaginary play. Dislikes: You, probably.
  • Enjoys these physical activities: Climbing (trees, onto the top of the car), bike riding (barefoot), balancing precariously and swinging upside down over concrete surfaces.
  • My child has difficulty with these activities: Cleaning up, being polite to authority figures.
  • Things my child might need help with: Drying/dressing after swimming.
  • Fears and concerns of the participant: That you might not operate entirely according to her wishes.
  • Specific behavioural concerns: That she might be horrible to everyone.
  • Triggers of the specific behavioural concerns: Crossing her in any way, thwarting her will, etc.
  • What behavioural techniques have been successful that can be maintained during the program? Flagrant bribery with new dolls, Barbies, trips to Target, ice cream. 

I tell myself that she’s perfectly fine (mostly) at school and camp is just like school only more fun (probably). She’ll be a model camper.


(And I’ll get two weeks of six blessed hours’ peace Every Day.)

Mabel eating a s'more
Do they have s’mores at camp?