Category Archives: hilarity

Weather permitting

It’s clearly unfair that in America the concept of the snow day – when work or school is cancelled because of too much snow for your particular part of the country to handle – even exists. Ireland needs some days. I came up with a few you might like to try using on the establishment.

  • Rain days, for when the rain was pelting so hard against the window all night that you couldn’t get a wink of sleep.
  • Wind days, for when the wind is blowing your front door shut so you can’t leave the house.
  • Sheep days, for when the wind and rain are blowing the sheep sideways across the roads, causing a traffic hazard.
  • Mist days, for when you can’t see as far as the car in your driveway, let alone a bus stop. It would clearly be dangerous to venture out looking for it.
  • Radiance days, for when you’re blinded as soon as you go out by a strange shining orb in the sky. You’d better go straight back inside and take it easy in a darkened room.
  • Temperate days, for when it’s much too nice to go to school and you just have to play hooky.

Let me know how you get on with that.

Snow, trees, cars, houses

Proudly nerd parenting

I was going to write a long and edifying post on the trip to the art gallery we took this afternoon, but then I decided that the salient points were neither the wonderful free museums nor the exorbitant prices of the food in said museums nor even how the children did not express a newfound love and appreciation for art, but simply the following two episodes.

I took Mabel into the bathroom and had a proud moment as she remarked, in her clear piercing voice as I hung out in the two square inches available in her stall, “Mummy, it’s hard to decide who the main character in Star Wars is.” Then we discussed whether a baddie could be the main character, how there aren’t often girls as main characters, and how (and whether) both Anna and Elsa could count as main characters in Frozen. If you have to have a long conversation with your pre-schooler in a public bathroom, all this rates a lot higher than a repeated chorus of “Have you finished?” “Now have you finished?”

But my nerdly pride was not yet satiated.

After a quickish look at the French Impressionists and some other British and American artists (not too bad considering we mostly let the kids direct what we looked at and how long for), it was time for lunch. After sustenance we were planning to go on to the modern-art side of the museum (though it turned out to be mostly all closed, so we didn’t) and I was trying to explain how this would be different and, you know, interesting.

“After a while artists stopped trying to paint what looked real and started painting other things,” I said. “So you could look at a picture and say what you think it looks like, but there’s no one right answer.”

“Oh!” said Dash, not quite getting the point, but ready to apply it to something he had heard about recently from his father. “Like that thing in Star Trek when there was a test the captain couldn’t get right because there was no right way to do it?”

Now, your nerd quotient might not be high enough to recognize this as a description of the test in Star Trek II (The Wrath of Khan) called Kobayashi Maru, but I’ve been acquainted with my husband long enough to know exactly what Dash was talking about, even though I couldn’t swear to you that I’ve seen the movie. (Not while awake, anyway.) But I pretty much brimmed over with vicarious pride (B had gone to the bathroom when this happened, so he couldn’t do it himself) in my well-schooled little nerdling.

I like to think we’re just keeping that whole discovery-of-art thing fresh for them so they can impress the opposite sex with their sophisticated prints of Dali and Klimt on their college dorm walls. Whereas knowledge of the Star Wars and –Trek universes will stand to them much earlier.


Life skills

It’s never too early to teach your children some vital life skills:

  • Putting on your own socks.
  • Zipping up your own coat.
  • Getting each little finger into the right part of the glove.
  • Getting a tissue and blowing your own nose.
  • Throwing the tissue away instead of handing it to your mother.
  • Procuring your own bowl and spoon.
  • Opening the freezer and taking out the ice cream.
  • Pouring from the gallon jug of milk without spilling any.
  • Finding the chocolate powder in its secret hiding place.
  • Standing on a chair to undo the bolt at the top of the basement door.
  • Snaffling a piece of brand-new paper from the ream beside the printer in the basement because nobody likes using the scrap paper that’s only blank on one side.
  • Finding the TV remote on the high shelf and knowing the number for the kids’ channel.
  • Hiding the TV remote down the side of the sofa so that the rest of the family is held hostage to your whims.
  • Making sure your sibling is left in no doubt about the time you got a treat and they didn’t.
  • Checking the mailbox outside the front door; sorting real mail from junk mail.
  • Locking your big brother out of the house, with hilarious results.

On second thoughts, I’m not sure I taught them any of these things.

So, benign neglect for the win, then.


Mabel putting on her own shoes


The following episode was recounted to me, because I was asleep – or at least doing my best to pretend to be asleep – for most of it. But it’s classic Dash, so I’ll do my best to reproduce it.

Early yesterday morning – a little too early – Mabel woke up. As usual. I went into her room, agreed that she should go to the bathroom if she needed to, and welcomed her back to her bed with a mumble, as I’d lain down in it and was trying to go straight back to sleep.

I could tell that it wouldn’t work for her, though; she’s been on an early track since we came back from Ireland. Luckily, so has her father. “Daddy’s up,” I told her. “You can go downstairs.” And off with her. I snuggled down for my next hour and a half of sleep, or at least snooze.

About a minute later (I thought), I heard Dash wake up and call quietly, “Mom, Daddy!” (Yes, I’m “Mom” now. I’m still getting used to it.) I laid low and heard B come upstairs. There was some excited talk about how it was wobbly and it was just attached at the corner and then it wasn’t.

                                         Mouth with gaps at top centre right and bottom left of centre.

Apparently – this is where I move to reported speech – the tooth had fallen out. Dash was under the impression that it was the middle of the night rather than about 6.15am. He thought he should put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy right away.

Now, Dash knows all about the tooth fairy and how it really works. But he is busy amassing dollars and imaginary fairies who exchange dollars for teeth are an excellent source of revenue.

B agreed that he should do that, and left the room. Dash put himself happily back to sleep in no time flat, and B went back downstairs to Mabel and coffee and early-morning Internet or whatever it is they do while I’m trying to claw back those minutes of sleep cruelly denied to me.

About five minutes later, as far as I was aware, Dash woke up for the day. In reality it was maybe 30 minutes, and in Dash’s head it was the other half of the night. He must have glanced at his pillow, and failed to see anything. He immediately went downstairs complaining that his tooth had disappeared.

B went upstairs. There was the tooth, in plain sight, about two inches from where Dash’s eyes had apparently stopped looking. B took a silver dollar coin from our room, put it on the pillow, and palmed the tooth.

Then he went back downstairs and told Dash to look again.

“It’s a dollar! The tooth fairy came!”

Dash grinning toothily.

In some respects, he’s very easy to please.

The party of the first part

We, hereafter also known as “the host,” hereby acknowledge that we will take your child (“the guest”) for two hours (or three if you’re lucky) on a weekend afternoon. You may leave the premises and we will not call CPS and denounce you for abandonment (unless they are particularly badly behaved).

In return, you must provide, along with your child, a present, lovingly/hastily wrapped, decorated with a handmade rosette/curly ribbon/animal stamps/nothing, of a certain value that will be deemed appropriate by your parental peers but will never be mentioned and cannot be inquired about.

Your child may choose to (or you may choose that they) dress up in their “party best” for this occassion. We accept no responsibility for mud, grass, ice-cream, purple frosting, blood, snot, tears, pizza sauce, juice, or ketchup that may stain their clothes during the time they spend with us. Likewise, if you choose not to dress them up, or they choose to rebel against such dressing, we retain the right to assume that you didn’t feel we were worth making an effort for. Any such offence may, but will not always, be taken with no redress on your part. (Oops, that was a pun.)

We agree to keep your child fed and watered during the time that they attend our party. If your child is returned to you hopped up on sugar/red 40/soda bubbles, you will just have to put up with it. We hope you spent those two hours we gave you barricading your valuables and putting foam rubber on all the sharp surfaces in your house. Extra padding under the sofa springs is also advisable.

We will attempt to entertain your child in a manner that is not life-threatening or potentially mentally scarring. If these attempts backfire and your child decides to spend the duration of the party a) having a meltdown, b) playing alone with our child’s toys, or c) demanding to know when the cake will come, we reserve the right to deal with this as we deem appropriate. If things are really bad we’ll call you, but I’m sure you would rather this was our final option.

We have hopes that your child will behave somewhat reasonably, though these hopes are modified according to the age of the child in question and the number of children of that same age present. Please do not abandon us with your child if you think those hopes are completely out of the ballpark.

If your child demands to take home again the present they brought, or any other present, they will be denied. We hope this does not cause offense, because it’s non-negotiable.

The host may provide goodie-bags, but this is neither promised nor stipulated in the contract. Any children demanding a goodie bag will be unceremoniously kicked out, unless a parent is heard to be shushing them on the spot. We can provide no guarantees in re the contents of said goodie bag, except for the fact that they will probably include items of exactly choking-hazard size that your other children will immediately fight over, and some more Red 40 for good measure.

Please sign here. Have a lovely time.


Mabel was feeling a bit off-colour on Monday, because she was about to come down with a stonking head cold. I didn’t know that, of course, and I was co-oping at her school. As far as I was concerned, she was just being ornery.

I tried hard to look at it from her side: when she’s at home she’s Home Mabel and when she’s at school she’s School Mabel, but when I’m at school too, she’s both, or neither, and she’s pulled in all directions. It’s got to be hard.

But she beats the Shakespearian Insult Generator for epithets, sometimes.

At playground time she told me, of her best friend, who was sweetly trying to help, “He’s a big lump of chocolate.”

This was meant to be an insult. I pointed out that it sounded quite delicious, so she came up with a few more choice phrases for him and then turned on me.

“You’re an egg that’s been boiled and cooked in the oven.”

 I was duly chastened.

Mabel sticks out her tongue at you


I needed a storage solution for all the stuffed toys. Mabel has amassed a large number of stuffed toys, because she likes to put families together. This means that one stuffed dog/horse/cheetah is not enough: the more the better, but at least three or four so there can be a mommy, a daddy, a little sister and a big brother. Aw.

So the stuffed toys were growing out of the red box we had them in and proliferating all over the already laden shelves.

Toys overflowing from storage boxes

On a trip to Ikea I spotted the perfect thing: light, flexible, see-through, inexpensive laundry baskets. We got one for the playroom and one for Mabel’s bedroom, but after the one upstairs migrated downstairs several days in a row, I’m putting up with just having both of them down here all the time.

Isn’t that great? Don’t you think you too should use an Ikea laundry basket as stuffed toy storage?

Stuffed toys in laundry basket

Because then your children can chuck the stuffed toys all over the room and pretend they’re caterpillars turning into butterflies.

Children in laundry baskets
(This is curiously reminiscent of the bottom picture here. They’re a little bigger now.)


Things your child will want to do when they come home from school for the first few days of the new term:

  • Fight with siblings
  • Fight with you
  • Ignore your pleas to sit down and do their homework
  • Eat a lot of snacks
  • Complain about the quality of the snacks
  • Not eat dinner because they’re full of snacks
  • Demand a sandwich at bedtime because now they’re starving
  • Watch TV
  • Jump off the coffee table, repeatedly
  • Jump from the sofa onto the coffee table, repeatedly
  • Fall off the coffee table because you told them to take their socks off, but did they listen?
  • Languish on the floor, too exhausted to place one piece of lego on another, calling you to come and do it for them
  • Drop their backpack on the floor and then claim that it’s lost forever
  • Leave their backpack in the car and claim it’s lost forever and that it’s your fault
  • Well obviously

Things you will want to do when your child comes home from school for the first few days of the new term:

  • Tear your hair out
  • Cry
  • Drink heavily

Remember, it’s a phase. Things will settle down. Everything will be okay. Eventually, they will move out and allegedly then you’ll miss them.

Ancient history

I like Connie Willis. If you’ve never heard of Connie Willis, well, you’re just like the guy in my local bookshop, except that you probably don’t work in a bookshop so the fact that she’s a really great and popular and quite prolific fantasy writer is not a travesty. But he, he was a travesty. I don’t know why Books-A-Million is still alive when all the Borders Books in the area have closed down.

Anyway. This is a very long lead-in to what will probably turn out to no longer be a remotely funny anecdote when I finally get around to it. And I’m not there yet, you’ll have to wait.

I don’t get in a lot of reading these days, and when I do it goes in fits and starts. It’s usually an author I know and love, because I don’t have the patience right now to try out books that might be anything less than great. I’ll happily re-read old favourites rather than attempt something new – hence the total revisiting of Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey’s relationship earlier this year. But I discovered that Connie Willis had written a new* book – in fact, two – and put them on my birthday list. B gave me Blackout for my birthday, and I saved it to read on the way to BlogHer. I finished it last week and discovered that it’s not so much the first in a series of two, as half a story, the other half of which is another whole (even fatter) book called All Clear. So of course I had to get my hands on All Clear ASAP, without even waiting for Amazon.

Connie Willis books

This is why we ended up visiting two bookshops in two days, and why Dash ended up getting two new books in two days, even though there’s a perfectly lovely library with plenty of reading matter right there in our town. (Mabel also got one new book.) The first bookshop didn’t have any Connie Willis at all (see above), but Dash still had to get something, and he chose a National Geographic Kids book on tigers. The next day in a much better-stocked Barnes & Noble, he picked up a National Geographic Kids book on Martin Luther King and was all excited, so who was I to deny my son the reluctant reader such an educational item?

[Here, just to keep up the thrilling suspense (ahem), let me mention how great those National Geographic Kids books are. Dash is a bright, curious kid with a great vocabulary, but his reading level is not high. So trying to keep him engaged with a book that’s easy enough for him not to stumble over every word is often a struggle, because so many of the first readers are insultingly simple. He likes the “I Can Read” superhero books, and they are at a good (easy) level for him, but he also has a selection of the National Geographic ones, and those are what he looks for now in the bookstore.

National Geographic Kids titles]

Oh God, now I’ve built it up so much that I’m afraid to tell my piddly little story.


Schoolkids in America know all about Martin Luther King. The Civil Rights Movement is heavily featured in kindergarten, if not before. Even the nursery-school attendees know about him, thanks to Martin Luther King day in January every year. As an Irish schoolchild, I did not have Martin Luther King anywhere on my radar, but I must have heard his name somewhere along the line.

So at the start of secondary school (seventh grade) our history teacher began by looking at the pictures on the front cover of our textbook, Renaissance and Reformation, I think it was called, and asking if anyone knew what was depicted. Looking at a drawing of an oldy-timey man with long hair hammering a scroll to a wooden door, something I had seen or read elsewhere came back to me, and I tentatively raised my hand.

“Yes, Maud?”
I was diffident but smug: “Is it Martin Luther… King?”

As I said the first two words, it had occurred to me that there was often another one appended. Adding the “King” was an afterthought, really. I thought it would make me sound even cleverer.

Sadly, one word makes all the difference. My teacher went from admiration to amusement in the space of that single syllable. (Though really, she should have been doubly impressed: I knew two historical people, after all, even if I didn’t realise it myself.)

This morning I was recounting the story to B, who somehow had never heard it before. Dash wanted to know as well. “You knew about Martin Luther King too?” he asked, incredulous.

Whereupon B had to get all smartypants: “Martin Luther King TWO? There’s a sequel? ‘He’s back and he’s mad.'”

*New as in three years ago, apparently.

Word Girl

I know I’m biased, but I think Mabel is pretty witty for a four-year-old. She has always enjoyed words and sought out the big ones, but nowadays she finds rhymes and double meanings and asks why things are called what they are and why they aren’t called something else.

If she doesn’t become a lawyer (given her love of argument and her pathological need to have the last word) or an actress (given her flair for the dramatic and love of storytelling) or an author (obviously), she’ll be a linguist or an etymologist. She might be all of those things.

She employs puns to their fullest:

  • Watching DangerMouse – DM and Penfold land on top of the Toad and announce, “You’re under arrest.”
    Mabel: He is, because he’s lying down so he’s resting, and he’s under them!
  • Me, starting the car again after a quick return home for something it turned out we hadn’t actually left behind: “To the pool, take two.”
    Mabel: “But you’re taking three.”

She toys with idioms:

  • The day after we saw our friend and her new(ish) baby: “I remember meeting Baby V like it was yesterday.”

She plays with homonyms:

  • “Can you compare a pear?”

She finds words within words:

  • Europe! That’s like syrup! Do they eat syrup in Europe? And watch the movie Up

She knowingly amuses me with hyperbole:

  • In a grump, casting around for things to hate: “I don’t like Miss P’s bike. I don’t like the colour of your glasses. I don’t like the shape of our car. … I don’t like the colour of seethrough.”

And now she’s working the similes:

  • “It’s as dark as a bedroom.”

or, to insult my cooking

  • “It’s as yummy as bum.” 
Mabel eating a s'more
Possibly a little yummier than bum