I’m a big old St Patrick’s Day curmudgeon. This is not news to anyone who was here last year or any other year. I don’t want to wear green today or get drunk today (well, sure, but children) or set up leprechaun traps today or listen to traditional Irish music today and I’m only just getting over the mortification of having to see Enda Kenny visit Donald Trump today.
When the word went out that this year’s international dinner at Dash’s school this Sunday would have live Irish music and dancing, I went from vaguely wondering if we could get out of it to deciding that I really didn’t have to show up to everything they put on.
No, it’s not sideways. That’s the way they drew the map.
Then I wondered if I was really a terrible person, denying my children access to their heritage like that. Am I like one of those immigrants who refuses to speak the language of the old country to their children so that they’ll assimilate better, thus taking the wonderful benefits of bilingualism out of their family’s grasp?
Actually, no. I don’t like traditional Irish music or step dancing. It’s part of my national heritage, but it’s not something I feel any personal connection to. Same goes for GAA (that’s hurling and Gaelic football). And we’re not even Catholic any more. But you know what my kids will grow up with?
A Hiberno-English vocabulary that they can turn on and off at will.
A bookshelf full of books by British and Irish authors many of whom are less well known here, from Oliver Jeffers’ picture books to Joyce’s Ulysses and a lot in between.
Knowledge of the canon of Father Ted, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, and various other bits and pieces of nerdy 80s trivia befitting children of Irish people our age.
A better grasp of Irish and European geography and history than many Americans.
An understanding that other countries are just as valid and real as the USA and that normal is an ever-shifting concept.
Familiarity with the Dublin Monopoly board.
Access to plenty of excellent Irish hits of the 80s and 90s, should they choose to indulge.
Their grandfather’s watercolours of Irish scenes and historical maps of Ireland on the walls.
Not all Irish authors, but all from that side of the pond
And then there’s that book I wrote, too. It’s set in Ireland.
I think they’ll be secure enough in their cultural heritage even if it doesn’t extend to a spot of the old diddly-aye.
Another linky, but this time I’m partaking, not starting. Nicola at Simply Homemade wrote a totally irresistable post – I actually had to trawl my archives to make sure I hadn’t done this already, because it seemed so much like something I’d do. (I have a lot of archives. If I didn’t tag it properly I might never find it.)
The concept is simple: a list of the songs that have been meaningful through your life. The execution… this is going to take a LOT of thinking.
Nicola already used Boney M’s by the River of Babylon, which is one of the first songs I remember, so I’ll have to pick one of the others. I could choose Brown Girl in the Ring, which I certainly remember twirling around to while it played on the radio, but I think I’ll pick this one, which is possibly the cutest song ever (listen for the plot twist at verse three) and very very redolent of my young childood. I was three the year this was the UK Eurovision entry.
Oh good lord, I’ve just realised that I could do this whole thing through meaningful Eurovision entries. I’ll try not to, but I can’t make any promises.
Honorable mention for this one, from a few years later – 1980 when I was 7. I was just a smidge young for disco dancing to this (ahem), but it’s absolutely iconic.
I have this weird random memory of being in a department-store shoe shop in London where this song was playing. (We would have been visiting my English relatives at Easter, probably.) It got under my skin and I found myself humming it for years afterwards, able to conjure up that exact moment with the chorus. I would have been 10 or 11, assuming it was playing on the radio as a new release. (This memory might be totally wrong. Maybe it was Switzers in Dublin.)
Honestly, I was never very much into music as a teen. I didn’t know where to find music, I had no older siblings to influence me, I went along with my friends’ obsessions but didn’t really find them hitting me as hard as they did them. My best friend loved A-Ha and Wet Wet Wet – I remember her playing a new album to me, me thinking it was okay but were we just going to sit around listening to it all afternoon? She also played me this old one, that her dad the Mary Black fan had introduced her to – and again, it’s a moment that has stuck in my mind, sitting on the floor in her darkened living room (curtains never to be opened for fear of fading the carpet) with the purple velvet sofa, trying hard but not quite managing to be moved by this. Apparently I had no soul.
I’ll spare you the songs I did gym routines to (though I can still name them); but I one of the first tapes I owned was Now Thats What I Call Music 10, which I played over and over. Really, though, it was a gem. At least, tape 2 was. At least, some parts of it were. This one: this one I liked a lot.
I really feel like I’ve written this post before. I bet it’s in here somewhere … anyway. One more from the school years, I think, before we go crazy at college. I could put in Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, because that was our Sixth Year song, or The Boxer, which we also sang at school, or all of Handel’s Messiah for that matter, but instead I’ll take you to the Gaeltacht where the Honours Irish class spent a weekend honing our conversational Irish before the oral exams. We went to Peig-land (i.e. the environs of Dingle) and stayed in self-catering cottages where we had a stereo on the mantelpiece and a constant argument about what music to put on. Mary Black and my George Michael album were about the only things everyone was okay with. I was very proud to be so generally acceptable.
I think we can move on up to the disco-attending years now. I should say nightclub, of course, because a disco is very naff and we were sophisticated young adults who could legally drink (at 18 in Ireland, Americans) and who went to nightclubs. I wasn’t a big drinker and I didn’t have much money, but Hollies was free for members on Wednesdays and Sundays, you could even take the Dart to Blackrock where there’d be nobody on duty to check for a ticket and walk up the long road to the Stillorgan Park Hotel, and four in a taxi back to Dalkey split up pretty cheaply. I wasn’t there for the shifting (generally speaking) or the drink, I was mostly there for the dancing. Sometimes we went to Stradbrook, and that was a rugby club disco, but you could walk home if you were really desperate and you were in a big group.
This one, which I had a lot of trouble finding because I call it The Elephant Song – for reasons that are lost in the mists of my brain – always says Stradbrook to me. And I like it better than the other absolute staple of those years, Right On Time.
I spent an Erasmus year in Spain – ’93 to ’94 – and I should probably illustrate that with The Macarena, but I’m definitely not going to do that. Let’s have some nice Crooded Hoosie (as the Spanish DJs called them) because I liked them then.
Sorry, I’ve just been lost in reverie for a while. There are an awful lot of songs I could put here for Spain – I suppose I met a lot of new people and was exposed to a lot of new-to-me, not to the world, music in that year – Neil Young, James Taylor, Pink Floyd … hmm. It was an interesting time.
I’ll put a song in here for the time when I was a young upwardly mobile professional in Dublin, during the Celtic Tiger years when all we had to spend our money on was dinners out in fancy restaurants and too much wine. And when we threw dinner parties we put on songs like this one:
B and I put together an entire CD of songs to be our wedding favors, so picking just one to stand for our relationship is tricky. I’ll go for this, which still manages to remind me of the cold-glistening Atlantic ocean off Lisbon, a mere week-long blip in our very very long-drawn-out courtship.
And, if you’ll humour me with another, our first-dance song:
Then came the extended new-music drought when I had small children and just wanted to listen to glorious silence in the rare moments when nobody was wailing or fighting, and when they would immediately yell at me to turn off the horrible music if I tried to play anything at all in the car. (The classical station got some airplay for quite a while.) These years are marked by songs we sang, in vain, to try to soothe the furious beasts. Like this one.
And gradually we emerged from that, all of us together, listening to the oldies station and the not-quite-such oldies station on the radio in the car, belatedly discovering the mainstream likes of Katy Perry and Adele, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 along with the much-overplayed soundtrack to Frozen and the odd other thing – Dash was obsessed with Steely Dan’s Haitian Divorce for a while back there. So I’ll pick the Cups Song – one of the first, and one we all still like.
I hope you got a nostalgia kick from a few of those. Now head over to Nicola’s and see what everyone else has chosen.
Update for bloggers: I’ve made this a linky. Tell me yours! Check out the link at the bottom.
Listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack (all the time) and a thunderstorm (right now).
Watching:Liberty’s Kids on YouTube (Dash and Mabel). Torrential rain (me). At other times, The Crown and Orphan Black.
Playing: Jacksmith on Coolmath Games (the kids, on devices). Seems to be good.
Oak contemplates a toy, for the very much killing of
Reading:The Hammer of Thor (Dash, by himself, though he’s heard it before); Harry Potter book 1 (Mabel, by herself, she’s heard it before many times; we’ll see if she sticks with it because she has a history of starting books and never finishing them). I also just finished reading Charlotte’s Web to Mabel, which at 8 she’s finally the right age for, given that Fern in it is 8 and also that we’ve started it twice before but it never held her interest. We’ve started The Long Winter by Laura Ingall’s Wilder now; I was warned that it’s fairly traumatic so we’d taken a break from the Little House books for a while. It’s nice to go slowly through a series instead of blazing through it (like we’ve done with all the Rick Riordans). Personally I’m between books at the moment, though I did treat myself to the new editions of NODWE and Hart’s Rules, for professional development reasons.
Aren’t they lovely? No? Just me, then?
Looking forward to: The Oscars. (Ok, fine, mostly just me.)
Drinking: A nice cup of tea. At other times, white wine because the weather’s so unseasonably warm.
Wearing: Sandals. In February. Which is all wrong.
Birch, bravely killing a thing
Eating: A fancy macaron my husband brought me because he went to the mall and I didn’t.
Working on: Final layout for the print version of book two. Yay.
Permanently frustrated by: The mess.
Enjoying: The cats.
Not enjoying: The fact that one of the cats may have ringworm but I can’t bring myself to isolate him in the basement or keep him away from his brother so we’ll probably all get it. I tried to at least keep him out of the bedrooms, but Mabel doesn’t want to sleep with her door closed so they get in anyway… (NB Ringworm is not a worm. It’s a fungal infection. We are treating it topically and waiting for lab confirmation before getting medication. I am over-optimistically hoping it’s some other little random patch of ick.)
Here are some things I have learned, in my ten and a half years of having small people hanging out of me. They are deep wisdom and I will give them the hashtag “parenting truths”.
Sleep when the baby sleeps is both true and bullshit. Yes, you should, and maybe you could, but time spent zoning out on the sofa without a small body attached to you is also very important.
The days are long and the years are short. But the nights are longest of all, and staying in the moment is sometimes the last thing you want to do.
It’s good to be present, but it’s good to take photos too because some people have crappy memories.
When you’re a stay-at-home parent, the other parents in your community are you co-workers. Treat them accordingly: with respect, friendliness, and an awareness that you’re going to be encountering each other for a long time to come, so don’t burn any bridges.
It’s okay to look at your phone at the playground. You’re not ignoring your child, you’re fostering their sense of independence. And you might be reading War and Peace, not Facebook.
You can breastfeed anywhere you want. If someone doesn’t like it, squirt them in the eye.
The most important reason not to use your device to distract your child is that you will want it back. And they will drop it. Or discover Minecraft. And then you will have to buy yourself a new device. Which they will want, because it’s better. So you’ll give them the new one and have your old one back and then you’ll have to put up with a crappy device with a cracked screen for ever.
Teaching children to read as early as possible is a terrible idea. You don’t want them reading distressing newspaper headlines, or the profanity-laden text you just sent, or the No Parking sign you just flouted.
Always get the dye-free Motrin. Your kid might be fine with Red 40, but your white cushions won’t be.
What your child does is not your fault. Unless it was the right thing. Then it’s 100% down to your excellent parenting.
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.
Sometimes the point of the blogging is simply that it’s nice to have one thing in my life that is within my control. My blog has no ulterior motives, it won’t do things and refuse to tell me why, it will eat its vegetables when presented with them, and if I tidy it up, it damn well stays tidy.
Other times, the chaos takes over and I’ve no energy for extras, even if they’re the extras that make me feel better.
So much for my lofty (that is, minimal) spring break plans. In the event, Mabel had a short-lived bug and then I had one that lingered, so that today is really the first day I feel like I can tackle things normally again, and the whole week is over. We got through it with a few playdates and a lot of television and minecraft time, and it’s just as well I didn’t really have anything pressing on my list of Things We Could Do, which were mostly just Things To Pass The Time Somewhat Usefully rather than Things That Had To Be Done. The kids got a break from schoolwork and homework, and we got a break from the school run and packing lunches, and the trees are in bloom and everything’s fine.
You can tell I feel better because my world-view has righted itself again. Yesterday that paragraph might have been a lot gloomier.
I think I can impose enough fake order on my life again to write things down about it now. Maybe a list of the blog posts I could write but won’t would be the best way to bring things swiftly up to date:
How to Host a Harry Potter Birthday Party for a Ten-Year-Old Extrovert Who Insists on Inviting Everyone He’s Ever Known. (Contents to make themselves known after the fact, in a few weeks’ time.)
How to Lose Those Pesky Five Pounds Before Summer (MyFitnessPal is helpful or you could just catch a virus, so long as you weren’t wanting to use energy for anything, ever)
Casual Misogyny, Classism, and Racism in the Works of Neville Shute; But I Still Like The Stories
Packing For Dublin in April (Layers. It’s always layers. Maybe a wetsuit.)
That Time I Was Briefly And Expensively Paranoid And Now I’m Getting New Glasses
Dressing For A Black-Tie Wedding in Twenty-Four Simple Steps of Buying And Returning Dresses, Shoes, And Support Garments
Being Sick Is Crap And It’s Much Nicer When You’re Better
My absence from the paid workforce for the past years has given me valuable experience and enabled me to develop skills and abilities that will make me an asset to your team. Please consider the following in lieu of things that I might otherwise have done in an actual office during that time period.
Produced miniature human out of own body twice with limited outside aid.
Seven years’ experience feeding children from appendages of own body. Job requirements: tenacity, patience, high pain tolerance, high boredom threshold.
Almost ten years’ experience as mother, stay-at-home parent, mom, Mooooom, Mummy!, food source, youth fashion buyer, household organizer, holiday booker, human pacifier, maker of rod for own back.
Kept appointment diary for CEOs and ensured that they attended all required events (doctor, dentist, family Christmas, nursery school open day) as scheduled.
Provided hugs, kisses, and band-aids on a daily basis, even when no visible injury present.
Invested personal resources into developing ability to say no and stick to it.
Finely tuned ability to remain open to persuasion and see multiple points of view.
Learned to tune out “noise” and focus on what’s important. (This mess and my cup of tea, respectively.)
Professional certifications and awards:
Advanced level not giving a fuck
Distraction and redirection, toddler level: gold star
“Above and Beyond” award for licking a hanky and rubbing your face with it while you squirm
Question-answering 101 and beyond, graduated with honors
1st place, Pretending to listen and making appropriate response noises, 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15; has been awarded the trophy in perpetuity
Master’s degree in Getting out of bed at 3am
I’m sure you will appreciate how many of these experiences, qualities, and qualifications will prove invaluable to me going forward in the workplace; and the others are clearly testament to my strength of character and had better have some sort of payoff in years to come, dammit.
With the new year comes the existential angst, apparently. And after that, the smaller-picture, what-am-I-doing, am-I-getting-anywhere angst. So now I’m both worrying about how we’ll sustain our entirely modern-life dependent lifestyle when the apocalypse comes and also what I’ll do when the agent turns me down (or just never comes back to me) and I have to get a real job.
And I have many criteria for a job, at this advanced stage in my life. No Doublemeat Palace for me. (Sorry; we’re re-watching Buffy.) For instance, my requirements include but are not limited to the following:
I only want to work when the kids are at school so I don’t have to arrange complicated and expensive childcare.
I also have to have enough time and flexibility to do the shopping, bring children to dentist appointments, attend parent-teacher conferences, be able to drop everything if one of them is sick, and not work school holidays because my poor snowflakes can’t be banished to camp all summer.
I would like to work from home, because commuting is just wasted time and I am busy and important and need to maximize my synergies. And also leverage them. Going forward.
Or I could work very locally, I suppose, if some sort of job would just come and plant itself on my doorstep, figuratively speaking. Somewhere in the radius of between my house and the kids’ schools.
I want to use my talents, not just do any old thing. I have many talents: I’m good at baking muffins. I can alphabetize things. I know all the words to many songs and can sing in tune if I’m in the middle of a lot of other people singing the same thing. I can be polite and friendly (if I feel like it) and also write things down clearly. I type fsat and spell good. Also, I am hardworking and efficient, just not at housework.
I’m very lazy, so it can’t be too hard. Or too busy. Or at all pressured.
But I hate being bored at work because that’s a waste of time. So just busy enough would be ideal. Deadlines stress me out unless I have everything well in hand a good week in advance.
A former boss told me never to undervalue myself. So it has to be well paid. More than I’m earning right now, at least. More than I could hypothetically earn working at Starbucks or Target or somewhere. Because hypothetically I could work there any time I wanted.
You get the idea. Part of it is terror at the idea of jumping back into the workforce, part of it is the idea that I’m not qualified for any jobs in the greater Washington DC area, much of it is ennui at the notion of all the arranging that would have to happen in order for me to have a real job, and a whole lot of it is just fear of leaping.
It is now that vague time between the One Thing and the Other Thing when we forage in the fridge for the rest of the cheese and are mildly surprised that the need to do laundry and buy milk continues just as before. Surely one of my Christmas presents should have been an invention to take all those tedious things off my hands forever more. But no.
Anyway, the other thing that happens now is people taking stock, looking back, reviewing the year, to get all that out of the way before the looking forward and making resolutions that will be happening in a few more days. So this is my 15 for 2015, part of a linky with Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From. Pop over there and see everyone else’s 15s when you’ve read this. (Here’s mine from last year, just to see how far we’ve come.)
Most Popular Post
My most popular post, according to the stats, was the Yoda Cake one, followed by Weaning and then banana muffins. The Yoda and muffin hits come from Google or Pinterest searches, and the Weaning post was part of a Carnival of Parenting linky that gets consistent visits. But my most popular new post this year happened when I discovered a new term to judge and be judged by: Lawnmower Parenting.
My favourite photo is often just my most recent. This is especially true now that I’ve taken delivery of my lovely new Christmas-present DSLR camera that takes such beautiful crisp shots. But I do have a few other faves from the year:
This one of the Kerry mountains at Clochane strand
Or this one of the kids looking like an album cover, about a week ago
Our biggest adventure this year was a three-week trip home to Ireland where we got to travel quite a bit of the country (and see some lovely Irish bloggers) as well as spending time with family in Dublin.
My knitting fell sadly by the wayside this year: I got a lovely craft bag for Christmas last year so that I could keep it somewhere safer than a shopping tote, and somehow putting it away sounded the death knell. Also, I tried and failed at socks and didn’t do anything after that. I did (re-)learn how to crochet but I didn’t actually make anything after a few exploratory squares. But I’m planning another trip to Joanne’s any day now.
Mabel and I made some nice melty-bead Christmas tree ornaments, though.
Favourite Food I Blogged About
I didn’t do much food blogging this year, but this post from the summer covered a lot.
Most Common Theme
Ireland, America, ex-pat, and parenting are my most oft-repeated tags. But I’d say the most consistent theme this year has been writing, if that’s not too meta.
Favourite Comment Emily and Tric were my most frequent commenters. I love all my comments. No favourites.
My Best Move
I probably should say “Writing a book” but I’m going to say “Sending Dash to a new school.” He’s where he should be, progressing instead of just treading water. We haven’t sorted out his reading difficulties yet, but now I feel like I have a team of experts on the case, instead of just me, floundering.
Best Blog Moment
Did I have blog moments this year? Did my blog have moments? My blog isn’t that sort of blog, most of the time. I made the shortlist in the Blog Awards Ireland, but not the Finalists this time. I was in the running for Best Writer for the Irish Parenting Blogs Awards, though, in very good company. Tric won, more power to her.
Favourite Thing I Wrote Elsewhere Aktcherly, I had an article published in a national newspaper this year; but that was as myself so I won’t link it here. The only other writing I did elsewhere was right at the start of the year when I wrote a few pieces for the brand new HerFamily.ie website. Here’s one: Six degrees of crunchy parenting.
My Favourite Title
Let’s take this one, even though it’s an old joke: Praise Cheeses
Favourite blog-series or linky
I joined in on a few linkies this year, but I’m going to nominate my own ongoing Transatlantic Subtleties series here, because it always brings out the word geeks in my readers, and I love you all for that.
What My Blog Did For Me in 2015
My blog was the place I came to talk about how the writing was going. I haven’t really told people in real life what I’m doing with my days when the kids are in school at the moment; I’m still holding out for that moment when things come to fruition and I can announce a triumph in public. But when I couldn’t keep in the impatience any more, when I had done something and needed to tell somebody – my blog was there. Thanks, blog.Head on over to Sadhbh’s place and see the rest of the linky!
Every now and then I post about whatever I’m loving at the moment. I haven’t done one for a while, so I should have plenty of new obsessions to update you on. Surely. Well, maybe a couple.
I feel like a grown-up now, because I wear scarves indoors. I was given a really big, but fine, scarf for my birthday in the summer, by my friend who has excellent taste, and now that it’s finally not the summer any more I’m wearing it constantly and loving it. I can wear it like this, or like this, or even like this, because scarves are so wonderfully versatile.
It’s chili weather! Yay! I made chili on Tuesday and we had it three days in a row and didn’t get tired of it because it was yummy. The trick is to layer the heat from different sources: I had a fresh jalapeño (no seeds, because I’m a wimp), some chili powder, a can of chili beans, a can of tomatoes with zesty jalapeños and also a little slice of chipotle pepper (originally from a can) that I keep in the freezer. Sometimes I put in a few spoonsful of salsa too. B looked at me askance when I tried to explain that this is not in fact redundancy but good cooking; but he liked the results, so ya boo.
Experiencing a resurgence in the household since a playdate where the kids’ friends were playing. I like when it’s a collaborative effort, actually, because then they’re not just staring at a screen but also cooperating while deciding what to do with the screen. That’s practically good parenting, that is. I even made a minecraft world of my own, which scored me many coolness points with the 7yo. Then I had to ask her to fix my roof because it was leaking.
Mabel needs two fillings. And an orthodontist consult. When your child has a small mouth so her teeth are very close together, you really should pay more attention to flossing than we’ve been doing. (In other news, Dash’s braces come off next week. He’s been saving his Halloween candy to celebrate.)
I’ve finally crossed over to the hippie side. Extended breastfeeding, tandem nursing, co-sleeping… they’ve got nothing on reusable menstrual products, right? That’s where you really draw that line in the granola. I’m still getting the hang of it, but the smugness factor when I use barely any paper products at that time of the month is totally worth it.