Category Archives: meta

15 from ’15

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.)

  1. 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.
  2. Favourite Post
    Once again, this category gives me trouble. Do I have to pick just one? Here’s a selection, chronologically:
    A stormy night
    Why I love New York City
    Dash turning nine
    Baseball
    Faith
    Fireflies
    Trust, which it turns out is very much like Faith
    Mabel turning seven
  3. Favourite Photo
    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:

    Mountains and a beach and a big sky with clouds

    This one of the Kerry mountains at Clochane strand

    Dash and Mabel walking through a painted tunnel

    Or this one of the kids looking like an album cover, about a week ago

  4. Best Adventure
    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.

    Small harbour and island with tower

    Dalkey Island

  5. Favourite Craft
    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.
    IMG_2586
  6. Favourite Food I Blogged About
    I didn’t do much food blogging this year, but this post from the summer covered a lot.
  7. 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.
  8. Favourite Comment
    Emily and Tric were my most frequent commenters. I love all my comments. No favourites.
  9. Favourite Celebration
    My birthday, I think. I spent it introducing my children to my the rock pools I played in as a child.

    Mabel on a small Irish beach

    Sandycove at mid-tide

  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. My Favourite Title
    Let’s take this one, even though it’s an old joke: Praise Cheeses
  14. 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.

    Map of Ireland showing provinces and counties

    Source: http://www.spirited-ireland.net/map/_counties/

  15. 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!
    15 from '15: a recap of 2015 on Where Wishes Come From

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.

Not filed under “sick children”, but it could have been

My blog was sick. Just vaguely sick, the sort of thing you could ignore mostly and just let niggle, like a cough that wasn’t going away. But it was getting worse. I thought maybe updating to the new version of WordPress (as all good bloggers should do when they’re told to) might help. I even took the heretofore unprecedented step of backing up first.

Then it turned out I couldn’t download the backing up widget. I got another one instead, and that worked okay. I clicked the “Automatic upgrade” button, and nothing happened. I kept trying for about a day, just in case the internet stars were misaligned, but they didn’t realign on their own.

I even contacted my hosting company and asked for help. The nice man couldn’t replicate my problem and suggested I clear my cache. That seemed to help, and I felt silly. Then it turned out it hadn’t helped at all.

I decided there was nothing for it but to do the update manually. I started copying over files. It appeared I could only do them one at a time. I soldiered on. When I came to folders within folders, I had to make the new folders and populate them, one file at a time. I suspected this was not what I was meant to do. As I clicked on the folders and saw what was in them, I realised it would probably take me a week. Without sleeping.

I finally asked for help. On a more local level. It’s such a cliche, but my husband does know more about this stuff than I do, even though he doesn’t have a blog. He knows what FTP means and how to make it happen. Thank heavens for husbands, and similarly enlightened people. Transferring the whole thing at once, in three batches, was but the work of a few minutes and not nearly as hard as the instructions made it sound.

Hooray! said I. A whole new day of functional blog was dawning with the advent of WordPress 4.1. But no. The glitch was still there, and getting worse. Now my Jetpack (which minds my stats and various other widgets) was no longer connecting. WordPress.com no longer recognized me. My blog was still there, still working, but I felt as if some insidious termite was breaking it down pixel by pixel.                                 .

Finally, last night, I tried my hosting company’s chat help again, and this time they agreed that there was something wrong. When the tech guy you’re chatting to replies “Hmmm,” you know you’ve presented them with something interesting. In the end I had to pay real money for an unique IP address that I need because something happened to their server. (I shouldn’t need it for long, and then I’ll get most of the money back, but it’s hardly ideal.)

And this morning I logged on and there was my blog – instantly, not after ten seconds of a page not found message – and my stats were back and WordPress.com knew me and I had to fix up all the things that had gone astray and everything was shiny and working the way it should.

And it turned out that I really do care a lot more than I thought I did about this blog and I’m glad the backup widget worked because if I hadn’t done that I’d definitely have been freaking out because as it was I was surprisingly tetchy and stressed about the whole thing. So the moral of this story is to back up your blog, boys and girls. And that if something seems wrong, you should get to the bottom of it before it gets worse. Which is probably a perfectly good metaphor for life, too.

So Maud, why did you move the blog?

I don’t know if I have a headache because I just went to the chiropractor for the first time ever and he did that thing where he makes your muscles go pop but it sounds like it’s your bones, or because Mabel pitched a massive fit about (a) not watching any TV this morning, (b) going to school, and (c) having to stay for lunch (began with a, moved on to b and c interchangeably; I may have agreed to something for tomorrow, but I’m really not sure what it was; that’s not going to come back to bite me oh no), or maybe because I made a lot of new passwords yesterday and I may or may not have some of them mixed up; but I’m just going to go ahead and post a post here anyway.

So, why did I move the blog?

At some point in the past months I did a 180-degree turnaround from “I’m perfectly happy at Blogger and why on earth would I pay money for my free hobby” to “Maybe I’ll go self-hosted.” I’m not sure quite how this happened, but a couple of things were nudging me:

  • People often seemed to have difficulty commenting in Blogger. If you have a blog, you’ll know that comments are really special and nice to get, and also I don’t like the thought of people typing things and then being frustrated because they won’t post, because I know how annoying that is when it happens to me. I’m told that more people will be able to comment more easily now that I’m on WordPress. I hope that’s true.
  • The inbuilt stats in Blogger were annoying me. They seem to count a lot of bots (my friends in Russia, as I like to call them; or China, or Indonesia), and so they’re not a realistic reflection of who’s actually reading. Now, I know that stats aren’t important and I shouldn’t get hung up on it, and I did have a Google Analytics account, but I didn’t much like that either, so hey, let’s see what WP stats are like. I’m hoping for a happy,  bot-less, medium.
  • I could have just switched from my free Blogger blog to a free WordPress.com blog, but it seems like nobody does that. Having my own domain name is, I have to admit, a little more professional, not that I’d call myself a professional blogger, because I’m pretty sure you have to earn money to be a professional at anything; but I see my blog as PR for my online self, and in that sense I do want to look professional.

For when my plans for online world domination come to fruition, you know.

Some time in December I happened across this blog post, linked from BlogHer, and since it appeared to tell me exactly what I needed to know, I saved it for later. Once I had my big 10/1000 post out of the way, it felt like a good time for a new beginning, so I hemmed and hawed and asked B what he thought and then Mabel slept all night and I was filled with verve and vim and vigour and other good v words and apparently up for a challenge and I just did it. In case you want to know, this is basically what I did:

  1. Went to BlueHost, which is a hosting company that will also sell you a domain name if you don’t already have one. Entered the domain (funnily enough, not much competition for “Awfully Chipper” and now I suppose I’m stuck with it), chose the features I wanted, and clicked the “Take my money” button. (It’s not really called that.)
  2. Went to WordPress.org and downloaded WordPress.
  3. Went back to BlueHost and uploaded WordPress according to their instructions. Chose a theme (this is WordPress 2012, which is free but should be reliable, unlike some free themes you might find randomly on the Internet) and then clicked the big red button that says Import Blog from Blogger (it’s not really red; it might actually say something slightly different; this is not a tutorial), crossed my fingers, squinted sideways at the screen, and it was all there before you could say Bob’s your Jiminy Cricket’s uncle.

I still haven’t done steps 8 to 13 of the original instructions, and my Blogger blog is still there for now, but I’ll work it out in time.

Girl with balloon

 

 

10/1000

It’s a big day on the blog.

Today, if you like to look at the dates in the sidebar to confirm, it has been exactly ten years since my first post.

Coincidentally, this is my one thousandth post. (It’s not often you have to count to the number one thousand of anything. Which is probably why that word “thousandth” looks very very strange. But it’s right, don’t worry.)

I admit, this isn’t entirely a coincidence. I noticed back in December that these two milestones were approaching, and I thought it would be nice to make them happen on the same day. So there’s been a certain amount of deleting forgotten drafts and then deleting too many and then frantically realising I had to find something to say for three days in a row… but you don’t need to know about these behind-the-scenes minutae.

I also am bound to admit that that’s not quite one thousand published posts – some thirty of them or so are drafts; but they’re not just a saved semicolon to make up the numbers. Sometimes I put something in drafts and label it “Notes for just me,” never to be published; there are some that might still legitimately be considered works in progress.

List of posts showing 1000

And I can’t quite say I’ve been blogging steadily for ten years; but I’ve been blogging unsteadily. I don’t know if anyone ever delves into the deep dark of the distant archives, but I like having them there, as a virtual scrapbook that can plonk me straight back into the person I was two children ago, or one, or when they were smaller. I have a terrible memory; I like to have things written down.

If you’re reading, whether you’ve been around for years or just found me recently, I’m delighted to have you, and today would be the perfect day to leave me a quick comment, if you can. (I know commenting is tricky for some people. Sorry about that. It’s not me, it’s Blogger.)

Thanks for being here. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

Letters for "Blog" in fridge magnets

 

Round ’em up

More than once lately, Dash has done something and then turned to me and remarked, “That was pretty resourceful of me, wasn’t it?”

Before that time I said it two weeks ago, the R word wasn’t even on his radar; now, his entire self-image has been tweaked, just slightly, to include the word “resourceful” as something he can be – and he’s looking for ways to make it come true. That’s a pretty impressive indictment of how our words can shape our children for good or otherwise.

______

This does not change the fact that he’s been wandering around like a lost soul since we got home an hour ago, asking me and his father what he can do, because he has no way of entertaining himself without a TV. (We still have a TV. For some reason he’d forgotten about it and until five minutes ago, when I finally cracked, I was managing not to remind him.) This is the curse of the extrovert child.

______

It’s still New Year’s Eve here, even though the clock has ticked past the twelve in other places. But I think I’m still allowed to do some sort of year’s round-up – so here goes.

I have 198 published posts from this year. I took part in three blog marches and a virtual baby shower with the Irish Parenting Bloggers, and participated in two Carnivals of Natural Parenting. Posts of mine were both featured on and syndicated by BlogHer. I started Tweeting. I was shortlisted for a Blog Award Ireland. I wrote less here than the previous two years, but I started to think of myself as a writer in a way that I hadn’t before.

We will see where that takes me in 2014.

Happy new year, everyone, and thanks for being here.

Dash and Mabel

Increasingly long-winded thoughts on Twitter, which is why I’m not very good on Twitter

Thoughts on Twitter, from the perspective of one who came from Facebook.

  • It’s very good for my editing, trying to get what I want to say down to 140 characters.
  • But it’s a terrible way to have an actual conversation.
  • The people, myself included, are more fickle. Because there’s no mutuality, you can follow and unfollow guilt-free. I follow someone famous for a while, their too-frequent, or too-boring tweets annoy me, I unfollow them. I suppose in FB we just hide the status updates; unfriending is a lot more drastic.
  • The people are more willing to listen to total strangers. On FB, generally speaking, I won’t friend someone I haven’t met unless I know exactly who they are and feel I have some sort of connection with them on a message board or through blogging. On Twitter a whole bunch of total strangers follow me. I don’t even know why, but it’s all very ego-stroking. (I mean, I don’t know why they follow me. I do know why it strokes the ego.)
  • And then, even more surprisingly, total strangers seem willing to engage with me in some sort of exchange. A usually frustrating one if I’m trying to actually impart information (see point 2 above) but not a bad one if we’re just tossing quips back and forth. Or insults. Whatever.
  • I’ve had a Facebook page for the blog for a couple of years now and it’s just creaking up to 73 likes. I’ve been on Twitter since January of this year and already I have 80 followers. How does that work? And then some of my followers are corporate-type things that, what, think I’ll just blindly follow them back? Does anyone do that? How is that good for business?
  • And then, I don’t understand how people can follow thousands of others. The Bloggess, to take a “famous” blogger, for example, has 320,000 followers. Lucky her. But she follows 19,000 herself. She can’t read 19,000 people’s tweets. Even if some of them don’t tweet much. I doubt if she even clicked the “Follow” button 19,000 times, for that matter. So how does this happen, and what’s the point? Do people just follow people to be nice, and then ignore them? I follow people whose tweets I want to see, but maybe I’m doing it wrong.

In summary, I’m finding Twitter surprisingly nice. It connects me with old and new people in the blogging community in an oddly different way from Facebook, in Ireland and the US (and elsewhere too for all I know). I thought it would just be covering the same ground again, but it’s complementary rather than duplicatory. So, um, go click the button over there and follow me.

Biting and writing

Things and stuff, things and stuff. It’s nice to be back here with my things and my stuff and all the Christmas decorations put away since I never put any out to begin with. Dash is at school and Mabel is napping, since she woke up at 3.30am thank you jet lag. I think I might bake something soon.

Speaking of which, it is an excellent idea to bake something just before you go away and leave it in the freezer so that when you come back and you’re mainlining tea to keep awake, you have something nice and homemade to go with it just 15 seconds in the microwave away. The only thing I did wrong was to leave only six chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins waiting for us, because they didn’t last long.

Other things you might have missed because I didn’t mention them here include the fact that Dash lost his first tooth (not counting that one he knocked out as a baby, a mere month after it came in, great maternal trauma):

It (the bottom one – the top opposite is the gap he’s basically always had) was wobbly, and wobblier, and I thought Santa might be bumping into the Tooth Fairy but it held on a few days longer and then he and Mabel and their dad and their cousins, but not me because I escaped to meet a friend and also had bashed my toe a la Amalah that morning*, all went ice-skating and when they stopped for an ice-cream break his father pointed out that his tooth was gone. And Dash said “Is it?” and so we think he swallowed it but maybe it’s out there on the ice somewhere waiting to trip someone up.

Then there were some negotiations and a note was written to the Tooth Fairy (by me, which is a little ironic) explaining that Dash would like dollars, not euros, and also that he had swallowed the tooth, and I had to tell him that the Tooth Fairy had left her dollars in Dublin where we were not at that moment, so also that he would like to get his money tomorrow night instead. I think he was a bit jaded by the whole charade, but he wanted his dollars, dammit, and luckily for him the Metro ticket machine had given me dollar coins just before we left the country, so it all worked out. Though the writing notes to myself was a bit surreal.

……..

I did some writing (elsewhere, to which I’d rather not link because it has my real name, but if you came here from there that’s lovely and I’m thrilled to see you, please stick around) and got lots of nice comments and some off-the-wall ones that made me think about, well, how you can never tell the full story, I suppose. Maybe what I’m trying to do here is to make you understand me, but that’s nonsense because there’s always more, there are always qualifications, provisos, quid pro quos (thank you, Genie from Aladdin), ways in which I have to explain that I didn’t mean what you thought I meant, I meant something else.

Clarity; I like clarity. That’s why I’m an editor. I disambiguate. But eventually you have to just leave it alone and accept that you can’t get everything across to everyone, and you wouldn’t actually want to.

So I will continue to offer snippets of what the ex-pat experience is for me, and how Ireland feels and how America feels, and try to find words that explain how the cold hard sunlight outside my window parches the grass of the backyard in winter in an entirely different way from the soft air of my homeland, where you don’t understand why they talk about how green it is until you go somewhere else and then come back.

……..

Other items of note: I now have a Search tool (over there -> under the tag cloud), and you can sign up for e-mail updates whenever I post, if you like that sort of thing. And I made some tabs and put all the links to other people’s blogs on one, so you should take a look at that.

And if I can gently remind you here that liking me on Facebook and/or following me on Twitter makes me very happy and gets you extra bits of wit and wisdom and cute photos sometimes, as well as links to new posts, I’ll do that too.

……..

Time to read a book and bake something and wonder when I have to wake Mabel in order to pre-emptively rescue bedtime.

* My toe was not actually broken. I wasn’t limping at all by the next day. But still, ow.

Blog marching

If you scrutinize this page minutely every time you upload it, as I’m sure you do, you might have noticed a couple of new things recently. For one thing, I changed my ocean waves header to a dappled sky one, which is only a little more autumnal, but until I get a good photo of orange leaves or something, it’ll have to do.

For another thing, I joined Twitter. This may or may not turn out to be a good idea. I don’t have a fancy phone, so I’m only updating it from my computer, which I’m sure is Not The Point, but oh well. If you’d like to follow me, as I’m told people do over there, I’m @AwfullyChipper. I’ll tweet a link to new blog posts, so it’s another handy way to keep up to date. (Ooh, note to self: remember to do that.) Also, if you follow me, I’ll follow you. Not in a stalkery way, of course.

But most importantly, there’s a new logo over there –> proclaiming that I’m a proud member of the Irish Parenting Bloggers group. And so I am. If you’re interested in reading some great Irish blogs, click Subscribe and we’ll bring all the updates straight to you.

Right now, some of the group have come together to bloggily protest the proposed cuts to the Child Benefit allowance – so let me tell you what’s going on with that. Currently, all Irish parents (/guardians/caregivers), regardless of income, are entitled to a certain amount monthly per child – in the same way that parents in the US receive tax relief for their children. The government of Ireland, as you might have heard, is somewhat strapped for cash right now, however, and they’re proposing to take some of this benefit away to use it for something else.

At first glance, this seems pretty reasonable. From the US perspective, being paid for your children sounds somewhat – gasp! – socialist. Definitely liberal. Practically – excuse my French – French. Reducing the amount a bit, not taking it all away or anything like that, seems fair enough. Some people are saying it could be means-tested so only the people who really need it will get it.

Well. Lemme explain further. A lot of the election rhetoric in the US at the moment concerns the “squeezed” middle-income segment. The middle-income segment in Ireland is so squeezed right now that you could put it in a glass and call it lemonade. Very bitter lemonade with no sugar.

Now I’ve never been a parent in Ireland, so I don’t really have a dog in this race. I left the country when times were still good, during the boom, before the bust had really got going. I didn’t buy a house there, or even think about buying one, when the house prices were insanely high. I got laid off from my cushy IT-sector job, true, but I was planning to emigrate anyway and I got a nice little redundancy package, so that all worked out well. My memories of the children’s allowance are of my mother buying me a pair of shoes, or maybe buying herself a pair of shoes, with it. I always thought of it as a nice extra, not something we needed.

But times have changed. Well-educated, fully employed, fiscally responsible adults with children in Ireland nowadays are often counting on that part of their income for more than just an extra pair of shoes. Maybe they’re budgeting it for their children’s only pair of shoes for the (cold, muddy, Irish) winter, along with their school uniforms and the exorbitantly priced schoolbooks. Maybe it’s a vital component of their artificially inflated mortgage for the modest house they own in a regular neighbourhood. It might be the difference between a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics for a five-year-old with strep throat and just waiting it out with honey and lemon. It might just mean they can get dinner on the table every night and pay the electricity bill as well.

Here’s the part of the blog post at The Clothesline that really shocked me:

My eldest daughter is on a waiting list for Occupational Therapy. Current waiting times 16 months. A private assessment costs €550. That is 4 months of child benefit I get for her. A private session of occupational therapy costs €80. Two a month and its over the amount of child benefit I receive per month. Our Health Insurance does not cover it.

My son was waiting 17 months for an out patients appointment to see an ENT. His appointment was in August. He was not examined. We queued and queued and saw a doctor who said he would bring my son in for a sleep clinic in the next few weeks. That was two months ago not a word from them since. He is also on a waiting list to see a Optomalogist. Current Waiting time 22 months.  The cost to see a consultant privately – €180. We have seen two at the cost of two months of his Child Benefit payment.

My youngest daughter had a problem with her teeth. She was just shy of two. The HSE dentist said there was nothing they could do. Full stop. Nothing. I asked could we go privately. She said the cost would be in excess of €10,000 as we would need a surgical team. No cover from our Health Insurance. We managed to get her sorted through a different route. The doctors we saw kept telling us how lucky we were that they were seeing her. I don’t think we were lucky at all. I do not think you should have to fight and fight and fight to get a medical appointment for a child under two. A baby.

I always said we’d go home if we could. I always said we’re not in the US for ever. But reading the stories I’m reading makes me wonder if we’d be crazy to consider it, even if we had the opportunity. It’s slowly dawning on me that maybe this is still the land of opportunity, in many ways. Here in the US, with health insurance, I can take the kids to the doctor for $15 a go, so I take them whenever I’m feeling iffy about something. If I had to pay 50 or 60 euros a time (because Irish health insurance doesn’t cover GP visits), that would be a different story.

My son is in public school here, but he has music, PE, and art two to three times a week, with dedicated teachers. He woudn’t get those extras in an Irish national (public) school, I suspect. Here, his books are paid for and there’s no uniform and no “voluntary contribution”, though we do buy school supplies and volunteer for the PTA and contribute to fundraisers. Irish “free” schooling costs a whole lot more. (Though I should add that Irish private schooling doesn’t reach the giddy heights of expense it does here either, at primary, secondary, or even university levels.)

If my children needed to be evaluated for speech or developmental delays, or to recieve early intervention therapy, it would happen quickly, and at least some of the services would be freely provided by the county. Not so in Ireland.

The cost of living in Ireland is high, due to its geographical isolation, the climate, the small size of the country, the government taxes on everything… Cars are expensive, gas/petrol costs a lot, you have to heat your house ten months of the year, and the weather’s often crap. It’s beautiful, the people are lovely, and it’s home. When you live there, you just battle on, because you’ve no choice.

I’ve never been a parent in Ireland for longer than our annual trips home, which is why I’m not making an official contribution to the “blog march” against cutting the child benefit. But if you’re one of my Irish readers, or you’re interested, I encourage you to take a look at the posts linked there from the parents this is hitting. What I’m seeing from these bloggers is that the whole system in Ireland – health, education, finance – is broken, and the child benefit allowance is an easy target. The ordinary people of Ireland are pissed off, because the bankers made a mess of the whole economy and every year in the budget, they’re made to pay for the fat cats’ mistakes.

I have no solution to propose. If I was trying to balance a budget out of nothing at all, maybe this would look like the least bad place to get a few shillings – shillings to put back into something that needs it even more, like the healthcare system, that is.

But my heart hurts for my country and its people – its nice, ordinary, good people – who didn’t do anything wrong but will have to pay, one way or another, again.

Metapost

Normally, I try not to blog about blogging. It tends to send me down a rabbit-hole of introspection, which is very fascinating to me, but not so much to you lot. Maybe. Every now and then, though, I suppose I can get away with breaking my rules.

See, earlier today I wrote a post about going back to work. At least, about how maybe once Mabel is back at school, and five mornings a week this year instead of just three, I might look for some freelancing. Except I took a good six paragraphs to say it. And then I thought, “This isn’t very interesting. Why am I writing this?”

So, why indeed? If my blog is just for me, it doesn’t have to be interesting to anyone else. This post, for instance, will also not be interesting to many other people. And sometimes I just need to write things out to explain them to myself, or to get to the meat of what I actually meant to say.

In which case, I should then delete the first six paragraphs and then publish the meat, but these days I don’t really have time to get there.

Which brings me to the quantity versus quality question. Right now, my fingers are clicking away as fast as they can because the children are upstairs with their father, who is overseeing the bath. Soon they’ll be back, and then it’ll be bedtime, and then I’ll have another little while before I’m distracted by someone watching Star Trek Enterprise beside me, or possibly something else I’m more interested in. (Though actually, Enterprise isn’t half bad. Sometimes I get sucked in.)

The way I see it, it’s easier for me to update my blog almost daily than rarely. Because almost daily is a habit, and rarely far too easily becomes never. And by writing through the dross we sometimes arrive at the good stuff. I don’t want you to have to read the dross, but maybe you don’t mind either. Not every post can be a great one, and anyway, sometimes my most popular posts are the ones I thought I just threw up against the wall to see if anything stuck. (The one about packing, for instance, has proved surprisingly well-frequented.)

As an editor, all this dross annoys me, but I’m not going to go back and cut swathes through my archives, because as a writer, each individual piece of dross is my baby. Not my perfect baby, but nevertheless, born of my fingers and brought to the light of screen by nobody but me and the nice people from Blogger.

So what do you think (before they get out of the bath)? Are you willing to put up with the dross to get the meat? Have you a higher dross tolerance than I thought? Would you prefer I posted less often with more focused, pared-down, edited content? And at the end of it all, do I care? Because after all, is this blog for me or for you?

You tell me.