Category Archives: random thoughts

Snapshot – a linky!

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.

Cat looking at small fluffy cat toy thing

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.

New Oxford Dic. for Writers and Editors and New Hart's Rules

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.

Cat playing on the kitchen floor

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.

Big mess in the family room

Exhibit A

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.)

At least the rain’s stopped.

View out the rainy window - wet deck but brightening sky



New Year’s Day
I feel vaguely as if I’m coming down with something but I think it’s probably just the jet lag, or the time displacement, or whatever you want to call it when you’ve had enough sleep but you’re five hours out of kilter. Yesterday we went to a kids’ New Year’s Eve party, which is a lovely tradition we seem to have become caught up in, and was just the ticket for us, because we got to count down and release the balloons and sing Auld Lang Syne at about 7:15, and we were home by 8:30. Whereupon three of us went swiftly to bed and one decided he was going to stay up and stick it out no matter what. Around 2am I heard noises downstairs and investigated to find a morose ten-year-old who had unaccountably been unable to keep his eyes open after 10:45 and had missed the whole thing. Since midnight here was 5am in Ireland, where we were until two days ago, I’m quite surprised he managed to stay up that long.

I have a 2000-piece jigsaw on the go and mostly I’d have liked to spend all day staring at it but instead we went out to a New Year’s Day party this afternoon, which was probably the best thing to do because there’s nothing like being in a room full of friends and watching your kids running around in a pack with all the other kids they know to remind you that it’s not so bad to live in a place you don’t come from, if the place you get to live in is this one.

There’s always that touch of the blues that comes with the return journey for me, that makes me wonder why we do it, why we leave what’s so right and familiar and is part of our bones and our souls – the sea and the sky and the stones and the trees – to come to this other place that has all our stuff but none of our history. Except it has all the history of our children’s childhoods now, and as our lives are entwined with theirs, so our futures and our pasts must be too.

Mabel just asked me why we can’t have someone deliver the pizza, instead of going out to get it. I made noises about it being quicker, and it being hotter that way, and because we can, but really it’s because if we got the pizza delivered, America would have won and stolen our souls. (Never mind the fact that people in Ireland also get pizza delivered.)

The day after
Today I feel properly woozy, as if I’m on a boat, or as if I just got off a boat and the world is still rocking. I keep having cups of tea and eating unhealthy things to make it stop, but so far only going back to bed for a while has actually helped. Now the boys have gone off to Rogue One and Mabel and I are watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a large bowl of popcorn.

My jigsaw met an untimely end, for now – but the good thing about jigsaws is that even when they’re broken they’re not actually broken. I’ll take it out again some time when it’s not the last day before back to school and small tempers aren’t so frazzled.

I’m starting to crave properly healthy food like lemony broccoli and yogurty dressing, but all I could throw together without a trip to the supermarket was roasted sweet potato wedges and chickpeas, with halloumi draped over them. Not bad, but a little dry.

Tomorrow, back to school, back to fresh air and exercise and normality and reality and some writing. It’s going to be good. Here goes, 2017. Don’t fuck it up for us.

Mossy tree beside a small river.

A picture from our walk in Powerscourt three days ago and half a world ago.

Technology and me

The tube part of the hoover broke last week. B says he’s fixed it, but I don’t want to put any pressure on it and break it again. Probably best not to use it at all. It can just sit there in the corner, reassuringly not broken just now.


My fancy camera’s battery was discharging very quickly. Before it was even used, in fact. I ordered a new battery, but last time I looked it seemed to already need charging too, indicating that the problem may be not so much with the battery but actually with the camera. I put the whole thing away quickly before that turned out to be true. I can just use my little camera.

It’s no secret that my phone is crappy – it has a touch screen but otherwise is barely smart at all, and I really only use it for actual phone calls and text messages. (Not SMS messages. Only plain text. I can’t read the other sort.) The other day, though, I wondered why I didn’t even have Instagram on it. (I only have instagram on my kindle, which is rarely charged up because Mabel just uses it for Minecraft.) (You can’t use Instagram on a laptop, did you know? It’s mobile only.) But every time I tried to download Instagram to my phone, it froze. Finally I did the responsible thing and tried to delete some apps, except the phone wouldn’t even let me do that.

I went and found the charger for the Kindle.

Then my laptop started working horribly slowly, taking big whirly-beach-ball breaks every time I asked it to do anything taxing like, for instance, move the cursor on a document or open a new blog post. Left to myself my reaction would be, of course, to ignore this, and hope it would go away. Luckily, I married my very own IT department, and B did some detective work and found the place deep inside the machine where it says “Hard drive failure imminent” or some such. Not just a pretty face, he backed it up and ordered me a new hard drive on the spot.

I think we can take a few things away from all this.

1: The machines are winning.

2: When something goes wrong I prefer to remain in denial as long as possible.

3: Engineering is not my forte.

4: I think I’m getting a new phone.

Objects of Me (A Blog Link-Up!)

My mother wore a small gold watch with a delicate bracelet fastening for many years. Even long after it broke and lived in her jewellery box instead of on her wrist, it was still what I thought of as her watch, on her tanned, deft wrist. She has always worn soft, fluffy, knitted hats in pastel colours in the winter, for warmth, and to save her perm from the winds and rain. She owns a bizarrely complicated flossing contraption the like of which I have never seen anywhere else. As she uses up a lipstick it takes on a strange pointed shape, completely different from my flat-topped ones. She insists on stirring the teapot when the tea has almost brewed and then waiting another minute before pouring.

There are probably things, I got to thinking, in my life that are as clearly “me” to my children as all those things are my mother to me. They stand for much more than the sum of their parts: they are pieces of my childhood landscape and they bring with them a sensation of warmth, safety, and security. They are the elegant and the everyday; small, simple, ritual objects.

What are my objects, I wondered? What will my children think of when they think of me? (Is my laptop one of them?) I didn’t ask the kids, because it’s hard to project yourself into the future and see what will seem important then; but I took a few pictures. If you’d like to add your own blog post, there’s a Link-Up button at the end. I’d love to read it.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.13.50 PM

Thinking about my mum’s watch brought all this on, and mine is probably as much a part of me as hers was to her. I’ve certainly had it, and worn it daily, since before my kids were born, because I bought it in Las Vegas as a late birthday present in 2005. I hope to never need a new watch, because I do love this one.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.13.20 PM

I have a fancy new camera now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my little green old faithful. It’s still much handier to pop in my bag or my back pocket than the big Canon that shouts “I’m taking a picture” at you, and it’s very “me”.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.13.33 PM

This is my keyring. I’ve had it for years. It’s smooth and hard and tactile, and I admit that babies have gnawed on it, though I told them it was filthy. It didn’t have all those tiny dents and scratches when I bought it; those are life-marks.
Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.13.43 PM

I’m cheating a little here, because these sandals are still new. But they are so very much exactly my thing that I’m pretty sure in years to come when my kids see something like this they’ll say “Yep, those are very Mom.”
Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.14.10 PM

I have a new hat this year, that’s sturdier and straighter and has a lovely curve and dip to the big ol’ brim. But this is still my go-to hat for the summer, to stuff in a bag or take to the pool (it’s had a swim a few times and come out not much changed) or shove under my uxter as we run out of the house. When my kids remember summers, I’m pretty sure they’ll remember the bendy brim and nubbly texture of this hat. And the face underneath too, I hope.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.14.18 PM


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Holding pattern

I am in a holding pattern.

Spring had sprung, but then it snowed again today. I’m waiting for the snow to melt.

I wrote something and now some people are reading it. Which is very exciting, but I’m very impatient to hear what they think. I was trying to pinpoint exactly how I felt and I finally realised it’s like waiting for a boy you like to ring you back. It’s been a while.

We’re waiting for an answer that could affect school for next year quite significantly. I thought we’d hear last week, and then I thought we’d hear yesterday, and now I’m still waiting.

I’m waiting for inspiration to strike because I don’t know what we’re having for dinner.

I’m waiting for tonight to come because I’m going out.

Dash is waiting for tomorrow’s baseball tryouts. (Spoiler: everyone gets to be on a team.)

Mabel is still waiting for us to get a pet. Sorry, Mabel.

Back yard with snow

Stupid snow.

The power

There are times when my faith in human nature is shaken and I feel as if I’m falling with nothing below me. When it comes down to it, we all have to trust in the fundamental goodness of people because that’s the social contract, that’s how we function in the world. Without that assumption, someone would grab the wallet out of my hand at the supermarket checkout, grab the bag off my shoulder as I walk through the parking lot, pull out a gun and mow us all down at pickup time outside the school. When the social contract breaks down, life gets terrifying and there’s no safe place.

Sometimes it feels as if everyone on the Internet is just pushing the same old memes around in circles, in a massive reciprocal pat on the back about how funny and smart we all are, and how wrong all those other people are who share the other sorts of posts about the things we don’t agree with.

But now and again something happens that really brings home the power of social media. This week, Humans of New York is a great example of that. Every time I click on an update about the school in Brooklyn where that single website is making such a massive difference to lives – real lives of real people right now – I well up. One photographer who simply takes photos of people and records something they say is peeling layers of cynicism off jaded surfers all over the country (the world?) and letting them make a change. And those surfers, it seems, are just waiting for an opportunity. We all really do want to make the world a better place. All it takes is the right chance to do it without leaving our comfortable couches. I swear I’d donate myself, but my credit card is in my bag all the way over in the other room. When you’ve 11 million Facebook likes, you can get a lot done.

There are so many schools, so many people in so many places who need help. This one was lucky. It was a happy confluence of a guy with a popular website and a kid who was in the right place at the right time and happened to give a good answer to a good question. It’s no exaggeration to say that single moment will reverberate with ever expanding ripples of goodness for years to come.

I really want this tale to be as true as it seems. I want the money to go where it’s needed. I want there to be no shady deals in the background and nobody skimming anything off anywhere. I want it to make a difference for those kids who so badly need someone to believe in them and for those teachers who give their all every day. I want that principal to get the recognition she deserves by being able to do all the wonderful things she dreams of to help her scholars.

If only fixing everything else was this easy. We’d have climate change and guns and the middle east solved in no time, if someone would just make a well-documented kickstarter campaign that was poised perfectly to go viral.

Presents to myself

These are the empty days of the year. Nothing new can happen, there’s nothing but retrospectives and looking ahead to next week and the terrible disasters that always seem to come around Christmas; whether it’s a tsunami or a missing airplane, all you can do is hope and pray that it won’t be you this time.

A few days before Christmas I took a trip to the fancy toy shop, the one that’s not Target, where they have expensive and whimsical and beautiful and silly things (and also kitchen gadgets and wine and a restaurant while you’re at it; if you live anywhere near here, you know where I’m talking about). I wanted a couple of things for the kids, but I ended up buying some things that were a bit more for me. They’re some of my nicest presents, actually.

I was looking for a colouring book for Mabel when I found this one, and it was so close to my heart that I had to buy it for myself. Carl Larsson was a Swedish artist and I have no idea where or why my dad picked up a set of prints of his paintings, but some time many years ago, he did. He framed some and put several of the poster-size ones on a particle-board backing and hung them up our stairs. I had one little girl in red at the foot of my bed for many years. (She’s still there, in fact.) Dad would even switch out the one in the frame according to the season, sometimes, so we could have a snowy Swedish scene or a summery one, or something in between.


I love them all, and they’re part of me; I associate them so strongly with my father that it’s almost as if he’d painted them himself. (We have my dad’s paintings around the house too, but his style is different. More boats and buildings, fewer people.)

So now I have a Carl Larsson colouring book and a tin of coloured pencils with fancy names to go with it. Mabel threw a strop the first day I took it out and told her it was mine and she couldn’t use it, but once the sheen had worn off for me I let her colour a little in the second picture and I think we’ve arrived at a truce. A little unreasonableness on both sides, probably. I never said I was more mature than a six year old.


I also picked up at the fancy toy shop a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. I had the notion that this would be something we could start on the dining table and leave on the go for several days, to come back to and fit in a few pieces now and then. I even labelled it to all of us when I wrapped it and put it under the tree. But yesterday morning B went out for a long run, the kids were doing something else, and I sat down with all 500 pieces and a cup of tea. Three hours later, with some help from a returned husband and none at all from the children, it was done, and I felt the twin satisfaction and emptiness that comes from finishing a project and being left aimless once again.


Next year I’m buying a 1000-piece one.


Light relief

When I took this photo I thought Mabel was looking adorably Alice-in-Wonderland-ish and studious in the hairband and her almost-matching “party” dress, reading a book so seriously.

Mabel reads a book

Then I looked at it again and it seemed a little, well, ghoulish. Especially since that’s the First-Aid manual she’s perusing so carefully, finding out exactly what it looks like when a broken bone pierces the skin, for instance.

So if they’re remaking The Addams Family any time soon, I think I’ve found the new Wednesday.

Snow way snow how

Time for a bullet post to clear my head of the thoughts jumbling up in here.

  • Snow. We have it. Also coldness. Coldth. It is very. Tomorrow it will be less so and we are fervently hoping that there will be school. Also my MRI is tomorrow morning and I already rescheduled it once.
  • My favourite warm fuzzy brown cardigan that I like to wear around the house disappeared at new year’s. Three weeks later to the day I found it exactly where it should have been (maybe a little further over) in the closet. I think this is indicative of nothing except how rarely I actually hang things up where they belong.
  • Sometimes your seven-year-old isn’t just shouting random math questions out the bathroom door at bedtime, he’s actually trying to calculate how many inches long the roll of toilet paper is. For which you must give him some sort of credit.
  • When you tell that same seven-year-old to put on his swim shorts under his regular clothes while getting dressed, remember to check that he did so before you drive in the snow to the pool, because otherwise you’ll have to drive back home again to get them because he will swear that you never said any such thing.
  • If by any chance you’ve forgotten any of the words to Do You Want To Build a Snowman? from the Frozen soundtrack, I have a five-year-old here who will knock on a door/wall/window and sing it all, in a different voice for each verse as Anna gets older, wearing a specially selected dress, sitting down with her back to said door/wall/window with her legs out exactly as happens in the movie. So that’s comforting to know.
  • Also, if you’ve forgotten the names of the fifty states of the USA, in alphabetical order, I have someone here who can sing them for you, many many times, so long as you don’t mind some tunelessness to go with the belting out and the particularly dramatically drawn out last line.
  • Finally, if you have any aspirin I’d be obliged.


Oscars and others

So many disjointed thoughts to impose some sort of order on, as I sit here having third breakfast which just happens to be the same as last night’s dessert minus the custard and plus some coffee. It’s got apples and oatmeal in it, so the cake part can be disregarded (but enjoyed, of course). Also, I went for a walk/run, so I’m allowed.

Mabel gatecrashed my weekend, basically. Friday night and Sunday night were supposed to be kid-free zones, and somehow they ended up including a certain four-year-old. This morning I dragged her kicking and screaming to school and left her there, where she stopped screaming as soon as I left the room. When I came back at pickup time I was told she’d thwacked her best friend in the face with a shovel. So that went well.

Last night I packed the children off to bed early and tuned the TV in to one of its rarely watched non-kid channels and spent a happy hour or two making snarky comments about the Oscars on Twitter and Facebook, and even paying attention to the show now and then between frantic typing. Just when they were FINALLY getting to the interesting awards, Mabel woke up and wanted to come down and see what we were watching. Getting her back to sleep made me miss the rest of the show, which was probably just as well since it was after 11pm and I had a raging headache, but it was still a bit of an anticlimax.

Oscar thoughts, randomly:

  • None of the dresses really stood out to me, but then I missed most of the red carpet. I liked Amy Adams’s feathers, Jennifer Aniston’s red, and Jennifer Garner’s violet, even if the ruffle did make my husband think of seaweed.
  • I prefer my men beardless, but George was still lovely. You can all keep Ben and Hugh and I’ll have George, thank you.
  • Adele’s hair looked good. I like the song but I wish she’d stop singing about “Skyfoal” and how it “crumbowls.” The husband was delighted with the Bond tribute but would have liked it to be a bit more in-depth. We may have to just view the whole ouvre again
  • I laughed at the boobs song. Sorry, world. On the other hand, if you’re so unsure of your content that you have to envelop it in a cloaking device of Shatner coming back from the future to tell you it’s not much good, maybe you should just get some better content. Or a host people are well-disposed to from the outset. (Hint: Neil Patrick Harris, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler.)

Other thoughts:

  • This is the third time I’ve tried to write a post, so this is what you’re getting.
  • I have Girl Scout cookies. The end.

Two Rapunzel dolls being held in front of a laptop showing Rapunzel from Tangled
Watching Tangled with the Rapunzels