Tag Archives: autumn

Thanksgiving grinch

There’s one particular Facebook friend I have who I’m always offending. She’s in Ireland, and whenever I say something self-deprecating about the Irish or the country, to endear myself to the Americans, or ingratiate myself, or whatever, she takes it to heart. I suppose I’m gone long enough now that I’m not allowed do that any more. But I can’t criticise America either, because that’s just rude (and it has enough problems right now), which leaves me in a tricky no-woman’s-land of having to be polite about everywhere, and there’s no humour in that.

Anyway, right now is when I humourlessly criticise America and sound like a foreigner, because it’s the night before Thankgsiving and I never feel less American than on Thanksgiving. It just doesn’t have any meaning for me. It feels like fake Christmas. I don’t want turkey, but I certainly don’t want turkey and cranberry sauce and all the trimmings (the wrong trimmings, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and green beans instead of roast potatoes and sage and onion stuffing and plum pudding and brandy butter) at the end of November. All week I’ve been forgetting to wish people a happy thanksgiving or to enquire politely about their travel/hosting plans or to even register that it’s not going to be a regular Thursday. I don’t have a late November holiday spirit. I have no interest in acquiring one. I am a Thanksgiving Grinch.

Which is why this year we’re avoiding the issue entirely and running away. Rather than have a perfectly nice dinner with perfectly nice friends tomorrow, we are driving to the beach and staying in a hotel until it’s all gone away. I suppose we’ll have to eat dinner of some sort tomorrow, and I suppose it’ll be in a fairly traditional establishment so that my kids can eat pizza and/or french fries, since that’s all they eat in restaurants, so I can’t pander to my utmost desires and eat something totally nontrad like Indian or Thai, but it won’t be turkey, and I really hope nobody will even apologise for the fact that it’s not.

In other, more positive news, we have all had flu shots now, which is my major achievement for this winter and puts me well up on last winter. Checkups and dentist visits are scheduled, I have bought Christmas cards, and I’m getting on quite well with the second draft of the second book, thank you very much. Though I don’t think that’ll be out before Christmas. Not this Christmas, at least.


Autumnal moments

Every time the wind blows, a flurry of yellow leaves rain down twirlingly onto the lawn (I use the term loosely, and optimistically) and the deck outside my window. It’s very pretty. The autumn colours are spectacular just now. And here I am, inside, listening to 80s music and my children playing/fighting/play-fighting, because suggesting that they go Out Into Nature is clearly ridiculous.

Yellow leaves on the deck and the grass beyond

B ran a marathon this morning, and we didn’t make it into the city to support him even though it was a local one, because everyone was too shattered from the rest of our busy weekend, which included a 5k race wherein Dash won the Under-12s section and a lot of pumpkin carving and walking. (Pumpkin walking, if you didn’t know, is following a trail in the woods that’s lit only by jack o’ lanterns, with hot chocolate or hot cider at the end. It’s magical and romantic and enchanting, so long as you don’t trip over a log or have a terrified toddler with you. We did neither, and it was nice.)

Glowing pumpkins at dusk with a musical band playing in the background

So instead of hotfooting it into town at the crack of dawn (or a little after) and dragging unwilling childers onto the metro and around the nation’s capital to crane our necks and possibly mis-time the encounter with our one runner of choice, we slept in, got up slowly, collected our pumpkins from the woods, had an ice cream at the farmers’ market, and bought ingredients for lasagne. Dash made a chocolate cake – with a certain amount of supervision because when you’re dyslexic a 2 can look like an 8, apparently, and other such potential disasters – and it’s really all quite peaceful.

Red, orange, yellow and green leaves with the sunshine behind them


Less than clement

We are having a lot of rain. It’s been raining since Tuesday or so, and it’s Friday afternoon now. I think it’s due to stop on Sunday.

I shouldn’t be sorry that it’s not a hurricane, because hurricanes are bad and this is causing plenty of problems just with flooding, but I was sort of looking forward to being cosily housebound for a day or two. With electricity of course; not the uncivilized sort of housebound. The sort where you bake things and watch movies and do jigsaws companionably and nobody goes stir-crazy and kicks balls inside the house and splits their head open on the hearth because they were doing gymnastics off the sofa onto the coffee table.

Oh wait, I was envisioning a nice cosy hurricane without children. We had one of those in 2005 when we lived in Texas. Emily, it was. A category 2 that whirled past the town causing a wall to fall on some cars. We assumed our apartment complex would deal with any boarding up that should be done (they didn’t do any) and our friends who lived across the way came over to play Trivial Pursuit and drink wine. It was just lovely. I probably made nachos, or a cake. There may easily have been mojitos.

But still. It’s cold and wet and miserable, and now that I’ve finished driving the length and breadth of [a small portion of] the Beltway, where things are not improved by such conditions, it’s really the nicest sort of weather for making a vat of chili and opening a bottle of red, with salted chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. We can have a hurricane without the hurricane, and sleep soundly to boot.

That’ll do, then. And nobody needs to split their head open.


I admit this is not today’s rainy view. There are still leaves on the trees.

New beginnings

It’s done. The book sale is over and both of my children are at school. Summer is over.

Now I have to make good on all those plans and whimsical notions of greatness I fermented over the long hot break. (It’s still hot. Heat index of 100 F forecast today.) So far I’ve thrown out a plethora of pine cones, magnolia seed pod things, sticks, stones, scraps of paper, abandoned art projects, and bits of broken plastic from the family room and the kitchen that I couldn’t seem to muster the energy to move until now.

If I pick up some more things tomorrow, and the next day, by the end of the week I might reach the carpet, and then I can hoover.

Meh. That sounds hard.

Dash headed off to school today. I feel as if today really is the first day of the rest of his life; that’s how much hope and confidence I have in the new school. I think this will change everything. It certainly changes my nice lazy morning routine into a more demanding one, but we’ll roll with that. I’m sure there are advantages to spending almost an hour stuck in traffic every day, when it’s an hour I’d otherwise have merely wasted on sleep.



I forgot to take a first-day-of-school picture, but this was this morning, showing off the ribbons their entries in the photo show won. (Mabel got a first; Dash got a third.) First day of Fourth Grade, then.


Oh, I’m supposed to ask you something. If you’re so inclined, I’d be delighted if you’d click that button over there – the one that says “Vote for Us!” which must be the royal we or something because there’s only one of me, and then select Awfully Chipper, which is handily right at the top of the list, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the alphabet. But only if you want to. No pressure, now.




Sure you’re grand

The world outside my door is an impressionist painting – pointillist, even – made up of little dots of colour everywhere. The wind blows and all the little dots shiver and dance and a few drift away from their moorings in the sky and flutter and swoop to the ground.

Autumn leaves ———

When I’m in Ireland I relax my mode of speech by a few notches. I delight in employing the vernacular in the supermarket, to the bus driver, to the person at the till. I say “Sure” (for “you’re welcome”) and “Thanks a million”, and “Sorry” (for “excuse me”) and “Ah no, sure, you’re grand,” (as often as possible) and am practically a caricature of myself. I’ll ask for ham with the flattest possible a sound, and get tomatoes and oregano and basil on everything I can think of. I’ll talk about yer man and yer one and the yoke that does the thing. And I’ll start swearing more, just for fun and effect.

This day next week I’ll be in airports, all alone, being Miss Organized and Miss Efficient and Miss This is so Easy With No Kids and also Miss Missing Them Quite a Lot. I’m flying home for five days to check in with the parentals, since we’re not going home for Christmas and it’s been a year since I’ve seen them and they’re not really so hot at things like Skype or Facetime. We spent time with most of B’s family members during the summer, but not mine. And it’s finally – finally – the time where I can do this. The kids will be fine. Their father will be fine. Everyone will survive perfectly well without me, and me without them. But I’ll miss them, all the same.

And a lot more little dots of colour will have fluttered down when I get back.

More autumn leaves



red leaves in greenThe leaves are mostly still green but every so often there’s a cluster that got the memo: it’s autumn. Sometimes there’s a swathe that just looks splattered with colour, as if someone threw a bucket of paint at them. The fall colours here are audacious in comparison to Ireland’s basic browns and dark reds – here we get ruby red and lemon yellow and orange and lime green and gold all on the one tree. We wake up chilly, we look for slippers, we put on jackets to go to school. By hometime the jackets are stuffed in backpacks (with luck) and it’s warm on the playground, spreading mulch and finding hideouts in the woods and organizing societies of children, ignoring their mothers with their mother-talk and being ignored as much as possible in return.

yellow leaves in green


In the morning an imperious call summons me. For some reason I always went to her bed, not she to mine except in dire straits. I sleepwalk out of bed, though it’s a perfectly reasonable hour, gone seven. But I don’t have to get up till half past. I haul myself up into her newly hand-me-downed baby loft bed, my back not yet loosened up for the day, and lie down beside her. She curls up against me and we both drift off for a little longer, snuggly. I wake further to find her squeezing my cheeks and running her finger along the lines of my forehead, not too gently, but with love.

These are the last days of such snuggles, that began with my tiny baby at my breast, in my bed. Now she’s half the size of me, it seems like, but she still looks at me with uncomplicated love and wants to have her face beside mine. I stare back at her beautiful bouncy skin, her huge eyes and long lashes, her cherub lips. She might be judging me, but she doesn’t seem to find me lacking. She accepts my difference and invites me in.

Her brother closes his door at bedtime these days. I might creep softly in to turn off his alarm on a weekend night, or to see if his duvet is over or under him, but mostly I try to respect his space. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to climb in beside him to soothe him back to sleep after a bad dream. But if we’re walking together his hand still snakes into mine, even at school. He’s not ready to renounce me just yet.

orange leaves in green

Some days are better than others

Some days I am on top of the laundry, and some days the laundry is on top of me.

Some days a blog post comes to me fully formed in the shower. Some days I have to hiccup it out like a cat barfing.

Some days I go for a run or do a whole exercise video and then saute kale for lunch. Some days I stop after five minutes and have a muffin instead.

Some days my children climb trees and run outside and I show them how to make leaf rubbings, and feed them meals that have components from each of the food groups. Some days they sit in front of the TV for too long and get a waffle and five frozen peas for dinner.*

Some days I am fired up with efficiency, and the kitchen is clean and the dentist appointments are scheduled and the new season’s clothes are sorted and I am superwoman.

Some days I’m not.

I think the key is not to give up after one – or many in a row – of the off days. Just keep swimming.

Autumn leaves on a page

*Obviously, I’m talking about Mabel here. For Dash, eating from all the food groups means a peanut-butter sandwich and a juice box.

Rat’s arse

This morning it was still so humid that it was positively smelly outdoors, and I put on capris and a t-shirt and sandals again and complained loudly. Since then the deluge has reached us, the lawn (ahem) is dotted liberally with yellow leaves from the trees behind us, and everything’s a lot more autumnal. I made soup for lunch. It’s still humid, but getting better.


I went to a local clothing co-op used clothes/books/toys sale at the weekend, and I had to take the kids with me because their father was out on his Saturday morning long run. I promised they could each get a toy so long as they let me look in the big room with the clothes first. I was in search of one thing: snow boots for each child. I found a perfect pair for Mabel, but the price I paid was more than the $5 I happily forked over to the nice lady at the desk, because in the toy room a disgruntled Dash found the most horrible toy in the world, and I was powerless to refuse, since it cost a mere two dollars.

Plastic rat

It’s a plastic rat. It is remote controlled, and its little red eyes light up as it whizzes around the kitchen floor. It is the embodiment of evil. And now it lives in my house.

Toy rat with red lighting-up eyes


My body is rebelling against the computer by giving me a sore wrist. It can’t really tell me any louder that I need to lay off the Facebook and go and read a book. And yet, here I still am. I’m getting better at surfing with my left hand, mind you.

Way too many things to think about

It’s October tomorrow. That means I’ve a lot of planning to do. For instance:

Planning in further detail our trip to Ireland at the end of the month –

  • what I’ll wear
  • what I have to buy in order to wear these things 
  • how I’ll masquerade as a stylish person instead of a slobby soccer mom who wears the same pair of jeans and scuffed mary-janes every single day
  • if the kids need new shoes for all the walking in rain that will happen (answer: yes)

And boring stuff like

  • car seats to borrow
  • things for kids to do on the journey


  • touristy-type things we might do when we’re there, now that the children are a little older
  • people I need to contact to see if we can pin down when we might see them
  • how wet an Autumn they’ll be having for those specific two weeks

Also, not to forget,

  • working out our best marathon-viewing opportunities, because of course B is running the marathon

Then, as a subheading, we have not merely

  • Halloween in Dublin: do we have to bring costumes? what costumes? where will we do the trick-or-treating? does B want to do some sort of elaborate themed family thing? (Answer: over my dead body; only if he organizes the whole thing; therefore, no.) Dash is talking about some variation on last year (Luke Skywalker) that involves a green lightsaber (very specifically) and a brown cloak and I think it’s just a ploy to get a new lightsaber when it’s neither his birthday nor Christmas.

but also (sigh, sunrise sunset, etc),

  • Mabel’s fifth birthday, in Dublin: do we have a family party? In which case, where? Can I bake a cake in our Air B’n’B rental apartment? Do we bring presents to Dublin? (No. What sort of idiot do you take me for?) But then I need to buy or order presents before we go so they’re here when we get back.

And of course, planning a birthday party with her friends for the weekend after we get back, when we’ll be only just over the jet lag but I’ll still be expected to infuse us all with sugar some more and again and repeatedly, unless she wants a broccoli cake which sounds to me like a great idea but maybe not to her brother’s taste.

Which planning will not be a trivial matter even though I can just bung an evite out there (thank the deity for evites; I love ’em) because we’ll have to figure out

(a) just girls?
(b) which girls?
(c) just girls and one boy?
(d) siblings?
(e) just the one sibling of the one boy so Dash has a friend?
(f) and the one who’s the twin of one of the girls?
(g) but then, what about the boy whose birthday party she’s attending next week?
(h) parents?

And then we have to hammer out the decision in such a way that she doesn’t decide the next day and every next day after that to change her mind in some new and unspecified direction. Which probably means just inviting feckin’ everyone.

And then, there’s always looking way ahead to Christmas and making a cake and planning to go to the Nutcracker for the first time and whatever other things we should do when we have Christmas here instead of in Ireland.

So you can see why planning what we’re having for dinner tonight has just fallen completely by the wayside. Maybe there’s something in the freezer.

Slow-flowing river
Think calming thoughts.


In no particular order, to get us past this long weekend and on to the next thing:

I made chana masala and dal again last night for dinner. Delicous, economical, and much less swimming in oil than the takeaway version would be: what’s not to love? I’m almost glad our local Indian closed down, if it makes me do this sort of thing. Part of the disappointment of takeout meals, to me, is that they’re there and then they’re gone. If you make it yourself, the coming-together time, the measuring a spoonful of red powder and a half-spoonful of yellow powder and a tincture of orange this and a grating of yellow that, and frying an onion almost to charring point, makes the whole thing so much more satisfying.

It was 72 degrees today and Mabel was barefoot outside again. She’d just got used to wearing tights and we’ve probably set ourselves back two weeks now. Tomorrow it will be raining with a predicted high of 55. I think we’ve seen the last of summer. I’ve said that before, but I think this is really it.

Dash keeps saying “… and so on, and so on, and so forth.” Maybe I can make him say “and forsooth.” (He just asked me if there’s something called “so-a-hundreth”.) I met with his teacher today, who said he’s got a great vocabulary, he asks a lot of questions (“Oh, you’ve noticed that?” I said), and he never lets her get away with anything. That sounds about right, for Mr Heightened Sense of Injustice.

I finally have a lull. It seems like it’s been the next thing and the next thing and forsooth (as they don’t say), for months now, from starting school to October’s trip to Chicago to Halloween to Mabel’s birthday to our visitor last week. We don’t do anything for Thanksgiving, so beyond roasting a chicken or something that’s not really a blip in my planning. I think I might be at the point where I start the Christmas shopping now.

Which really means I’m looking for a new pair of boots and I need to get a haircut. Because until I’ve sorted myself out I can’t begin to shop for other people.