Tag Archives: Irish Parenting Bloggers

16 to nothing

Dash at bat

All those reds look a bit threatening

Dash’s baseball team lost 16 to nothing in their first game yesterday. It was, I suppose you could say, a rout. He didn’t seem terribly put out, though. The commentator had said “nice swing” for one of Dash’s three fruitless swings at the ball, and Coach said the other team’s pitcher was unusually good. Mabel and I spent the afternoon moving from the sunny side of the field (too hot) to the shady side (too cold), chatting to acquaintances (me), making new friends (her), and respectively bugging and being bugged for things to eat. It was pretty nice, really.

The “shack” at the baseball field was open selling chips and candy and ice pops and also burgers and hot dogs, so it was a good opportunity for me to give her a dollar and say she could ask for a thing and remember to bring me back the change. Since it was being staffed mostly by 3rd and 4th graders (and also sometimes their parents) Mabel wasn’t shy, and I think she finished the afternoon feeling pretty good about herself.

I’m sorry if it’s all baseball here for a while, but (a) it’s a novelty, right? and (b) it’s going to take over our lives for a few weeks. Just go with it. I’ve decided that what we need for these busy evenings are to have those hearty main-course salads in the fridge that you can eat cold (or heated a bit) whenever you need them, so that when I have to get Dash from poetry club at 5 and have him at baseball at 5:30 and then bring Mabel to T-ball and stay there with her until 7 and then go back and get Dash at 7:30, there’s something quick and easy to guzzle in the five minutes we have to turn around at home.

You know, this all sounds lovely and idyllic and domestic goddess-y. And maybe it was and will be, in retrospect, like much of parenting. It was also annoying, what with the constant being bugged, and concerning – do we need sunscreen? Will he be very disappointed? And where is my hat? – and since B was off at a conference there was an element of single-parenting put-upon-ness to it all as well. And the rest is all hellishly overscheduled and hopelessly optimistic and doomed to failure and dinners of breakfast cereal and ice-cream.

But if I tell you about the downsides instead, to show you how real and authentic I am, am I not just being a whiny bint, with my first-world problems? Who wants to read someone else’s list of complaints? How do I craft it into a story that’s beautiful and true and tugs at the heartstrings and strikes chords with the reader without betraying all the other people whose emotions and actions my descriptions might be trampling all over? How do I turn it into a parenting epiphany or a moment of self-discovery or a brave exposure of my darkest shortcomings or some other thing that blog posts are supposed to be all about? What will make you want to read it?

—-

The Blog Awards Ireland aren’t happening this year, so the Irish Parenting Bloggers decided to fill the gaping hole in everyone’s social calendar with some awards of our own. I can’t go to the event, of course, being on the wrong side of an ocean, but everyone in the group is reading and voting and writing and voting some more, and of course it makes you extra self-conscious about what it is that you are flinging up against the cyber wall of your bloggy home to see what sticks. Is it entertaining? Is it niche? Is it too niche? Is it the wrong niche? Is it well-written and funny and homespun and beautiful and inspiring and also perhaps of special interest?

Time, and the shortlists, will tell, I suppose.

Mabel in a baseball cap pointing at the field

Mabel would like you to know where the baseball is happening

 

Dublin bloggy meetup

Meeting other bloggers is a funny thing. They may look like their profile photos or have unaccountably cut their hair since, but that’s really the only aspect of them that you’ll probably find to be in any way as you expected. Last time I met up with some other bloggers, I wasn’t familiar with their online voices, so what I noticed was more superficial. But on Saturday I met up with some of the Irish Parenting Bloggers in Dublin, and was delighted and surprised by how similar or different people can be in person when you know them best (or only) through an online medium.

In writing, you can’t tell an extrovert from an introvert. You can’t tell a Dublin accent from Cork from Texas. You might have an idea who would command the floor if a group got together in person, but you might not be right about that at all.

When it comes to socializing, having an online persona doesn’t exactly level the playing field, but it definitely changes the game. A bloggers’ meetup is a bit like a gathering of rock stars in reverse: far from looking for the limelight, many writers, by nature, tend to shy away from attention and want to deflect instead. We prefer to interact on the page, on the screen, where we have time to consider our words and where we’re never too far from the delete key.

So the fact that a bunch of us dared to meet up at all, in daylight, with laptops left at home and phones put away, is a testament to the power of our connection online. And it turned out that we had a lot to say to each other about everything that was not blogging, as well as things that might be.

Here’s everyone. From left to right at the back we have Looking for Blue Sky, Laura from My Internal World, Mind the Baby, Lauren of The Dare Project, Sadhbh from Where Wishes Come From, Caitriona from Wholesome Ireland, yours truly, and Office Mum. The front row has BlueSky’s daughter Smiley, then Lisa of Mama.ie with adorable baby, Lucy of Learner Mama, Muuka of One More Pair of Boots, and Glitter Mama Wishes.

Back to school in America

This week the lovely Irish Parenting Bloggers, my soul sisters (and brothers) (but mostly sisters), have been discussing the annual financial burden of sending your kids back to school, even in a country where most primary (elementary) schools are state run and therefore “free”. I offered to talk a bit about our experience, for the sake of comparison.

This is our third year in the American public school system – something I never expected to encounter at first hand, and a prospect that felt very daunting when Dash entered kindergarten. (Kindergarten is the first year of elementary school for most children here, and they start when they’ve turned five.) Apart from the mystery that was the PTA – that’s the Parent-Teacher Association – I had to navigate the unknown perils of the school supply list.

It was all pretty easy, as it turned out. Of course. You get a list of things to buy before the year starts, and you go to Target or Staples or the supermarket and buy them. In Ireland, cynical me says, the shops would put up the prices of all these things in August, but around here they tend to have at least some of them on sale, and each state even has a tax-free week or weekend at the end of the summer when you can buy children’s clothes and school supplies without the usual added sales tax (that’s like VAT).

Our list this year, just out of interest, looked like this:

  • 1 large book bag
  • 1-inch white hard binder
  • 12 no. 2 pencils, sharpened
  • 2 glue sticks
  • 4 composition books
  • 1 pair of children’s safety scissors
  • 4 pocket folders
  • 1 box of crayons or coloured pencils (no more than 24)
  • 2 small pencil sharpeners with cover
  • 1 pack wide-ruled lined paper

There are other things they note would be nice to have donations of, such as copy paper, more crayons, index cards, tissues, and liquid hand soap, but that’s the basic list.

The first year I obsessed over whether we were meant to label each item with his name, and if so whether we had to label every single pencil and crayon or just the box, and so on. This year I just put them all in a bag and brought them in. I don’t actually know whether my son uses the specific items I bought or whether they are all stored together in the classroom and then doled out as the children need them – it doesn’t really matter. I bought the nicer crayons and the brand-name pencils because I like those, but if he ends up using someone else’s not-so-spendy supplies, that’s the luck of the draw.

As far as back-to-school costs go, that’s the lot. Done for about $50. I didn’t count.

Our school doesn’t have a uniform at the moment, though it is being considered. Several of the local public elementary schools do, and I assume it would be something similar – a simple outfit that I could buy in Target or from Land’s End (for instance) depending on the quality I wanted and how much I had to spend. They don’t have crests or whatever it is that made my Irish school uniform so terribly expensive and only available from the secret special room at the back of the second floor in Arnott’s of Henry Street.

Books and workbooks are all provided at school. They never even come home, so I don’t see them and know very little about them. There’s no extra photocopying charge, no not-actually-voluntary contribution, and no extra fundraising commitment. If you join the PTA you can volunteer some hours of work at the used bookstall at the upcoming Labor Day Festival, or help organize the 5k race they do every year, or help out at the Scholastic book fair later in the year, for instance, but it’s not mandatory and it’s easy to help without writing a cheque. (Though cheques are always welcome.)

I’m not counting things my son would need anyway, like new winter shoes and clothes and a coat. He’s pretty well set for the coming season as far as that goes, thanks to my affinity for the thrift store and my habit of stocking up on higher-end things (like a good coat) when end-of-season sales happen. I got him a really nice winter anorak last spring that will do him for the next two years, at least. His backpack is still fine, though he may need a bigger one by next year.

We are designated “walkers” because we live within a mile of the school. If we lived further out, he could take the big yellow school bus. During the year, the teachers will probably send out requests for additional supplies – last year they were always running out of glue sticks and pencils and whiteboard markers. The PTA will run a coat drive when the weather gets colder, and I’ll probably pick up a decent-quality kid’s coat at the thrift store and bring it in, to be donated to a child who might not otherwise be warm and dry all winter. The school provides lunches that can be bought at a reasonable price, and these are free to those who need them. Children can arrive early and eat breakfast at school if that’s arranged for them. There is a limited amount of before- and after-care available, but you have to be lucky and get randomly selected from all the applicants to benefit from that.

Schools vary from district to district, from county to county, and from state to state. You can decide to send your children to private school, of course, or you can choose the location of your home because of the school district it feeds into, if you’re in a position to do so. But our middle-of-the-road school has such luxuries – as any Irish state-funded school would probably see them – as a librarian (sorry, that’s a media specialist), a counsellor, several special education teachers, a psychologist, and dedicated music and art teachers.

There are many things that are far from perfect with the American school system, with my county’s school system, and even, maybe, with our school. But from where I’m sitting, I have to admit that it seems like a pretty good bang for my buck.

Boy at school desk

If you’re interested in reading more about the cash crunch many Irish parents find themselves in at this time of year, here’s a handy infographic. And take a look at the other contributions to this conversation (I’ll update this list as the week progresses, so come back again):

The Clothesline – It All Adds Up
Wholesome Ireland – School Expenses
The Mama’s Hip – Homeschooling haul and chatter
Learner Mama – Back to school – A costly business
Musings And Chatterings – Crests and costs – starting big school 
The Serious Wagon – Back to School Costs 
Dreaming Aloud – Changing Gear
My Country Girl Ramblings – Back to School The Hidden Costs
Jazzygal – Back to school costs (a lot)