Tag Archives: photos


Today is Mabel’s last day of first grade. She did not deign to pose for a photograph.


She bought her own chocolate croissant at the farmer’s market yesterday morning. Not even with me standing beside her: she left us sitting on the hill and headed off to the bakery booth by herself, a five-dollar bill flapping in her hand. I don’t know if she was polite, but she got what she went for and brought us back the change. She wrote thank-you cards to three of her teachers last night, with minimal prompting from me and no dictation required. They weren’t exactly individualised, but they were quite nice and very neat.

She made a poster for her brother’s lemonade stand, but then she quit the job because he wouldn’t give her any free samples. You need to negotiate your terms of employment up front, I told her. But I told her he needs to learn some managerial skills too.


She builds houses and towers and spawns wolves and ocelots in Minecraft, she wheedles me into putting more games for her to play on my Kindle Fire, she can quote The Princess Bride at an apposite moment.

She still draws while she watches tv, piles and piles of papery people with varying expressions and colourful clothes. She still puts her babies to bed under blankets, and makes families of puppies and little tableaux of Playmobil figures or plastic dinosaurs. She still wants someone to stay with her until she falls asleep.


She is still completely unreasonable quite often, but she does it with such minxy insouciance that half the time we have to laugh. “Miss Unreasonable-Pants,” I called her the other night, and she spent the next five minutes narrating an argument between the two legs of her unreasonable pants.

She’s seven and a half. When did she get so big?


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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.
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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.”
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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.

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Snow, in pictures

Yesterday it was mild enough for the kids to stop at the playground on the way home, a day Irish in its temperatures and its greyness, but not really moist enough to be truly Irish. Dash played soccer with a bunch of older boys, Mabel mounted the swings with some other kindergarteners and presided over a long-drawn-out game of horsies. The forecast was for snow today, so we were making hay.

Bets were taken (virtually, on Facebook) among the parents on whether we’d get a delayed opening, a full snow day, or the rarely invoked early closing today. The snow was meant to come in the morning sometime, not overnight. There was no alert at 5am to tell us that school was delayed, and indeed when I came down at 7:45 it was as dry outside as it had been yesterday. School as usual, then, nothing to see here. Anyone who might have skipped working on a science project in order to join the soccer game might have been feeling a bit foolish in retrospect.

Light snow on the deck

A sprinkling

The first tiny snowflakes started around 10:30, as I sat by my window, typing some words in between frequent stops to make cups of tea and go to the loo. They were what the weather service calls conversational flakes. Mood snow. After a while, though, it was coming down pretty well. The time for early dismissal had passed, and the snow just about stopped by picking-up time. The roads had been treated and it was just above freezing so the snow didn’t stick, but I walked to get them anyway, and took some photos on the way.


The fat flakes sat heavy on the branches of all the trees, and there were suddenly more trees and more branches than I had noticed. We’re surrounded by them, but when each one is defined by a line of white, in sharp relief even though the sky behind is white and full of snow still too, they become a latticework over the streets and around the houses. It was sort of beautiful.

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Delayed opening tomorrow? What are the chances?

Beginner’s luck

At the weekend I won a photography competition. Not since the great drama-exam drama of 1983 have I been party to such an upset.

The September I was ten, my ballet class moved to a time that was inconvenient, what with our habit of eating dinner and so on, and so my mother deemed that I should stop doing ballet and take up drama instead. Apparently I was a very malleable child, or perhaps I just wasn’t all that into ballet any more, because I took it pretty well and showed up at my new drama class ready to do whatever it was people did in drama. The teacher was a large woman given to wearing muumuus, who had a lot of bichon frise dogs, which is why I know a bichon frise when I see one. (Also a muumuu, but that episode of The Simpsons helped there too.) She was stridently West-Brit, and very hand-wavy, and pretty much exactly as you’d expect a drama teacher. She was, in fact, an institution.

The other kids in my class seemed to have taken up drama as toddlers, and to me they all appeared to be slightly posh, private-school girls (were there any boys? I don’t remember any) who had no need or inclination to befriend the unfashionable new girl. That was okay; so long as there was something we were meant to be doing, I didn’t need a friend particularly.

I really have no idea what it was we did in drama class. But I do remember the end-of-term exam with crystal clarity. I’d taken recorder exams and ballet exams, but this drama exam seemed particularly freeform. I was first up and had no idea what to expect. I went into the room alone (save for the examiner) and was asked to pretend I was an astronaut, I think. (“Crystal clear” may be an exagerration. Through a mottled glass vaguely, then.) With none of my peers in the room I didn’t bother with self-consciousness, and happily loped around in imitation of weightlessness, talking to myself about the hopes and fears of an astronaut, for the allotted minutes.

When everyone else was finished and the results were announced, I was astonished – and the rest of the class was probably pretty much disgusted – to hear that (while everyone had passed, I suppose) I, the newbie, had won the gold medal and come first.

I moved on to a different drama class the next term, with a smaller and more motley group, and we did a little thing from The Great Gatsby for a feis (that’s a competition). I was Jordan, and I had to wear a knitted sweater vest (tank top) over a shirt, and have a book under my arm. (Not a golf club. Hmm. I think they took some liberties with this dramatization.) We didn’t win. I think the group doing Lorca’s Blood Wedding did. It was very, well, dramatic.

So. To return to almost the present day, last year at the Labor Day Festival I looked at the photo show and thought “Hey, they need entries to fill up these displays. I could enter a picture next year.” And this year I did just that, with two photos I liked, which I went so far as to put into frames and get to the show in time. (That was really the hard part.) And my surprise was just about as great as it had been at the drama exam when I was informed that I had taken a blue ribbon in both my categories.

(I have to point out that judicious choice of categories went a long way here. There were only three entrants in one.)

I am no more a great photographer than I turned out to be a great actress. A creative type is not something I ever used to think of myself as being, but maybe my right brain has just been biding its time for a while.

Sometimes beginner’s luck gives you a boost just when you need it.

Framed photo of branch with ice on it

“Ice storm”

Framed photo of steps in Perugia

“Perugia, Italy”



Five years in the making

Did I say that would be the last of the Italy posts? Oh well, I lied.

I had to show you these, that’s the thing. Because what’s the point of planning a photo for five years if you can’t then make the most of it? (Okay, fine, that’s an exaggeration. But these comparison shots are five years in the making, one way or the other.)

Mabel looking out the same window as a baby and a 5yo.

See, this is Mabel looking out the window (ah, the window; you can climb out that window and you’re on ground level outside, so it’s a great source of entertainment, possibly the best thing about all of Italy) in 2009, at the tender age of 9 months, when she was pulling up and cruising but not walking yet, and therefore ripe for taking a header off the sofa she was standing on; and then again this summer, now that she’s a great hulking 5 years and 9 months old.

Children looking over a wallAnd this is Dash and his cousin looking over the walls at the top of the steps to the town hall in 2009 when Dash was 3 and his cousin was 9; followed by Dash at 8 and Mabel at 5 in the exact same place. (Different camera angle, slightly. My bad. And Dash apparently is standing a step down.)

Children on a see-sawFinally, we have the same 9-year-old cousin and 3-year-old Dash on a see-saw five years ago, and then 8-year-old Dash and 5-year-old Mabel in the same place this summer. They may have repainted the duckies in the interim, but I can’t tell for sure.



red tiled roofs

Walls of shades of yellow and orange, ochre and umber. Dark green shutters always, the colour of the solemn tall trees. Light grey stone, dark grey cobbles scattered with cigarette butts. Prosecco before dinner watching the passeggiata.IMG_8880

Lizards skittering as I walk. Giant flakes peeling off slate paths. Dark, heavy wooden doors and windows that swing wide. Orange-tiled roofs, rippled, stacked, layer over layer on the hillside. Fountains. Passing cone-shaped peaks and looking down to straight Roman roads along the valleys.

Narrow street

The local shop with price stickers and no barcode scanners and a deli counter to die for, where you have to test your Italian to ask for a vague quantity of salami and cheese and prosciutto. Basta cosi. A real butcher’s counter with hunks of meat where the butcher can tell you if the pig was a boy or a girl. He probably knows its name and what it ate for breakfast. Thin dark leaves in among the peaches that still have this morning’s dew on them.


Olive groves and fields of girasoles. Fragrant lavender shortbread just out of the oven and geranium petals swimming delicately in pool water.

Path through olive trees to the lake

How can I tell which moments I’ll remember? Which moments my children will remember? What makes a memory? Is a photograph a memory-keeper, or does it change the memory to something else, something easier but not so real? Does it steal the soul of the memory? What can I do but write it and look at it and hope I lived it when it happened?

Carp in fountain


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.

Updatey things for a Friday

First of all, I’m sorry to inform you, if you didn’t already know, that Mabel and Dash are not my children’s real names. Maud is also not my real name. I’m very sorry if you feel betrayed in any way by this information, but it is on the About page, so I wasn’t intentionally keeping it from you. If you want to call your children Mabel and Dash, I’m delighted, but you should probably think about cutting me in on the royalties. (What do you mean, children don’t come with royalties? They should.)

Dinner at the table is going well. So long as I am proactive about turning the TV off at exactly 5.59, I have two eager diners sitting up and even demanding to be let set the table one minute later. Three, if their dad is home on time. Enthusiasm for tasting new foods has dimmed a little, but seriously, I’m just happy to have them sitting there seeing new foods being eaten by other people. We have actual dinnertime conversation, and I get to tell them not to talk with their mouths full, and it’s just like a real family.

My point with this is not that I think you have to eat dinner at the table too, or that you should do any of the things I do. It’s simply to encourage you by showing that change is possible, even if you think you’ve missed the boat because you didn’t institute whatever rule it was when they were born, or first eating solids, or turned four (five, six, seven…). If you don’t like the way things are, make a change. Or if you’re not ready for that, at least don’t despair, because when you are ready for it, you can do it.

We went to get Mabel’s American passport renewed yesterday. Previous passports (they have two each and the Irish baby one got renewed at 3 years) have been cause for photo-related hilarity and/or gnashing of teeth, but I was hopeful that this would be a straight shot. Mabel wasn’t great about holding her head up for the nice lady, but the nice lady was very canny and left the room while I wielded the camera, and I caught her in an accidental smile.

Mabel's photo

(We got to keep the second print. Which is nice because all the photos in my wallet were at least three years old.)

Another five

Mabel turned five on Monday, and I’m only now thinking to mention it on my blog. You can blame second-child syndrome, but it’s mostly to do with all the other posts that have been brewing while we’ve been away. And the way she defies description, this child. I can’t pin her down with a few choice words, because she is always so much more, so contrary that she’ll be the opposite of whatever I say, so impossible.

My impossible girl. Impossibly loving, defiant, demanding, thoughtful, intransigent, accommodating, everything.

I have a soft spot for four and seven and twelve. I don’t know why, but those ages hold magic. So I’m sorry to see my four-year-old grow up and on and become a five-year-old – or I would be, if it didn’t mean that I get a five-year-old who is so much easier to deal with in so many ways than her one-year-ago incarnation.

Mabel is direct, I can tell you that. She knows her mind, and she tells you about it. She doesn’t understand dissemblers; she’s not one for subtlety. And yet – sometimes she’ll pull my sleeve and bring my ear to her mouth and tell me something she can’t keep in, but she knows she shouldn’t say out loud. She’s learning, and she’s sharp like a knife, this girl.

And she’s funny and smart and inventive and can craft a pun or a metaphor or a rhyme that impresses, and she’s going places.

I can’t wait to see where those places will be.

Mabel posing

Mabel with Dash's wooden sword down the back of her shirt

Mabel on the phone

Blowing out candles on the birthday cake

Mabel with stuffed bunny and baby doll

Colouring while waiting at the airport

Baby update

The babies have been earning their keep lately, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Dolls on a sofa

They’ve been going to school.

Babies with "Great" stickers

Some of them are exemplary students.

Doll with A+ sticker

And they all have their names on flashcards.

Flashcards with "names" written by a four-year-old.
After a hard morning’s learning, it’s time for a snack and some TV.
Babies on the sofa, 4-year-old at table with apple and yogurt.