Tag Archives: visitors

Hospitality

The weather has taken a retrograde step. It was just perfect there for a little while: warm, sunny, not too hot, delightful for sitting on the bleachers hearing the “pock” of the baseball bat or taking your lunch outside and listening to the birds twittering their tiny hearts out on the bursting green branches. But now it’s chilly and grey and the forecast is for more drippy, dismal, not-very-warm days. I know I like it not hot, but I also wanted to show off our perfect weather to our Irish visitors, and it’s not optimal. Warmer than Ireland, a bit, but just as unsunny.

But I keep looking around to see how it might seem to new eyes. I always do this when we have visitors. I always want to give them the full immersive experience of Life In America, which is impossible in three days, especially when they’ve never been to DC before so we’re really honour-bound to trek into town and take a few photos outside the White House and with Lincoln and so on. Posing outside the White House is not really representative of our day-to-day lives here, but it would be remiss to omit it.

If you come to visit me I will hoover upstairs as well as downstairs. I will dust the windowsills and the picture frames. I will put out the good slightly better towels and make up the guest bed. I will plan delicious dinners and stock up on wine. I will spend long happy moments anticipating our conversations, in which I explain everything that we do and impress you with how many people I know. (I don’t know why being acquainted with people is impressive, but for some reason it’s what I always want to do.)

I will drive you around and try to make you understand the geography of the town, because orientation is important, and the socio-economic undercurrents and the architectural history, because it’s all part of understanding how it is to live here. None of this will make any impression because you have other interests, but I’ll enjoy telling you. I might not even get to tell you, because we’re friends, so we’ll probably have other things to talk about. But the general gist is going to be that I like it here. It’s a good place. I want you to go home and tell people that we live in a nice place, that we have a nice life, that we’re very lucky.

We are very lucky. I should know; I’m here every day.

But you might be horrified by my children’s exuberance. (They’re always particularly over-exuberant when we have a visitor, because they want to impress you with their prowess at throwing themselves around, at singing and dancing and talking to you and interrupting and having your pay all the attention to them.) You might be appalled by their lack of discipline and the fact that I feed them separately, in front of the TV more often than not, so that the grown-ups can have a civilized meal in peace. That, in short, they are terrible and the jury is out on whether they will become less terrible as a natural course of events or whether they need somewhat more input from the parentals.

If you bring children with you, of course, you’ll probably be experiencing the same thing in reverse, so hopefully we’ll all just pour a glass of wine,  boot the children outside, and relax. The house won’t stay clean, you’ll notice things I didn’t expect you to and breeze right by the picture frames and the socio-economic lectures, the weather will throw an oar into our sightseeing plans, and we’ll have to remain flexible and patient, but we know how to do that because we have children.

We’ve got this. Come and visit me.

 

 

End of an Ergo

I’m giving you a little break so you can catch up on all my past posts, and all the other things going on around the Internet, whatever they may be. At least, apparently that’s what I’m doing. But in the meantime, a few bullets to get me out of this bloggy doldrum:

  • I dusted off and gussied up my resume (which mostly meant changing all the fonts so they looked less 2004 and more 2013 to my non-graphic-designer eye; maybe it just made the whole thing look different to me and therefore as if it must have new information even though it doesn’t, much) and sent it to someone who expressed an interest. So that was nice. I will now proceed to freak out about all the free time I don’t have even though nothing has happened yet.
  • We had visitors, which was lovely and gave my deeply ingrained Internet addiction a little break. I’m also re-reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, which is exciting enough to get me away from the computer from time to time.
  • I have given away, sorted out, and designated for donation the last of the baby clothes. Even more finally, I am selling the Ergo. (And the Moby, if anyone wants it.) I put them on a local mailing list yesterday afternoon and by 6pm I had three offers for the Ergo. I think it will be taken today. I used it daily for, I’d say, four years in total, and apart from some fading it’s in perfect condition, not a stitch out of place. Those things are built to last, and if you’re looking for a baby carrier I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Baby-wearing on a bus with an Ergo and a toddler
Oh, Ergo. The fun times we had.
  • By which I mean that the baby train has left and I am not on it and I’m finally fine with that. (Disclaimer here so that writing this sentence does not immediately cause me to accidentally conceive. We do not intend to procreate any further, that’s all.)
  • Bedtime has taken a turn for the worse. It’s not fun. I do not like chasing Mabel around the street in her nightgown after stories because she’s not tired (except she is, so much) and as a result her second-favourite Barbie is now reposing in the recycling bin. I suppose I’ll take it out, but it’s the first time I’ve actually been forced to take such a drastic step. Or lost my temper enough to go through with it, I suppose.
  • I hope it’s a phase, because the rest of my life isn’t looking much like a good time if it’s not.

Two boys, six years, three continents

Thanks to the wonders of modern air travel and funding for conference attendees, Dash has met his friend Moose every summer (and a couple of times in between) since they were born, in places both far flung and more domestic. Here’s a quick history.

Can I eat him? wondered Dash

With a giant two-month lead, six-month-old Dash was way ahead of the little Moose. At least, he could sit up without listing to the side. This first momentous encounter took place in Delaware, of all places.

Feed us, zoo people

Things had evened up a bit by the next summer, here waiting for lunch at the Sydney Zoo, Australia. Someone asked us how old they were. We replied “That one’s 14 months and this one just turned 12 months.” “Oh, are they twins?”

A cheeky little vintage, this 2008 stuff

On top of Gaudi’s La Pedrera in Barcelona, two-year-old Dash and Moose stopped for a sophisticated water-and-crackers break.

Ireland calls for sweaters

At almost three, a colouring challenge was issued in Cork. (Dunnes Stores gleaming enticingly in the background there.)

Mooom, he’s touching me

 By four, Spider-Man just needed to chill out in Maryland.

Three still fit in one chair

Suddenly, just a year later, we had two great big five-year-olds (and a small girl) in Wales.

It’s called “mafs.” “No, it’s math.” “No, mafs.” Etc.

And now they’re six and yesterday they were together again, playing Angry Birds, having lightsaber fights, and pillow fighting on the sofa (not simultaneously). See you next summer, Moose!

This and that

I’m not going to tell you any more about how Mabel’s nights are going until they’ve settled down a bit and formed a – dare I say it? – pattern of some sort. Besides, I don’t want to spoil the suspense.

I happened to look up the school website to see which day Dash starts back, and it turns out there’s only three weeks of vacation left. How can that be? I almost (almost) feel sad about it, except for all the reasons it’s a good thing. But he and his sister have learned to play together again this summer, in recent days she has come out of her hate phase and been heard to say “I love you” to not just me but everyone in the family, and things are delightful – at least around breakfast time when everyone’s at their most happy and polite. (I’m pretty catatonic until I’ve had a bowl of cereal, but the kids are good.)

And I will miss Dash when he’s back at school all day. These summers really are (barf, sorry) precious, because every one that goes by sees him demonstrably more grown up, more grown away, doing more and exploring further, and in no time at all we’ll be at the summer where he goes off to Europe inter-railing for two months. Or whatever the kids are doing then.

Our guests get here tomorrow, and though they are the most low-key guests imaginable – my good friend and her six-year-old son, just for two nights – it’s a good excuse to clean some things that never get cleaned, and throw out some things that have been waiting all summer to be thrown out, and organize just a tiny bit. Of course, it’s a constant uphill battle against the children who know hilarity lies in throwing toys around for fun, but just maybe the floor will be vacuumed tomorrow morning.

This weekend, many people are going to BlogHer in New York. I think I might just make a resolution to go next year, assuming it’s either there or in DC again – I don’t imagine I’d fly further afield for it at this stage. But for the first time, I know some people (okay, one for sure) in real life who are attending, and it makes it feel like not such a ridiculous thing for me to want to do. I do blog, I am a blogger, I qualify, right?

Are you going to BlogHer? Would you go with me next year?

Optimism

Three of the children in Mabel’s class, one of whom was at our party on Sunday, are now ridden with some horrible plague-like virus, and I find myself already looking at her with that nostalgic indulgent expression reserved for pathetically ill children. When I picked her up from school one of the parents involved (who was there, but without her ailing offspring) apologised profusely and said that she thought Mabel’s eyes already had the glazed I’m-getting-sick look. I’m hoping against hope that she was wrong, but I can’t tell. I thought she looked preternaturally pale with oddly pink cheeks, but she was probably just warm from running around inside, as it was raining in the playground.

She’s acting perfectly normally, and this is one of those times when I’m really glad we’re still nursing, because I will continue to tout its amazing immune-boosting properties until the moment she comes down with a horrible rash and a fever of 104.

Still, today is her last day of school for the week, so she won’t be marinating in the Petri dish that is a classroom full of two- and three-year-olds, so maybe the clanging chimes of doom won’t sound quite so loudly in a few days and we’ll be spared. Maybe.

We have absolutely no plans for Thanksgiving, and I like it that way. I have no intention of thinking about it till next Wednesday at the earliest (since my mother-in-law will be here from this Friday till Tuesday), though I did see a recipe I wouldn’t mind trying.

Sorry, I was distracted there. Dash sat down at the table beside me to do his homework, except that he wasn’t so much sitting as jiggling furiously on the chair in deep denial of his need to pee. Twice he stood up to go, and then sat down again, and my last nerve was busy shredding itself on the cheesegrater of infuriation as I waited for him to finally give in. (I’d love you to think that I sat calmly by, letting him figure this out for himself, but I’m not that saintly. I exhorted him vehemently several times to answer the damn call of nature before nature ran down his legs and onto my kitchen floor.) He’s gone now. Hang on a minute while my blood vessels return to their normal size.

 Dum-de-dum… Anyway.

One day last week the kids were playing outside on their bikes, as we have been doing every day after school in the lovely autumn weather that has now given way to persistent rain, and Dash was singing-counting to himself as he circled round and round and round. He got to the highest number he could possibly conceive of (probably having skipped a few on the way):

“What’s after a hundred and eight, Mummy? Is it a million?”
“No, it’s a hundred and nine.”
“Wow. And what’s after that? Is it a million?”

That’s optimism right there. I don’t know where he gets it from.

Visitation

Have I mentioned, by any chance, that my mother and my mother-in-law are coming to stay? Tomorrow. Simultaneously, together, and at the same time. In unison, even. Please allow me to let a small “aargh” escape my fingers, just here, between you and me.

I mean, it’s a great idea and it will be fine. It’s just. You know.

My mother-in-law is a seasoned traveller and was last here in May, just before we moved into the house. She saw it all newly painted and lovely (except the kitchen, which wasn’t quite finished), but didn’t get to stay in it. My mum, on the other hand, hasn’t been here since Monkey was 18 months old, or thereabouts. This is not because she doesn’t love us as much, but rather because my Dad has bad circulation so can’t make the long flight, and she’s nervous about travelling on her own – I think last time she got caught up in some seventh circle of customs and couldn’t find the exit for a while; and she’s a good bit more vague and fluffy (let’s say) now than she was three years ago.

So when my husband’s mother offered to bring Mum over this autumn so she could see us in situ in the new house, she jumped at the chance, and has been looking forward to it (and probably planning what to pack – she is related to me, after all) for a good five months now.

The two grannies get on very well, and my mother-in-law is actually going to head off up to Boston to see her other US-dwelling son and grandsons for the weekend, so we won’t have them both here for the whole week. But it does involve a certain amount of meal planning, house cleaning, and bed arranging to be able to put them both up with the dignity they’re due.

I think we’ll be moving the futon (which used to be Monkey’s bed) up to Mabel’s room for Granny K, while Granny D (who will be here the whole time, and is after all the senior granny) gets the actual guest room. Which now has curtains on one window (yay) but not the other (boo). Mabel will sleep (with/without me) on the airbed in our room.

Daytimes will be a mixture of doing the same as usual with Granny/ies in tow – because they’ve both seen the sights before and honestly want to just hang out and get an idea of what we do – my mum will happily come along to the supermarket and goggle at the enormous aisle of cereal boxes or what have you – and a few nice outings, maybe to the National Arboretum and the National Harbour, both of which are close, easy, and attractive.

We’ve moved Mabel’s car seat over to the middle, forward facing because it didn’t work the other way, and Monkey’s booster just fits beside it, leaving one rear seat and the front passenger seat available for a granny each. (If all six of us are going somewhere, we’ll take both cars.) Mabel was concerned, when I explained this plan, that Granny would be sitting in her car seat. I haven’t yet broached the fact with her that there will be two Grannies at once. I think that will be much too confusing until they’re both here. (Mabel was also concerned yesterday that Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall. I had to reassure her that he was okay, despite the reported failure of every last one of the king’s horses and men.)

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy being the hostess with the mostess, or alternatively escaping to hyperventilate in my room for a few minutes.

Honey milk

“Honey milk. I want honey milk.”
“You want honey milk what?”
“Now?”
Sigh.
“What’s the magic word?”
“Abracadabra?”
“…”
“Please can I have some honey milk?”
“That’s so much nicer. I will make you some honey milk.”

The funny thing is, I thought I had invented honey milk, to placate the boy with something sweet and warm and milky that didn’t emanate directly from me. It’s not something I remember from my childhood, like mashed bananas, or French toast, or a big bowl of Bird’s custard. Then I heard that my sister-in-law makes it for my nephews too. I suppose it’s pretty obvious, but I wondered if it was some sort of biological knowledge all mothers carry deep in our genes.

We just had friends staying with us. Their son is two months younger than Monkey, and the boys spent the time beating each other up, chasing each other maniacally around the house and over the sofa, wailing for justice because one or other had inflicted a completely unexpected injury, or sitting quietly side by side on the sofa, mesmerised by the swift and judicious application of a Batman DVD by exasperated parents. It was a little tiring. I love having guests, but much like Douglas Adams – who loved to hear the whoosh of deadlines as they went past – I also love the restoration of silence and order when they leave, even though we still have two perfectly noisy and messy children of our own. There’s nothing like some variety to make you appreciate the normal.

Almost a week ago, in a fit of productiveness, I strode purposefully towards a shelf to tidy something and smashed my toe forcefully into a chair leg on the way. As I hopped around gasping in agony and trying (as I do sometimes at moments like this) to gauge how much like or unlike the pain of labour and childbirth it was, I cast around in vain for someone else to blame. My children, for callously watching TV as I writhed? My husband for misaligning the chair leg? (It wasn’t misaligned.) Sadly, only myself, for not paying attention and/or wearing shoes. But I never wear shoes in the house – I’ve never broken a toe before. It’s not actually broken – Dr Google convinced me that it would be purple all over instead of just one place if that were the case, and I wouldn’t be able to walk at all. It’s improving slowly, but I’ve been limping, more or less depending on the recent-ness of follow-up injuries like Monkey jumping on my bare foot in his sandals, or bumping the same toe into the table leg as I stood up (will I never learn? no, apparently) ever since.

My little toes are ridiculous bumps of things, mere carbuncles on the rest of my peculiar little short, wide, high-arched, stumpy-toed feet, with no visible joints to them, just a curve leading leading to the tiniest toenail you’ve ever seen. On the rare occassions that I go for a pedicure, I always expect the girl to burst out laughing and ask me if I seriously expect her to put polish on that tiny expanse. Possibly she tells all her friends in Korean and all the other salon girls are surreptitiously mocking my tiny pinkie toes as they pass. But they’re polite enough not to say anything directly to me, for which I must be grateful.

So here I am, languishing with my bruised foot up, guests gone, house a disaster – but I have no impetus left to clean it, so it can stay that way for a while – Monkey sporting his new, improved (because it actually fits him this time) Spider-Man costume. I like to think that he’s less obsessive about it than he would have been if he’d got it, say, this time last year, which was probably about when he started to want one. I can actually get him out of the house in regular clothes still, which is a plus, even if he did leave the swimming-pool changing rooms all Spidey’d up the other day. He now wants us to make him red gloves out of cardboard, no matter how often we explain that cardboard just doesn’t sew. He’s not a child to take no for an answer; he just asks again. And again. And again, while I’m making dinner. And again, at bedtime. And again, first thing in the morning.

I have no idea where he gets such optimism from.