Soundtrack of my life

Mabel came with us on Dash’s school run this morning, because I was taking her to the doctor straight afterwards (to ascertain that her ongoing sniffles-and-cough-and-ear thing is probably two colds back to back rather than anything worse, like maybe a sinus infection; doctor said if she’s not over it in another week she’ll call in a prescription for us; AANYWAY). Usually, Dash’s traffic-clogged trip to school has the soothing soundtrack of NPR talk radio, but Mabel hates NPR. She wanted the crappy music stations; more specifically, not any songs but preferably the ads. She likes the ads. Why would anyone like the ads? (I like the crappy music stations too, I hasten to clarify, but I like the songs, not the ads.)

So I put on the classical music station and told the kids it was a compromise: a compromise is when nobody gets what they want. In retaliation, Dash started to sing his favourite dirge from music class, which is a two line hum where half the class sings a low monotonous wail and the other half sings a high chirpy incredibly irritating tiddly bit. Maybe it sounds good when they put it all together in music class, but one part at a time sung by Mr I-never-get -bored-of-the-same-line-over-and-over does not. Mabel started to build an imaginary brick wall to shut herself off from him. I glanced back to see her happily spreading invisible mortar and placing invisible bricks. Once her wall was done, she sang her own song: a brief and whiny rendition of Dash’s nemesis in tune form, ‘Shake It Off’. He protested. She said he couldn’t hear her because of her brick wall. I listened really hard to Mozart.

But because it was morning, and we’re all well-rested and not yet grumpy, things didn’t turn ugly, as they easily could have later in the day. Instead of screams and kicks and threats of turning someone out on the Beltway (where quite honestly they would probably get there quicker walking, but also probably flatter), they joined forces. Dash started humming the theme tune to Star Wars, and Mabel joined in, but singing the words ‘Let it Go’ to the melody. (They both hate ‘Let It Go’, which they view as horribly babyish and something they only liked as their immature three-years-ago selves. This about-face happened just after I bought Frozen on DVD.) They happily worked themselves through the themes to Indiana Jones and Harry Potter this way, and finally moved on to a rousing chorus of ‘Shut Up and Dance’.

I was not allowed to join in.

(And now I have remembered this post, from a million years ago, which was mostly inspired by me and B in the car singing along to whatever it was we were listening to, and thinking we needed some underlings to teach to sing along too, before they decided that we were uncool and so were our tastes in music. I think we’ve managed that, though it maybe didn’t turn out exactly as I envisaged. When does it ever, though? We did pretty well.)

Mabel sitting on Dash, on the sofa, sort of.
A sibling moment, but at least not in the car.


Dear potential employer,

My absence from the paid workforce for the past years has given me valuable experience and enabled me to develop skills and abilities that will make me an asset to your team. Please consider the following in lieu of things that I might otherwise have done in an actual office during that time period.

Relevant experience:

Produced miniature human out of own body twice with limited outside aid.

Seven years’ experience feeding children from appendages of own body. Job requirements: tenacity, patience, high pain tolerance, high boredom threshold.

Almost ten years’ experience as mother, stay-at-home parent, mom, Mooooom, Mummy!, food source, youth fashion buyer, household organizer, holiday booker, human pacifier, maker of rod for own back.

Kept appointment diary for CEOs and ensured that they attended all required events (doctor, dentist, family Christmas, nursery school open day) as scheduled.

Provided hugs, kisses, and band-aids on a daily basis, even when no visible injury present.

Invested personal resources into developing ability to say no and stick to it.

Finely tuned ability to remain open to persuasion and see multiple points of view.

Learned to tune out “noise” and focus on what’s important. (This mess and my cup of tea, respectively.)

Professional certifications and awards: 

  • Advanced level not giving a fuck
  • Distraction and redirection, toddler level: gold star
  • “Above and Beyond” award for licking a hanky and rubbing your face with it while you squirm
  • Question-answering 101 and beyond, graduated with honors
  • 1st place, Pretending to listen and making appropriate response noises, 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15; has been awarded the trophy in perpetuity
  • Master’s degree in Getting out of bed at 3am

I’m sure you will appreciate how many of these experiences, qualities, and qualifications will prove invaluable to me going forward in the workplace; and the others are clearly testament to my strength of character and had better have some sort of payoff in years to come, dammit.

Yours in hope,



How to host Thanksgiving dinner

Take turkey out of fridge. Watch children grimace at dead turkey, accuse you of heartlessness, run away.

Note that Child Two seems to be particularly volatile today. Oh good, think to self. Just what we needed.

Find Child Two screaming over some purported unfairness. Save day with craft project for her: making nameplates for the table.

Congratulate self on excellent parenting as Child Two settles down happily with paper and markers and scissors and a list of names of those attending.

Set table. Child Two throws wobbler over seating arrangement, demands to seat people where she wants, against all sensible logic.

Child One arrives, puts in oar, demands further different seating arrangement. Says he won’t sit at table where dead turkey is present anyway.

Threaten to cancel dinner altogether. Children rejoice. Take it back. Children unite in discord but are still fighting. Go and say mean things about them on Twitter.

Ignore screams, consider vegetables. Swear you’ll never cook a turkey again. Contemplate running away and joining the circus before next November.

Cover turkey in bacon. Put turkey in oven. Be pretty confident that this is a good move.

Ask Child One if he’d like to help you peel vegetables. To your surprise, he says yes. Congratulate self on excellent parenting as child one helps you peel potatoes. Child two has decided that a session of Minecraft will resolve all seating-plan problems.

Convince Child Two to help you peel carrots and top and tail green beans. Experience smushy glowy feeling of nostalgia.

Make stuffing. Discover at point of no return that these are the wrong sort of breadcrumbs. Stuffing is ruined. Abandon stuffing. Go put on some dangly earrings.

Put clean towel in downstairs bathroom.

Salvage stuffing with different recipe. Congratulate self on superior culinary skills.

Take turkey out of oven, done an hour ahead of schedule. Cover with foil. Make gravy, roast potatoes, cook vegetables, welcome guests. Open wine. Ignore children.

Give thanks. Look into Thanksgiving weekend breaks for next year.

Mabel at the table
Mabel performs a final check on the seating plan



Spring Break Vignettes

Dash was commenting recently on how even though his parents are both less than ten years away from halfway to a hundred – thanks, Dash, that’s lovely – he doesn’t think of us as being old. “Gee, thanks,” we said, but Mabel came and snuggled on my knee and kissed me and said, “Don’t worry, Mummy, you’re very … happy and … nice.” She had to search for the right words, there, I know she did. But she really tried. Beautiful and young would have done too, but never mind, it’s probably a good thing.

Lake view through the trees

Mabel did admit one day recently that she had lied, once, in school. “How did that happen?” I asked, curious to see how this would play out.
“Well, Mr. G__ asked us if we liked his new glasses.”
That seems exceptionally reasonable, and I told her as much.

Hot cross buns
Easter baking. They look … artisanal, right?

We all went to the supermarket this morning, it being spring break and us being totally out of milk and cereal and bread and basically everything anyone eats. As we left, Mabel was cradling the pineapple we’d bought and singing a little song to it. Because that’s how she rolls.

Mabel with a book in the car.
This is not a pineapple.

We went down to the playground yesterday and called on our friends who live across the road from it. They came out to play and an epic game of Harry Potter began. Mostly I read my book and sat on the bench that – purposely, I’m sure – faces directly away from all the playground equipment, so you can’t be tempted to try to save anyone, but I did at one point hear Dash announce, “I’ll be Hedwig and Buckbeak.” Which seemed ambitious.


Cherry blossoms. Finally. And it’s suddenly sunscreen weather, and shorts and t-shirts weather, and sandals weather and painting toenails weather. It won’t stay this way, this is just our little teaser to remind us to go through the summer wardrobes and discover that everyone’s grown out of everything. Again. But the blossoms are glorious.




One Crazy Internet

When I was writing for the late lamented I started doing a thing called One Crazy Internet, where I’d share the cool or funny links I’d found during the week. I sort of miss it, so I thought I’d do it again here from time to time.

These are not the cat photos you might be expecting: The Worst Cats.

Does fatherhood look like this in your house? How to be the World’s Best Father.

Some stunning photos of the clearest lake in the world, frozen.

Someone thinks all the J.Crew models look a little wasted. They might be right.

The grossest foods you might find on Pinterest. The catch is these aren’t Pinterest fails – they were meant to come out like this.

And finally, some picky kids to entertain you, because they’re not your kids and it’s not the dinner you slaved over.


I literally laughed my head off

Ah, the mind of an eight year old.

Dash throws a ball around in the family room. “Don’t throw things inside the house!” one or other of us roars at him.

“I was tossing it,” he’ll tell you, with a cheeky grin. Or launching it, or dropping it, or catapulting it.

He thinks he’s so smart, with all his synonyms.

“What’s this? Can I open it?”
“It’s junk mail. Okay, go ahead.”

Dash starts to open the envelope, poking a finger around to get under the well-stuck-down flap, peeling off a little at a time.

“But don’t drop paper on the floor,” adds his father.

Dash squats down and carefully places his fragment of paper on the floor, and then the next and the next. He’s not doing it to be funny, he’s just doing what he was told.

He has no idea why the rest of us are in fits of laughter.


In which I have a heart of stone

Our friends two doors up had a very old hamster. A few weeks ago Hammy the hamster moved on to the big hamster wheel in the sky and mere days later the neighbours had a new hamster, and a bunny as well, for good measure.

Mabel, her birthday fast approaching, came home from meeting the new bunny and sat down and wrote an entirely fictional book about a girl called Olivia.

Cover page of Mabel's book
“Olivia Wants a Kitten.” No pressure.

Olivia lying in bed dreaming of a kitten.
[Olivia loved kittens.]
Olivia and her very tall mother.
[Olivia’s mom said she has to wait till she’s older.]
Happy Olivia contemplates her birthday.
[It is almost her birthday.]
Happy party picture, with presents.
[Olivia got the present she wanted.]
Christmas is coming up. I’m not sure how long I can hold out against this sort of psychological warfare.