Snapshot – a quick catch-up

Swear to god I’ve nearly forgotten how to log in here. Sorry and all that. Things are better, though, so it’s all good. I’ve just been busy. Maybe time for a quick listicle. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Writing
Today I sent my newest book off to a real editor to read. Full disclosure: she’s a friend, and she’s not going to edit it as such, but to give me a “reader’s report” – an inkling of whether the whole thing hangs together as a cohesive story, with a plot and all that necessary stuff. I hope it does, at least a little. Having self-published my first three books I’d like to try to go the traditional publishing route with this one and its successors, if possible. We shall see.

Playing
I am somewhat addicted to a game called I Love Hue on my phone. You have to move squares around until the colours all flow into each other. It’s immensely satisfying and I’m about to get to the end and then I don’t know what I’ll do with my life, honestly. I never got into Candy Crush or any of those other games other people were playing, so this is a new experience for me.

Reading
Harry Potter on a loop, pretty much, aloud, to Miss Mabel, who does sometimes deign to read some herself and is well able to. She took book 6 to school with her today, which is quite a step forward. She gets hung up on the odd new word, but it’s not beyond her ability.
Also, this book, which was recommended by Jessica of VeryMom and really helped me get unstuck with the book. Maybe next time I’ll even plot first instead of at the end.

Eating
I made an apple pie for pi day (3/14 if you do your dates the American way), which is a date I’d much rather celebrate appropriately than St Patrick’s Day, when I plan to order pizza as my traditional protest against all things Irish-American. (The supermarket is stocked with corned beef and chrysanthemums dressed up in leprechaun hats.) Anyway, I didn’t have enough pastry so I gave my pie a lattice top and it turned out very nicely. Also, I think I’ve eaten most of it.

Lattice-topped homemade apple pie
With vanilla ice cream on the side.

Watching
The Crown is the only thing I’ve got going at the moment, and I suspect I’m liking it much more than the husband, who tolerates it. But I tolerate all his superhero nonsense, so here we are. We enjoyed The Good Place and the second season of Stranger Things and when does Doctor Who start again?

Talking about
The campaign to Repeal the 8th is nothing I have to explain to anyone Irish, but readers elsewhere might not know about it. I follow the Facebook page called In Her Shoes, where women who’ve been affected by the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution can tell their own stories. In my mind it’s all anyone should need to convince them to vote for repeal. I also came across this excellent list yesterday, the contents of which shocked some of my American friends. If you’re in Ireland, please vote for repeal.

 

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Things the cats are fascinated by, a partial list

The basement stairs, which are way more exciting than the regular stairs.

The process of scooping and disposing of their poop, which they have to run over and supervise whenever I do it (where supervising = getting in the way).

Pens, especially if on the table. A pen’s proper place is on the floor, of course.

What the humans are eating and/or drinking. Best examined from the vantage point of the table.

Human feet, under a duvet, at 5am. Pounceable deliciousness.

My hair.

Tails, which are a constant mystery, in spite of having one each.

A piece of dry cat food that has accidentally skittered across the kitchen floor and is much more alluring than all the rest of the cat food in the bowl.

The breeze coming through an opened window.

The bath, empty (for playing in) or occupied (utterly flabbergasting).

The toilet, ditto; they must come over and inquire into exactly what I might be doing if sitting there.

The inside of the dishwasher.

The inside of the clothes dryer.

Drawers – how they work, what’s inside them, what might be behind them.

The freezer, on the bottom of the fridge, the most mysterious drawer of all.

The sliding closet doors. They clearly operate by witchcraft and must be stopped at all costs.

Empty tissue boxes, to be examined closely, from within, at a cat’s peril.

Shopping bags: enemies, to be defeated.

Napping. More investigation required. Haven’t got to the bottom of this yet. Will get back to you with our results.

The annual curmudge

I’m a big old St Patrick’s Day curmudgeon. This is not news to anyone who was here last year or any other year. I don’t want to wear green today or get drunk today (well, sure, but children) or set up leprechaun traps today or listen to traditional Irish music today and I’m only just getting over the mortification of having to see Enda Kenny visit Donald Trump today.

When the word went out that this year’s international dinner at Dash’s school this Sunday would have live Irish music and dancing, I went from vaguely wondering if we could get out of it to deciding that I really didn’t have to show up to everything they put on.

Old map of Ireland, framed, from unusual perspective.
No, it’s not sideways. That’s the way they drew the map.

Then I wondered if I was really a terrible person, denying my children access to their heritage like that. Am I like one of those immigrants who refuses to speak the language of the old country to their children so that they’ll assimilate better, thus taking the wonderful benefits of bilingualism out of their family’s grasp?

Actually, no. I don’t like traditional Irish music or step dancing. It’s part of my national heritage, but it’s not something I feel any personal connection to. Same goes for GAA (that’s hurling and Gaelic football). And we’re not even Catholic any more. But you know what my kids will grow up with?

  • A Hiberno-English vocabulary that they can turn on and off at will.
  • A bookshelf full of books by British and Irish authors many of whom are less well known here, from Oliver Jeffers’ picture books to Joyce’s Ulysses and a lot in between.
  • Knowledge of the canon of Father Ted, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, and various other bits and pieces of nerdy 80s trivia befitting children of Irish people our age.
  • A better grasp of Irish and European geography and history than many Americans.
  • An understanding that other countries are just as valid and real as the USA and that normal is an ever-shifting concept.
  • Familiarity with the Dublin Monopoly board.
  • Access to plenty of excellent Irish hits of the 80s and 90s, should they choose to indulge.
  • Their grandfather’s watercolours of Irish scenes and historical maps of Ireland on the walls.
A pile of books by authors including Marian Keyes, Kate O'Brien, James Joyce, Julia Donaldson, Liz Nugent, Flann O'Brien.
Not all Irish authors, but all from that side of the pond

And then there’s that book I wrote, too. It’s set in Ireland.

I think they’ll be secure enough in their cultural heritage even if it doesn’t extend to a spot of the old diddly-aye.

Framed watercolour painting of a Galway hooker with brown sails on the water
An Irish painting of an Irish boat

Playlist of my Life

Another linky, but this time I’m partaking, not starting. Nicola at Simply Homemade wrote a totally irresistable post – I actually had to trawl my archives to make sure I hadn’t done this already, because it seemed so much like something I’d do. (I have a lot of archives. If I didn’t tag it properly I might never find it.)

The concept is simple: a list of the songs that have been meaningful through your life. The execution… this is going to take a LOT of thinking.

Nicola already used Boney M’s by the River of Babylon, which is one of the first songs I remember, so I’ll have to pick one of the others. I could choose Brown Girl in the Ring, which I certainly remember twirling around to while it played on the radio, but I think I’ll pick this one, which is possibly the cutest song ever (listen for the plot twist at verse three) and very very redolent of my young childood. I was three the year this was the UK Eurovision entry.

Oh good lord, I’ve just realised that I could do this whole thing through meaningful Eurovision entries. I’ll try not to, but I can’t make any promises.

Honorable mention for this one, from a few years later – 1980 when I was 7. I was just a smidge young for disco dancing to this (ahem), but it’s absolutely iconic.

I have this weird random memory of being in a department-store shoe shop in London where this song was playing. (We would have been visiting my English relatives at Easter, probably.) It got under my skin and I found myself humming it for years afterwards, able to conjure up that exact moment with the chorus. I would have been 10 or 11, assuming it was playing on the radio as a new release. (This memory might be totally wrong. Maybe it was Switzers in Dublin.)

Honestly, I was never very much into music as a teen. I didn’t know where to find music, I had no older siblings to influence me, I went along with my friends’ obsessions but didn’t really find them hitting me as hard as they did them. My best friend loved A-Ha and Wet Wet Wet – I remember her playing a new album to me, me thinking it was okay but were we just going to sit around listening to it all afternoon? She also played me this old one, that her dad the Mary Black fan had introduced her to – and again, it’s a moment that has stuck in my mind, sitting on the floor in her darkened living room (curtains never to be opened for fear of fading the carpet) with the purple velvet sofa, trying hard but not quite managing to be moved by this. Apparently I had no soul.

I’ll spare you the songs I did gym routines to (though I can still name them); but I one of the first tapes I owned was Now Thats What I Call Music 10, which I played over and over. Really, though, it was a gem. At least, tape 2 was. At least, some parts of it were. This one: this one I liked a lot.

I really feel like I’ve written this post before. I bet it’s in here somewhere … anyway. One more from the school years, I think, before we go crazy at college. I could put in Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, because that was our Sixth Year song, or The Boxer, which we also sang at school, or all of Handel’s Messiah for that matter, but instead I’ll take you to the Gaeltacht where the Honours Irish class spent a weekend honing our conversational Irish before the oral exams. We went to Peig-land (i.e. the environs of Dingle) and stayed in self-catering cottages where we had a stereo on the mantelpiece and a constant argument about what music to put on. Mary Black and my George Michael album were about the only things everyone was okay with. I was very proud to be so generally acceptable.

I think we can move on up to the disco-attending years now. I should say nightclub, of course, because a disco is very naff and we were sophisticated young adults who could legally drink (at 18 in Ireland, Americans) and who went to nightclubs. I wasn’t a big drinker and I didn’t have much money, but Hollies was free for members on Wednesdays and Sundays, you could even take the Dart to Blackrock where there’d be nobody on duty to check for a ticket and walk up the long road to the Stillorgan Park Hotel, and four in a taxi back to Dalkey split up pretty cheaply. I wasn’t there for the shifting (generally speaking) or the drink, I was mostly there for the dancing. Sometimes we went to Stradbrook, and that was a rugby club disco, but you could walk home if you were really desperate and you were in a big group.

This one, which I had a lot of trouble finding because I call it The Elephant Song – for reasons that are lost in the mists of my brain – always says Stradbrook to me. And I like it better than the other absolute staple of those years, Right On Time.

I spent an Erasmus year in Spain – ’93 to ’94 – and I should probably illustrate that with The Macarena, but I’m definitely not going to do that. Let’s have some nice Crooded Hoosie (as the Spanish DJs called them) because I liked them then.

Sorry, I’ve just been lost in reverie for a while. There are an awful lot of songs I could put here for Spain – I suppose I met a lot of new people and was exposed to a lot of new-to-me, not to the world, music in that year – Neil Young, James Taylor, Pink Floyd … hmm. It was an interesting time.

I’ll put a song in here for the time when I was a young upwardly mobile professional in Dublin, during the Celtic Tiger years when all we had to spend our money on was dinners out in fancy restaurants and too much wine. And when we threw dinner parties we put on songs like this one:

B and I put together an entire CD of songs to be our wedding favors, so picking just one to stand for our relationship is tricky. I’ll go for this, which still manages to remind me of the cold-glistening Atlantic ocean off Lisbon, a mere week-long blip in our very very long-drawn-out courtship.

And, if you’ll humour me with another, our first-dance song:

Then came the extended new-music drought when I had small children and just wanted to listen to glorious silence in the rare moments when nobody was wailing or fighting, and when they would immediately yell at me to turn off the horrible music if I tried to play anything at all in the car. (The classical station got some airplay for quite a while.) These years are marked by songs we sang, in vain, to try to soothe the furious beasts. Like this one.

And gradually we emerged from that, all of us together, listening to the oldies station and the not-quite-such oldies station on the radio in the car, belatedly discovering the mainstream likes of Katy Perry and Adele, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 along with the much-overplayed soundtrack to Frozen and the odd other thing – Dash was obsessed with Steely Dan’s Haitian Divorce for a while back there. So I’ll pick the Cups Song – one of the first, and one we all still like.

I hope you got a nostalgia kick from a few of those. Now head over to Nicola’s and see what everyone else has chosen.

Snapshot – a linky!

Update for bloggers: I’ve made this a linky. Tell me yours! Check out the link at the bottom.

 

Listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack (all the time) and a thunderstorm (right now).

Watching: Liberty’s Kids on YouTube (Dash and Mabel). Torrential rain (me). At other times, The Crown and Orphan Black.

Playing: Jacksmith on Coolmath Games (the kids, on devices). Seems to be good.

Cat looking at small fluffy cat toy thing
Oak contemplates a toy, for the very much killing of

Reading: The Hammer of Thor (Dash, by himself, though he’s heard it before); Harry Potter book 1 (Mabel, by herself, she’s heard it before many times; we’ll see if she sticks with it because she has a history of starting books and never finishing them). I also just finished reading Charlotte’s Web to Mabel, which at 8 she’s finally the right age for, given that Fern in it is 8 and also that we’ve started it twice before but it never held her interest. We’ve started The Long Winter by Laura Ingall’s Wilder now; I was warned that it’s fairly traumatic so we’d taken a break from the Little House books for a while. It’s nice to go slowly through a series instead of blazing through it (like we’ve done with all the Rick Riordans). Personally I’m between books at the moment, though I did treat myself to the new editions of NODWE and Hart’s Rules, for professional development reasons.

New Oxford Dic. for Writers and Editors and New Hart's Rules
Aren’t they lovely? No? Just me, then?

Looking forward to: The Oscars. (Ok, fine, mostly just me.)

Drinking: A nice cup of tea. At other times, white wine because the weather’s so unseasonably warm.

Wearing: Sandals. In February. Which is all wrong.

Cat playing on the kitchen floor
Birch, bravely killing a thing

Eating: A fancy macaron my husband brought me because he went to the mall and I didn’t.

Working on: Final layout for the print version of book two. Yay.

Permanently frustrated by: The mess.

Big mess in the family room
Exhibit A

Enjoying: The cats.

Not enjoying: The fact that one of the cats may have ringworm but I can’t bring myself to isolate him in the basement or keep him away from his brother so we’ll probably all get it. I tried to at least keep him out of the bedrooms, but Mabel doesn’t want to sleep with her door closed so they get in anyway… (NB Ringworm is not a worm. It’s a fungal infection. We are treating it topically and waiting for lab confirmation before getting medication. I am over-optimistically hoping it’s some other little random patch of ick.)

At least the rain’s stopped.

View out the rainy window - wet deck but brightening sky

 

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10 Things I’ve Learned about Parenting

Here are some things I have learned, in my ten and a half years of having small people hanging out of me. They are deep wisdom and I will give them the hashtag “parenting truths”.

  1. Sleep when the baby sleeps is both true and bullshit. Yes, you should, and maybe you could, but time spent zoning out on the sofa without a small body attached to you is also very important.
  2.  The days are long and the years are short. But the nights are longest of all, and staying in the moment is sometimes the last thing you want to do.
  3. It’s good to be present, but it’s good to take photos too because some people have crappy memories.
  4. When you’re a stay-at-home parent, the other parents in your community are you co-workers. Treat them accordingly: with respect, friendliness, and an awareness that you’re going to be encountering each other for a long time to come, so don’t burn any bridges.
  5. It’s okay to look at your phone at the playground. You’re not ignoring your child, you’re fostering their sense of independence. And you might be reading War and Peace, not Facebook.
  6. You can breastfeed anywhere you want. If someone doesn’t like it, squirt them in the eye.
  7. The most important reason not to use your device to distract your child is that you will want it back. And they will drop it. Or discover Minecraft. And then you will have to buy yourself a new device. Which they will want, because it’s better. So you’ll give them the new one and have your old one back and then you’ll have to put up with a crappy device with a cracked screen for ever.
  8. Teaching children to read as early as possible is a terrible idea. You don’t want them reading distressing newspaper headlines, or the profanity-laden text you just sent, or the No Parking sign you just flouted.
  9. Always get the dye-free Motrin. Your kid might be fine with Red 40, but your white cushions won’t be.
  10. What your child does is not your fault. Unless it was the right thing. Then it’s 100% down to your excellent parenting.
Mabel aged 1.5 or so
It’s her birthday, so she gets to be in the photo

I have a “Blathering” tag for a reason, you know

It’s not that the blog awards were over and suddenly I couldn’t be arsed blogging any more. It’s not even that I’m busy with real work, even though I am. I have at least three posts written in drafts, but they’re too boring to publish. I need some sort of random bulleted list kickstarter to just push me back in.

  • Yesterday for lunch I ate a salad of roasted golden beet with feta and maple-glazed roasted walnuts, in a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Today I’m eating  instant noodles, because sometimes you just need the MSG, and sometimes having to constantly think of what to eat is so very tedious.
  • We got Dash’s latest testing results: still dyslexic. No surprise there, because I think if you grow out of being dyslexic you probably weren’t actually in the first place. He’s also still not ADHD, he just finds it hard to settle down and concentrate on his homework because reading is HARD for him. School is going very well and his math teacher in particular is very impressed with him.
  • Our babysitter has gone off to college and even though I have a number and a recommendation for someone else, the idea of having to actually put the whole new-babysitter concept into motion is so hideous to me just now that I wonder if never going out again wouldn’t be easier. Bad, maybe. But easier.
  • The weather has moved delightfully into autumn and I am now wearing socks and jeans and a cardigan and accessorizing with a scarf as threatened, and I’m very happy.

Oh, someone give me a writing prompt. I clearly need direction here.