Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For the moment, he's mine.

Charlie has been sleeping in our bed for nearly two years now. I mean, he has his own bed, and starts out in it every night, but by morning he's in with us. (And it all started at 18 months, when he would cry and Marcus would get him out of his cot and bring him into our bed. So Marcus is to blame, really).

Some people say you should be firm and take the child back to his own room, straightaway. The problem is you have to be awake -- I hardly ever wake up when Charlie gets into our bed. I wake up and there he is, kicking me and flailing about and stealing the blanket and complaining he doesn't have enough space. Well, no kidding. But your empty twin bed in the room next door has lots of space, little man...

He's grown over the summer, so it is getting more crowded. Sometimes when I'm half asleep and he's sleeping next to me (looking like a baby, you know the way kids look so little when they sleep) I get confused. What child is this? Caitlyn? No, it's Charlie, I can tell because he's taking up half the bed.

But it is also very sweet and warm and snuggly to be together, to see his eyes flutter open and hear the first thought that pops into his head in the morning. Which might be about his stuffed dog, or might be a song about bananas, or might be a dream-fight he's having with his sister.

This evening I had a little chat with him: 'Charlie, why don't you stay in your own bed? Why do you get into mine? Are you scared, or cold?'

'I like your bed and I like you Mommy. And when the sun starts to be shiny in the sky I want to be with you.'

Let me write that down for you, Son. Because (with a little tweaking) that could make a great proposal one day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm just sayin'

SOMEBODY I know needs to learn:

The bathroom contains the only toilet in the house, a facility 3 other members of the family need to use on occasion, including before we leave the house in the morning.

The bathroom has all the toothbrushes and toothpaste, which 4 other members of the house need to use every morning before we leave.

The bathroom is where I keep my contact lenses, which I like to put in my eyes before I drive the kids to school/nursery, so I can see the other cars and traffic lights and stuff.

The bathroom has the best mirror in the house to put on make-up in the morning, so I don't frighten small children/other mothers/innocent passers-by on the way to school.

The bathroom...

is not your personal reading library. Please find another location for pondering deep thoughts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dul ar scoil

We have been in Ireland for 6 1/2 years now, and a lot of the culture shock has worn off. I've gotten used to the currency, the driving on the other side of the road, the bits of Irish language scattered here and there. I've gotten used to different attitudes towards drinking, healthcare, and hospitality. I've even gotten used to the bells that ring at 12 and 6 pm every day urging us to stop and think of Mary.

So I'm feeling less like a 'non-national' now (although I still am one, I guess) and more like just part of the community. I can navigate Irish life all right, and can (and have) give advice to others who have just moved here.

But then, things change, new challenge: school.

It's hard enough to send your child to school the first time. At least if we were in the US I could picture what it would be like, would have fuzzy feelings towards school buses and red playground balls and kindergarten. But I've never experienced Irish primary school before, so I'm learning along with my daughter. Some things are the same -- lining up, toilet breaks, school milk and sticker charts. Some things are different. Here's what I've learned, so far:

  • There are no state-run schools (although the government gives them some money), all schools are run by churches. Most are Catholic. Alannah goes to a Methodist school, partly because it's small and close by, but also to avoid the overboard First Holy Communion that happens at 7 years old (so she isn't surrounded by kids getting a white dress and a big party and lots of money while she gets nothing).
  • You have to sign up for schools, you don't automatically get assigned a local one. Most people put their child's name down when he/she is just a baby.
  • There are no hot meals in Irish schools (except some pricey private schools). Everyone takes a packed lunch and eats at their desk.
  • The subjects are pretty typical, reading and 'maths' (I don't know why there's an s on it) science, etc. Also Irish, which is non-comprehensible to me and I don't think I will ever be able to help her with it.
  • The first year is called Junior Infants, or JI, or sometimes low babies. Next is Senior Infants, followed by 1st class, 2nd class, etc. to 6th class. Then they move on to secondary school, which is 1st year, etc. At 3rd year (15 years old, usually) they take a national test called the Junior certificate. 4th year is Transition year, with lots of field trips, service projects, job internships, trying out different subjects, and the like. At 6th year (18) they take the national Leaving Certificate test.
  • Children generally start school at 4, but can wait until they are five or even six. This is largely up to the parent's decision. Some schools have a cut-off date earlier in summer, but ours was just 'four by the first day of school'. Alannah has an August birthday, so we kept her out until she was five. I think about half of her class (of only 12 kids!) are already five, and some were spring, not summer birthdays.
  • For the first TWO years they finish at 1 pm. Then for the next 6 years they finish at 2 pm. (School starts at 8:30) What am I supposed to do with them the rest of the afternoon...

So that's what I've learned so far. Oh, and they are already asking us for money left right and center. Books and uniform and milk subscription and swimming and 'voluntary contribution' (which isn't really voluntary).

It's the start of the fourth week tomorrow, and still every day when I drop her off (oh, there are no school buses. Most of us walk, a few scooter/cycle, and a handful drive) I want to stay and peer in through the window. I'm not worried about her. I just want to know what's going on!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summer just gone

I looked at the date of my last blog entry.....July??? Someone has gotten laaaaazy.....

But hmm, why didn't I write anything in July and August? Oh I remember now. Nursery finished for the summer and I had three kids who TALKED to ME NON-STOP (even the one who can't talk yet!) all day every day.

So during the days I tried to do the bare mimimum of housework and encourage the kids to go play without me, while hearing constantly : When are you finished? Will you play with me? What can I play? What are you doing? Will you play with me? Can we watch TV? Will you play with me? What can I do then?

Or sometimes the talking would progress to telling me about what the imaginary friends were doing, prompting me to say 'Go PLAY with your imaginary friends instead of talking about them to ME!' Because who cares about what decorations Angelina Ballerina is having at her birthday party and whether or not FiFi and Lily and Lucy are invited and if they are going to dress up and play pass the parcel and eat fairy cakes and open presents? Not me, that's who.

Then at night I tired to do work-work. But mostly ended up reading other people's blogs, how they went on great adventures or built teepees or taught their children lowercase letters or made homemade perfume or sewed play clothes out of old curtains. And I would get all tense and project-y and declare that i would do something worthwhile with the children the next day. Then the next day it would take me all morning to load the dishwasher while answering questions, and then I didn't feel like making teepees with anyone.

But now. September. School. I love you school.

There is still a fair amount of talking in the afternoons, and we are still getting used to the new schedule and the to-ing and fro-ing of it all. But by next week I will have 3 mornings a week with just one child.

Who is threatening to give up her morning nap. But I'm not giving up that hour of quiet without a fight. I've been dreaming of it all summer!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Red-faced 2.0

The doctor said ‘It’s Scarlet Fever’ with such nonchalance that I just nodded my head and tried to be casual, too. But in my head I was shouting:

‘Isn’t that what made Mary Ingalls go blind?!!!’
‘Isn’t that what killed Beth in Little Women?!!!’
‘This boy was born in 2006, not 1906. How can he have Scarlet Fever?!!!’

He wasn’t even that sick. He had been all feverish and lethargic the two days before, but had started to perk up and was in 3 year old quiz master mode the whole time we were in the doctor’s office. Who is he mommy. What’s wrong with her leg. Why’s he got no hair. Why do we have to wait. Where is the doctor. What color is the doctor’s shirt. What color is the doctor’s house. Does the doctor have a dog…

I had only brought him in because it was Friday afternoon and he had developed a strange symptom – a bright red tongue with bumps on it. The doctor took a look at the tongue, checked the swollen glands, asked if there was a rash (there isn’t, even though that is the main symptom of scarlet fever) and made her diagnosis.

She explained to me that it’s pretty much like strep throat, will go away with antibiotics, and not too uncommon. How come I only know fictional characters from the last century who have had it then?

Once I was reassured he was going to be okay, my next thought was:

‘This is going to make a great Facebook status!’

Laura Ingalls is churning butter.
Laura Ingalls is waiting for Pa to come home in his wagon.
Laura Ingalls is eating salt pork, yum!
Laura Ingalls is so mad at Nelly for pushing her in the creek.
Laura Ingalls has a crush on a certain ‘manly’ someone with shaggy hair.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Moments of mom-ness

There are some moments that I find myself looking at myself and thinking 'that's such a mom thing.' Brief flashes of a gesture, a movement, a phrase that reminds me of my mother, of other people's mothers, of mothers on TV.

Not the big things, like holding a brand-new still hot and slimy newborn to your chest, or waving your child off to school, cleaning up after an early-morning puke session or having a 'serious chat' about some big issue. Just tiny moments of momness. Here's a few I can think of:

Standing at the kitchen counter making peanut butter sandwiches.

Feeding a baby in a highchair and using the spoon to wipe up that bit around the mouth (and shove it back in).

Unzipping a school bag and pulling out artwork/school notices.

Turning the wriggled-out-of pair of jeans right side out.

Looking at the back seat occupants in the rear-view mirror to answer a question.

Tidying up the living room with a book under my arm, toys in my hand, and sweat shirt slung over my shoulder.

Pushing a (very full) grocery cart.

Handing the baby my car keys to play with.

Producing a tissue from my bag...especially if it's not for one of my children.

I have been out of high school for 17 years, married for nearly 10 and a mother for nearly 5, and still these moments can catch me off guard. I am a MOM, just like my mom, just like other moms, I do mom-like things. How weird is that?

Saturday, July 04, 2009


So usually hardly anyone blogs on Saturdays, then my friend Jo hooks me with this ‘Stories in My Pocket’ Saturdays, which I really love. Then even she says she can’t manage it this week, because who’s going to blog on a Saturday that’s the Fourth of July?

An ex-pat American, that’s who. No family to visit, no fireworks, no Fourth of July celebration to go to. I made iron-on t-shirts for the kids, we had a barbecue, and I was not allowed to sing patriotic songs (my husband does not like My Country tis of Thee, seeing as the tune is his actual national anthem, and America is not the only country where ‘at least I know I’m free’).

And I did some reminiscing. Here’s my best Independence Day story:

I grew up in a small Midwestern town that every year has a parade for the Fourth of July. It’s mainly fire trucks followed by pick-up trucks with various community groups in the back – the girl scouts, the Kiwanis, city council, that sort of thing. They throw candy to the children in the crowd. Who run out into the street, fight each other for it, and knock some smaller kid to the asphalt who looks up wailing just as another fire truck comes down the road, blaring its siren as loud as possible. Fun times!

There’s also the bike parade. Local kids decorate their bikes, ride along with the parade, and get judged at the end for the most patriotic bike.

My mom wasn’t going to shell out for crepe paper and streamers and ribbons and the like, so I set about finding my own (free) way to creatively decorate my wheels. So I could WIN that $5 McDonald’s gift certificate.

We were out for ice cream at our local Baskins and Robbins and I noticed they had the empty ice cream drums, washed out and sitting by the side. I asked if I could have one. To picture it, the ice-cream drum was about the size of a wastepaper basket, with white plastic on the inside and brown paper on the outside.

I decided I could be a ‘bike-astronaut’. I painted my ice cream-drum white, added a few blobs I hoped would look like flags, donned a grey sweatsuit (on a 90 degree July day!) and headed up for the parade.

Hoping my homespun, cheap ingenuity would beat out the bikes with ruffles and bows and pom-poms and actual flags (all probably decorated by the parents) I popped on my helmet and waited for the parade.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. ‘I’m sorry, little girl, you can’t be in the parade like that.’
Faux-indignant, because I had a feeling this might happen, ‘Why not?’
‘You have to be able to see where you’re going.’

I hadn’t cut a hole in my astronaut helmet. I had just planned to peek out the bottom and follow the wheels of the person in front. But apparently, that was a safety hazard (unlike teaching children to run into the street to look for candy).

They let me ride in the parade anyway, with no helmet and no decoration, just a grey sweatsuit and a red face. I didn’t win.

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