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Only Child

13 February, 2018 at 8:01 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s mid-term. Herself and Daniel are off in Munich on a school tour. They left at 4 yesterday morning and seem to be still alive. A tribute to their teachers.

We strongly encouraged Michael to go but he even more strongly resisted so he is home alone for the week. Boy is he loving it, my little home bird. We signed him up for a sports course between 9.30 and 4 (advertised as “for the sporty child” – “I’m not a sporty child,” he pointed out. I said that it would be fine, it is fine). I knocked off work early today and picked him up. I offered all manner of treats but he just wanted to go home and sit in front of the fire where, even now, he is sitting happily. It’s all very peaceful.

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Independent Lives of Infinite Variety* or Weekly Round-Up

10 February, 2018 at 6:07 pm by belgianwaffle

Last Monday night, Daniel had hurling training, there was a talk in the school about Transition Year and I was hosting bookclub. Something had to give. It was Daniel’s training. He took it manfully, particularly since the weather was freezing.

On Tuesday night it was parents’ council in the school at 7, Michael in scouts at 7.30 and Mr. Waffle at soccer at 8. We made everything but one of us had to cycle home from the school at 8.30 in the evening in positively Baltic conditions.

On Wednesday morning, the Princess and I left the house at the same time. As we arrived at the top of the road in the freezing cold, she said, “I’ve forgotten my gloves but I’m not going back”. She had “mocks” this week, a venerable Irish rite of passage where you do a whole set of practice exams for a week before you do your actual State examinations in the summer. Since you have half a year of the course left to cover, results are invariably hair-raising. They are taking these with immense seriousness in the school and she was particularly anxious not be late. I was wearing gloves. It was very chilly, my fingers were frozen inside my gloves. I half-heartedly said, “You can have mine.” “No,” she said, “you have further to cycle” and she pedaled off like a demon in the other direction. I felt like a heel all day.

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On Wednesday night there were no activities. This encouraged me to spread my culinary wings. Other nights I get home at 6.30 and there is some activity which means that dinner has to be on the table and eaten by 7 which doesn’t really allow for flights of fancy. On Wednesday night we had salmon (sadly still raw when brought out of the oven), cheesy potatoes from the butcher (slightly out of date but ingredients were described as “potatoes, cheese, sauce” so a bit difficult to gauge how bad out of date might be, sauce, it turned out, included cream so that meant out of date corresponded to “completely inedible”) and green beans (do you find that these always take longer to cook than you might think?). The whole was an unmitigated disaster. Thursday saw me returning to “fun with pasta” (say what you like, pasta and pesto, hard to go wrong) and last night Mr. Waffle had to go out to his parents’ house so the children and I had take away which was undoubtedly the highlight of the culinary week although, doubtless, very bad for all of us.

How was your own culinary/activity filled week?

*Title is Hilaire Belloc, if you’re wondering

Christmas Round-Up

7 January, 2018 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

So Christmas day passed off peacefully enough. Herself was displeased with her offering from Santa “Why does Santa hate me?” but otherwise all was well. We went out to the cousins for drinks with extended family but it was just ourselves at home for dinner which I really liked. I am not the world’s greatest natural hostess and I find it pleasantly undemanding when it is only family for dinner.

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Our crib shepherd lost a head at a crucial moment and so missed most of the big day. He was taken out by a large book on Dr. Who which hit him inadvertently. It was suggested that he might be renamed St. Denis for this year only (his head is now safely superglued back on his shoulders).

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On the 26th we went on the traditional orienteering expedition in the Dublin mountains with the cousins. For the first time ever, as far as I can remember, it did not rain.

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That evening, herself went as emergency babysitter to the three year old child of friends who live around the corner. It went very well and she sees a lucrative new income stream opening up.

On the 27th we went to Cork where a vast array of exciting presents awaited. We stayed in our friends’ place in East Cork and went up and down to Cork city for various excitements including ice skating.

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We did the Ballycotton cliff walk which was spectacularly muddy. We ran into another family; the mother was American and was walking along with a child in a sling and the father was Irish and admiring the view. They also had a two year old splashing through an enormous puddle. Her mother kept begging her not to run through the puddle; advice which the child ignored with unfortunate but not entirely unexpected consequences. I felt very sorry for the child and her mother. I did think her father was quite useless. Herself has urged me not to be so judgy but I said, “I bet your grandfather was better than that in the 1970s.” When we checked at her insistence, however, he indicated that he too would probably have looked at the view. I refuse to believe that. Like his granddaughter, he is not judgy (other than about politicians, oh my goodness, lots of judgements there) and I feel he just wanted to exonerate the father from blame. I digress. Thanks to our new boots and greater height and motor skills than the average two year old, we remained dry.

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That evening, my sister and her partner took the boys to the new Star Wars film and dinner in Milano’s. Herself, Mr. Waffle and I went for a more sophisticated dinner option together which she quite enjoyed (she tires of Milano’s but her brothers never will).

We finished our Christmas holiday jigsaw. Almost unbearable excitement, I know. The house in East Cork has no television or wifi which I really enjoy. The children, slightly less so, though not as much less as you might imagine.

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We were back up to Cork the next day where my brother and sister made a very elaborate family dinner for ten where the Yorkshire puddings were a highlight for Daniel and Michael. My brother bench pressed herself; this is the kind of quality entertainment that is available at family dinners. My father told us about his first meeting with my grandfather, his father-in-law to be. My mother went off somewhere with my grandmother and he and my grandfather were left to cope alone. My grandfather asked him whether he would like a drink. He would. At the time, my grandfather was going blind and after rooting around the cupboard, he emerged with a bottle of whiskey and poured out a measure for my father. He didn’t take any himself. My father who was a keen whiskey drinker was pretty sure that the contents weren’t whiskey but pretended to drink filled with fear that it might be some terrible poison – my grandfather was a farmer and farmers are or certainly were, inclined to fill random bottles with agricultural supplies. When my mother and my grandmother came home, investigation proved that the non-whiskey drink was actually Lourdes water. Also on herself asking him about living in American in the 1920s (long story, he did), he recollected turning off all the lights in the house commemorating some anniversary of the lightbulb. It must have been quite the shock coming back to Cork with its oil lamps in the 1930s. He also was quite adamant that it snowed while they were in America, given that they were living in Orange County, South Pasadena (apparently the South was important), that seems a little unlikely but he is adamant.

That night, we had games night – Michael got a number of games for Christmas and he was keen to try them out. It was actually quite good fun though slightly hideous in prospect.

On new year’s eve we went for our first walk on the beach since arriving. It started to lash rain/sleet and we ran to the hotel hoping that it might give us lunch but, sadly, no. Mr. Waffle and herself braved the rain and got the car and we went to the Kilkenny shop in Shanagarry instead. We met a good friend of mine from Dublin there with her family which was quite random and proves that Ireland is tiny etc. She and her family were reliving her husband’s childhood family holidays in Waterford and their exploring had taken them into East Cork.

Then back to Dublin. We bought a “Best of Queen” CD and a 5 set CD of hits from the 80s to listen to on the journey (mock, if you will). I can confirm that Queen had more lasting hits than all of the 80s put together. About half way back I started to feel unwell (unrelated to the hits of the 80s). By the time we got home, I was very unwell. I spent the remainder of the evening getting sick and could only lend half an ear to the various woes involving the cat (neighbours had wrong keys, had gone out and bought cat food and sent their teenager over the garden wall to put out cat food for the cat every day, frankly, above and beyond the call of duty). About 11.45 in a brief break from my time in the bathroom, I headed downstairs to wish Mr. Waffle a happy new year. He was just heading off to rescue herself from a new year’s eve party. All in all, we have had better starts to the new year. I finally stopped throwing up about 3 am. I firmly blame the grilled brie in the restaurant where we had lunch for my brief but violent illness. The next day, feeling delicate, I was sitting reading the paper while the boys played their new videogame (Overwatch, very popular), “I am a one-man apocalypse,” hissed the character on screen. Herself lent across the sofa and said to me, “It’s the brie speaking.” Oh yes indeed.

Mr. Waffle’s sister, husband and baby came to Dublin from London for a couple of days at the start of the month. We had them round for an extended family lunch before I trudged dismally back to work last Thursday. We had the tree yesterday for Women’s Christmas but it came down today and the children are back to school tomorrow. Alas alack.

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In other news, over the Christmas holidays, Daniel and Michael lost a tooth each. Seriously, when do children stop losing teeth? I think herself still has some to go and she’ll be 15 in April.

How was your own Christmas?

Weekend Round-Up

10 December, 2017 at 8:28 pm by belgianwaffle

On Friday night there was no hockey training for Michael as it was cancelled due to cold weather. This is not the kind of attitude adopted by the hardy GAA players/coaches to cold weather; it was very welcome though. I had my office Christmas party so although it was my Friday half day, I went back in about 5 having spent the afternoon picking up my daughter’s bike from school (she was on the DART to friend in Wicklow) and watching a film in front of the fire with my loving sons. I was reluctant to go back to work but did and it was grand but I felt dutiful and virtuous rather than having fun and letting my hair down; possibly for the best. I bailed out about 7 to pick up herself from the DART. She was going to a friend’s Christmas carol concert in Trinity. I was a bit dubious – I have been stung before by youth choirs. We met her other friend J in front of Trinity and then went into the chapel where the concert was to be and to my surprise and delight it was quite warm. And then the concert itself was absolutely superb. The singers were amazing; they were unaccompanied but sounded utterly beautiful. The performance included the only good version of “Away in a Manger” that I have ever heard (sorry everyone). My favourite song was probably “Gaudete” but they were really all excellent. Afterwards herself and myself went to supper and that was lovely too although she was exhausted by the time we got home.

On Saturday afternoon, Daniel had his final GAA session of the year (7 a side tournament – which his team won – followed by pizza). You will note that the GAA were not put off by inclement weather like the hockey people. Michael meanwhile had his drama showcase (v good if a bit confusing). Herself and myself attended and we picked up glitter Christmas glasses.

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Afterwards we went to look at the Christmas window in Arnott’s (for me, for me, children only v mildly interested) and got on the new extended Luas line home (verdict from children – “it’s a tram”).

On Saturday night we all trooped off to see the Princess win an award. My poor parents and parents-in-law are not really well enough to attend this kind of event any more and my brother and sister are a bit too busy and far away so herself had to make do with enthusiastic support from her parents and some lacklustre support from her brothers who were, you know, supportive but a little bored.

This morning we had mass (herself mentioned from the pulpit for her award but they got her name wrong so, um, swings and roundabouts) and choir rehearsal. Had a great chat with one of the other parents while waiting for rehearsal to end. Like my mother, he is from Limerick and v interested in horses. I was asking how his daughter was getting on in secondary school and he said that he had spent last night explaining sets to her. “It is,” said he, “very useful for working things out if you want to put a combination on the tote.” He spent some time trying to explain this to me but, unlike his 13 year old, I seem to be a slow learner, I am glad, however, that somebody has found a practical example for the use of sets.

At lunch time we took ourselves off to see a special screening of “A Muppet Christmas Carol” in the cinema. Singing along was encouraged but it did feel like Michael and I were the only ones who knew all the words; so we were, I thought, a little conspicuous. We had hoped to go and look at the snow in the mountains but it was too cold and wet (I mean, I know snow is wet but you want blue skies to enjoy it not leaden sleeting ones) and we realised, belatedly, that herself has grown out of her hiking boots and would have to climb the mountain in Converse runners so instead, we went to the parents-in-law for a visit and now we are home, I have lit the fire and nobody is going anywhere for the remainder of the evening.

How was your own weekend?

Term 1 – Sporting and Other Achievements

8 December, 2017 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel’s hurling team (U12 C team) has come second in its division (division 10 and that’s not the lowest division, there are millions of kids hurling in Dublin), his football team (U12 B team) has come second in its division (division 5 and there are even more football than hurling divisions) and they were knocked out in the final of the school football tournament. Pretty close every time. Next season, we might get the cup or at least a cup. He is cheerful about his achievements all the same. It’s unclear whether his teams will be promoted like in English soccer (unclear to me anyway,I’m sure the GAA coaches know) and what impact that will have on next year.

Michael got a cert for completing his first term of hockey training. It’s early days.

Meanwhile, herself is up for an award the parish put her up for. There’s a big ceremony at the weekend and she’s allowed to bring five guests. I’m thinking we can just go with her but she’s not sure whether her brothers will be able to face it when the alternative would be a nice evening at home with electronic devices. Possibly a realistic assessment. I’ll keep you posted.

Saint Nicolas, Patron des Ecoliers

7 December, 2017 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

We left Belgium 9 and a half years ago but yet, around the end of November, Michael began to ask, “When is Saint Nicolas coming?” “He comes to Belgian children on December 6, but I hardly think you count at this stage,” I replied. However, on December 5 all the shoes went out and were filled at about 11.30, by a chocolate Paddington and a miniature packet of Pringle’s crisps. Saint Nicolas’s helpers realised that there had been a terrible misunderstanding. Each thought the other was sorting Daniel. So, at 11.30, one went down to the Spar and bought Pringles. In the morning, Daniel said dolefully, that he had wanted a chocolate Santa. Herself, regarding the M&S Paddington dubiously said, “I’ll swap you for this, Saint Nicolas isn’t what he once was, it used to always be a Leonidas Santa.”

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Who knows whether Saint Nicolas will visit us next year?

Weekend Round Up

26 November, 2017 at 9:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday morning Michael had a storytelling thing at the school. He was quite looking forward to it but it didn’t totally live up to expectations. Daniel’s GAA match was cancelled (oh rejoice!). Michael went to drama in the afternoon – how he loves drama class – and I did some mild Christmas shopping while waiting for him to emerge. I know, I know, it’s only November. Herself, briefly emerged from her room for mealtimes but basically stayed put recovering from the rigours of the week.

This morning we cycled to 10 o’clock mass in Irish (basically realising Dev’s vision for Ireland). I see that they are making the extraordinarily named Solanus Casey blessed. I think that’s step one on the road to canonisation. I was already conscious of this from my contacts within the religious world (hi Mark) but my contact, being American, neglected to mention that Solanus’s parents were Irish. An essential point, you would have thought. Also adding to the mystery of his first name. Was he perhaps Solanus in religion and christened something less exciting? The mystery continues.

We then cycled into town (freezing) to see Fanny’s Journey as part of the French film festival. It’s about a group of young Jewish children trying to flee into Switzerland from France. I cried from frame 1 and to the end of the film. Then we split forces and the Princess and I after a brief stop for sustenance went to buy her trousers for school. As she points out to me, she has been campaigning for school trousers since third class. I’m not quite sure why I resisted for so long but I did. I think in my oppressive, conservative, internalising the patriarchy way, I quite liked the school skirt. Anyhow, I have now accepted the error of my ways. Really.

When we got home she took herself off upstairs to do homework. Daniel was the only child even slightly willing to go into town to check out the organised Christmas fun at Smithfield. It was freezing. I bought Daniel a migraine inducing coloured light thing which sang a tinny jingle bells as his reward for accompanying me. We queued for 40 minutes (timed on my phone) for crêpes. That was a low point. Post-crêpe it was all mildly appealing, far too few stalls and an arctic east wind but loads of entranced kids running around and people on stilts and local kids singing in a choir. There was also a chance to hold the Sam Maguire Cup which Dublin seems to be consistently winning these days.

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Still we were glad enough to leave and get back home to the fire. Final weekend items – Daniel lost a tooth and my brother was in Dublin for the rugby match and did not visit his loving family, my wrath will be terrible etc. And how was your own weekend?


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