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Daniel at 12

7 October, 2017 at 7:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel turned 12 on September 27. He is so tall all of a sudden. I feel like he is going to pass me out soon.

He started secondary school at the end of August. It’s been tough for him adapting to the new school. He’s the second youngest in the year (his brother is younger by 20 minutes – more on him later) and I did spend quite a while agonising about whether the change was so hard because he was so young compared to his classmates. On the social side, he seems to be good at making friends and he has made a few new friends in the school. Academically, he seems to have settled and he is quite enjoying doing new things now I think. Tuition is through the medium of the first national language and his Irish is really improving and he seems to be getting on top of the vocabulary needed for each subject reasonably handily. He has the good science teacher (his sister, had the bad science teacher, happily, since retired) and as I type he is in the kitchen with a classmate working on a science project for the young scientist exhibition and loving science. Oh happy day. Some of his teachers are a bit terrifying and, although he personally never gets into trouble, he fears for his classmates. It’s a bit easier for us as we saw his sister go through the same process a couple of years ago and we knew that it would be hard at the start but it would get better. Also, I am on the parents’ council and I know the principal and all the teachers and any new ones, herself can give me the low down. It’s a big step up though. He’s going on the school tour to Germany in February and, reading the itinerary, I see that they will have free unsupervised time in Munich for a couple of hours and I do feel quite nervous about that. His sister is going on the tour too and I can see myself ruining the trip for both of them by insisting that she keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, he’s working away on duolingo as well as at school to bring his German up to entry level for the trip.

He is still doing GAA to beat the band. He has training two nights a week and a match every Saturday. He’s also on the school team, training one afternoon a week and a match every second week. He’s starting basketball soon too. He is, undoubtedly, the fittest and the sportiest member of our family. He’s also the only one who wears glasses. It was slightly disastrous when he lost his gear bag after a match at school and we feared that his €200 prescription sport goggles, his football boots and his school tracksuit might be in a field somewhere. Happily after an unhappy 24 hours for everyone, they turned up in the art room at school. I foresee more of this.

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He will play football with anyone and he is just delighted when someone turns up with a football. Here he is outside the Pompidou centre in August:

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He’s also started cycling in and out to school. I am a little afraid of the traffic, I have to say, but there is an approved safe route which I have authorised and he is pretty responsible, so I hope my fears are misplaced.

He is a proper latch key child as we said goodbye to our last childminder in July. Now, from 4 to 6, he and his siblings are home alone. So far, so good, it seems although, I would have liked to have been there the first few afternoons to help him along with homework which was quite the shock to the system.

For the first time, he is not in the same class as his brother and he finds that strange but he is getting used to it. He enjoys the fact that it reduces the tendency of people to treat them as the same person – which we are all guilty of, not just school. All the same, they still get on like a house on fire; actually, if anything a bit better than in primary school when they were together all day. They do annoy each other occasionally but mostly they play or chat together perfectly happily and they have loads of common interests.

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His sister is more disputed territory. They are getting on a bit better but he still measures himself against her constantly and, given that she is two and a half years older than him, she usually comes out better (though not in sport!). For the school trip, I gave him a copy of his passport and his sister’s to give in to the history teacher who is co-ordinating the trip. “Oh,” said the teacher, “I didn’t realise you were [the Princess’s] brother”. Daniel admitted that he was and confided that he was slightly dreading being known as [the Princess’s] brother. “I know,” sympathised the history teacher, it was the same with me and my older brother Cormac.” So, I suppose it was inevitable that the next time that Daniel stuck his hand up to answer a question in history class, the teacher pointed to him and said, “Yes, you, [the Princess’s] brother.”

He got a phone for his confirmation in June and he loves it. He watches loads of game videos narrated by Americans giving him a slightly American twang which we do not love. He is like a sponge for accents though; we watched Des Bishop’s “In the name of the Fada” and for a couple of hours after each episode you would have thought he was born and bred in the Connemara Gaeltacht. He also uses instagram to stay in touch with all his friends. It seems to be their main mode of communication. He tells me that one of his friends who went to a less strict school has now died his hair purple and joined a band. Hard to know how to feel about all this. I think he is reading a bit less since he got the phone, though he still reads a lot and enjoys it very much.

Daniel continues to be a spectacularly picky eater. If he didn’t drink milk, I think I would pretty much despair. I pretty much despair as it is. I hope he grows out of it and someday we will be able to go out for family dinners to places that serve neither pizza nor chips. He confided in me recently that his favourite food is the Lidl chicken nugget – something, I would like to emphasise, that his father brought into the house.

He is generally interested in things and willing to explore and investigate where his siblings might dig their heels in; the triumph of hope over experience as he gazes around another gallery.

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He’s good at art and enjoys drawing things on the whiteboard in his room that his aunt got him and drawing manga comics. They did an art project at the end of 6th class and their work was hung in the Hugh Lane Gallery as part of an exhibition. I thought Daniel’s picture was really good. So good, in fact, that in a blind test to guess which one was his, I picked it last because it seemed almost presumptuous to guess that that picture might have been done by my child.

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He’s also quite musical and I’m hoping that music class in secondary school will fill the gap which his parents have left in his musical education. Look, at least he sings in the church choir on Sunday.

Overall, it’s been a good year for him, I think. I hope that he will like secondary school; despite the terror of teachers and the horror of homework, he’s really enjoying learning new things. There’s a school games club and, of course, GAA and he’s enjoying both.

I would love to see him care a bit less about what other people think; he can get really upset and frustrated. I think he is growing out of this but it is hard when the world is full of very annoying people – many of them closely related to him. He has a clear sense of what is fair and what is not and he watches his sister like a hawk to make sure that there is equal treatment. He has parents who can be mortifying but he is resigned to this and bears us no malice.

He is very hardworking – at school, at sports, at home. If you want something done domestically, Daniel is obliging, speedy and efficient.

At the moment, now that he has settled in to secondary school, he is a pleasure to be around. His father and I went out for a cup of tea with him this afternoon and it was lovely. He and I walked back home together afterwards and we had loads to talk about. Let us hope that all will continue to be well as we stare down the abyss of adolescence but for the moment, things are pretty good.

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Cycling Gloom

1 October, 2017 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I seem to have become obsessed by cycling infrastructure. It was not always thus. I have always cycled. I cycled in and out to school from when I was 12 and I never stopped. I don’t remember being concerned about cycling infrastructure and safe cycling until my own children started cycling in Dublin. It has been regularly heart-stopping. But I persist. I want them to be able to cycle: it’s good for them, it’s good for the planet and it’s handy. It’s also scary.

Herself has been cycling in and out to school since she started secondary school a couple of years ago. I was really nervous at the start but increasingly less so. She is on top of it now, I hope. I note from the most recent census that of the approximately 250,000 girls in secondary school, about 700 cycle. This is a significant percentage increase from the last census where only some 500 girls cycled to school but it’s not exactly a sea change. This is what the census says:

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The 25 years, from 1986 to 2011, saw an 87 per cent decrease in the numbers cycling to secondary school. 2016 saw the reversal of this trend with a 10.5 per cent increase since 2011, bringing the numbers of secondary students taking to their bikes to over 7,000. Over 90 per cent of these student cyclists were male, but the number of female cyclists has grown by over 30 per cent since 2011.

Her brothers started secondary school in September (more on this anon) and have been cycling in and out together, at first with a parent and, now, alone. It is unnerving stuff. September 8 is etched on my brain as the first day they cycled in and out unaccompanied and came home alive. I enjoyed the following conversation with Daniel:

Him: If I am run over while cycling to school, whose fault will it be?
Me: I am sure that you won’t be run over. When you say “whose fault” what do you mean?
Him: Will it be mine for cycling carelessly, yours for letting us cycle to school or [my sister’s] for refusing to cycle with us?

This was a bit depressing and, honestly, it is absolutely no wonder that people don’t send their children cycling to school in the same numbers as in 1986 (when coincidentally, I finished school) because there are far more cars on the roads, they’re faster and they’re much bigger, squeezing cyclists to the edge of the road and the car seems to be king in Dublin.

I am getting increasingly annoyed about this. So far, my only action has been to follow people who share my annoyance on twitter so, more work may be needed on my part. I was deeply depressed to see that the Liffey cycle route has been shelved because of inability to reach consensus in Dublin City Council. I mean Paris, Paris, is able to put in place better cycling provision than Dublin. Every time I visit my parents in Cork, I am impressed, yet again, by what can be done by a city with far fewer cyclists and much more rain than Dublin. I’m not saying Cork is perfect but it has more segregated cycling options in the city centre than Dublin. An action group has recently been formed and they are standing in human chains trying to keep cycle lanes free for cyclists. I applaud their efforts. However, with the best will in the world, there are many cycle lanes in Dublin which are so poorly designed that even sympathetic drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists (like me when I drive in town, which I do occasionally) find themselves crossing over them and squeezing cyclists. The motoring lobby says that the City Council is anti-motorist and in the grip of the cycling lobby. If only this were true or there were some evidence that this is the case in the form of half way decent cycling provision. I despair.

In unrelated cycling news, my bicycle was nicked a couple of weeks ago from the shed. Mr. Waffle, sneaked an illicitly purchased folding table (long story which you may well hear in due course) into the shed at lunchtime on a Sunday. When we went out to the shed in the afternoon to go for a family cycle, one of the family bikes was gone. It transpired that the €700 door we purchased after someone last tried to break into our shed hadn’t worked. It turns out that, for it to be really effective, it has to be locked.

I got the bike in 2015 on the bike to work scheme and, sadly, you can only claim relief once every five years so, I was alone on the purchase of the new bike. I got a second hand one and it was grand but I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of the guards with whom I had registered my stolen bike. They didn’t hold out any hope of getting it back and suggested that I look on donedeal.ie which, um, you know, I suppose, I might. Sigh.

Mostly Cork

29 July, 2017 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

Activities (Various)

28 July, 2017 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Oh lads, it’s been ages.

Herself has returned from summer camp which she loved with the passion of 1,000 suns.  While she was away, we made feeble efforts to entertain her brothers to the best of our abilities.  We took them to the latest science gallery exhibition on sound which they pronounced to be pretty good.

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Daniel plays chopsticks:
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The science gallery is the only museum they have any affection for.  We made them do a walk-through of the newly reopened wing of the National Gallery and they were not pleased.  In particular Michael was not pleased.

We went to mass in Irish which has the merit of being short and always involves a restorative cup of tea afterwards.  We took them to Four Knocks which is the best megalithic site in Ireland.  Really.  We had been there before with all of the children when they were younger.  The boys were small on the last visit and they had forgotten but it really is an amazing spot.  Much better, I think than Newgrange or any of the more famous sites.  You have it to yourself – you pick up the key from a local farmer – and it is creepy and a bit awe inspiring.  The boys really enjoyed it which is not something you usually get to say about megalithic sites. It is na Fuarchnoic (the cold hills) in Irish which is a bit more accurate than Four Knocks.

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We went for a moderately satisfactory picnic in Ardgillan castle after the Four Knocks excitement but I made us pack up good and early as I was getting the train to Cork and I was paranoid about timing.  Unnecessary.

In other summer excitement, my sister took the boys to Tayto Park and bought them three bottles of Fanta to consume in the rain while being twirled up in the air on a variety of terrifying machines. Their lives are complete and she didn’t die of exhaustion. A win then.

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They also attended a sports camp at the bottom of the road which was very successful except that they were not allowed to leave unless collected by a grown-up which was supremely awkward. Michael missed a day due to illness but otherwise they both enjoyed it very much. Daniel won camper of the week for his supreme politeness and I was filled with pride. He didn’t seem super-delighted though.

Friday Night Fun!

7 July, 2017 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is out at a work dinner tonight. The Princess is mid way through her three week residential course which she is loving. Communication with her parents has been sparse. Typical exchange captured below.

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So the boys and I were home alone together this evening. In a triumph for parent and childminder alike, when I came home from work they were still in their pyjamas. “What is the point of holidays, if you can’t have a lazy day from time to time?” asked Michael. He and I have fundamentally different views on this matter.

Anyhow, as Mr. Waffle prepared to go out, I said to the boys, “We’ll have fun together, won’t we?” Daniel looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said, “Fun with pasta?” Yes, indeed, it was pasta for dinner again. There’s a boy who knows his mother.

Updated to add: the cat has just been sick on the rug in the hall.  Friday nights don’t get more fun than this.

Maybe Print Is Not Dead After All

3 July, 2017 at 6:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle has a subscription to the Economist [that’s even worse than it sounds, I got it for him for Christmas, it was that or more socks]. It lies around the house but I am never really tempted to pick it up. Daniel, on the other hand, is rivetted. He firmly believes Macron will save Europe, just so’s you know. I was talking about this unusual choice of reading material with my friend from Belfast, “I mean,” I said, “I didn’t even watch the news growing up, let alone read the Economist. Did you?” “Well,” he said, “it was the 70s and I was growing up in North Belfast so much of the news was very local, so yeah, all the time.” Well, circumstances alter cases.

I asked Michael and Daniel whether they had seen Trump and the orb. “No,” said Michael peering over my shoulder on to twitter which is now my source of all news. “Do you want to see, Daniel?” I asked. “No thanks,” he said, “I saw it in the Economist”

Re-think

30 June, 2017 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: The boys will be able to cycle to school in September when they start secondary school.
Her: Are you expecting the three of us to cycle in together like high-vis ducklings?
Me: Um, yes.
Her: No.


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