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Exchanging

31 July, 2017 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

We had the Princess’s French exchange, E, to stay for 10 days. Herself was in Paris in April and had a fantastic time with E’s family so we were on our mettle. We sent them to a make a film camp during the day. It was reasonably successful. I think E quite liked it but it was a bit too full of 12 year old boys for my sophisticated 14 year old’s liking.

A comparison of Irish and French summer colouring:

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I took them to the immersive “Great Gatsby” in the Gate Theatre. You were encouraged to wear 20s dress which, mostly, people did. I attempted to shingle my hair with mixed results. They took out all the seats and moved everyone around. We learnt to do the Charleston. There was a bar in the corner and we all drank from big cocktail glasses (regardless of the drink). It was like an Anu production for the distinctly conservative middle class Gate audience. Herself adored it. Audience members moved around and went to different rooms with the cast. At one point, she found herself in Gatsby’s bedroom with just him and a few others. He was seeking advice from the audience. “Stay away from swimming pools,” she advised. “Why should I do that?” he asked, “I love swimming.” It did feel a bit like being at a crowded, quite exciting party at times which is, I suppose, was the effect they were looking for. E wasn’t so sure and when I asked her afterwards, she indicated that she preferred the kind of theatre where you sit down in pre-assigned seats so maybe not a success all round.

We also went on the Viking Splash, everyone’s favourite tour. Poor Michael was sick and couldn’t come, he was gutted. As we waited at Stephen’s Green for our bus to arrive, Daniel realised that many members of his GAA team were on the tour bus about to leave. It turned out that there was a birthday party for which he had not made the cut. He was not particularly pally with the birthday boy but there were many of his team sitting happily on the bus ahead of us. Due to dreadful traffic it sat there for 15 minutes and Daniel chatted dolefully with his friends and a part of me died. Once we actually got on board our own bus, things improved and I think everyone enjoyed the trip.

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The girls went out with some friends on Friday night and we had a quiet night in. A bit of a relief really, this living life to the full can take it out of you.

On Saturday we went for a walk up to the JB Malone memorial. The views were really beautiful and the weather was lovely. The children were resigned but perhaps not super enthusiastic. Still, we gave E a chance to experience nature. Since her own family were on holidays in the Alps while she was in Dublin, it’s possible she might have experienced even more nature had she stayed with them but we did what we could with the Wicklow mountains.

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Sunday saw us kayaking up the Liffey. Great fun actually but considerably wetter than I had anticipated. We were all sodden from the waist down and splashed all over. Both Mr. Waffle and Herself got Liffey water in their mouths. I heard a tour bus operator say humourously as he pointed us out to tourists, “You need three different injections before doing that.” I really hope no one gets Weil’s disease. We were all exhausted but filled with a sense of achievement. No photos because we didn’t want to drop our phones in the Liffey. We’ll just have to have our memories.

E went home last Monday. She took a jar of runny jam with her. We’re all still recovering from the extensive activity programme.

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.

Oh Cecilia, You’re Breaking My Heart

4 July, 2017 at 6:55 pm by belgianwaffle

My father is 92 and my aunt has just turned 88. When I had dinner with them recently, I asked my aunt about toys of her youth. “Well,” she said, “I remember I had a beautiful rag doll called Cecilia.” “You can’t possibly remember that after all these years,” objected my father. “Yes, I do,” she countered, “because she was named after aunt Cecilia who made her for me and you took her and nailed her to a tree when you were playing cowboys and indians.” Can I reassure anxious readers that sibling relations have improved since the early 1930s? But, poor Cecilia, never forgotten.

Mildly related: I wanted to call the Princess Cecilia after the very same aunt but Mr. Waffle put his foot down. I made her take it for her confirmation name instead because that was before she was a teenager and I had some influence; recently she has been torturing me by saying, “But did I really take Cecilia or did I just tell you that?”

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.

Security

29 June, 2017 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself was in Paris back in April – she had a wonderful time and the pressure is really on for us as E, her exchange, comes to Dublin in July. The trip was really good for her French as was demonstrated the other night: herself, myself and Mr. Waffle went out for dinner as the boys were away and she was about to go away, the French waitress could not understand a single thing I ordered from the (largely French) menu, on the other hand, she understood every word my daughter uttered and, at the end, was moved to say, “What a perfect accent.” If you have any exposure to French people, you will know that one of the things they are resolutely, and depressingly, unimpressed by is a foreigner’s ability to speak French. My work here is done.

We were talking about the Paris trip and herself mentioned that in every shop they went into they had to open their bags for inspection. I remember going to Belfast in the 90s and experiencing the bag checking thing, if you’d told me my daughter would have the same thing in Paris 25 years later, I would have been very surprised indeed; it’s all a bit “what are we bequeathing to our children?” isn’t it?

End of the School Year – Round-up

28 June, 2017 at 9:00 pm by belgianwaffle

It seems that we have been celebrating the end of the school year for a while. As the boys are in 6th class, there’s a lot going on. We had their confirmation on June 9. I wasn’t able to move my neck but otherwise it all went well. My sister was able to join us from Cork and Mr. Waffle’s parents came and we went to Milano’s afterwards which is Daniel and Michael’s favourite restaurant in the world. Their aunt and uncle gave them mobile phones for the occasion and they were ecstatic.

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They also cleaned up on the cash front from indulgent relatives. The spiritual aspect was satisfactory also although no Irish speaking bishop was found and the priest who kindly performed the ceremony didn’t believe in rushing matters. I went up with Daniel as his sponsor and he took Patrick as his confirmation name. “Lovely,” I thought. As I stood there waiting to go up to the bishop, I reaslised that I had no idea what name Michael had taken. I had been pushing Edward but took my eye off the ball. “What did you take?” I asked anxiously afterwards. “Jack,” he said smugly. “There is no St. Jack,” I said. I suppose it’s a variation of John. My sister who was his sponsor was surprised also. He keeps us on our toes.

As part of their ongoing leaving primary school extravaganza, they had an overnight trip with their class in Wicklow. I was a little concerned about that, but I needn’t have been, they had a wonderful time. Packing was a challenge though.

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Then they went to the National Acquatic Centre for the day.

They had the feis as well where both of them sang songs in Irish; I was very proud of them – it’s hard to get up and sing in front of a crowd.

And the other day they brought home their final primary school reports where their wonderful teacher had written some really lovely things about them both.

Today was primary school graduation (insert reactionary comment re when I was young you only graduated from college etc.). There was a nice ceremony at which both boys spoke and Daniel also sang. Then all of the children went en masse to the cinema and a couple of parents shepherded them there including me. I am a shadow of my former self. I’m sad to be ending my association with the school; it was such a nice, happy place for my children.

Meanwhile, herself finished school at the end of June and has spent every waking minute since with her extended group of friends. She is so autonomous now. A bunch of them went to the beach; to town; to the cinema; they walk around the park; they go to each other’s houses; she loves Penney’s (Primark to those from outside the jurisdiction) and spends many happy hours there. When she went to the beach, I forgot to remind her not to drown. It turns out she was on top of that piece of advice. She feels very grown-up and sophisticated – much more so than I was at the same age. I am admiring and it is lovely to see her enjoying herself.

She did very well in the school awards but this information had to be dragged from her. Her school report was excellent except for science. Sadly, science teaching this year has been a struggle with the teacher taking several months off. This story is a fascinating one and involves ultimate cage fighting. Do you think I am making this up? Anyhow, I think it is understandable that the students did not excel as finding a replacement mid-year was quite the challenge. New science teacher next year, anyhow. You will be pleased to hear that she did well in her mathematics examination, well you would be, if you had been involved in the frantic hunt for missing log tables the night before involving, inter alia, approaching the neighbour’s children. As she said to me, “You say summer examinations are really only a point in time assessment, it’s much more important how you developed throughout the year; don’t make me sit this examination, stay true to your principles.” Happily the log tables turned up before my principles had to be put to the test. On Sunday she went off for a three week residential camp. She hugged us goodbye as she propelled us out the door; she seemed so capable and independent. It is strange to be at home without her. This year seems to have flown. I remember 14 being hard, but I think she’s doing alright.


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