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Archive for April, 2009

For the record

30 April, 2009 at 8:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: 18.7 kilos
Daniel: 18 kilos
Michael: 14.8
Me: Exactly what I weighed the day before Michael and Daniel were born. Let the record show that the day after they were born I reached my lowest adult weight ever: I spent my pregnancy vomitting and almost the only things I was allowed to eat were lentils. I regard pregnancy as akin to a diet plan. But still.

We were in my sister’s house. She has a weighing scales and we were curious. Curiousity killed the cat and, even more pertinently, information made him fat. Well indeed.

Last patch

29 April, 2009 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

The ophthalmologist has declared that Daniel does not need to wear his patch any longer. Rejoice with me. Even an obliging, good natured little boy does not like having a patch applied daily. Hurrah.

In a separate development, he has no recollection of ever seeing tan tights before and is fascinated by their glossiness. He seems to be keen to ladder mine by draping them around his person and trying them on. New, of course.

A challenge

28 April, 2009 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Kind Uncle: Here is an alphabet puzzle, my little nephew.
Me: Gosh that looks quite hard.
Mr. Waffle: Did you buy it in Barcelona?
Kind Uncle: Yes, why?
Mr. Waffle: I think the alphabet is in Catalan.

A shadow of my former self

27 April, 2009 at 8:39 pm by belgianwaffle

We had the Princess’s sixth birthday party yesterday. I always find these occasions immensely stressful. Firstly, there is the actual organisation and trying to guess how much food might be appropriate, how many party games will be necessary and so on and then there is the concern that no one will come, your child will not be loved and that she has no friends.

The party started at 2.30 and by 2.45 I was seeing nasty flashing migraine shapes (overlapping triangles, since you ask). I took two paracetemol and soldiered on. If you had told me 7 years ago that I could get through a children’s party with a migraine, I would have been astonished. Then, I would retire from whatever activity I was engaged upon and lay my sore head gingerly on a pillow in a darkened room while mulling about when I would be sick. It is amazing how much the human body can withstand.

There were seven little girls at the party and all of them, bar one, were reasonably well behaved. They accepted that they could not win all the prizes and queued up in an orderly fashion for the various entertainments offered. One of them screamed and sulked and retired to her bedchamber in a huff. Our daughter was told that she had to let her guests go first and she did not like that. In future, I think we might just throw our hats at it and say “birthday girl goes first”; there are other occasions to polish up her manners. I had suspected that something of this nature might happen; she was so excited beforehand that there was bound to be a violent reaction. What I had not anticipated was that Daniel would also be atrociously behaved. I think that he must have been tired but he spent most of the afternoon howling in frustration which is unlike him. During pass the parcel, he signally failed to understand the nature of the game and clung to the parcel with impressive tenacity every time it came in his direction. A charming little classmate, who spent some time soothing him, confided to me that she was glad she did not have a little brother and, on the basis of the afternoon’s behaviour, I could not be surprised. She was a lovely little thing and I said to her, “you are a really good girl”. And she replied, “I know, everyone says that to me”. I was delighted that despite the apparent sophistication of the group (they knew all the words to “Mamma Mia” and were conversant with the plot of High School Musical), they were thrilled with their little prizes of 50 cent rubbers and teddy key rings.

I was particularly sad that the Princess missed the pinata bashing (sulking in her room) as she and her father had spent the previous two weeks carefully constructing it. All the children seemed to enjoy it very much and threw themselves on the floor to scoop up its contents with impressive speed when it finally collapsed.

Mr. Waffle and I had made significant efforts to prepare a number of party games but they seemed to take very little time, as follows:
basic face painting – 2 hours and 55 minutes to go;
pin the tail on the donkey- 2 hours and 50 minutes to go;
potato and spoon race – 2 hours and 40 minutes to go;
treasure hunt – 2 hours and 30 minutes to go;
bash the pinata – 2 hours and 25 minutes to go;
pass the parcel – 2 hours and 20 minutes to go;
musical chairs – 2 hours and 10 minutes to go;
absolutely all games exhausted and children tossed into back garden to play in the drizzle – 2 hours to go.

The birthday tea was reasonably successful. We had more or less accurately gauged their capacity though one little girl went through an astonishing quantity of food. I thought that when she saw the chocolate cake, she would regret going through a quite astounding number of cocktail sausages and carrot sticks during the first course but they did nothing to slow her down. It was slightly unfortunate that the main savoury elements of the feast consisted of cocktail sausages, sausage rolls and ham and cheese pizza. This meant that our next door neighbour’s vegetarian daughter had to survive on vegetables and a pizza crust which was sub-optimal. She was also the child at whom Mr. Waffle hissed, “are you at all familiar with the words please and thank you”? I thought that she might be upset but she is made of stern stuff, although the very polite little girl who was sitting beside her looked terrified, the neighbour’s child was unfazed and went on to point out when the sweet course came with Mars bar rice krispie buns (v. nice, ask me for the recipe, if you are interested) that Mars bars are very, very, very bad for you. My sister, knowing my culinary limitations, had baked the birthday cake which was a huge success with all of the participants. The Princess was delighted when the cake came out and everyone sang happy birthday and her face lit up. This was undoubtedly the highlight of what was otherwise, alas, a damp squib from her point of view.

By 5, the birthday tea was over, our stock of party games was exhausted, the drizzle had become solid rain and the visitors’ parents were not expected for at least another half an hour. I had seen the Examiner when I was in Cork (the Irish Examiner is to Cork as the Irish Times is to Dublin) at the weekend and it had, most fortuitously, recommended a series of party games for 5-7 year olds and one of them was paint a face on a paper plate. I did not think much of this at the time but I was despearate so distributed paper plates and gave them some crayons. This was extraordinarily successful. It kept them entertained for longer than any other single party game and it was a good “wind-down” activity. I offer you this information, in case you should ever need it.

Next year, we are going to bring in outside expertise regardless of the cost; we can always remortgage.

Bedside Table

25 April, 2009 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

The difficulty is that I may not have time to read all of these before I die. And the library just called to say that the two books I reserved have come in. Sigh.

Pease porridge cold

24 April, 2009 at 9:35 pm by belgianwaffle

The only foods Michael will eat are as follows:

Tuc crackers
Cream crackers
Rice cakes
Cold porridge
Cold pasta with pesto, olive oil and parmesan
Yorkshire pudding
Some kinds of chocolate, sometimes
Juice (apple)
Liga (spotty only not the one with the teddy bears)
Fried fish

If his food is warm, he cries. Is this normal?

Also he must now be accompanied to bed by doudou, nounours, Ingeborg, Rabbit and Elephant. It’s getting very crowded in there.

Unrealised potential

23 April, 2009 at 9:32 pm by belgianwaffle

The other morning the Princess arrived into our room at 7.30 fully dressed asking whether there was anything she could do to help us. She got her brothers up and got them dressed. We were all ready to go out the door at 8.30. This exceptional behaviour has not been repeated. Sometimes, I think that she likes to taunt us.


22 April, 2009 at 9:09 pm by belgianwaffle

I met some young people the other day. I don’t really meet many teenagers. They were pleasant but slightly alarming. I don’t think I was at all as confident and articulate at 16.

R (16) told me about his motorbike and showed me a picture on his phone. Someone on his estate died in a motorbike accident last week: “he wasn’t wearing a helmet, it happens”.

R is the product of a brief union. He has five step-brothers and sisters from his mother’s second marriage and several more from his father’s first marriage. He also has a baby sister from his father’s third marriage to a woman from Cameroon. Modern Ireland in microcosm. When he leaves school he wants to join the British army. Not the Irish army because they only go on peacekeeping missions.

R’s friend H asked me what I was going to do about teenage pregnancy rates. “Nothing” I said and then ventured “actually, I think that Ireland has a quite a low rate for teenage pregnancy“. “Not in my school” she said whipping out her mobile phone to show me her 15 year old friend’s scan.

I feel very middle aged now, I can tell you.

So Much for Paris in the Spring Time

20 April, 2009 at 9:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Colleague: Nah, I didn’t like Paris.
Me: Eh?
Her: No, it was just boring.
Me: But..
Her: Maybe we just stayed there too long.
Me: How long did you stay?
Her: Five days.
Me: Speechless.

I was young and foolish then, I’m old and foolish now

18 April, 2009 at 7:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Many years ago, a colleague said to me, “women’s lives have three phases: horses, hormones and horticulture”. I laughed but I never thought that I would be interested in gardening. Well, my time has come. We have a small triangle of garden and I have been very busy cutting back foliage and depositing it in a mini-skip. What I didn’t at all anticipate was how much satisfaction it would give me. The children are a bit mournful about the radical tree elimination programme and the Princess said to me, “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees” but I am just blithely going on with my Thneed creation programme. I can see grass in patches now.

Further arguments against employing parents

17 April, 2009 at 7:22 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael had diarrhoea last night. Every hour or so he poked me awake saying, “I want to go to the toilet.” “Can Daddy go with you?” “No.” I know it was worse for him but he got to stay home in bed but I had to come into work where, frankly, my employer did not get full value for its expenditure on my salary.

Now we are six

14 April, 2009 at 11:06 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess turned six on Easter Sunday. She seems very big all of a sudden. When choosing books for her to read, I find myself hesitating. Is this picture book too babyish for her? When she holds my hand, I am conscious that she may not be doing so for much longer. She is almost too heavy to carry upstairs. She still has her doggy, though.

Archive shot of the household’s favourite dog:

I take my hat off to the Irish school system (or possibly, my daughter is a genius, I am reluctant to dismiss this possibility out of hand). After seven months in its care, the Princess can read and speak a new language. Her Irish is really quite fluent and so is her reading. Perhaps because she started to read relatively late, she has picked it up very quickly. Only a couple of months ago, very basic texts were hard work and now she is reading proper stories though it is still hard work. I was reading her “Lotta” by Astrid Lindgren who was a big favourite of mine when I was a child. She stopped me and said “I know what happens, she goes into the dentist but doesn’t open her mouth”. This was exactly what happened. I asked her father had he read it to her. He had not. I was amazed. This seems extraordinary to me for a child who a very short time a ago was struggling with “The little red hen”.

She received some “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical” material for her birthday. I am a little disturbed by this stuff. Her favourite present is a remote controlled robot but a close second comes a pen which plays a snippet from “High School Musical” with which I am now only too familiar “Towels imported from Turkey/Turkey [or possibly jerky] imported from Maaaiiine/I want fabulous that is my simple request/I want fabulous that is my simple request/All things fabulous bigger and better and best/All things fabulous bigger and better and best”. In third place is a Hannah Montana normal room which transforms into a stage set. She likes fiddling with that though rather than anything else. She also got a booklet of questions from highschool musical: “Is Sharpay fabulous?” [Your guess is as good as mine but I can tell you that she wants fabulous] ; “Can you draw your favourite animal?”; “What boy would you like to kiss?”. Spot the question which I would regard as inappropriate for a six year old. I remember when “Grease” came out we all talked about it all the time (though I can still feel the mortification I endured when I was first asked had I been to Grease and I replied innocently, no we always go to France) but we were 11 and my mother wouldn’t let me go anyhow. I don’t want to take her to see “High School Musical” but I don’t want her to be the only child in her class who hasn’t seen it either. I gather that Hannah Montana the film will be reaching us shortly. I can’t wait.

She gets on well with her brothers when she wants to. She lets them into her room as a reward for good behaviour and they would never dare to venture in at other times. She can get them to do pretty much anything and sometimes when I am desperate, I will say, “use your powers for good and persuade your brothers to come up here and wash their teeth”. Yes, I know, excellent parenting.

It must be pointed out that managing her brothers presents her with considerably more difficulty than it did when they were first in her life:

She guards her bedroom with terrifying ferocity. I am not allowed in without permission but I venture inside nonetheless. Since I spend my time in there tidying up, my passage is always apparent and she is very cross with me. “You know that you are not allowed into my bedroom without permission.” My response is always the satisfyingly motherly “I will stay out of your bedroom when you keep it tidy and I do not need to go in to clean it up”.

We continue with the smiley face regime where each evening we review her behaviour during the day and she gets a smiley face, a straight face or a sad face. If she gets five smiley faces in a row, then she gets a treat. Though she often appears to be indifferent when we talk (standing on her head, lying on the floor, playing with a toy), I think it does make a difference. One of the questions on her High School Musical booklet is what makes you happy and underneath she had written “when I get five smiley faces”.

Sometimes, I feel that we have an adolescent in the house. She rolls her eyes at us. Recently when balked on some front, she announced “I hate my Mummy and my Daddy”. But mostly, she adores us.

She never wants to leave the house. Every proposal that we go on an outing of any kind is met with a request to be left at home. Is this normal? When we do go out, she usually has a great time. We went to a playground with an enormous rope pyramid recently and she climbed up and down without any difficulty. I was very surprised how daring she has become for a child who was very cautious in the past.

Mr. Waffle has, foolishly, told her that there is no Easter bunny. The other day, she said to me, “If there’s no Easter bunny, is there a Santa Claus?” I do not want my six year old to doubt the existence of Santa. “You have to tell the truth,” she said. “Of course there’s a Santa Claus.”

She still hates mass. My parents got her a Bible for children for her birthday and she read it at mass on Easter Sunday [I have to go to mass on my birthday?] – this may be the way to go as she sat quietly reading instead of hanging upside down on the pew begging to go home. I note that her Bible skips over some of the more difficult parts of the Old Testament – Garden of Eden – yes, Cain and Abel – no, Jacob’s Ladder – yes, Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac – no [I must check that the plagues are in – her grandmother asked her to be sure and read them as they were her uncle’s favourite part of the Old Testament]. The Garden of Eden story when stripped to the level a six year old will understand looks like a quite powerful indictment of female curiousity and desire to learn, doesn’t it? Between the Bible and Hannah Montana, I feel that we are covering a wide range of gender questions.

Our girl loves to talk. She is companionable, when she is not imperious. She is kind and loving. She is stubborn but she is funny. She loves to laugh. She is endlessly curious. And, my goodness, she is six. Happy birthday my darling girl.

Interview at almost 6

9 April, 2009 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Geepeemama and Beth have both recently interviewed their children. I give you the Princess’s combined answers to both sets of questions.

1. What is something mummy always says to you?
Brush your teeth.

2. What makes mummy happy?
When children are good

3. What makes mummy sad?
When children are bad

4. How does your mummy make you laugh?
By doing funny things

5. What did your mummy like to do when she was a child?
Eat chocolate, I suppose.

6. How old is your mummy ?
I don’t know. 29? [This despite prolonged exposure to my rolling 40th birthday celebrations].

7. How tall is your mummy ?
Very, compared to me.

8. What is her favorite thing to watch on TV?
University Challenge

9. What does your mummy do when you’re not around?
Tidies up, I suppose [Entirely correct]

10. If your mummy becomes famous, what will it be for?
I don’t know. Drawing? [Really, very unlikely].

11. What is your mummy really good at?
Not losing her temper.

12. What is your mummy not very good at?
Being cross when children are bold.

13. What does your mummy do for her job?
I don’t know.

14. What is your mummy ‘s favorite food?
You’ve got me there.

15. What makes you proud of your mummy?
When she wins a competition [I never win competitions]

16. If your mummy were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Sleeping Beauty.

17. What do you and your mummy do together?
Go to nice cafes.

18. How are you and your mummy the same?
We tidy up the same way.

19. How are you and your mummy different?
We don’t have the same hair colour.

20. How do you know your mummy loves you?
Because she’s my mummy and she’s very kind to me and she just gave me a big hug.

21. What does your mummy like most about your daddy?
He’s kind and very generous.

22. Where is your mummy ‘s favorite place to go?
I don’t know. Mummy where is it?

And now, GPMama’s questions.

1. What’s your favorite TV show? I don’t have one.
2. What’s two plus two? Four.
3. What is your favorite knock knock joke. Knock knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo who? Don’t cry, it’s OK. [I read this out to her from GP mama’s replies and she loved it and repeated it straight back. Jokes are not her long suit].
4. What do you want for your birthday? A pirate ship.
5. If you could have one wish, what would you wish for? That fairies existed. [In more recent times, we might have added the Easter Bunny. My response on the Easter Bunny was to say that there was no Easter Bunny when I was a child so I didn’t know anything about him. Mr. Waffle’s response was to say that ther is no Easter Bunny. She was shocked and amazed: really, really? There’s no Easter Bunny?]
6. Favorite color? Orange
7. How do you make biscuits? I don’t know. You need flour and eggs.
8. Why do we exercise? To make us fitter and thinner [eh? where did this come from?]
9. What’s your favorite food that’s good for you? Plums
10. What’s your favorite holiday? Camping. But you’ve never been camping. It’s still my favourite.
11. Something Daddy did that he wasn’t supposed to? He was cross with the children.
12. Who’s a better at cleaning – Mummy or Daddy? Both.
13. What’s your favorite book? “Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book”

Fair and balanced?

8 April, 2009 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

Driving home from my sister’s flat late one night I heard a programme on FM104. The idiot presenter had found two poor people (Liz and John) who were going to be spending a fortune (and I do mean a fortune) on their daughters’ first communions: stretch limos, 1,000 euro dresses, the lot.

He then found a number of middle class people to criticise Liz and John and how they chose to spend their money. [“I am from a very good family and I would never spend money in that way. Pictures of those communions circulate on the internet afterwards and people laugh at your children”] I thought that these people were patronising and deeply, deeply unpleasant. What I found disturbing was that the presenter did nothing to try to balance the coverage. John and Liz were a bit on the inarticulate side and the presenter joined right in, criticising their choices and mocking their spending. It was very nasty listening.

I suppose I’m not quite FM104’s target demographic but I won’t be going back there any time soon.

Very gratifying

7 April, 2009 at 9:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Regular readers may remember that last summer when we were burgled, the thieves took my grandmother’s engagement ring. I was very sad as I remembered her wearing it and I was very close to her.

When I was in Cork a couple of weeks ago, my mother gave me one of her sets of china tea cups which used to be my grandmother’s. Yesterday evening, I had some people round and we used them; quite probably for the first time since my grandmother died 25 years ago. They were much admired and it was lovely to see her cups getting a new lease of life. They have to be hand washed though. Alas.

Parents’ revenge

6 April, 2009 at 9:29 pm by belgianwaffle

For reasons I will not bore you with, I have discovered what is on the leaving certificate English syllabus (yes, yes, it’s all true, we’re familiarising the children with some of the easier poets to make them a shoo in for high grades in 12 years time). Roger McGough who was unknown to me is on the list, I looked him up. You may like his work. A sample is reproduced below. Whether it is suitable for cranky adolescents is a moot point.


O Lord, let me be a burden on my children
For long they’ve been a burden upon me.
May they fetch and carry, clean and scrub
And do so cheerfully.

Let them take it in turns at putting me up
Nice sunny rooms at the top of the stairs
With a walk-in bath and lift installed
At great expense…..Theirs.

Insurance against the body-blows of time
Isn’t that what having children’s all about?
To bring them up knowing that they owe you
And can’t contract out?

What is money for but to spend on their schooling?
Designer clothes, mindless hobbies, usual stuff.
Then as soon as they’re earning, off they go
Well, enough’s enough.

It’s been a blessing watching them develop
The parental pride we felt as each one grew.
But Lord, let me be a burden on my children
And on my children’s children too.

The English

5 April, 2009 at 9:28 pm by belgianwaffle

The English are class obsessed. I went to hear an “inspirational” Englishman speak about his experiences. He announced to the audience that he was “working class” that his grandfather had been a barman and that it was through the transformational power of education that he was able to enter the venue as a speaker rather than “a servant”.

While Ireland may not be a classless society, it’s a lot closer to that than England is. I think I can confidently say that no Irish person considers that it is embarassing to have relatives engaged in pretty much any job (ok, nobody wants a cat burglar in the family, but you know what I mean). It doesn’t matter what your grandfather did for a living. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s grandfather did for a living.

I thought his use of the word “servant” was interesting too. I wouldn’t consider the waiters or those doing the cloakrooms to be servants. I wouldn’t regard it as their destiny to stay in the same position for ever either. Servants has the whiff of indentured and servility about it. I don’t like it. Maybe it’s just the difference between the colonising and the colonised. All that said, education can be transformative; for everyone.

The Economy

4 April, 2009 at 9:26 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess came down to watch the news last night. “Oh no, not more about the money we all owe, they’ve said it already, we know it.” How true.

Meanwhile, Daniel announced to me that “Parnell Square is where we march”. It is indeed. This will be a useful piece of information for you, should you wish to avoid traffic restrictions when in Dublin.

Dressing up

3 April, 2009 at 9:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (to the boys): This is your sister’s school and you two will be starting there in a while.
Daniel: Will we wear a uniform?
Me: Yes, you will.
Daniel: Like our sister’s uniform?
Me: Yes indeed.
Michael: Hurrah, I will wear a skirt!

When we got home, I changed into jeans, runners and a fleece, and trotted out to cut the grass. “You look cool”, said my daughter. I fear that prolonged exposure to Irish fashions has not improved anyone’s dress sense. And we were already coming from a low base. Sigh.

Finally, I have got all my hair cut off. A nice Lithuanian lady gave Daniel and me the same style. It cost us 28 euros in total. Pleasingly economical. I am quite happy but the complete absence of comment other than from my children and that, frankly negative, is a little disturbing. Kissing Michael goodnight he said, “I don’t want you to kiss me, you look like a boy, you’re not like my Mummy”. When I went to collect them from Montessori school, the teacher took one look at me and said, “Ah, that is why the boys came into school and told me that their Mummy is a boy, now.” Sigh.

Talk in the Office

2 April, 2009 at 9:07 pm by belgianwaffle

I used to work with the daughter of a British army officer who drew my attention to the way language from the military makes its way into general business language. Ever sent anything up the line? You see what I mean.

This is obviously bleeding into other areas (pun intended). I noticed a colleague of mine using medical language at a meeting recently. Speaking about a problem in the organisation she said “It is not common but where it presents, it presents acutely”. Can I clarify that we are not talking about the symptoms of a patient in hospital? She was so pleased with this odd expression that she used it several times. She also emphasised that a solution will need to “resolve matters across the piece”. “Across the piece” is very popular in this office and the next time I hear it, I will not be responsible for my actions.

My loving husband points out that “surgical strike” is an expression which combines war and medicine and that, if I am able to work it into my next intervention at a meeting, my successful future is assured.

And your particular office jargon peeve, what might that be? Feel free to share.

Oh dear

1 April, 2009 at 8:54 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I had a day off together last Friday. We went to the Metropolis exhibtion in Trinity which she found moderately entertaining and we went for tea and a bun which she probably enjoyed more. In the tea and bun shop, there was a beardy student reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. I drew my own slightly snarky conclusions about this. As he was going out the door he said to me, “excuse me, I hope you don’t mind, but I couldn’t help overhearing you and your daughter’s conversation (few people can help it, we are loud, alas) and what I heard of her was delightful”. I felt chastened and also slightly alarmed about the implications for the pretention levels of our conversation (this was, I would say, relatively high as the Princess had decided to demonstrate her linguistic prowess and even I, the greatest show-off alive in captivity, felt that this was somewhat overdone and kept hissing at her to keep it down – “Mais maman je veux parler en Francais, why do I have to speak English to you, ba cheart duinn Gaeilge a labhairt”)

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