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Birthday Disappointment

28 September, 2010 at 8:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Am I five today?
Me: Yes you are! Happy birthday.
Michael: Get me a book, please.
Me: This one?
Him: Yes. [He leafs through the pages] Mummy, I can’t read.
Me: Um, yes, I know, but you will be able to…
Him: Mummy, I’m 5, you said I would be able to read when I’m 5.

Very Tiring

26 September, 2010 at 9:35 pm by belgianwaffle

On Friday, Mr. Waffle and I went for a walk in Glendalough. All very pleasant.





We arrived home and whisked the children off to a freebie cinema showing of “The Red Balloon” which won some prize in Cannes in 1956. It was mildly endearing but the children didn’t think much of it. What was startling was how dirty and run down Paris looked in 1956. For a while I thought it was Brussels but then I saw the Eiffel Tower looming through the smog. Further culture night activities included a visit to a quite spectacularly disgusting take away in Temple Bar and an obligatory visit to “The Ark” a slightly worthy cultural centre for children. The best bit was being out with the children at night: looking at the moon; the river lit up; and all the grown-up slightly drunk people. Weird for everyone.

On Saturday we went to the GAA, dropped the Princess to a birthday party, took delivery of a bouncy castle and went to IKEA.

This morning we realised that we had left the camera in Glendalough so, to ensure that our comprehensive catalogue of our children’s birthday parties remained complete, Mr. Waffle drove off and fetched it. In the interim, the children and I were at mass. Some woman in West Cork had asked that people boycott mass to support the ordination of women. While, unsurprisingly, I am in favour of the ordination of women, I’m not convinced that boycotting mass is the answer. Firstly, I think there’s no evidence that anyone would notice. The archbishop appeared at mass – mass therefore ran forever. He gave an erudite sermon managing to bring in references to Dante and the depiction of Lazarus and Dives in medieval art. He didn’t touch on the ordination of women though.

There was a very eclectic selection of music varying from some African number (really beautiful) to a local soprano (medium) and the regular choir of pre-teens accompanied by a guitar (achingly dreadful). While all this was going on, the children had been off in some room behind the altar at the children’s liturgy where they were free to colour and speak loudly. Daniel and Michael arrived back with two pictures. “What’s this?” I asked. “That’s Lazarus outside the gate,” Michael explained. “And what’s this?” I asked. “That’s the remote for the electronic gate and that’s the surveillance camera.”

In conversation with herself:

Me: What did you do today while you were with the ladies behind the altar?
Her: About Lazarus and Dives. Dives is mean and won’t give any food to Lazarus and in the end when they die, Lazarus is in Heaven and Dives is in the other place.
Me: Hell, you mean.
Her: You can’t say Hell, especially not in a church.

Ah, the post Vatican II world.

And finally, as we were about to leave, I asked her “Would you like to shake hands with the archbishop?” “Will he have lollipops?” she asked. I said that I thought not and we left it.

This afternoon was the boys’ party and in many ways it was a huge success.



Unfortunately, the strain of the week began to show and the Princess was fiendishly awful. In any event, the boys had a terrific time and, unlike their mother, were indifferent to their sister’s behaviour. So all was broadly well. Their uncle and grandparents kindly came around to assist with crowd control. They got mountains of presents, the clear winner being (and I am sorry if you are a donor and this causes you pain) the hilarious Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters. These are fighting hamsters and were clearly inspired by someone who had an alarming experience with hamsters at an impressionable age. In fact, when my sister-in-law was 8 she woke up one morning to find one of her hamsters dead and the other, blood spattered, devouring the corpse; so, I suppose, experience of battle hamsters may be more extensive than I imagine. Aaanyhow, it all passed off peacefully. Very touchingly, a woman who lives around the corner called round as we were prodding the troops up the stairs to bed with cakes for the boys. I had met her on the street earlier in the day and mentioned it was the boys’ birthday tomorrow and she had decided that they should have more cake. How delightful.

And now it is over for 12 months. Tomorrow is their actual birthday and then I will have two five year olds.

How to be Good

24 September, 2010 at 11:32 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is making super human efforts to be good at the moment. It is extraordinary what a difference this makes to the family dynamic and how much more pleasant our evenings and our mornings are. I would like for it to continue indefinitely but I am mildly worried that the strain will make her ill.

Notes from the edge

23 September, 2010 at 11:49 pm by belgianwaffle

We have done all these things recently that I want to record faithfully here. But I haven’t time because we are out doing things.

Thing one:

We went to the fire station for a visit. Firemen and women are a) very kind to children and b) amazing. Did you know that they are all trained paramedics as well? That they can abseil? That if you fall into the Liffey, they’re trained to dive in and take you out. That they will let small children ride in their fire engines, play with hoses and show them equipment? It was the kind of thing that we did for the children and were genuinely fascinated by ourselves. One of the firemen said that he was in hospital for four months when someone threw a brick on top of the engine from a pedestrian overpass. I am still outraged on their behalf.

Thing two:

The President turned up at Sunday mass. She did a reading. She did not tut at my children running up and down the aisle. Her security man took part in the service and put money in the collection box. I told my mother that the President was at mass; she said, “What was she wearing?” “And what did you say to that?” asked my husband. “A camel coloured coat.”

Thing three:

There was organised fun in the Dublin mountains. We took the children. I am always surprised by how much they actually like just running around in the woods. There was a time when I would have photographic evidence but it appears to have passed.

Thing four:

At 10 this evening, I dashed upstairs to turn off the Princess’s light. Clearly, she should have been asleep but she was reading her book as we had neglected to turn off her light because we were distracted by hunting the internet for bouncy castles for hire. She asked what the gentle plinking noise in her room was. Investigation revealed that it was a drip in the ceiling. Further investigation in the attic (all three children now awake and peering up the into the attic) revealed that a slate is missing from the roof. And we only just got a leak fixed. My father says, “Houses are nothing but trouble.” I’m beginning to see what he means.

Tomorrow we are going out for culture night. The boys’ birthday party is on Sunday. Further details may follow. There’s something to look forward to.

Boys and their Mothers

23 September, 2010 at 11:32 pm by belgianwaffle

This morning Daniel said to me, “Mummy, when I grow up, can I marry you?”

Good grief

16 September, 2010 at 12:21 am by belgianwaffle

While I wasn’t looking, Vox and Bloglines died. I have had to import all my feeds into that google reader account I never used. What next? Will google be running the country? And will all press releases be 140 characters or fewer?

Parenting failure

14 September, 2010 at 11:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: So, the Taoiseach is in charge of the country and the Tánaiste is his deputy.
Her: What does the Tánaiste do?
Me: Well, she does lots of things…
Her: She? You mean a woman can be Tánaiste?

Oh dear. Is it any wonder there are hardly any female politicians?

Posting has been feeble lately, the new job (sideways, same organisation, no excitement), recruiting the new childminder and back to school trauma have made the prospect of the computer in the evening unenticing. The childminder has, however, now been recruited. This may, conceivably, make things better.

Surely some mistake

7 September, 2010 at 10:32 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: Look, look Mummy, Abbeyleix.
Me: Eh, what?
Daniel: On the glass.
Me: What?
Daniel: Look, you know, Abbeyleix et Astérix.

Down Among the Women

6 September, 2010 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

This post is inspired by the depressing news that an able female politician has resigned for personal reasons. I sympathise, I really do, imagine having a young child and a job where you have to commute between two locations. And your husband also has a job where he has to commute between two locations (and not the same two – they both have to be in Dublin but have constituencies in different parts of the country). And the hours are long. But she was actually known in politics, no one had ever heard of him. Of course, it was their decision to make and if it’s the right thing for them, who am I to quibble. But yet.

The text below is lifted from the site of the National Women’s Council of Ireland:

Only 13% of those elected to the Dail (lower house of Parliament) are women.
This percentage has risen by only 1% over the past 10 years.
At this rate, it will take 370 years for the percentage of women in the Dail to reach 50%.
The percentage of women appointed to the Cabinet in this Government has declined by 7% while the percentage of women Ministers of State has decreased by 11%.
Only 17% of those elected to the Seanad (upper house) are women.
Only 16% of elected Councillors are women.
The percentage of women appointed to State boards has rarely reached 40% although this has been an official Government guideline since 1991.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and Public Service consists of 16 men and just one woman.

And then an Oireachtas (Dail and Seanad) report itself announces gloomily:

Since 1990, when Mary Robinson was elected as Ireland’s first woman President, Ireland’s rate of women’s political representation has reduced drastically. In 1990, Ireland was in 37th position in the world classification of women’s representation in the lower or single house of national parliaments.

However, by October 2009 Ireland had fallen to 84th position, with 23 women TDs out of 166 (13.8%); ranked equally with Djibouti in East Africa (www.ipu.org).

The report considers quotas for women quite extensively. It seems to me that, generally, the most vigourous opponents of this idea are women. Perhaps because they are the ones whose views are always sought. I remember when the report came out, a number of female politicians were asked their views on this vexed question. And it is vexed. A number of them said words to the effect of “I got here on my own merit, it can be done and I don’t approve of quotas.” The implication in their view was that quotas are almost like cheating. And that view has a lot of sympathy. Suppose there is a better man for the job, yet it is given to the woman, wouldn’t that be terrible? The unfairness and, of course, the wrongness of that.

Now, consider this: some time ago, medical schools in Ireland became concerned about the fact that the majority of their incoming medical students were women. Girls were performing better in the final school examination that controls entry to medicine. A new additional entry test for medicine was devised to try to balance entry by gender. There was some outrage. One of the things that struck me though was at no point did anyone raise the two issues which are invariably raised when quotas for women are suggested:

1. Won’t those boys who got in on the “aptitude test” and would not otherwise have got in feel bad about the higher performing girls who they are displacing? Personally, I would feel terrible, if it were me…

2. Aren’t we risking not having the very best students as our doctors. Don’t we want the best students to be doctors?

But let’s be honest here, the real reason that they are so keen to get in men is that huge numbers of female doctors go part time in their thirties when they have children. Working as a GP seems to facilitate this. Working in a hospital does not. Who is going to man (no pun intended) the emergency wards? Perhaps though this indicates a need for a wider rethink of medical careers rather than a gender control of the intake. Perhaps the same is true for politics.

One of the most interesting things about female role models and confidence I have heard was from Maire Geoghgan Quinn. She was speaking about being offered the Gaeltacht portfolio by then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. She would be the first female full cabinet Minister since the foundation of the State (Countess Markiewicz was Minister for Labour in the first Dail before independence). She is as tough as old boots, MGQ, but she said that when she was offered the job, the first thing she said was “Do you think I’m up to it?” She said that it is a comment she has always regretted. I find it almost unbelievable that someone like her would have said that. I think it shows two things: 1. that the fact that she was to be the first full female cabinet Minister in some 60 years weighed on her mind and 2. that like many women lacked confidence in her abilities. There might be something in this role model business.

[Now, clever readers, the title of this post refers to a novel by a well known feminist author – guess away, no googling.]

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