Monday, December 20, 2010

Pizza for Christmas

OK, this isn't an excerpt from the book Alive: we're not about to eat each other. But we are stranded "at altitude." It's not the Andes, exactly, but there are hills the car can't get up. We can go nowhere. And school is cancelled. Cue foreboding music: Maybe we will eat each other? Doubt it, but eating is definitely going on around here - lots of it.

View From The Back of Our House
I now know why there is so much rich, fabulous food associated with this time of year: Because in the olden days, if you were stranded indoors and lucky enough to have a full larder, you cooked and baked.

This past Friday, the weather descended. A full shop was done. Saturday evening: whiskey aperitifs, beef stew, apple sponge cake, red wine. Sunday, I roasted a duck. They take almost 4 hours, so the best day to tend to one, is a day when you can’t get more than a couple of rooms away from the oven. It was accompanied by roasted potatoes and green beans (thrown on the floor by the kids); hot chocolate pudding for afters. We rolled off to bed.

Today, the kids and I made Christmas cookies. I justified this two ways: 1, it was an activity that would keep them engaged and occupied; and 2, we were NOT going to eat these buttery delicacies, we were going to give them away as presents (please don’t laugh). The cookies took almost two hours between the mixing, refrigeration, cutting out shapes, baking and decorating. That was great, as it was two hours where they could fight over who was cracking eggs instead of trying to choke each other on the sofa. OK, yes, we did eat a few. There are enough left to give as presents. Small presents.

Tonight, I tried to take it easy on the calories with fish and salad. Got a text from the school however and, you guessed it: school closed again tomorrow. Now, we move into what’s in the freezer territory...a coconut milk chicken curry or fried liver? It’s almost the 21st of December. I won’t need to lose weight after the holidays; I’m going to need to lose weight before the holidays.

I shouldn’t worry as there are only a couple of dinners in the freezer. If this weather keeps up much longer we’ll be having frozen pizza for Christmas dinner.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Max

As you may have gathered from previous posts, Max (2 years old, gorgeous, spirited, smart, curious, humorous, outgoing, friendly Max) is our wild child. By that I mean – he’s wild. All of Zach’s books and toys made it through his infancy and toddler years intact. Max comes along, and two years later, everything is broken. Pages torn, blades ripped off helicopters, teddies decapitated. As an infant, upon entering a room full of strange adults and babies, Zach would cling to me for a very long time – say, an hour--before joining in the fun with the other kids. Max, upon entering a room full of strange adults and babies, goes up to one of them and says, “Hi, I Max,” blows a big, wet raspberry, then smiles. They are different children.

I was in the grocery store today with Max. Trips to the grocery store with Zach were no bother. You gave him a cracker or piece of bread and he sat in the trolley seat quietly for ages amusing himself. Max in the grocery store is the proverbial bull in the china shop. I try not to take him if I don’t have to, but if I have to take him I try and make it quick. Supervalu in Glanmire has many good attributes and excellent customer service, but what they don’t have is restraining belts on their supermarket trolleys. So, after about 10 minutes (or less) Max gets bored, sick of snacking, stands up in the seat and starts yelling, “Out! OUT!” I struggle and distract and try to bribe, but he is single minded and in the end it’s too dangerous – he has to be put on the floor. That’s when the fun begins. I spend the rest of the trip trying to keep him away from bottle displays, towers of tinned beans, and so forth. Today, he went behind the meat counter and had to be dragged out; and in a new low, literally got down on his hands and knees and started clicking switches on one of those refrigerated bins displaying meat. I tried to keep him engaged by having him help me shop, but, he throwed things into the trolley ran away from me.

Today, I lost him around the baby wipes. I rounded the corner to pick out a bottle of wine, turned to have a look at him and make sure all the wipes were still on the shelf, and noticed that he was gone. Now, when I’m in the States I suffer a moment of panic if I can’t see my kids. I just think: kidnapping! But, in Ireland, I’m a bit more relaxed. Strangers kidnapping children is virtually unheard of over here (not that we’re crime free).

Anyway, then I started shouting his name, going up and down the aisles. A woman with a boy about Max’s age (sitting quietly in his trolley) started to help me. I was grateful for this. We found Max riding a tricycle for sale.

Later on, I lose Max again for an instant at the check outs. He’s just short – he was actually at the end of the checkout looking at wrapping paper displays. Anyway – the same woman pointed him out.

This woman was then checking out at the counter next to mine. I found out her boy is two and a half as well, and I said, “Oh, look how nicely he’s sitting in his trolley. I wonder why Max isn’t!” As in, ha ha, aren’t you lucky your boy is so well behaved but pity me, poor beleaguered mother, with a lunatic for a son. Further subtext however should imply to her: isn’t he spirited and fabulous?

She turns to me and says, “That’s because I don’t allow him to get out.” I rolled my eyes at her and ignored her for the rest of the grocery visit. Like you have a choice, I thought. You have a Zach on your hands now; but lady if you get pregnant again, the next one might be a Max! Then I thought: I wish a thousand Maxes upon your head.

Maybe I was overreacting a little bit. The bottom line is: I love Max, and I love him the way he is. The destructive nature is his nature, and I think it’s just part of the package. I’m sure I will get some parenting expert commentary on this, but I think that it’s a myth that we have that much control over our kids. With Max, I limit the battles to: you have to hold my hand when we cross the street; you have to wear a seatbelt; you can’t hit people; you can’t throw food or breakables. Beyond that, it’s just damage control. I can’t fight all the time with him – and, frankly, I don’t want to kill his spirit. I have adopted a let Max be Max policy since he was born. That meant: unlimited breastfeeding; sleeping as he needed with no schedules, not cajoling him into falling asleep at a certain time so he could make it through the night; walking when he pleased; talking when he pleased; etc. Turns out that even without worrying or using any special devises such as baby walkers, etc., Max learned to walk. He’s talking well (when he’s not blowing raspberries) and, with the assistance of a lot of time outs, he’s learning to control himself. It will take a while, but Max will also learn how to behave in the Supervalu, too.

Actually, a thousand Maxes on that woman’s head would be a blessing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I've Got a Tummy Ache

This will be a short post to say, I'm not capable of a long decent post this week.

I'm laying in bed with a tummy ache. I'm on my back as I type and I keep making typos 'cause I'm at a weird angle and can't see the keyboard. Max is downstairs watching a DVD movie 'cause I can't even stand up. Gotta drag myself out of bed soon and collect yer man from school. I'm feeling totally woe is me.  Yesterday afternoon Brendan had to come home early to mind the kids 'cause I just couldn't cope. Today shaping up similarly, but I doubt he can leave early again.

When you're a sick mommy, and you have no support (like me - no inlaws or grandmas or aunties nearby), it can be tough.  As I laid in bed yesterday, about to puke, Zach and Max were hugging and kissing me. Cute, until Max started climbing on my stomach and Zach started screaming some song.  What am I going to do today?  Don't know.  Any sick mommies out there gotta take care or young 'uns?

 Boo hoo, gotta face snow and ice to go collect my 5 year old from school.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

I’m an American living in Ireland. Thanksgiving Day comes and goes with great fanfare in the States, but I usually forget the date. (I had to ask my facebook friends when Thanksgiving was going to be.) This Thanksgiving, for example, my husband is taking a class in the evening, and I will be boiling pasta for the kids. Everyone, who has a job, is working today. Everyone is working tomorrow. Schools are in session. And we don’t have sales until January over here, so no “Black Friday” fun for me.

Yesterday, the Irish government presented an outline of a series of spending cuts and tax increases to be applied for the next four years. The cuts are severe, and sure to contract the economy. We have to accept these new financial restrictions, we are told, so that we can pay back the massive Irish government deficit, mainly incurred trying to prop up our banking system. The IMF and EU central bank was called in over this. They have, in effect, dictated the terms. My family’s financial circumstances are a reflection of the state of the nation.

But, this doesn’t mean I’m not thankful. I am. My kids are healthy. Well, one has a cough and the other an ear infection, but you know what I mean – they’ll get over it. We’re well fed. We’ve cut out filet steaks and pate, but I made a damn fine beef stew last night. The cars are running (more or less). The lights are on. My husband is in good health. I’m enjoying my writing projects of late. And, I’m falling slowly in love with Twitter. Life, financially, is fairly crappy. I say no a lot to the kids over sweets and toys in the supermarket when we’re out.

Oddly, as the economic downturn in Ireland has taken us in its grip, sunk its teeth into our flesh and started chewing, my mood has lightened. Through the emotional freefall of loosing work, pay cuts, tax increases, falling house prices, the lot, I have felt strangely liberated. I feel free. It must be all the time setting my own schedule (that’s a laugh; really my schedule is dictated by the kids). But...they’re napping right now, and I’m writing on the laptop. I look out the window and the sky is blue, the hills are green, the rooks are evacuating the farmer’s field across the way in favour of the trees behind my house. The cattle are in the sheds for the winter, but we occasionally hear their lowing drift on the wind from their winter shelter to our garden patio. The weather—cold and crisp—is dry.

Thanksgiving has come to Ireland.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eye Gouging, Kicking, Biting and Other Activities for Boys

I often leave the living room to go to the kitchen to prepare a meal or wash a cup, only to hear hysterical screaming about thirty seconds later. I get about as far as the breakfast bar before I have to turn around, go back to the living room doorway, and say “What’s going on here?” Sometimes I don’t even bother returning to the living room. I just yell, “Stop that!” from the kitchen, blindly. They stop whatever it is they were doing which caused the ruckus. I don’t even care what it was--I just want a quiet, aggro-free life.

I never knew how much violence would come with raising two boys. My husband keeps saying, “Welcome to the world of boys”. (He has 2 brothers and three sisters; I have none.) My two kids are forever kicking, biting, scratching, knocking each other off of chairs, and pushing each other into doors.

The worst came yesterday. I’m not entirely sure of the sequence of events (I was, of course, out of the room at the time pouring a cup of tea or washing something in the sink). I think Max, the 2 year old, tried to turn the TV off. Land Before Time was playing, one of Zach’s favourites. (It’s not the Land Before Time of our youth with the pylons and furry humanoids. It’s an animation with singing dinosaurs.) Zach, fed up trying to keep little brother from the TV set on/off switch, grabbed his head in his hands, and gouged his left eye with his thumb. I walked back into the room to find Max crying hysterically and Zach hiding behind the sofa. I took Max in my arms, and asked Zach what he did. Zach told the truth, then paled when he saw the look of horror in my face.

Photo: Sky Sports (on site)
Max’s eye was fine in the end, but Zach spent a LONG time on the naughty step, and was not allowed his cartoons that evening. While it was the best I had in my arsenal, I know it won’t stop the aggro. What will stop the aggro?

They fight over everything. Any little thing Zach has, Max wants, anything, even a broken piece of plastic. If Zach shows the least bit of interest, Max screams, “Mine!” Equally, if Max has something that peaks Zach’s interest, it could get snatched out of his hands. Only when they’re totally engaged in something that I’m supervising do they not attack each other. I literally have to stand there and say, “Zach, you kick the ball. Good. Now Max, your turn. Don’t hold it...kick it back...good, now, Zach, your turn...kick it back...great. Now, Max, your turn...” Clearly, I can’t do that all day. I try to keep them exercised: playground, scooter, bicycle, walks, “nature trails” (where we go down the lane with the nature book and try to identify insects – the only animals to which we can get up close and personal, aside from the cows and cats). I’m not sure if it keeps them from attacking each other, but it wears them out.

*Sigh* I don’t know what to do. Brendan is just like: get used to it. He’s probably right, but I still worry this will all lead to one or more visits to A&E.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What is Poetry? A Judgement Call

Dave Lordan and I were messaging back and forth recently around the topics of writing and why you write – is it for yourself? Is it for readers? Publishers? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a writer writes and no one is there to read it, does it make a difference? This led me to thinking of when I was young, and wrote alone, in my bedroom, with no intention of showing any of it to anyone.

I bring this all up in context.

Zach walked up to me recently and asked, “What is a poem?”

I opened my mouth and nothing came out. Me, the lady who studied fiction and poetry in grad school, and likes to talk. I’m kind of staring at him.

He looked at me, “Mom?”

I had to think about it for a minute, “Uhm...its words...”


“Like a story...but not...not as many words on the page. Also, there’s not necessarily a beginning, middle or end like a story...but there could be. Sometimes it does tell a story, and is really long...Sometimes it rhymes...but not could be really, really has rhythm like a there’s no music playing when you read doesn’t always make sense the way a story does, but you figure out what it’s saying by listening to the words and making a picture in your head...” I was struggling, pitifully. Ms. Manrique, I hear Marilyn Hacker in my head, you get an F.

Zach’s staring at me.

“Uh – let’s go to your bedroom and get the STORIES AND RHYMES FOR BOYS book. I think I have to show and not tell on this one.”

I was wondering why the sudden interest in poetry, then I found out. I picked Zach up from school subsequently, and the teacher handed me a note. It asked my permission for him to participate in a poetry reading competition. The teachers would prep him in reading and interpreting the piece. It would be my responsibility to drive him into town, to an auditorium, where he would stand, on a stage, in front of judges and other children and adults, and read his poem, with expression. He could win or lose or get honourable mention, or whatever it is kids get these days when they’re good but not the best. He would be judged.

He’s 5 (as of yesterday).

That seems awfully young to be standing up in front of crowds of adults who will judge you. Maybe he’s judged all the time. The teacher – he’s always trying to please her. His mother and father – we’re always observing, hovering, encouraging, whatever you want to call it. This child – has he been performing the whole time? He performs when he says he didn’t hit his brother, and I know that he did because of the way Max is crying and the way Zach is looking at me (the slight curl up one side of his mouth and the questioning glint in his eye, which asks: “will she buy this?” No, I won’t. I have eyes like CCTV cameras, strategically placed throughout the house. I know when a baby has been pushed from 2 rooms away).

My husband and I signed him up for the competition. I consoled myself, thinking: I can always pull him out of this later if he’s not happy, if it isn’t working out, if he can’t stand up in front of people...

In the face of the judgement, will he lose his interest in what poetry is, and turn away? Maybe I need to leave him alone to just like poems. If Zach one day writes and no one reads it, it’s still worth something. It’s worth Zach writing it. It’s worth Zach.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Earlier this week
Max (2 years old) comes into our bedroom at 1:20 am saying, "I wet, mammy, I wet, mammy, I wet..." I’m so drowsy I don’t know what’s going on. I just say, “What? What?” repeatedly.

Brendan (husband, age undisclosed) finally interprets: "He says HE'S WET."

So, I get up and change Max’s diaper, then try to put him back into his own bed—a futile effort. The diaper change has roused him. I bring him into our bed, stick him in the space between our pillows. This usually works.

Toss, turn, toss, turn. No one sleeps.

Around 2:30 AM, Zach, the almost 5 year-old, shows up from out of nowhere on my side of the bed. I mumble: "Go to daddy's side of the bed." He does.

Still from - Treasure of The Sierrra Madre
Over on that side, I hear Brendan say, "There isn't room for four people!" Zach gets into our bed, and Brendan goes down the hall to Zach's bedroom, to sleep under the Diego comforter and John Deere tractor blanket.

My head sinks deeper into my pillow thinking: ‘I’m sleeping with my children instead of my husband. I don’t care. I just want to sleep.’

Twenty minutes later, Max sits bolt upright, crying: "My bed, my bed!" I lift Max, start leaving the room.

Zach lifts his head, groggy, off Brendan’s pillow: “I’m really tired.” I pat his head, tell him to close his eyes, go to sleep; I’ll be back in a few minutes after I settle Max into his bed.

I take Max down the hall to his bedroom. Now, Zach is in our bed alone; Brendan is in Zach's room; Max is in his bed; and I am on the sofa in Max's room. I’m only around 5’3” tall, and the sofa is too short, even for me. I don’t care, I’m lying down. I close my eyes. Sleep approaches me, gives me the once over, considers enveloping me in its sweet oblivion. It then recedes, rejecting me, because--

--Max won't sleep. Toss and turn, toss and turn. He gets up and joins me on the sofa. The two of us are now scrunched together. I don’t care: I’d sleep in a cage, loaded on the back of a flatbed pickup as it went down the road at 50 miles an hour, kicking up dust, blasting the theme tune to Green Acres repeatedly from its speakers, if that was all I had. I’m a mother of two boys under the age of five; I know about sleep deprivation. I try to drift off despite the discomfort (baby legs in my belly, no pillow under my head).

That’s when Zach gets up. I hear him leave our bedroom and go down the hall to his own room. He evicts Brendan from the Diego bed. Brendan doesn't realise I’m in Max's room with Max--so instead of going back to our bed, he goes down to the living room and crashes on the sofa, with no pillow.

So, now, to recap: Brendan is on the sofa downstairs; Zach in his own bed: Max and I are on the small sofa in Max's room; the marital bed is empty. Our big, lovely, comfy, memory foam and spring combination mattress is empty.

People start falling asleep. Zach sleeps in his own bed. Brendan, downstairs. Max finally falls asleep around 5 AM, in his bed (having decided the sofa wasn’t for him). I tip toe back to my bedroom and fall asleep by 5:30 AM--praying to the gods of baby sleep that these people I gave birth to crash out until 9 AM.

At precisely 6:59 AM, Max comes back over to my side of the bed (where this all started 6 hours ago), asks me to come back to his bedroom. I take him back to his bed. He tosses and turns and can’t sleep.

Zach wakes up around 7:30 AM. The circus starts again with the bed hopping, except now it's time for Brendan to go to work. I give up on sleep and everyone is downstairs in front of cartoons by 7:45, and I’m staring at the kettle, blurry-eyed, nauseous from lack of sleep, willing it to boil.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Script of My Life: Act One

And, no, this is not in proper screenplay format...thanks to blogger


All is still. LORY and BRENDAN, a couple approaching middle age, sleep peacefully in their bed. Only occasional SNORING lets us know that the lumps under the sheets are human. The digital alarm clock reads 5:45.

In between SNORES, tiny, footie-pyjama FOOTSTEPS are heard approaching from the hall. The door is slammed open, reverberating off the wardrobe. MAX, a small, gorgeous toddler of 2 years and some odd months, scrambles into the bedroom and over to Lory’s side of the bed. He slams the side of her face repeatedly with his pudgy little fist.

Wake up, mammy! Wake up, mammy! Wake up, mammy!


Lory leans against the kitchen counter, drinking coffee. She is dishevelled, yawning and puffy eyed. RADIO 1 is on in the background. ZACH, almost 5, enters from the hall. He has just woken. He squints in the bright glare of the kitchen spotlights.

Mom, I’m huuungry. I’m huuungry. Can I have a chocolate biscuit?



It’s 6:30 in the morning. No biscuits in the morning.



Because why?

Because, I want you to be healthy.

Biscuits aren’t healthy?

Not so much.

Then what can I have?


Can I have biscuits for breakfast?

Lory rolls her eyes. Max runs in from the living room, blankie in one hand and half empty Avent bottle of milk in the other.

It’s Dora! It’s Dora! The purple bear chase Dora!

Lory picks him up and plants a kiss on his check.

An hour later, Zach is dressed in a school uniform, clutching a lunchbox. Brendan is by the closet, looking for his coat.

What did you put in my lunchbox?

Cheese cubes and crackers and a fruit smoothie and water.

But I wanted a toasted sandwich.

Toasted sandwich? I’ll make you one tomorrow.

But I wanted one today.

It’s too late. I’m not making another lunch, honey. Just eat that one.

But Carl got a toasted sandwich yesterday.

Who’s Carl?

From downstairs, LOUD YELLING:


I gotta go. I’ll pick you up at the usual time. Tomorrow, I promise, toasted sandwich, just like Carl.

Max lies on the changing mat on the bathroom counter. He smiles, big and wide. Lory undoes his diaper. Her eyes water and she wrinkles her nose.

Jaysus, what have I been feeding you? The stink...

I make the poo.

Yes, you do...and lots of it, too.

Lory is trying to get Max in the car. He is clinging to the frame of the back seat door, ripping the rubber seal off the edge with a firm little grip.


C’mon, Max. We have to go get Zach from school. Let go of the door.

No!!! Outside I go outside!!!

(Struggling to pry his fingers off the door frame and buckle him into his car seat)
Max...please....we’re going to be late to collect Zach from school

(Throwing the blankie onto the driveway)
NO!!!! Blankie!
(He cries, capitulating. Lory straps him into his seat and hands him the blankie)
Oh, no, mami, the blankie is dirty...

That’s because you threw it on the floor!

Max cries. Lory takes the blankie and brushes it off.

Look, it’s OK. Mammy cleaned it.

She hands it back.

Lory is walking Zach across the parking lot and to the car.

What did you do in school today?


You must have done something.

I can’t remember

You just walked out of the classroom.

We coloured

Just colouring? What else? You were there for 4 hours.

I don’t there a snack for me in the car?

You and the food

They arrive at the old hatchback. Lory opens the door, Zach gets in and she buckles him in.

Max is sleeping in his baby seat. Lory gets into the driver's seat, buckles her seatbelt, puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and...nothing.


What did you say??

She purses her lips.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Bullies and Saints

Max attacked a kid on the playground the other day. I was standing there with a mother-friend and the kids were playing. Max was standing near the slide with another toddler, someone we don’t know. Max and the boy were staring at each other in what I now know was some sort of a baby stand-off. A split second later, the boy was screaming, Max holding on to his face with a vice-like grip, digging his fingernails into the boy’s cheeks. The boy’s dad separated them, telling Max, “Get away, you!” The toddler had scratches and torn skin and blood on his face. I hadn’t clipped Max’s nails in over a week, he’d been digging in the soil that morning, and the combination meant ragged uneven, germ filled scratches on the other child’s face. I was humiliated. I apologised profusely, and made Max do the same.
Am I the mother of a bully? I fear this – this lack of control over them. I can discipline them and do my best to curb the baser instincts, help their personalities to express their best selves—but their personalities are their own. I can’t make brand new personalities for these guys... well, actually, I did once, in the womb, but what I mean is now I can’t change them.

My older boy, he’s quiet. Always was. When he was a toddler, if he spied a child on something he wanted to play with in play group, or on something he wanted to climb in the playground, he either waited patiently, or cried. Max, he just pulls the other child off the equipment. I worry, thinking: how will these personality traits be amplified into the future? I have visions of Zach becoming a lawyer, his father and I watching proudly as he accepts his degree from the Dean of Harvard Law. He will pass the bar with flying colours. This is useful, as in my fantasy future he will need to act as Max’s defence attorney, after Max gets embroiled in that wild money laundering scheme at the investment bank. Oh, Max, we told you to accept the scholarship to Yale Med, but you didn’t listen, did you?

OK, I know I’m exaggerating, exhibiting online maternal histrionics. Max will probably be an artist, a non-conformer, someone confident enough to plough his own furrows in life. His work will be shown in MOMA and the Tate. Zach, he’s the quiet and conscious one, so he’ll be a vicar, helping people...maybe a missionary to war torn countries. He’ll be awarded the Nobel...

Back to reality: Max is two. He is not a bully. He is just two. I need to consistently discipline him in a firm but fair manner so that he doesn’t turn into a bully. Zach is not quite five. He’s not a saint, he’s just quiet. They’ll decide what they’re going to be, and I bet they’ll surprise me. I need to just relax and stay supportive, but not intrusive. (Note to self: must sign Max up for art lessons starting this Friday at the community centre. Check on availability of LSAT prep materials for pre-schoolers.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Water: Blog Action Day 2010

On Wednesday, our power was out for the entire afternoon and into the evening. We live rurally, and depend on water being drawn up from our own personal well by an electric pump. When the electricity goes, so does the water. So, when the power went on Wednesday, I knew I had to start rationing water before the tanks in the attic ran out. No toilet flushing; fill the sink to wash hands and face; no dish washing, etc. I thought: what a hassle it would be to have to go fetch your family’s water every day.

“Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on a single day – October 15.” ( Today, many of the world’s bloggers (including me) are blogging about the importance of access to clean, safe drinking water for almost a billion people, worldwide. Drinking unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation provided by water causes 80% of the world’s diseases, and apparently kills more people than violence, including war. Children are the most vulnerable.


“In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick. Time spent walking and resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Along their long walk, they're subjected to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault. Hauling cans of water for long distances takes a toll on the spine and many women experience back pain early in life.” (

When Zach or Max want a drink, I open the tap. In the worst case scenario, as when the power went out the other day, we hop in the car and go to a shop to buy water. We’re not so broke we can’t afford clean water – and it’s accessible.

“With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new opportunities and improve their families’ lives. Kids can earn their education and build the future of their communities.” (

Empower women and children. Visit  to learn more and sign a petition.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's a Love-Hate

THINGS I HATE about being a stay-at-home mom

  1. Being considered the “laundry mistress” of the house. I’m supposed to know everything about laundry: how do you get this coffee stain out? Does the Spiderman suit drip or tumble dry? Can you wash this shirt by tomorrow, I have a meeting? Etc. and so on.  I DID NOT study this stuff in college, people. I will wash your stuff, but I don’t guarantee satisfaction, or that it will emerge from the laundry room the same size it went in.

  1. Preparing all the meals. I used to love cooking, but now that I have to come up with lunch and dinner every day, I’ve got cooker’s block. What to prepare? People won’t eat the same thing two days in a row, and cooking is a must because we live in a rural area. Can you say, ‘scrambled eggs for lunch?'

  1. Cleaning the house. Oh, woe is me. My solution: let the house go. End of story.

  1. Driving. DRIVING. Pick up from school, go to shops, go to Gymboree class, go to playground, go to friend’s house, go to dentist appointment...over and over and over. Green party, don’t get mad at me. There are no footpaths or mass transit for miles around, so it’s either take the car, or me and my kids get run over on the road by the local sight impaired farmer in his 30 year-old tractor.

  1. Which brings me neatly to: shopping. Gotta drive to the shops. I’m in the frickin’ grocery store, like, everyday. If it isn’t milk, it’s bread. If it isn’t bread, it’s cheese. I try to go and do one big shop on a Friday, but by Sunday evening all the bananas are gone, and...oh you know the story. Everybody’s always eating, 3 times a day, blast them, and as the unemployed lady of the house, it’s my job to keep the place in biscuits and square meals. Can’t shirk this responsibility like I shirk the cleaning.

THINGS I LOVE about being a stay-at-home mom

  1. The hugs, the kisses, the laughter (as we roll around, tickling each other on the dirty carpet)

  1. Being with them

  1. Wearing pyjamas well into mid-morning

  1. Listening to talk radio as much as I want (see my previous post Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom for more about the downsides of that pursuit).

Re-reading above, it looks like I hate more than I love, but when things are good, you just don’t write about them as much.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom

To preface this, let me tell you that these confessions will not include: keeping a Vodka bottle at the bottom of my lingerie drawer (I don’t even have a “lingerie drawer”); having an affair with the gardener (the “gardener” around here is my husband, in any case); turning tricks on the side (though, I do need the money...); being addicted to oxycontin; etc.  

Confession 1: I use the TV as a babysitter/narcotic for my children so that I can get 30-60 minutes in the mornings to myself, in order to wash my face, change clothes, check my emails, do a load of laundry, etc.  I use it again in the evenings so I can cook dinner, in peace. I use it after school for about 30 minutes, because Zach comes in exhausted and cranky, and a half hour on the sofa staring at the screen seems to sort him out. I feel guilty about this, but for those 2-3 hours a day, the TV provides respite. This is not the 1950’s and I am not the perfect mother. Am I justifying my behaviour? Yes, and I’m sure some of you will call me on it. Fell free. Maybe I’ll reform.

Confession 2: I stay up too late. I get involved in a stupid TV show and sit on the sofa watching it when I should be in bed getting ready for the next day. I don’t even get to sit down in front of said shows normally until after 9, and I try to get up off my bottom by 10:30 – but really, I’m not getting enough sleep. I must ask myself: Do I REALLY need to watch that particular episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians again?

Confession 3: Which leads me to the next confession: I’m fairly educated, widely read, follow politics, read poetry, and in general try to function and appear like an intellectual. The intellectual life is a veneer. In the little time I have to devote to TV, I watch America’s Next Top Model (Living TV) and Fashion Police (E!), I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant (Discover Home and Health), and I Shouldn’t Be Alive (Discovery). They’re total escapism. They add nothing to my intellectual or moral development. They’re wrong to watch. WRONG-WRONG-WRONG.  They’re so indulgent that I feel like I’m eating a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies when I watch them (but no calories!). Yes, I have a stack of books on my bed side. I read periodicals, online fiction magazines, etc., etc. But...this just doesn’t square with the baby birthing stories I like to watch...over and over again. Which person am I? The John McGahern loving, Ann Enright reading, Theo Dorgan appreciating, Raymond Carver adoring, Cormac McCarthy admiring lady or am I the lady who watches Fashion Police and emits guttural laughs from the sofa?

Confession 4: I leave the radio tuned to Radio 1 all the time. I’m addicted to chat. I turn it on at 7 AM when Morning Ireland is on, and it stays on all day. At noon, when Pat Kenny finishes and Ronan Collins starts his 1 hour music show, I desperately tune in to Newstalk radio. I go back to RTE 1 for the lunchtime news at 1. Sometimes, I’d rather hear what he guy on the radio has to say, instead of my kids. This happens mostly in the car. When Max was around one or so years old, I had him strapped into his car seat, behind me as I drove. I turned Liveline on to hear the opening credits, you know, when the voice goes: “Jooooeeeee Duffffyyyyyyy!”  The guy on the radio said “Jooooeeeee-” and from the back seat I hear, “Duuufffyy!”  It was one of Max’s first words.

Confession 5: I’m running out of confessions, as clearly evidenced by my previous confession. My true confession, my core confession as it were, is that I have the same foibles as any mom. I use the TV as a narcotic/babysitter. I stay up late in order to get an hour to myself, and spend it filling my head with crap. I don’t clean the house as often as I should (not explicitly confessed to, above, but true none-the-less). I am addicted to talk radio. I love my children, but need moments of respite: deep and total respite.

Confession is a key instrument in purging the soul. It is the first step in change, to say it out loud. That first action, and it begets further positive action, that will, in turn, hopefully engender change.
I’d love to hear from other mothers out there – do you confess to the same? Or, would you like to suggest an alternative to any of these?

My guess is, reviewing the above, I’m not going to stop watching Fashion Police or listening to Liveline. I will, however, try not to let it interfere with listening to my boys’ chat or finishing that Zora Neale Hurston collection of stories I started.  It did feel good to get it off my chest, though.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Satellite of Love

I had a job, once. I showered every day, used the bathroom without interruption, talked to people on the phone without a screaming baby grabbing my leg and asking to talk to “Daddy...DADDAAAY!”
I went to an office. I commuted alone and listened to the radio in my car. Usually, I listened to the news, but sometimes I listened to a rock song or morning chat. I chose whatever station I wanted, and wasn’t shouted at from behind by anyone strapped into a car seat to say that it was, “La-la-loud,’s too la-la-loud.’  
I had an adult schedule. I did my work, attended meetings, went to the bathroom (alone and as often as necessary), went for lunch with “the girls” or did some shopping during my break.
After work, I sometimes met people for drinks. Or I went home for dinner. Or I met my husband at a restaurant and we got a meal. I came and went as I pleased. The only demands placed on me were placed there by my job or me.
I remember Saturday afternoons. We had an apartment near the centre of Dublin, and I used to walk into town: down Leeson Street, through St. Stephen’s Green past the children and jugglers and Spanish exchange students littering the lawns, over the bridge, stopping to admire the ducks, out the gate and onto Grafton Street. Sometimes, I went all the way up to Henry Street. Other times, I went through the Powers Court shopping centre, out the other side, then, nipping in and out of little shops, I made my way over to George’s Street. I browsed, at leisure. I shopped. I remember sometimes meeting female friends for lunch, a mooch through a shop, drinks even. The weekends...gosh, I remember the weekends. Unless there was some reason to wake up early, we didn’t. We just woke up...whenever. Breakfast in bed, and Sunday papers read from cover to cover.
I consider my life before I had kids as “my single life.” I was married, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I mean I was physically single. A sole person. Unique. Just one of me. I was integrated, not disparate. I took walks. I got exercise when I wanted. I spent all my money on me, or on my house, or on my husband. I was not a mommy.
A mommy is intrinsic as opposed to unique (‘unique’ in the original sense of the word). By becoming a mother, I became part of a system: a system of humans who gravitate around each other, held together by the forces of need and love. As the stay-at-home-mommy I am an intrinsic part of this system. I am the orbiting space station which ensures laundry is done, food is prepared, diapers are changed, and people are cared for. I am docked with for hugs and kisses. Sometimes for hair pulling or thumps in the nose.
Moving a system full of dynamic, moving parts that are constantly experiencing the extreme forces of HUNGER and POTTY and HE TOOK MY TOY THAT’S WHY I HIT HIM is, at best, slow. Putting this in the context of my single, unique Lory days: we would not achieve a walk, and shopping, and lunch, and drinks etc., etc. in one afternoon. We would make it as far as the park, and then have to stop for lunch and find a bush for someone to pee in (not me). Shopping is not possible with human systems consisting of the under-fours. The whole gravitational pull thing gets thrown off kilter, warped by the attraction of shiny objects and sweets. The system falls apart. Children fly off in every direction. The mommy must collect them, strap them into buggies or haul them by the arm back to the car or bus.
I’m not complaining. I know the story: don’t wish their lives away; they’ll grow up soon enough. I know they will, and I dread it. Because then what will I do? Wander into town...alone? Shop...alone? Read the papers, cover to cover? Drinks with friends? It sounds fantastic, but I actually dread the freedom, and when I get even thirty minutes of it, I don’t know what to do with myself. All plans for relaxation and fun fly out the window. I anxiously stare at my phone.  It all seems so pointless and boring: the shopping, the sleeping in, the relaxing, when I know little people lie in wait. That being unique business, after having been the very essential part of a human system, seems a million miles away. Like a space station circling the earth. I know I’ll be unique again someday. In the meantime, I’m intrinsic.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Not To “Do a Doris Lessing”

photo by Elke Wetzig

Doris Lessing (a great writer who left a husband and 2 children and moved to another continent) once said, “There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children.” It’s difficult, frustrating, tiring and sometimes filled with drudgery - but it isn’t the most boring thing. I bet that it’s WAY more boring to answer the phones at an accountant’s office all day; Or to be the photocopy person at Kinko’s. How about the cleaning lady at a burger joint? The woman who stands by the side of the road selling Wexford strawberries in summer? I could go on and on. There’s nothing wrong with these jobs (I’ve done similar ones myself). They make money and provide a lifeline – hell, these may even be self-employed cleaning ladies or Wexford strawberry sellers and be very satisfied. Nevertheless, doing the side of the road fruit selling shtick can’t be as stimulating as taking care of my two all day. I love Doris Lessing. She was a trailblazer. But being not a dumb woman myself, I’d have to say she just wasn’t looking at the situation in the proper light, with the proper attitude.
I’m endlessly challenged by my kids who, despite the fact that I’m 35+ years older and way more educated, always manage to outwit me. I do wish I had more time to write, read, work, etc. – and I will one day, when the two year old goes to school. There will come a time when I’m not changing diapers or cleaning spilled milk. In the meantime, I snatch what time I can, here and there. I take 20 minutes to type something up while they’re watching Dora (a post-feminist icon if ever there was one: roaming the jungles with only a monkey, a backpack and a map, yet wearing pink clothes and a delicate little pearl bracelet). I get a little bit of time between 8 and 10 in the evenings a couple of nights a week. It isn’t much but it’s what I’ve got. Love for the boys gets me through the rest. I hang on, clinging to the knowledge that the pre-school years aren’t forever, and that they have a lot to offer me and teach me. For example: Patience (I have a lot to learn); Courage (like the time I had to walk through murky, crab-filled water on the beach in order to rescue Max from a rock – not much, but it’s all I got); Cunning cookery (hide the healthy bits); Time Management and Negotiation skills (Starting about 30 minutes before I actually have to leave:
“Zach, use the potty and wash your hands, we’ve got to go.”
“But Mom, I’m watching this.”
“Use it, we have to go.”
“When this is over.”
“Now. We have to go. Please go up, use the potty and wash your hands.”
“But Mom...”
“I’m shutting it off.”
“Off, it’s going OFF!”
“Mom...Can I use the potty down here while I watch?”
“No, you’ll stink up the place.”
Big sigh, “Oh...OK...but then I’m shutting it off!”)
I’ve learned stuff I never wanted to learn, too – like how to get stains out.
Doris feared she’d end up a frustrated intellectual and alcoholic. I’m Lucky. I was born about 50 years later than Doris. I know, however, that I benefit now from technology, which allows for flexible working (think: laptop on the go, broadband and email). She and her generation ploughed the furrows, planted the seeds. I’m reaping the benefits the feminists gave us, and I know it.  The post-feminist, angst ridden mother in me wishes she’d been born a decade or two earlier. She pines for the days when feminists were feminists, when ladies with curly haired coifs wore polyester pant suits, ERA buttons pinned tightly to their lapels. She would have stood around an oil drum with her ‘sisters’, casually thrown her brazier atop the pile of lace and elastic, doused it with oil and lit a match. We’ve moved past the bra burnings and now gather in groups only when there’s a Gymboree session down at the local community centre, or when we’re in desperate need of a cappuccino. I can sense men’s fear when there’s too much oestrogen in one place. I can’t blame them. If only we weren’t all so damned sleep deprived, we’d start a revolution.  
Women think they’ve arrived when they haven’t; that the option between work and childrearing is what we fought for. That’s only half the battle. What we need is to combine the two in a way that is realistic. Women need a more fluid situation in the work world, which allows for children getting chicken pox and sleep deprived nights that turn into sleep deprived days. We need heavily subsidized childcare, to free up women in lower income bands to exercise their intellect as well. Doris thought that a woman who wouldn’t tell men what they thought to their face “deserves everything she gets.” I have no fear of telling everyone what I think. Doris, if only you had your own blog, something you could run upstairs and type during nap time, maybe you would have had the release valve I have, and wouldn’t have had to cut and run.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lesson 1: Exit from Eden

I think it was John McGahern in his book Memoir who likened starting school to an exit from Eden. Starting school heralds the end of freedom from worry and responsibility, the end of innocence, and is the beginning of the really tough part of the human journey that ends in adulthood. My firstborn started school last Monday. We’d been looking forward to it, though we knew Zach would get emotional. He’s a smart and sensitive child. The surprise, to me, was that I got emotional about it, too. Standing in the classroom on the first day, surrounded by parents and their tiny little offspring all decked out in brand new school uniforms, I started tearing up. Zach was sitting in his little chair, at a little table, trying hard not to cry as he played with some building blocks. He was strong enough to hold it in (for a while anyway). I wasn’t. I turned to face the wall so he wouldn’t see me, pulling my sunglasses down off the top of my head (their perpetual resting place, summer and winter) and shielded my eyes. Mothers and grandmothers smiled at me. Why weren’t they crying, too? It was the end, couldn’t they see it? The paradise of the first few years these children spent at home was OVER. The next 13 years would be dictated by the schedule, pace and demands of the school system.

Our kids will slowly learn the ways of institutionalisation or they will rebel against it. Either approach has its pitfalls. This day was day one of this long, horrid trip into the unknown. I cried, perhaps, because I knew that Zach would have to make his way. Only Zach can learn. Only Zach can draw the pictures, answer the questions, play on the sports field. He has to do it on his own, and I can only stand back, offering encouragement, support—but I can’t do it for him. I can’t be his hands or his brains or his will. He has to do that himself. My Zach. My his own Zach. So, that was my first lesson on Zach’s first day of school.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

That's Entertainment

Ah, the Irish activity centre; you know them. I’d say they have these all over the developed world: soft play areas where kids can throw themselves into pools filled with plastic balls and climb frames swaddled in cushioning. Mothers sit on hard chairs sipping coffee, hoping their kids don’t suffocate under a pile of pre-schoolers scrambling for access to the slide. They cost money, these things. But they’re worth every penny, because your kids come out of them exhausted--you know you’re getting them into bed early that night.

My friend and I took our kids to one nearby this past Saturday. It was crawling with gangs of kids attending birthday parties. My friend and I kept doing headcounts on our children. Max, my two year old, being the boy that he is, took all his clothes off, including his diaper, and made a run for it. I had to wrestle him to the floor and strap the diaper back on. There was no way I could get the jeans back up. The T-shirt stayed put, but only after a lot of crying (“peeeeese, mami, peeeeeeeese”) and pulling at the collar (“off, mami, O-O-O-OFF!!”). Distraction was employed (don’t know how I did it, maybe chocolate?) and off he went finally to play – defying the dress code in only a t-shirt and a diaper.

Keeping the diaper on was a service to other visitors. These places are large Petri dishes, incubating all manner of disease. At one point, I followed my boys into the bowels of the multi-level, soft play monster. Crawling up a level, I was suddenly surrounded by toddlers clambering for the slide. All I could smell was urine and faeces, the scent of old diaper and Caldesene powder. People were drooling everywhere. After I escaped, I told my friend about the experience. She’d actually been in another place, and the ball pit had had a couple of centimetres of liquid in it – human urine from countless children. Her kids’ socks got soaked in it. I recoiled, gagging.

You’re thinking: that’s gross, Lory, why would you let your kids roll in this filth? The answer is: entertainment, exercise, keeping them occupied. When you’re at home with them all the time, planning activities becomes very important. They need field trips. I need field trips. If we stay home every single day, we’re all coming out of here in strait jackets. They’re at the age where they can self entertain for only so long before someone gets hit over the head with a rocket ship. Outside is good, but ever since Zach learned to turn the hose on and off, it’s become MESSY. You send them out, and they come back in like they’ve been camping in Glastonbury for a concert weekend. And the sand box! Why the hell did I think it was a good idea to buy a sand box? Tactile stimulation, learning, something, something, blah, blah. All I know is that I’ve got the flippin’ vacuum cleaner out twice a day hoovering up after their excursions into the garden. So, outings on occasion are important. And not just to the grocery store.

On the way out of the play centre, I made everyone wash their hands, and face, twice. I then smothered them in anti-bacterial wash. My little piglets slept well that night.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mom Blog: The Main Characters

Meet Zach and Max, both the architects of my happiness as well as the scallywags who ensure my living room is perpetually covered in a fine layer of play sand and Cheerios. Zach was born first, around the time of his father’s birthday, in a broken down Victorian era hospital in Cork City. I shared a room with a lady there who was on child number 7 and was homeschooling them all (!). She had her baby first, and was cuddling the child with visitors over on her side of the room while I was in labour. I knelt on the floor, bent over the bed, clutching a pillow, moaning with every contraction. The room was so small that my toes were poking under the faded, pink dividing curtain into her side of the room. She and her visitor carried on as if nothing else was happening, probably watching my toes curl with each wave of back pain. Zach arrived 12 hours after serious labour started, 3 days after my waters broke, and not a minute too soon.

Max also took 12 hours of labour, but was born in the fancy new maternity hospital we have here. I had my own room with a private bathroom. Everything was pristine. When I got there, I thought: how wonderful. This will be the blissful birthing experience all new mothers anticipate. I felt that way until 7 AM the following day arrived, and through my courtyard window I could hear the BOOM BOOM BOOM of a local radio station being played by the cafe below. And the food was crap. Give me the dark, faded, cracked but quiet Victorian place with great roast chicken anytime.

My two children couldn’t be more different in personality, food likes and dislikes, eye colour, and so on. But both are so precious. I tell myself this, repeating it like a mantra, whenever they hit me in the face, spill yogurt all over the sofa when I told them no food in the living room, hit each other, bite each other, pull my hair, break dishes, draw on my walls, and so on, and so on. Each day is a joy and an adventure and each day, they knock just a little bit off the value of the house.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mom Blog: An Introduction to Motherblogging

I'm Lory. I have 2 kids, a husband and the bare bones of a writing career. I am an unintentional stay-at-home mom. I suffer from post-feminist angst. Welcome to my blog.

In Scope:
  • Funny stories about my kids and my day(s)
  • Commentary on politics and current events may appear without prior notice
Out of Scope:
  • Stories about shopping
  • Stories about luxury weekend getaways to European spas
  • Product reviews ('cause I can't afford to buy anything)
If you had told me 13 years ago when I lived in NYC that I would start a blog about being a mom, I would have said, “No flippin' way, that won’t be me. I’m not that lame. I won’t have kids anyway!” Actually, I would have said: “What is a blog?” In any case, 13 years later and a continent away – I now live in Europe--here I am with kids, a husband, a mortgage, a Japanese hatchback fit only for scrappage and a blog. Welcome to my world.

Creative Commons License