November 27, 2010 | Leave a Comment

The holiday season crept up on us pretty quickly, and because we were so busy we hardly noticed Thanksgiving was upon us. We started off with Conall’s checkup a couple of weeks ago. Jenn was well prepared for a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, bringing me along for support. and having the present of a train ready, but in the end there were no shots on this visit, and so all her pre-visit anxiety was for naught. The visit did confirm one thing for us, however. We had known that Conall was a big guy, but when he was measured he tipped the scales at 52 pounds and 44 inches – the weight and height, according to the charts, of the average 7 year-old. That has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it helps that he’s big when, like today, he gets into fights with 6 or 7 year-olds. On the other hand, when he has a melt-down in a shop or restaurant the lookers-on aren’t quite sure just why it is that a big kid is behaving like a toddler…

One of the staples of the holiday season is a plethora of train shows and exhibitions, and given how crazy Eoghan and Conall are over the subject we decided to hit a show in Poughkeepsie. Conall was completely in his element, and was content to spend hours looking at the trains running on the tracks. Eoghan, meanwhile, was glad to get idea for his new layout in our barn. Watch this space !

The holidays kicked off in earnest this past weekend with a family pre-Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, at which we were graced by visits from Barbara, Ivana and Collette to the Hudson Valley. Collette was delighted with the fare, as she hadn’t had too many turkey dinners in her years in Australia. Against her better judgement, Jenn was forced to buy a “gourmet turkey”, since all the Butterballs were frozen and there was no time to defrost one. We’re almost ashamed to admit it but, having done taste tests in the past where we would cook a Butterball turkey and an organic one on a holiday, we find we prefer the cheap ones! This time, it was no surprise that the gourmet one was 4 times the price and, like all organic, free-range turkeys, a bit drier and tougher.
But the meal was enjoyed by all, and the kids were delighted to eat Ivana’s homemade black magic cake, which was topped with a peanut butter hot topping that the kids helped her make. The older two love working in the kitchen when they get the chance. Often they help Jenn peel and mash the spuds for dinner, cut the Brussels sprouts, or dice the veggies for Irish stew. They pride themselves on their culinary skills and the great thing is that they even likely to eat a few more veggies if they’ve prepared them themselves. Ivana and Colette were able to stay over, and so we enjoyed a classic movie (Libeled Lady) on our big screen. On Sunday, we showed them around Rhinebeck, where they were able to check out the Farmers’ Market, and then Jenn took them to Mills Mansion for a guided tour. Orla and I, meanwhile, went to a Marist College Dance Recital, which was a lot of fun…

Conall is not as adventurous as the other two when it comes to eating. He’s a basics kind of guy – macaroni and cheese and buttered bread are the staple of his meals. He is getting better about sitting at the table, but unfortunately he often has a train or two by his plate and delights in making realistic and (loud!) train whistles noises as we engage in dinner conversation. After dinner, though, he will quieten down for a book or two or three! He loves being read to by all in the family and is quite content to hear the same book over and over (and over!) again, until he memorizes them and will then “read” them to us. Not only does he memorize the text, he names all the animals in the pictures. His current favorite, Cat Dreams by Ursula Le Guin, has many cats in one illustration and he delights in quizzing us to see if we can remember all the names he’s assigned them.

Cats are a new fascination, thanks to Jenn’s new additions to the family menagerie. Not content with saddling us with the turtle doves, she and the kids brought home two newly adopted cats. Gem, and Feather Tail, are the kids’ newest playmates, and have gone from abandoned and neglected cats to ruling the second floor of our home and being abundantly spoiled by the kids. As long as they catch mice, I’ll go along with this newest crazy addition to the household.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast was a quiet affair with just Jenn, the kids and me. We read poetry and some old fashioned stories to the kids, and then watched a family movie. Conall hasn’t yet learned the art of sitting through an entire movie quietly, so he retired to his bed early after some hugs and kisses. He is very particular about his kisses lately, though: when you go to kiss him he warns you to do it “on the cheek“… Alas, he’s growing up.
Even though Conall is becoming much more of a big boy, he is still very affectionate and a real daddy’s boy. When Jenn took him out to a local diner with Grandma Thanksgiving Eve, he stood up before the check came, and announced loudly, “I need to go home now. My Daddy needs me!” and he is constantly begging Jenn to let him “go to work” when he sees me leave in the mornings. He’s very serious, and when Jenn, for example, tells him as she’s putting him to bed that she loves him, he will reply “I know”. He’s also into music and dancing, and so recently I’ve taken to playing Youtube videos for him of 70’s music, and cowboy tunes, both of which he will get up and dance like crazy to. I guess I’m warping him, but it’s a lot of fun !



November fun

November 7, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Conall by the Hudson

Conall, sitting by the Hudson river, pondering the universe

It’s been a busy week here at Craziness Central. It started off with two forays out Trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en, first at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, and then our traditional outing to Rhinebeck. The kids really enjoyed both sessions, and came back loaded down with candy. They probably got enough sugar to power a trip to the moon…

The next major excitement this week was a trip to the animal shelter, to check out the cats. This was one adventure that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I don’t like cats, but agreed reluctantly after Jenn and Orla tried to convince me that cats would be just the thing to keep mice out of the house over the winter. Anyway, they arrived back with two cats, Orla naming hers FeatherTail, and Eoghan naming his Gem. Not surprisingly it seemed Jenn and the kids are trying to pull a fast one on me, as the cats have been ensconced in the kids’ bedrooms. So much for being barn cats… Still, it’s some consolation to know that when civilization collapses we won’t go hungry – or not, at least, until we’ve eaten the cats, the dogs, the rabbits and the turtle doves…

Tuesday night I headed down into the city to catch up over dinner with Eimear, who managed to fit NY into her US trip so that we could meet for a celebratory dinner with Kane and Kate. We had a fun pre-wedding dinner in the Gramercy Park Hotel, an old stomping ground of Jenn and mine. The hotel has changed a lot, and I kind of miss the faded glory that was the old incarnation, but dinner was certainly fun, and it was nice to see K&K before they tie the knot. We had some good laughs…

Friday saw Kevin come to Marist as a guest lecturer, where he spoke to the kids about fixed income derivatives. I gave him a tour of the campus before swinging home. Then it was time for dinner with Ian, who had come over to NY for a couple of days. Since he’s stuck in London for now, we treated him to an early Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, either old age, the turkey, or jet lag was too much for him, as he passed out in the middle of the movie. Of course, it could have been our conversation, as well. In any event, the Middleton Rare will have to wait for his next trip…

On Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast, and then took Ian for a stroll down to the Hudson River in our local park, Mills Mansion. The weather was gorgeous, and we reveled in the glorious afternoon sunshine, with the kids enjoying playing with the dog by the river. Alas, no sooner was lunch over than it was time for Ian to head to the airport and home to June and the kids. Maybe we can persuade them to move back this side of the pond before too long.

It never ceases to amaze us how quickly the kids are growing up. Eoghan loves to be outide in the garden, where he likes nothing better than to be taken for a ride in the gator. This fall he has been a big help out in the garden, raking the leaves into big piles while I blow them with the leaf blower. Pretty soon I’ll be able to rent him out to cut the neighbors’ lawns ! Orla, of course, can look at us working but is happy enough to watch us from the sidelines. I think it’s less the fear of breaking a fingernail and more the fear of breaking a sweat that prevents her from joining in. She is happy to jump in the leaf piles, though !
Conall, meanwhile, is very attached to his old man these days. The changes in him are coming quick and fast. One day this week I arrived home from work and could see a dramatic change – his conversation had become more sophisticated overnight, and his sentences had become much more complex. He adores books, and is forever asking me to read him a story book, and likes to snuggle up in an armchair while being read to. He’s still free with his kisses, although no lip smacking any more. This time it’s always pecks on the cheek – although it’s fun to fool him by turning your head right at the last minute and smooching him on the lips. He is still obsessed with trains, and likes nothing better than to have you sit down with him making tracks. Although sometimes he’ll tell you “I’ll take big lovey bear, and you take small love bear, and we’ll go cuddle in your bed“. Somehow I fear he’ll be too big to hang out with his dad one of these days, so it’s fun while it lasts !




November 1, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Conall and Dad, Trick-or-Treating at MaristWe had a great Hallowe’en this year, with the weather being nice and almost no rain. The weekend started with our setting out to do some work in the garden. Our yard, unfortunately, contains a multitude of trees. I use the word ‘unfortunately’ advisedly because, while we do like our trees, we are not big fans of the leaves once they have fallen on the ground.
We had decided that this was the year that we were going to do the fall cleanup ourselves and, boy, was that a mistake. I was all set, having bought a fancy new leaf blower, rated a “19′ for its blowing power – I guess they have ratings for everything these days – and set to work with vigour. Pretty quickly my enthusiasm had waned, as I discovered that blowing leaves is (a) easy on flat ground, (b) more difficult on slopes, and particularly on uneven slopes, and (c) once you build up a pile more than about two feet high and six feet deep it’s hard to move them. And perhaps most importantly, before you start to blow them you should have a pretty good idea exactly where you want to blow them to. In fact, to blow leaves efficiently is quite a mathematics challenge, sort of like the traveling salesman problem.
Perhaps we should consider chopping down our trees. Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out exactly what to do with all these leaves we have… we’ll probably hire someone to come take them all away.

On Saturday night we celebrated Beth’s birthday, with the usual Hallowe’en theme, followed by one of our movie nights. This time we watched The Secret Of Moonacre, which the Orla and Eoghan both enjoyed. We don’t miss our TVs, with the kids watching programs and movies over the internet, especially on NetFlix, but now they’re much more discriminating in what they watch. For our movie nights we can watch movies on DVD, on Netflix, or on iTunes. The great thing about Netflix is that the kids are much more adventurous in what they watch; Orla’s current favourite movie is an Indian one, from Bollywood, called Pyaar Impossible. Before we got rid of our TVs she would never have watched a foreign language movie…

Sunday saw the kids heading our Trick-Or-Treating. This year we took them first to Marist College, where the students were all set up to receive the kids, having decorated their town houses and set up cupcake painting and other stalls. The kids loved it, with Conall getting lots of compliments on his outfit – his hat had a “Go Red Foxes” slogan that got lots of laughs. The campus is beautifully situated, right on the Hudson, but it was a little chilly yesterday with the wind coming in off the river. Still, all three of the kids had a blast, together with some of their friends that had come along as well.

After leaving Marist we crossed the road to warm up with a late lunch at Applebee’s, and then it was back to Rhinbeck. Jenn took the kids in to meet up with Carol, Justin, Ace and Lyonal, while I stayed home cooking dinner and making a barm brack, the traditional irish Hallowe’en cake. The kids’ success in collecting candy continued, and by the time they arrived back they were well laden down. They have enough to keep them going until Christmas !

Conall stayed at home with me as he was pretty bushed after phase one of the trick-or-treating. He was content to sit and watch his train videos, although most days he wants either Jenn or myself to read him a story. Right now he likes The Three Little Pigs – although when he re-tells it he has his own take on it. Apparently when the Big Bad Wolf gets rebuffed by the third pig he goes off and gets a bulldozer and a hammer, and comes back to demolish the house made of bricks !