Friday, 7 July 2017

Lessons learned on the parenting frontline

The first week of the school hols is over and high-fives all around, we survived it – relatively unscathed, well kinda. And we’ve learned a few lessons that I thought I’d share. The sort of things that it’s handy to know as we navigate our way through the remaining, approximately thirty five weeks, or thereabouts, of the school holidays.

1.       Never leave the house without babywipes. It’s just asking for trouble and without them, your child’s first port of call with their snotty nose, carrot stick orange-coloured mouth and chocolatey hands will be your cream jeans – if you’re daft enough to wear them on an outing with the children.

2.       Never wear your cream jeans on an outing with the children

3.       “Live food” for reptiles in the pet shop is actually live. This will bring about two types of reaction in your children. Those who think it’s really cool will want to touch it. Those of a more sensitive disposition will continue their emotional meltdown well after you’ve arrived home. Steer clear of the live food for reptiles section in your pet shop

4.       Always ask your four year old what’s in his pocket before checking for yourself. Sometimes it’s a spider.

5.       Small children cannot be distracted from asking relatives about their boobs. It’s best just to answer.

6.       If you are trying to gauge the weather and the likelihood of rain – hang out a load of washing. Expect imminent downpour

7.       You will never have enough food in the house and they will always be hungry- always.

8.       Small children don’t do "appropriate" very well. If they know they correct name for genitals they are quite likely to shout it very, VERY loudly and only mildly mispronounced, in the park with maximum audience attention. For example “Mammy I can see your dagina through my binoculars”

9.       The row over who pushes the lift button can potentially see your 4 year old escape in a lift alone if you don’t wedge yourself between the door very quickly. Your four year old will not be as traumatised as you.

Have a great second week!




Sunday, 25 June 2017

20 things to do with the kids this summer

School’s almost out for summer, and while the break from routine is welcomed here and the prospect of owning our evenings again very much appeals, there is a real need to find something to occupy the troops at least some of the time.

The biggest challenge for me personally is not actually the numbers, but more the age span. Finding something to keep everyone occupied isn’t easy. So with “compromise” as our word for the summer, here’s a few suggestions of things that might help to keep your own troops busy and mean that “I’m bored” doesn’t become the soundtrack of the next nine weeks!

1.       Picnics

Make hay while the sun shines! The recent spell of good weather is enough to put anyone in the form for taking lunch off site. The reality unfortunately is that the weather in Ireland is never guaranteed, so when the sun comes out, you need to take full advantage. The picnic needn’t even involve huge preparation - Some croissants, fruit and maybe a couple treats picked up in the nearest supermarket for the last minute dot com parents amongst us, means that taking advantage of the weather can be decided on the day. If you’re lucky enough to live near a park with a playground, there’s a double attraction, but if not, there’s sure to be a green area somewhere that you can take advantage of. Food and an outing on one go – a double win

2.       Beach fun

This one needn’t be dependent on the weather, though of course it’s always nicer when the sun shines. Sea and sandcastles on a fabulous day are great fun, regardless of age but if grey skies come to play instead, then wrap up, bring old shoes or flip flops, skim stones through the waves and run to the edge and away again, playing the “don’t let the water touch my toes” game. Just as much fun, if you join in too!

3.       Childhood games.

It’s definitely worth teaching the kids to play some of the games that you enjoyed as a child yourself. If they manage to rope in some of the neighbourhood kids – there’s near guaranteed longer hours of fun. Rounders, bulldog, kick the can, “crocodile, crocodile”, What time is it Mister Wolf, skipping, hopscotch.  The possibilities are endless - and free!

4.       Cinema clubs

      Many cinemas run kids clubs in the morning time, offering the opportunity to see relatively new releases, at a cheaper price. A good option for the very rainy days.

5.       Visiting time

      The summer hols can be the perfect time to visit relatives and cousins who live a little further away. My kids love visiting and while some recipients aren’t as good as others at hiding their horror at the prospect of our invasion , family ties mean they have to get over it, or at the very least have a lot of believable excuses ready. Persistence is the key here!

6.       Have visitors

And the counter side of that, is invite people over. Playdates, cousins, family friends. Invite people to yours. The troops here love having visitors and different playmates too.


7.       Go out for a treat.

      Another one that can be a good option for days when the weather is not so great. Take the kids for a bun, ice-cream, hot chocolate etc. It’s great “motivation” too and downright bribery to get them to behave ahead of the event. To make everything run smoothly, particularly if your numbers are up like mine or depending on the age of your kids, speak to them before you go. Lay down the rules about not running around, fighting etc. Take their orders, ahead of time where possible, so that no time is lost once you arrive and opportunities for “energetic” displays are limited. And remind them, that if they’re really good while they’re there, you might be able to do it again in the future.

8.       Swimming pool.
      
      Not dependent on the weather, but definitely one for consideration on those less sunny days, a trip to the pool has the advantage of exercise, excitement and tiring them out!

9.       Rookie Lifeguard training and Lifeguard courses.
      
      And speaking of swimming – one for the older children are the training and lifeguard courses that are run in many swimming pools, including throughout the summer. Something to do and a fantastic life skill to have. Another upside is the future summer job opportunities that will become an option.

10.   Visit to the pet farm.

      They’re everywhere, and some are cheap as chips for entry. Kids love animals and at pet farms they can often get that little bit closer.

11.   Build a fort

      Indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. The time taken to create the masterpiece is great. The time spent in it – even better. Cushions, blankets, basically whatever you used as a kid yourself. The same still applies!

12.   Home Baking

      My domestic goddess skills are sorely lacking but even I can stretch to fairy buns and rice krispie cakes – and the kids love doing it. What’s even better is, if you have older kids like me, you can defer responsibility for the creations to them. My eldest three love baking too, and are very happy to lead the charge with their younger siblings. Everyone gets to break an egg, or stir the mixture, or add the flour. Each child gets to add the most important icing at the end. A messy one, but an engaging one and dessert of all colours is the end result!

13.   The Zoo

A slightly more expensive one potentially, but who doesn’t love the zoo?


14.   Get creative

      Another rainy day activity. Get all the kids to draw a picture of themselves or each other and make a collage.

15.   Home cinema,

      Rent a movie. Draw the curtains. Get some microwave popcorn and snuggle up on the couch together. Bliss

16.    Trip to the library

      I’ve a few bookworms here and few who are not quite as enthusiastic but everyone loves to go to the library to choose a new book. A cheaper alternative for the ones who practically devour books in rapid succession and a great way to encourage those who need a little more persuasion. Even those who can’t yet read, like to choose one for their bedtime story. It’s also worth checking out the local library for events that take place there over the summer hols.

17.   Give everyone a choice.

      Let everyone suggest a “reasonable” idea of something they’d like to do over the summer. As long as it doesn’t break bank and is practical and manageable, have an individual child’s suggestion day. If everyone has their turn, there’s less risk of complaints and resistance from the other children.

18.   Bring a friend along.

      The same activity on a different day, with a friend this time – effectively means it’s a different activity in your child’s eyes and everything is so much cooler and more fun with a friend. That goes for adults too. Consider teaming up with a kindred spirit and hit the park, playground or beach.

19.   A water fight.

      Fill the water guns. Stock up on water balloons, and take your position. Everyone loves water fights and even more if they have the opportunity to soak their parents too. So join in the fun, not because you’re an overgrown child of course –but because you’re trying to keep then kids happy ;-)

20.   Board game marathon

      Another rainy day activity – though they can be taken outside if the sun shines too. Get out the board games and set up the teams and let the battle commence!


Monday, 19 June 2017

A lovely surprise

The good weather continues and the form is good with most of the children. We're winging our way towards the end of yet another school year and the end of an era for one child, as the remaining days left in primary school can now be counted on one hand. He's not as emotional about it as I am.

Homework has eased up and so have the resulting arguments. Today it was straight into shorts and t-shirts at hometime and outside to bounce on the trampoline, play football and soak each other, and my washing, with water guns. My daughter meanwhile, in sophisticated teenager style, spent the day at Costa del Irish Beach, no doubt wearing nowhere as much suncream as I would like.

And there was no homework, which I know I have said already, but which made my heart feel so light, that I feel it deserves another mention.

Life of course is all about balance and with the yin of the sunshine, no homework and obligatory ice-cream, came the yang of the contents of today's post. School reports and secondary school booklists. One appears, in between the positives, to highlight your inadequacies as a parent, while the other blatantly highlights the inadequacies of your bank account. Yang momentarily, held the balance of power.

Until a former colleague came bearing gifts.

I recently retired from the Greystone's Irish Coast Guard Unit. Child number seven proved to be the straw that finally broke the, already seriously compromised, camel's back. It was a really difficult decision, in spite of the realities of my situation,. As my numbers grew, attendance became more of a challenge, but I was lucky to have had some of the most supportive, kind, inclusive, caring friends and colleagues within the Unit. It takes a special sort of person to be a Volunteer and the Coast Guard is filled with these special and selfless people.

And so I bid adieu to a very important part of my life. It was an honour and a privilege to have been part of such a terrific unit and such a special service. Today, Ciaran arrived and presented me with my ten year service certificate and a beautiful commemorative 1916 medal, and the tears started - again.



I handed over my pager, still tearful, but in my head I was Arnie, whispering "I'll be back" (One day, I hope.)






Sunday, 11 June 2017

I never expected to hear myself say......

I had great ideas about the sort of parent that I would be.  I had plenty of notions and preconceptions about motherhood and what, when the time came, it might be like. Most of those preconceived ideas involved dressing the children up in beautiful outfits and going for walks with a fabulously trendy pram. None of them involved the car boot battles endured to fit this fabulously trendy pram or the constant beautiful outfit changes, necessitated by outpourings of poo and puke.

There’s nothing quite like parenthood for providing a reality check. At this stage, I have more of an idea what to expect – this is generally, the unexpected. “Unexpected” applies to pretty much every aspect of the equation, including some of the conversations that I never imagined myself having or some of the things I never imagined myself saying. Out of the mouths of babes as they say, except when it’s out of the mouths of mums.…….


1.       Yes that is an enormous poo. Yes it is probably bigger than Batman’s.
2.       Put some underpants on, the neighbours don’t want to see your willy flapping about on the trampoline.
3.       Why are your ears green?
4.       Why are you tangerine?!!
5.       No your Gran doesn’t have a willy. Stop asking people if they have willies.
6.       That man is not cutting the grass naked. (while apologising profusely to the perplexed man in question after my son announced it very loudly at the top of his voice to everyone on the road and rounded up his school friends to come see.) He’s just trimming the hedge without his shirt on.
7.       Why are you orange??!
8.       Why are there dirty boxers on the kitchen door handle?
9.       What’s that mark on the mat - chocolate or poo? Can someone sniff it for me please, I have the baby in my arms.
10.   Did you think I wouldn’t notice that you’re wearing that dress backwards? (complete with - you’re not going out like that.)
11.   No I don’t think this is just a story that someone is reading and that it will start raining when they turn the page. We’re just walking home from school.
12.   I’ll never let your dad kill another cockroach
13.   Put some underpants on, the neighbours don’t need to see you standing on the playroom table bare bottomed.
14.   We do not eat crayons.
15.   No we don’t keep head lice as pets.
16.   Do not use Daddy’s toothbrush to clean the dog’s teeth.
17.   Do not use Daddy’s toothbrush to fish breakfast waffles out of the toilet.
18.   Why is there a banana in the toilet?
19.   Do not fart on your brother.
20. Why does the dog smell of suncream?






Friday, 9 June 2017

Back to School with Marks and Spencer (who have 20% off uniforms at the moment!!)

School’s almost out for summer and the prospect of carefree days and weeks stretches out ahead of schoolchildren around the country. While homework won’t be missed by parents or students alike, summer holidays hold a very different meaning for parents. Summer is about keeping the kids occupied, enjoying some family time and dare I say it – preparing for the return to school.

The world moves at a crazy pace and even though the school holidays have yet to begin, the shops are already filled with uniforms and the endless amounts of paraphernalia that goes hand in hand with back to school. Recently Marks and Spencer approached me about a back to school collaboration. With five children in school and one in Montessori – this one was a no brainer!

All trousers have adjustable waists and adjustable hems for growing children

Free education is very expensive. There are endless lists and mounting costs, and it’s natural that we as parents look for savings wherever we can find them.  I have to be honest – Marks and Spencer’s uniforms are a little more expensive, but when my order arrived, I came to understand why.

The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. Children come in various shapes and sizes and the school trousers definitely allowed for that. The adjustable waist is a life saver with lean children and even more so as your children get older and taller.

Non iron shirts and slim leg trousers


Finding trousers to fit my teenage son can be particularly difficult. Tall and slender, a lot of trousers that are long enough for him, are far too wide in the waist. A little celebratory dance may have been done in my kitchen (ah the things that us parents are excited by) when I discovered that trousers in the older age category not only still included an adjustable waist option but factored in an "adjust a hem" in recognition of the fact that kids grow like weeds!

Slim leg trousers and non iron and easy iron shirts


The promise of non-iron shirts won me over immediately, but discovering the velcro fastening behind the top button on the younger children’s shirts was an unexpected bonus. Anything that speeds us up in the morning is always welcomed!

Too cool for school - top button has velcro fastening for an easier life!
The durability of their sportswear will be well and truly tested here. Both in P.E, and after school activities, my rather active children, like to get stuck in – there will be no tender treatment of their clothing! Again the tracksuit bottoms came with an adjustable waist and were really comfy according to my inspecting troops.

Sportswear in an array of colours and even the tracksuit bottoms have an adjustable waist!

Another child wings his way to secondary school this September and like most mums whose children are facing a great change, my heart is in my mouth. Will he be happy? Will he make friends easily? Will he ever get to school on time?!!! – These are the questions that flood my thoughts, but while parking my own personal concerns there is a need to recognise that he is growing up a little. While school uniforms may never be cool in the eyes of a teenager, he is a little more image conscious now and chose the school shoes himself. He, however, likes to be “comfortably cool” – looking good alone, will not suffice. These ones got a definite thumbs up.

Shoes from the Marks and Spencer "back to school" range
And probably one of the very few things that kids get excited about when it comes to back to school attire is the schoolbags. Herself, generally likes to be classically understated – often granted though, in that teenage, tangerine glow-like, kind of a way. She chose a black polka dot school bag. I think it’s probably more suited to primary school children to be honest, in terms of capacity. My daughter begs to differ, however, – I think we may have varying ideas about the amount of schoolbooks that will feature in her daily life! 

Easy to iron blouse with revere collar
The eight year old – named after a character in his father’s favourite film and equally fanatical about it himself, went for a Star Wars bag. The force is strong in him and he was very pleased with his choice.

Star Wars school bag

The cost and all the expense that goes hand in hand with back to school is an undeniable factor for consideration. “You get what you pay for”, the claim goes, and that’s exactly how it appeared to me. The quality is there, the cut is there and the additional features are there. I hope that these uniforms will last my children the entire school year. In fairness, there’s few houses and families that will test them more! 


school uniforms for all ages

Of course the early bird doesn't just catch the worm, he catches the discounts, and at the moment, Marks and Spencer have 20% off their school uniforms.  Taking some of the expense out of "back to school" and one less job for August!

Sweatshirts and t-shirts in an array of colours



*This was a paid collaboration with Marks and Spencer and Shopping Links. All thoughts and opinions however, are my own - and that of my troops.