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.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Facing up to things

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a “winging it” sort of gal. I have accepted, particularly as my numbers have grown, that much is out of my control, so, planning a little, and hoping for the best mostly, is a more realistic course of action when it comes to raising my children. This goes somewhat against my natural, more cautious nature, and my liking to “insure my insurance” so to speak, but I’ve found that it’s the most pragmatic approach to outnumberdom and beyond.

In some Spiderman movie or other, one I’ve seen countless times but during which, I have perfected the art of zoning out, the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is brandished about a bit. The same phrase could be tweaked to parenthood - “with great parenting  comes loads of washing, loads of worries, a need for a degree of omnipresence, lots of poo, no sleep, and a requirement to rethink your whole working life”. The tweaked version definitely applies to me. In between my winging it episodes, I’ve been adopting an "ostrich head in the sand" approach to my other job- but the tide is coming in.

“After the confirmation, after the communion, after the holiday, after the book manuscript is submitted to the publishers, after, after, after – there has always been an excuse. But all these afters came to pass and so with a heavy heart, I drove into work last week to firm up a return date.

And actually, it was great. It was great to see friends and to catch up with their news. It was great to have a cuppa (or two) in peace, and drink it while it was still hot. It was great to be Jen for that little while and focus fully on conversations rather than frantically realise that there had been no sound from the three year old for a while, which could only mean trouble.And it was great to discuss a return to work timeframe that suits all and to realise that for now, I can focus on the children and the upcoming book, which by the way, has a title - “The Real Mum’s Guide to Surviving Parenthood”.

So onwards and upwards. This ostrich has abandoned the sand. The return to my day job is in the pipeline. Juggling it all again will be a challenge. It will be chaotic, and it will be full on, but there’ll be coffee breaks and kindred spirits – and it’s a part of life. Unless of course, my lotto numbers come up in the meantime, then I may rethink things.


For now, we’re rolling towards the school holidays. Summer tests, school tours and a goodbye to primary school for another child, will fill the weeks ahead. I plan to make the most of these summer hols in particular, and enjoy every moment that I can, before the new, routine of old, takes over.




Sunday, 28 May 2017

Holiday Dramatics

A few days home and the kids still can’t quite get their heads around the fact that it’s back to reality time. All talk is about how cool it was to have a swimming pool in our “back garden” (we stayed in a complex), how great it was to have ice cream after breakfast and how awesome it was to meet lizards on our walks – not all of us were as convinced of this awesomeness.

The adventure began very early in the morning with a little after 3am drive to the airport. Teeing us up nicely for the holiday, it was lashing rain. Orders were dished out en route about staying close to each other and the need for assistance from older children to get suitcases and troops safely to the check in desk. At the desk the attendant painstakingly went through nine passports (definitely sniggered at mine) and we gratefully handed over our scaled down but nonetheless, significant amounts of luggage. Then it was onwards through security where my confused 12 year old was randomly chosen for swab testing.

And then the fun began, shops to browse, planes to view out the window and excitement levels soaring. Squeals of delight were heard from our rows as the plane took off and the children were finally flying. Ever the pragmatist, the curly haired one wanted to know “how does the plane stay in the sky – it’s not flapping its wings”? My aeronautical skills a little rusty, I placated him with “the engine goes very fast”.

Thankfully, the younger two children fell asleep for a few hours on the flight, making the journey a lot more pleasant for everyone. “This is so cool” may have mentioned, once or twenty times by the eight year old and a game of musical seats mid-flight meant that everyone got a chance to look out the window. The approach to Lanzarote was surreal. The island seemed to appear out of nowhere and it looked as if we might land in the sea. Once we were down, excited kids couldn’t wait to explore their new surroundings.


The heat, accompanied by a warm but refreshing breeze was lovely and was in complete contrast to the conditions we had left behind in Dublin. A short coach trip later, during which the three year old made himself known to absolutely everyone on board, we arrived at our destination - a lovely, though, worryingly quiet, resort that was alerted to our arrival within moments.
Within minutes, cases were parked in the apartments, swimwear was located, and previously “starving” children, suddenly felt a dip in the pool was more of a priority than lunch. As elderly couples sunbathed by the side, several of my troops launched themselves into the pool, cannonball style.

I worried that the older residents might not appreciate the invasion of so many enthusiastic and excited children. My worries were unfounded. Curiosity turned out to be the main reason so many sat up and watched the children at play – “are they all yours?”, was a question that I heard frequently.
So with a three year old keen on notoriety, we came to know many people over the course of our stay. On the day of my son’s birthday, one couple stopped by with sweets for the birthday boy. Another arrived with a giant chocolate cake to assist the celebrations. The kindness and thoughtfulness of others, just made our holiday even more special.


But there were plenty of typical and atypical moments too. I can’t pretend - in many regards it was just chaos in a different location, but that different location made all the difference.
We walked along paths admiring trees “that looked like giant pineapples”. Lizard watch, was another favourite pastime and when we encountered one, the excitement was unreal. They’re smaller than I imagined, but they fascinated the children nonetheless. I think it’s a “macheleon” (chameleon) the six year old said. The three year old meanwhile, thought we really should try to catch one, because Miss Sharon (his Montessori teacher) would definitely love it.

Back in the apartment, my underwear avoiding son, bounced starkers on the bed, waving at poor and unsuspecting passers-by, because some things stay the same, no matter where you are. Another child alerted all pool siders to the change in his bowel habits. “I haven’t done as many poos on this holiday, but I have had lots of ice cream” he loudly declared.

But on the final night, there was murderous intent – and murderous activity. My eight year old is a gentle soul, who takes the phrase “wouldn’t harm a fly” to a new level. During a game of charades, something moving caught our eye to the side of our apartment. It was a cockroach – and a bloody big one.  My brave husband set about ridding the apartment of it, but the eight year old was in the cockroach’s corner. “Run away cockroach, run – quick get away, he called” as my hubby plodded after it.

The cockroach lost, and the floodgates opened. Devastated the eight year old sobbed, and spoke of the cockroach’s family who would be wondering where he was. Inconsolably he took his father to task over his cruel and unnecessary actions. I did as any good, and extremely relieved that the cockroach was dead, mother would do – I agreed with my son. “He shouldn’t have done that love, you’re right”, I said. “I’ll make sure that he never kills another cockroach again”, I added, desperate to stop the tears flowing. “It’s too late for that one though” he sobbed “he can’t come back to life”. The curly haired one put his arms around his brother in comfort “Only Jesus can come back to life”, he explained – “and only if it’s Easter”.


The last morning saw final goodbyes to those we’d met and a sadness about leaving a place which had been the source of so much fun and happiness for the week. In true “us” style though, we left in much the same manner we arrived. As we made our way to reception with fully packed cases, to board the transfer coach, our eleven year old splodged towards us, having been pushed into the pool fully clothed, by his three year old brother. Never ones for a quiet entrance, it seems we weren’t ones for a quiet exit either!