Sunday, 8 October 2017

Taking the time to make time.

A new month – well in fairness we’re a few days into that new month but in many ways October is continuing in equally frantic style to September – so there’s barely time to take a breath let alone glance at the calendar.

September was an incredible month of highs and lows. We lost our dog of 17 years and are still very much trying to come to terms with that. The kids settled back into school, one started a new school, homework battles resumed and raged, notes came home re specific and essential pencil case contents, contents were purchased, pain-stakingly labelled and lost within a couple of days, reminder notes came home about the same essential pencil case contents, the kids fought, single school shoes disappeared off the face of the earth, I was reminded how out of practice I am in the world of cocktails, and in between this my book was published and a media whirlwind followed. I am dizzy from it all.

We’re coming up to mental health awareness week. I’ve had my own battles with mental health issues particularly after the birth of my lovely babies. It was never something that I was comfortable to speak about before, until my book came out. Even now I squirm a little as I’m writing – in spite of the fact that I spoke about it on national radio just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a difficult one to explain. Maybe it’s vulnerability or maybe it’s the fact that one day my children might read and see that infallible mum, she who knows all the answers, lays down the rules and boundaries, kisses hurts away, sorts problems, has endless supplies of hugs, rants a bit (ok a lot!), hates projects more than they and does all the other things that parents do - actually is human.

Life is crazy for everyone. We’re expected to move at a faster pace than ever before and the advent of the internet and social media means we’re never truly removed from outside influences. The expectations of parenthood are different to those of yesteryear. The community and support networks often not so available. The demands on our time constantly mounting.  So often I’ve found myself saying – it’ll all be easier next week, next month, the one after that, when one of the variables is removed from the equation and we will supposedly have more time. I dismissed the notion of mindfulness and staying in the present because, I don’t have time for that.

There is no sign of the busyness of life abating anytime soon – and in many regards I’m glad, I like to be busy, but it’s about getting the balance right. There is nothing like a night out with friends to give you not only a chance to recharge your batteries, but to remind you that all work and no play makes Jacqueline not only as dull as dishwater but particularly stressed and miserable into the bargain. It is amazing what clearly we can see of others that often we fail to see of ourselves.

The thing with mental health is that like all other areas of our health, prevention is better than cure always. In spite of this fact too often we wait until we’re in the doldrums before we act - if we act. There is no shame in looking after your mental health. There is no shame in being kind to yourself and saying "no" sometimes because the demands on you are too much. There is no shame in reaching out for help or in accepting it if it's offered. There is no shame in putting your needs first, sometimes. You cannot take care of others, if you don’t take care of yourself. 

As we approach mental health awareness week, I’m going to take the time to be mindful and to truly appreciate the present – because tomorrow is never guaranteed. Whether that present involves the four year old naked bird spotting into our fridge on a hectic school morning, or the 8 year old referring to the his brother’s Roddy Doyle tendencies as part of his homework sentences – that might reveal what we’re REALLY like as a family. Whether it involves the bigger lads and my hubby killing each other over a game of football or the smell of false tan wafting from my daughter’s bedroom and her orange-tinged white sheets - I will not wish I was on a desert laundry-free island with only a bottle of wine, a bar of Lindor and Will Smith for company.

Ok I can’t promise that, but I will take the time to truly see and appreciate my family for the fabulous mess-making individuals that they are. 

The youngest two have put me to the test already today, with a teddy volcano built in front of our door. The playroom that I spent two and half hours cleaning yesterday now resembles the aftermath that you would expect from child-sized tornadoes on a soft toy hunting mission.

Fabulously "creative" and destructive, but more importantly, fabulously mine.



Tuesday, 29 August 2017

He wasn't "just a dog"

Almost seventeen years ago, a colleague at work told me that her dog had had pups. "They're a cross between a red setter and a border collie" she said adding that "Bella" their mum was a gentle soul - "Don't suppose you want one?" she asked. The words were barely out of her mouth when I made the phonecall to my hubby to persuade him we needed a dog.

He didn't take much convincing, and just like that the plans were made and we waited until our pup was ready for separation from his mother. My colleague told me that she had the perfect one earmarked for us. "he's the runt of the litter she said, "but I just know he'll be perfect one for you"

And so we went to the farm to collect our pup, under no obligation to choose the "runt" but found ourselves drawn to this particular pup with two different-coloured eyes. There was just something about him.



We wrapped him in a towel and I made a silent promise to his lovely mum, that we would look after him always and love him forever. I was a first time mum-to-be myself and I felt so guilty for taking him away from her.

As we drove home, our ball of fur Rodney snuggled on my husband's lap and moments later threw up all over him. I'm not sure whether it was it the car drive or the trauma of separation that caused it. Rodney always seemed to be so attuned to life and his surroundings. Maybe rather than a skill acquired, it was something he was born with.



Rodders became our practice baby ahead of the birth of our first actual one.  My sister sat with him while I attended ante-natal classes.  I watched the neighbourhood cats suspiciously as they prowled along the back garden walls. Precious first born syndrome seemed to kick in with my puppy dog and Mama Bear was ready to protect him from ferocious felines!

And like most first borns, his every move and different pose was photographed. His energy was inexhaustible. Always running and bounding. Always excited and always bloody digging - but forever gentle. He was his mother's son.

And when my daughter came to join the party, Rodney, though still adored, accepted his move further down the pecking order. He loved company which was just as well, as the numbers grew and grew. He was a horse, bad guy, good guy, unicorn, cushion, reindeer and scoffer of food the kids didn't want to eat. He sniffed each new baby as they arrived home, and licked away the tears that fell for the miscarried ones.



He had special dinner on his birthdays and his sock hung on the mantle-piece alongside those of my children every Christmas Eve. He loved to swim in the sea and rivers, yet was never so keen on being washed with clean water. He knocked unsuspecting visitors over with excited welcomes and chewed everything that was dropped accidentally in the garden

He drove me crazy, robbing washing from the basket as I tried to hang it on the line and took us for a walk rather than the other way round - until lately.

Recently he got old, or at least it seemed recently. The passing of time seemed suddenly to creep up on him  - and us. And the washing basket dramas were because he couldn't see it, so he fell into it. And the walks became less about managing to tire him out and more about his managing to stand up. And that gorgeous face looked so tired and those beautiful two different coloured eyes, couldn't see so well, but still looked at us so trustingly.



And we tried because we loved him so much, and we didn't want to say goodbye and we sought assurances that he wasn't in pain and that he had a quality of life until it became so blatantly apparent that he didn't.

So we said goodbye - and our hearts are broken.

He wasn't "just a dog". He was part of our family.

We'll miss you always Rodney and we'll love you forever - I promise . xx



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I'm up for an award - and I'd LOVE your vote please!


So ahem, cough, cough,

Mama-tude is up for Best Parenting Blog in the Boots Maternity and Infant Awards (woohoo!!). I would be so, so incredibly grateful if you could take the time to vote for me.

Its really easy - just click on the image.  It only takes a second.

Thanks so much

Jen x







Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Blurb is Out!!

Woohoo, sharing the full book sleeve to reveal the blurb on the back which will give you an idea of what The Real Mum's Guide to (Surviving) Parenthood is all about! The headshot incidentally was taken by the genius that is Sabrina Dunny. Not only did she ensure this total photo-phobe felt comfortable - she also managed to banish the look of 16 years' sleep deprivation!


The book is now available to pre-order on the Orpen Press website and they've very kindly given me a 20% discount code for followers of Mama-tude. So if you fancy getting in early, the code is "Mama-tude" and the link is here
I'm on countdown!!!





Sunday, 30 July 2017

Book Cover Reveal and Publication Date!

2017 has been one of the craziest, busiest years of my life. In a rare turn of events, I am neither pregnant nor mum to a brand new baby, but I have been working on a different project - a literary type of "eighth baby."

What started as an exciting new venture, back in February has finally come to fruition. I thought nothing could top the excitement of the offer of a publishing deal - I was wrong. The arrival of my book cover, with the book's title, and MY NAME on it, has knocked that original excitement out of the park.In fact I still can't look at it without hopping from one leg to the other like an excited child!

So without further ado (and because I'm too excited to write much more!) -  here it is:

"The Real Mum's Guide to (Surviving) Parenthood", will be published by Orpen Press on the 5th September.

And the cover....




So there you have it. No doubt the hopping will continue between now and September 5th although I've been assured that this is nothing - and to wait until I'm holding a physical copy of it. (I may actually burst with excitement at that stage!!!)

The countdown continues. We're nearly there! 😀😀

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Tips for cutting the cost of "back-to-school"

We went to hell today, otherwise known as a shopping expedition with all of the children in tow. The sun shone much brighter than it had promised to do resulting in hot cranky kids and even hotter crankier parents.  The adults traipsed from shop to shop, without any semblance of enthusiasm, whilst the children resisted and complained, and complained and resisted every step of the way.

It’s not that we’re martyrs to the cause, or complete gluttons for punishment either – but taking all of the kids was a necessity as there were feet to be measured and school shoes and runners to be bought. With the summer holidays half over, it’s time to consider the return to school.

It’s a hugely expensive and pressurised time for parents. With five in school here, including two in secondary and a sixth in Montessori, the costs are scary and the need to make serious savings is real. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips for cutting the costs involved with very expensive, free education.

1.       Book Swap
This is a great and easy thing to do amongst two or, even better, a group of parents who have children of different ages. Get out the booklist, set up a Whatsapp group and send out the searching texts. In a time of every changing editions and book requirements, hoarding books for younger children coming up the line is not necessarily the best course of action as frequently the required books change. Some years you’ll manage to do better than others in a book swap but even one book acquired this way is a saving to your pocket

2.       Sell ‘em
No not the kids, the books. Many educational book stores buy your old school books if they’re in good condition and either pay you or offer store credit, which leads nicely on to tip 3  …..

3.       Second-hand books
It’s always worth checking a second hand book store for the school books you need and the earlier in the summer that you do this, the more chance there is of you managing to get several. Just be very mindful of editions and always double check that you have the correct one.

4.       Watch out for special offers.
Around this time of year, may outlets such as Easons and schoolbooks.ie offer online discounts towards the cost of new school books or the option of free delivery or free book covering. Heatons are another place worth checking for back to school stationery as they often run a 3 for 2 offer, providing the potential for great savings if your numbers are up!

5.       Discount outlets.
School shoes and runners are a very expensive part of back to school. If there’s a discount outlet near you (such as the Kildare Outlet) it’s worth considering a trip. There’s significant savings to be made on shoes in Clark’s, which for me is a lot more than the cost of the petrol involved! The many sports shops on site meanwhile can see you make savings on runners and possibly even school bags.

6.       Schoolbags
And speaking of schoolbags. Before purchasing new ones, double check if a quick wash in the machine with lots of fabric softener is enough to make the bag look good as new and obliterate the pungent yoghurt smell from last year! If you are buying a new one however, – shop around and don’t forget to check stores online to compare value. Sports Direct can offer great value too, but always double check the measurements. Pictures can be deceiving

7.       Crested uniforms
When it comes to uniforms, crested pieces are usually the most expensive parts. Don’t be embarrassed to ask around. If you have friends who cannot pass their child’s outgrown school uniform to a younger sibling, ask them to pass it along to you instead. Sometimes people are afraid to offer for fear of causing offence. Personally, I’m eternally grateful for the amount of outgrown crested uniform pieces that are passed to this house. And remember to share the love. There’s always someone who will happily receive you own children’s uniform hand me downs.

8.       School sales
Check on the school website just in case a uniform or book sale due to be held ahead of the return to school.

9.       Veer from the obvious
Don’t assume that certain things can only be bought in a certain type of shop and keep your eyes peeled - always. Book Station for example, usually renowned for selling good value books, also sell lunch boxes and good beakers for very good prices. The “smash” beakers have stood the very testing, test of time, here.

10.   Buy in bulk
Sounds obvious but list your copy needs and stationery needs and buy together. If you’re trying to spread the cost over a few weeks, spread by purchase type rather than by child. Copies bought in 10 packs work out cheaper and getting all stationery together lets you make the best of special offers and avail of 3 for 2’s.   


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.

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!


Sunday, 14 May 2017

How could it be anything else?

And so it came. After the chaotic preparations and frantic efforts to clear the mounds of washing and tidy the house for the Communion celebrations, the day arrived. While the clean washing found a home, that was relatively temporary granted, although the danger of out of sight, out of mind has been known to linger here, and the house was cleaned from top to bottom – and uncleaned by the trailing three and one and a half year olds, nothing mattered that morning when my shiny eight year old son, bounced out of bed, beamed at me and said “mum it’s today”.

And that smile lasted all through the morning preparations and the hurried dressing of every member of the family. It stayed as he belted out the hymns in church and reached across to hold my hand excitedly. It widened further as he watched the magician with his classmates in the parish centre afterwards, organised by the parents association at our school. And it was still there as he greeted each relative with a little-person-sized bear hug and a thanks for coming to share his special day.


And I realised that all my efforts to make the day perfect, were unnecessary, because it was always destined to be so. It was about him, it couldn’t but be perfect.