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.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Reaching the end.


It’s finally arrived. A day that the last few months and weeks have all been about reaching. A day that I think my children have been looking forward to even more than me. A day that means I won’t have my head buried in the laptop at every available moment, night and day – to the same degree anyway. A day which means that I can start to join my kids at the park again, rather than over enthusiastically waving them off with their father, to the chimes of “don’t rush back” just so that I can get a chance to work in peace.

It’s book deadline day!

A few months ago, I was given this wonderful opportunity to write a book, all about my favourite topic – parenting. In my delight, I pushed the workload to the back of my mind, and focused on the fact that I had loads of thoughts on all things parenting and plenty of inspiration in the forms of mini and not so mini-mes, who were as varied in their personalities as their views on underwear and its necessity. I just needed to get it down on paper – how hard could it be?

Very - is the answer. Life kept getting in the way and in spite of the important and significant sized project that I had undertaken, the kids insisted that I continue to look after them, feed them, bathe them, help them with their homework, attend one’s confirmation, another’s school musical, and a child had a stint in hospital for good measure.

But now, today, I HAVE FINISHED MY BOOK!!!! I have pushed the send button and the electronic copy is winging its way to my editor. As I typed those immortal words “The End” - I felt like Daddy Pig as he contemplated the muddy puddle before him. I was and am at one with the world again.

So if you’re looking for me, you will find me sitting on the couch with a celebratory glass or several of wine, eating copious amounts of chocolate to compliment it and beaming like that proverbial cat.

And who cares if tomorrow is a school day because I have finished my book – until my editor comes back to me at least.

Happy days!!






Saturday, 15 April 2017

When the three year old tells you, he has news.....


The Easter holidays have been a very different affair this year. Normally when the children are off school, we try to go somewhere each day, just to get out the house.These trips can vary dramatically in terms and ranges of excitement, but once they know they’re going somewhere and once cabin fever isn’t allowed to set in, I tend to have more civilised children on my hands.

This Easter things had to be different. With barely any time left,  until my book manuscript needs to be submitted, everything is on a very tight schedule. The sort of schedule that hyper children and snot filled babies and threenagers, don’t care much for – and that “wingers of it” , like me, struggle with.

Spotting the rising chaos and recognising the challenges in hand, I managed to convince my mother to take three of the older boys for a few days. Younger children are more content with shorter outings and with a teenage daughter still here, I knew that we could manage the resulting change to dynamics a little more easily. Everyone stood to benefit, except my teenage daughter, according to her. My undying gratitude isn’t sufficient it seems, but we’re finding that feeding her coffee slices at random and frequent intervals over the course of the week is helping to cushion the blow.

With three of the boys missing, the house has seemed so much quieter. As child number five, stepped up to the role of “biggest boy in the house”, we realised that it’s a role that he quite enjoys. It hasn’t made much of a difference to child number 6 though. He knows the power of the dark side.  He remains very happy in his own personal role as "destroyer of things" and "family streaker".

This morning as my hubby loaded the car and prepared to take the remaining troops with him, to collect their brothers, a very “peachy” smelling three year old entered the dining room. As I sat at my laptop, typing away furiously, I heard the words that every mother dreads to hear – especially from the mouth of a threenager.

“I have some good news and some bad news, mum”, he said. I looked up in a panic and could see immediately that there had been an incident.

“What’s the good news?” I asked, “Eh, eh, - oh yes, I found a charger” he replied.

“And the bad?” I followed, swallowing in fear.

“This, eh, fell on my head” he said, producing a now completely empty bottle of conditioner from behind his back, and looking at me in staged shock with his green eyes aghast.

“But I smell really, really nice” he added for consolation.

Much later than planned, my husband left to collect my other children.

Week two should be interesting…….


Sunday, 2 April 2017

He's struggling.

A rolling stone gathers no moss apparently. Well we’re rolling, rolling, rolling, here and there’s barely time to gather our thoughts, never mind any moss.

After a crazy busy week, we’ve had a Drama Feis, birthday party and chess tournament this weekend and now we’re rolling towards my son’s confirmation midweek and my daughter’s transition year musical every single evening.  All the usual mayhem has to be fit in, in between, and it will be, even if it’s accompanied by lots of grumbling about there not being enough hours in the day.

But on top of all that, and in spite of the excitement about the upcoming confirmation celebrations and musical staging (after months of practice), there’s an air of uncertainty that hangs over us. Our ancient, sixteen and a half year old dog, isn’t great.

I’ve written about him before and how he was getting old and slowing down hugely. He even looked as if he needed a touch of “just for dogs” around his greying temples. But now the discomforts and struggles of old age are really setting in.




He’s almost completely blind, he has lost his hearing, and his sense of smell has rapidly diminished. His back legs are weak and stiff and he’s sleeping a lot.  It may be from the medication that he hates but that he has to take for his kidneys, which blood tests have revealed are deteriorating also. He has to change diet and drink more water, and the situation will be reviewed.

He’s just a dog, some might think, but we love him so much. As my husband reminisced with our twelve year old son, about the fact that he can’t remember life before Rodney, my twelve year old reminded him that in his case “there was no life before Rodney”.

Rodney arrived six months before my daughter was born and has greeted each child with a sniff and a tail wag once they arrived home from hospital. Each new arrival saw him pushed further and further down the priority pecking order but it also brought him a new fan in due course, and a new heart bursting with love for him.

The older children are in denial. “He’ll be fine” they say, when they catch me watching him struggle, or sleeping yet again. They think this medication is going to solve it all. They don’t want to think of the alternative.


I hope they’re right, but he’s old, very old. We need to do the right thing for him.  I just wish I knew what that was.



Thursday, 23 March 2017

An Ode to Mother's Day


It comes around just once a year,
A day of celebration,
And recognition of all that mums do,
Beginning with creation,
Though granted, they didn’t do it alone,
The dads made a contribution,
But it’s not the men who are pregnant 9 months
Coping with added weight distribution,
Till the end of gestation when baby emerges
Through a design, quite flawed by dimension
Think melon and nostril and you’ll get the picture,
And the pain’s probably also worth a mention,
Or out through the tummy, a passage created,
With the flick of the surgeons sharp knife
Means a longer recovery, but baby’s here safely,
And the scar fades a lot through your life,
The sleepless nights follow, the boobs grow impressive,
To proportions never imagined before,
And the nappies keep coming, and the teething and tantrums
Toddler terrors, threenagers and more,
Cut knees to be treated and bumps to be kissed,
The scrapes keep a coming no matter
As the walls they are scaled and the trees, just a challenge,
And your furniture is left all a tatter,
Redesigned kitchen walls, and phones down the toilet,
Surprises, you find every day,
Need to hide all your treats, cos the kids they can sense them,
And eat them all, much to your dismay,
Then there’s homework and projects, all needing attention,
But kids are resisting so much,
And you feel you’ll go crazy, as battles continue,
Over English and Maths and all such,
But on mothering Sunday, all is forgotten,
You’ll think of how lucky you are,
When the cards are presented, and the pictures drawn carefully
Loving messages sent from afar,
Cause no matter our age, or the age of our children,
A mum knows how lucky she is
Though the hours are long and the terms need some tweaking,
We know being a mum is the biz.
Still on mothering Sunday, appreciation is welcomed,
And mums could all do with a rest
It’s just twenty four hours in a very long year,
So enjoy it mums, cos you’re the best!