Dinner dramas

We try to eat dinner here as a family, as much as possible. The idea behind this is that we can all sit down together and have a chat about our day, and the added bonus is that I’m not standing over the cooker all evening as I would be, if meals were staggered. The disadvantage is, that in spite of adequate snacks, my kids are fading by 4:30, declaring their starvation and in whiny monotone drawn out voices ask me constantly “how much loooonnnngggger to dinnnnerrrr”. The constant questions start to grate after a while and I find myself watching the clock until my husband walks in the door when I thoughtfully suggest that they go and annoy their father instead while I dish up dinner.

I usually call the older kids to set the table and my reluctant helpers argue over who is to bring in the knives and who is to bring in the forks.  It appears in my children’s minds that this should be a two person job.  All the while, we try to keep the table setting operation a secret from my only enthusiastic helper, my “not yet three” year old. Any help from that terror, involves a massive clean up and a larger than usual dinner for the dog! Once dinner is served, at least two drinks have been knocked over and a row has taken place over who is drinking from which colour cup, we get down to the nitty gritty of eating and chatting.

The randomness of my children’s thoughts, feelings and resulting conversations never fails to amaze me. Yesterday at dinner the “not yet three” year old announced that he thought he had a chicken in his willy – and it was really making him need a wee. The five year old attempted to establish and confirm the fact that if his father and I died, his sister would be his new mammy and she’d probably need to marry her twelve year old brother because they’d need a dad too. The ten year old announced that he and his friends had set up a new band called “chicken in sticks” in which he is the lead singer. One friend played the tambourine, another the violin.  Obviously they needed security too, ahead of their destined fame , so, two nine year olds had been recruited as “heavies”.

The fifteen year old still gagging from the suggestion that she would marry her twelve year old brother nearly choked with laughter on hearing of her ten year old brother’s new musical direction. Too cool to be scoffed at, he continued to describe their musical genre – “ we do a bit of rock , a bit of rap, bit of oprah (no that’s not a spelling error, he was talking the Winfrey, while obviously referencing the classical). Apparently, we were informed, if they get really good, they might be allowed to perform at assembly.

In the meantime the “not yet three” year old returned from
the bathroom and confirmed he was actually poulty free, but he thinks he might have missed the toilet bowl a bit. Dinner can be a very informative experience here…..


Sports Day’s a comin’!

This week sees the annual occurrence that is sports day at my boys’ school. I had a vague recollection of it’s mention in the school newsletter a few weeks ago but watching my older lads running laps of the back garden while passing the dog’s toy to each other this weekend, in preparation for the relay and discovering my seven year old going through my husband’s tie drawer for a “nice colour” tie confirmed my suspicions that it was drawing ever closer. The countdown has begun and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that the weather will stay fine.

Experienced parents have booked their time off work and one first time Junior Infant parent asked me earlier “is it that big a deal?” My reply was “Oh yes – sports day is a huge deal”

Love it or loathe is, and I’m really not sure what camp I’m in, sports day is a huge deal for the kids and for several of the parents too. Yes it’s great to see our children having fun with their friends and, if your child is any way sporty, maybe even win a medal or two. The “it’s all about taking part” line, however, does not wash with all of the children, particularly those past Senior Infants for whom a medal is no longer guaranteed, just for taking part.  In this house, with children of extremely mixed sporting ability I know there will be tears and sadness on the day for some of them, when best efforts will still leave zero chance of coming anywhere.

I know it could be viewed as a life lesson but, as an adult, I’m not likely to put myself in a competitive environment for something I know I am absolutely brutal at, and I can handle disappointment slightly better than a child.

And speaking of competitive environments, the highlight of the day for many there will be the parent’s race! You will see some, kitted out in their top notch sports gear and expensive running shoes, laughing off suggestions that it’s anything but a “bit of craic” but discreetly warming up on the sidelines as they cheer on their sons in their races.  Toned and tanned limbs give away any misconception that these parents are anything other than seasoned runners, and they mean business. Elsewhere, the more reluctant sportsmen and sportwomen among us will panickedly try to think of excuses not to take part. I already, am lamenting an absent pregnancy bump for different reasons to usual. It has crossed my mind to just stick a cushion up my dress, after all I’m always pregnant and I think most of the parents from the school have lost count at this stage.  Would anyone even be suspicious?

Failing that I’ll just have to hope the organisers turn the tables on those magnificent sporty parents and that the parent’s race involves an egg and spoon!


Invasion of the party boys

By the time you’re reading this I will be drowning in a sea of 9 and 10 year old boys as the first birthday party of the weekend takes place.  The banners have been purchased and blu-tacked to the wall.  The party bags are filled and waiting for distribution and there are enough chicken nuggets and pizza in the freezer to feed an army. The only thing still proving quite a challenge are the age 10 balloons which are still sitting on the mantelpiece, refusing to expand no matter how hard I blow into them and may quite possibly result in me having several burst blood vessels in my eyes if I persist.

No amount of gentle persuasion or, out and out bribery, could convince my two birthday boys to share a party so the house will most likely, over two days instead of one, resonate noise levels not heard in these parts…. since last year anyway. My own personal saving grace is that tomorrow’s party also entails a trip to see Captain America, Civil War. As my baby still requires frequent access to my bosoms, I can bow out of this part completely guilt free.  Never have I felt so glad to be restricted!

I can dawdle and ponder my good fortune no longer, as the first lot of party attendees arrive shortly and the balloons still need to be wrestled with. Time to batten down the hatches and get ready for a boy invasion. May the force be with me!

The Silly Season

Next week marks the beginning of the silly season in this house and by silly season I mean birthday season part one.  Through careful bad planning, four of my children have their birthdays inside a three and a half week period including two on the same day!

Birthdays are big business here.  The kids are already so excited and a countdown of days began a few weeks ago. A tradition we started many moons ago of giving a small token present to the people “whose birthday it’s not” means everyone looks forward to their sibling’s big day for that reason too. It can be more hassle sometimes trying to think of and find all the token presents necessary for my not unsubstantial brood, than it is actually sorting the birthday boy or girl’s gifts, but we get there in the end.

I never work on the children’s birthdays and my husband always takes a half day – he used to take the full day but the increase in numbers puts a real pressure on his leave! Birthday dinner will be the birthday child’s choosing and for the school going birthday children there is never homework. Everyone loves birthdays, well everyone except me a little bit.

I am possibly the world’s most sentimental person or at the very least on the shortlist for the title.  I lament every passing phase of the children’s lives. Much as I crave sleep and the ability to visit the bathroom or take a shower without an audience and much as I would love to be able to finish a conversation with another adult without being needed to solve someone’s immediate “crisis”, I don’t really want my kids to grow up.

I love to see their happy faces on the morning of their birthdays and to hear, when they get back from school, how the principal mentioned their names on the intercom and their classmates sang “happy birthday”.  I love to see how excited my kids are for each other and I love also the effort they make for each other on birthdays by drawing a picture, making a card, or even buying a chocolate bar for their sibling because it’s their special day.

I love how special the birthday boy or girl feels. In the midst of all of this my mind is cast back to that particular day however many years ago. I, of course, blank out the gory and painful bits and rewrite history in my head when they pop in.  I clockwatch a lot of the day and remind my other half of exactly what was happening at this stage. He doesn’t need a reminder, not only was he there, he gets a rerun of events every single year.

Depending on the child he hears how I was watching “only fools and horses”, I thought I needed a wee but couldn’t go, we had to stop for change at a garage while I was in labour so that we could pay for parking at the hospital, I was wearing my purple shirt (echoes of Fr Dougal Maguire here) or I went to watch the junior infant nativity before I would agree to go to the hospital.  Whatever the child, like most people, I have a story leading up to their birth.

I remember seeing each of my perfect little babies for the first time as clearly as if it was yesterday and I find it hard to believe that so many years have gone by since they came into the world.
The first birthday up involves my third child reaching double figures! I was wearing my purple shirt going in to have him :-D. He is beyond excited as Wednesday approaches and chicken tikka masala is on the menu
for dinner (courtesy of his nana to be honest).

The tidal wave of anticipation will sweep us all up as the big day draws nearer but I will remain somewhat nostalgic as my baby boy grows up way too quickly for my liking. I know it’s my job to help and guide him as he grows and to try to keep him safe and I know I am incredibly lucky to so far have had the privilege.

Over-sentimentality can be a curse. The rational side of me will just have to try to focus on the yummy dinner that’s coming….

Escape from Buggy-traz….

I can usually be seen huffing and puffing, pushing my big red double buggy which accommodates my two youngest children, most weekdays, as I head down to the school to collect my junior infant.

Yesterday my mam timed a visit perfectly with collection time, so I decided to leave my baby with her while I went to pick up my son. My two year old asked if he could come along and decided he wanted to walk. I thought it might be a good idea to give him a little practice at it, as I’m hoping to move him to a buggy board type thing soon.  The whole excursion reminded me why I usually restrain him!


To somewhat very loosely paraphrase Daddy Pig in his consideration of muddy puddles, “to be at one with a two year old who is free, one must think like a two year old who is free”!

1.   Two year olds are fast, very fast.  Within a micro second of having walked out the front door he was off, insisting there was no need to hold my hand because he was a big boy and there were no cars coming.  I ran most of the way to school in a sideways crab like fashion trying to near pin him alongside the wall while dodging parents and little girls on their scooters who had just left school.

2.   Two year olds are like magpies, well mine is anyway…except things don’t need to be shiny.  All manner of things can grab his attention.  One minute he was belting along the path on the way to collect his brother, the next minute he spotted dog poo, then a worm, then a paw patrol scooter.  The first two he stopped to examine, the last one made him turn in the opposite
direction and run after the child on it!

3.  Two year olds are at the perfect height for parked car wing mirrors and older kids school bags. Both of which he managed to run into on his journey.

4.  Two year olds have an uncanny ability to choose the place of maximum potential audience for a meltdown.  After his collision with the second school bag of a dancing junior infant girl (their school finishes five minutes before my son’s school and is located directly beside it) and my insistence that he was holding my hand the rest of the way, I could sense one building. I started to wonder how many people around actually realised he was mine and, if it all kicked off, could I stand on the periphery with folded arms (once he was safely within the confines of the school playground of course) and pretend to look around for his mother.  Thankfully the crisis was averted -  he spotted a crow.

5.  Two year olds see. Two year olds want. Two year olds go and get. When we arrived at the school he spotted his big brother waiting in his line.  Normally the teacher allows the boys to go to the person collecting them one by one as she spots them.  My two year old bulldozed through the crowd of waiting parents and launched himself at his brother. Quickest pick up ever!


We ran the whole way home


What’s that in the toilet?

Over the years my children have put various items down our toilet.  Mobile phones, plastic bath ducks, Iggle Piggle and one of my husband’s ties (which was used as a fishing rod) have all met their watery end at the bottom of our lavatory. We had a new one today though.

There was a lot of activity going on in our bathroom this morning and not just the usual meeting of minds that regularly takes place there, when one of my younger kids needs to do a poo. In a house where most of the children have no mute button, silence is always treated with particular suspicion. Upon further investigation it appeared that there was every reason to be suspicious.

My five and two year olds were found examining the toilet bowl where some mushy type something or other was floating in the water. “What’s going on?” I asked “Whats that in the toilet?” Two guilty heads looked at each other. “It’s a breakfast waffle” my five year old replied. “And how did it get there?” I asked. “It popped out of the toaster and landed there” he said. “So it popped out of the toaster, flew up the stairs and landed in the toilet? I asked. “Yep” he replied nodding his curly head in earnest honesty. “It’s in the toilet” my two year old added, just in case I wasn’t clear.

“Don’t worry mammy” the five year old said as I muttered in disgust “I got most of it out with daddy’s toothbrush”…….

One of those nights!

My baby is a terrible sleeper, I mean absolutely shockingly bad and the last few months have involved me functioning in a sleep deprived stupor with several moments of confused dreams versus reality. In fairness none of his older siblings slept either as babies so I can’t claim that I didn’t know what I was getting into but that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re going through the torture that is sleep deprivation.

Yesterday, exhaustion was really catching up with me so I set myself the target of hitting the sack before midnight and preferably by 10:30.  That
is no mean feat in this house! The baby is the only one who tends to wake up at night here, except for bouts of illness, so with no homework or school to get ready for the next day, there was never a better opportunity to catch up (a little bit anyway), on much longed for sleep .

The evening went a bit like this
9:00 p.m. My teenage daughter suddenly decides she needs to know all about quadratic equations, now, not tomorrow or the next day, but at this very moment in time.  Her life practically depends on it (I suspect a maths test is looming that I haven’t been told about – it couldn’t possibly be the Junior Cert because that’s a whole five weeks away!)

10:00 p.m. The two year old comes down the stairs.  He has decided it’s morning time


10:15 p.m The five year old calls to say the two year old is
in his bed…..again

10:30 p.m. The five year old comes down the stairs….just

10:45 p.m The nine year old comes down the stairs because he
has a cramp behind his knee

11:00 p.m The eleven year old comes down the stairs to
remind me that I have to sign the note for for his school tour (have I
mentioned my primary schoolers have no school this week)

11:30 p.m. Husband goes to feed the dog, forgets he has already put the alarm on, opens the back door, baby awake!

12:15 a.m  baby fed , changed and finally settled, I fall into bed exhausted

1:10 a.m baby awake again, wants a quick feed and cuddle

2:25 a.m. Five year old comes into the room.  Says he has been burping a lot and needed to say excuse me. Apparently he couldn’t just say it to himself. He needed someone to hear it or else it would be bad manners. I look at him bleary eyed. Its 2:25 in the morning, far too early or late to consider the whole “if a tree falls in the wood and there’s no one to hear it” philosophy

2:30 a.m Baby wakes….. repeat 1:10 a.m.

3:00 a.m Two year old appears convinced the Gruffalo is
after him

3:25 a.m Two year old reappears to tell us he loves us, and he loves food and he loves the fridge apparently. He also thinks he might need a wee

3:45 a.m. Baby wakes , just to check I’m still about

4:30 a.m Nine year old appears, cramp behind his knee again and he wonders if we know whether or not he will be going to his friends for a
sleepover this week

4:45  a.m. Baby wakes – weak with the hunger!

5:30 a.m. Baby wakes to check he hasn’t been abandoned

6:25 a.m. I wake to hear the two year old singing in his bed “We dig for diamonds, we dig for gold”, a song from Ben and Holly ………and a new day


Darkness into the light

A man called to my house today looking for sponsorship for a walk he is doing.  A “darkness into the light” walk in aid of Pieta House.  He didn’t go into any particular reason behind his decision to take part in the walk but it was clear that he felt passionate about the worthwhile cause behind it. The poignant symbolism of the “darkness into the light” walk is not lost on
many.   I have seen so much activity on Facebook in recent weeks with wonderful people working so very hard to raise sponsorship for the same cause, some in the name of a loved one tragically lost to suicide. It is a worst nightmare for many of us but a living heart-breaking reality for others.

Very few of us will go through our lives without being affected either directly or indirectly by mental health issues.  Whether it’s ourselves, family members or friends, depression in its many forms, is indiscriminate.  It doesn’t care about your age, your culture, your beliefs, your wealth or your social status. It doesn’t care who depends on you, who loves you or how much you appear to have – and it lies.  It tells great big whopping lies. It tells the person in its grip that things are hopeless, that they are worthless, that there is no escape. Depression convinces a person that there is something to be ashamed of in how they’re feeling.  Depression is ruthless

In seeing how many celebrities are now speaking about their own personal battles with depression I hope that this will somewhat lessen the
stigma associated with depression.  I hope it will give our young people someone to look at and realise that depression can affect anyone, at anytime. I hope it will give them the strength to reach out for the help and support they need. I hope it will help others realise that they are not alone. Too many beautiful souls have already left this earth before their time.

 Well done to all those due to participate in the “darkness into the light” walk and run. I hope you raise a fortune!  A truly and exceptionally worthy cause ~ Jen