Easter holidays

Excitement is steadily building, well amongst the kids anyway, as the Easter holidays are looming. The prospect of a longer than usual Easter break however, is filling parents everywhere with an impending sense of panic! My troops finish early on Wednesday and it’s been their main topic of conversation at the breakfast table these past two mornings as they chat away about their plans for the almost three week break from school! I say their plans, I have a slightly different take on things. 
The school holidays are a great break from the routine but without a few ideas and/or plans in place, boredom can quickly lead to frustration! Next thing you know mini Bruce Banners everywhere are turning into incredible hulks without the innate compulsion to do good! The weather this week has certainly set the scene and if we get anything similar to it over the Easter break we’ll be on the pig’s back. Much easier to find cheap and cheerful ways to occupy the children when the weather is good. I have decided to be proactive this year and have started a list of things we can and might do depending on the weather, which won’t break the bank. Thought I’d share a few that I’ve come up with so far
– play some of the games I played when I was younger such as rounders, kick the can, red rover, crocodile crocodile.
– visit a pet farm
– meet up with friends and cousins for a picnic
– baking
– cinema
– movie afternoon with curtains drawn and microwave popcorn
– take the older children to Kilmainham Gaol, especially with the year that’s in it.
– get everybody to do a self-portrait and make a collage
– make some lego
– have some of the kids friends over- go to the library
Of course I don’t plan to occupy their every waking minute. They have enough structure and organised activities throughout the school year and it’s so important that they can play freely and amuse themselves. All children need a chance to use their imaginations, create their own games, pretend to be superheroes and escape from reality. The list is partly for variety and partly for when the superheroes’ worlds collide! So if anyone has any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, Sunday

Sundays here, like most houses I imagine, are normally hectic. They usually involve huge amounts of housework, shopping and washing, getting ready for the week ahead. Sunday nights are spent locating missing pieces of uniform which were supposedly put in the wash but somehow turn up wedged down the side of someone’s bed and finding odd shoes whose partner has seemingly grown legs and run off. Bath-time resembles a factory assembly line and there’s always a nasty surprise to be found when one of us goes searching in the school bags for a beaker or lunchbox that didn’t quite make its way to the kitchen sink the previous Friday! Sundays have become both exhausting and boring to be honest. 

This Sunday, however, we decided we were going to “do something” and headed into town with the troops. Definitely not a task for the fainthearted, but we loaded the mom-mobile and headed off. In spite of a few grumbles from the boys in the middle, fearful that an afternoon of shopping awaited them, we actually had a lovely time. Granted it took a good ten minutes to unload the car and assemble buggies (and restrain the toddler) but it was lovely to all get out as a family and do something different to the usual chores that take over our Sunday. The weather was lovely so it was nice to wander around and soak up the busy atmosphere. I even got a giggle out a few people that I saw counting as we passed by them with the kids! We returned home with a big box of doughnuts and the promise of a hot chocolate to go with them. 

It wasn’t an overly eventful day or an especially exciting one but it did feel like a day off. It felt like a break from the mundane and it did serve as a reminder of the importance of taking time out to spend quality time together instead of always being caught up in what has to be done. They say very few people on their death bed look back and think “I wish I had done more housework”. While there’s a need to be practical too, I am going to try to remember this more. The kids won’t remember whether or not the house was immaculate when they get older, but hopefully they will remember some of the things we did together. It’s easy to forget this in the craziness that is life. In the meantime you’ll have to excuse me. All my slacking off today means I have an important date with my ironing board this evening!

We returned home with a big box of doughnuts and the promise of a hot chocolate to go with them. It wasn’t an overly eventful day or an especially exciting one but it did feel like a day off.It felt like a break from the mundane and it did serve as a reminder of the importance of taking time out to spend quality time together instead of always being caught up in what has to be done. They say very few people on their death bed look back and think “I wish I had done more housework”. While there’s a need to be practical too, I am going to try to remember this more. The kids won’t remember whether or not the house was immaculate when they get older, but hopefully they will remember some of the things we did together. It’s easy to forget this in the craziness that is life. In the meantime you’ll have to excuse me. All my slacking off today means I have an important date with my ironing board this evening!

Teenagers

Just when you think you have it sorted. Just when you think that you are finally getting the hang of this parenting lark, you find that you are the parent of a teenager! Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry could not have been more accurate (if you can’t remember this you should really google when Kevin turns thirteen, it’s hilarious). Suddenly everything you ever thought you knew, every reaction you thought you’d have and every “not until you’re such an age” goes flying out the window as you realise to survive this challenge you’re going to have to pick your battles! 

The teenage years can be a very stressful time for parent and child. It’s a difficult time for teenagers, who, while full of hormones, are dealing with growing up, finding their place in society, trying to assert some independence, and dealing with peer pressure which is at its most fierce at this stage of life. It’s also a difficult time for parents who are trying to balance allowing their child have more freedom to grow while trying to keep them safe from harm and maintain a decent relationship – all at the same time. One of the particular challenges encountered by parents is the virtual world in which our teenagers spend so much time. As adults we choose to log on to the internet. Teenager are always online. The virtual world means today’s teenagers are never away from the influence of their peers. There is a constant bombardment of snapchats, Facebook messages, updated viber groups messages with pictures and messages about who’s doing what, who got what, who went where. There is no escape from the peer group and the influence of family is pushed more to the side than it could have been in years gone by. In the virtual world there is also a pressure to engage in activities they might not otherwise consider. It’s not an easy situation to manage as most teenagers place huge importance on their virtual friends. 

Compromise is essential, but so are boundaries. While no one wants to fall out with their child, it’s our job, difficult as it is, to be their parent rather than their friend. They have enough friends who’ll support them through the trauma of having a cruel mother or father who insists all electronics are left downstairs at bedtime! 

Coming up with an agreement for an acceptable amount of internet usage and involving your teenager in the discussion is a good place to start. Explain your concerns. Teenagers being teenagers will always challenge what’s agreed, but try, as much as possible not to get dragged into an argument, no matter how hard your teenager pushes (not an easy ask by any stretch of the imagination). Consistency really is the key here. If you give in over an unjustified strop, you have just given them reason to have another one in the future. Less strops, generally equals less arguments. The teenage years are certainly a minefield to navigate, but I’ve met quite a few parents who’ve lived to tell the tale. So there’s hope for us all! 

Baby Love

Something I wrote about my youngest, but it could be any of our babies….💜
It’s 3am, the night is dark,
But baby wants to play,
He beams at me, touches my face,
So I begin to sway.
I softly sing him lullabies,
Encourage him to doze,
But he keeps smiling up at me
And wriggles baby toes.
I try another tactic,
I stroke his little cheek,
His baby blues begin to close
And ‘neath his lashes peek
My baby boy is fast asleep,
All snuggled in my arms,
And though I’m tired, I gaze at him,
Won over by his charms.
For nothing ever could foretell,
The love that I would know,
When baby came into my life,
And how that love would grow.

Lunchtime

We have pretty much the same drill here every day regarding what happens when the kids get in from school. They’re each told to take their lunchboxes and beakers out of their schoolbags and after being asked about five times, they actually do it. I’ve become wise enough at this stage, to know that any keen “emptiers of lunchboxes” haven’t actually eaten their lunch, hence their sudden cooperative nature, so they’re always treated with particular suspicion. I am always told by way of explanation, that they “don’t have enough time” to eat their lunch. This may well be true because I hear similar stories from other parents that I’ve spoken to about this, but seeing as they have a set amount of time for lunch and it’s so important that they do eat as much as they can to help sustain their concentration and energy levels throughout the day, I have compiled my top 5 tips to encourage your child to eat their lunch
1. Be reasonable with the amount given. An oversized lunch can be very off-putting for a child as well as impractical in terms of time allowance. It’s also an excellent opportunity to establish good eating habits in terms of portion size. An appropriate sized lunch gives your child a chance of achieving what you have asked of them and finishing it, rather than feeling defeated before they even start.
2. Involve your child in lunchtime options. Is there anything in particular that they would like for lunch this week? Is that a reasonable option? If it is great, no excuse not to eat it so. Ask them for different suggestions and give them some of your own. Remind them that you are providing what you have discussed so they need to make a special effort to eat it.
3. If your child has two different breaks, which most schools do, consider wrapping the food for their breaks separately so that it’s easily accessible and no time is wasted deciding what to eat (or what not to eat until they have to!). Consider also providing a way for your child to store his “rubbish” from his smaller break in particular. A lot of schools don’t allow the children to discard their rubbish in school so they have to put it back in their bag and bring it home. The smell of fruit cores and empty yoghurt cartons can be very off-putting, especially, if like some of mine had a tendency to do, they placed them back in their lunchbox. Nobody feels much like eating the rest of their lunch when their tinfoil is coated in yoghurt! Nappy bags can be a solution here. Cheap and compact and usually fragranced to keep school bags from smelling of rotten fruit
4. Remind your child the night before, or the morning of school, what they have for lunch that day. This way you can get all the objections out of the way and explain, in advance, exactly why all the reasons they propose for not eating their lunch are invalid! It also means they know what to expect so there’s no room for disappointment or “I was hoping for…..”
5. Good old fashioned bribery, the secret to good parenting. If your school allows a small treat on Fridays (lucky you) then talk to you child about what that might be and agree if they make an extra special effort to eat their lunch this week, that treat might be a possibility. If that’s not allowed maybe a chart recording lunchtime success with a certain amount of ticks by the end of the week/ month meriting a favourite magazine/treat or whatever works best for your child.
Above all be consistent in your expectations and keep the faith! Lunchtime won’t always be this type of battle. As they get older the problem will providing enough!

Survival tips for life with a young baby!

My youngest little dude has just turned six months old. Even though he’s my seventh child and I’m pretty familiar at this stage with most things baby, I still have to succumb to baby demands and the restrictions that go with having such a young child. With this in mind I thought I’d share my top five survival tips for life with a young baby!
1. Try to make some new friends with babies. Sometimes easier said than done but it’s great to have someone who is going through the same stage as you. Friends with older children can be fantastic sources of advice but they can also have short memories when it comes to sleepless nights, the inevitable nappy explosion that occurs as you try to leave the house and the need to stop and feed your baby at a moment’s notice. Mother and Toddler groups, breastfeeding support groups and even your Public Health Nurse can be a great medium through which to meet new mum friends
2. If you’re offered help, take it. The smallest things can make the biggest difference. If it’s not offered, ask. Sometimes people just don’t think. Whether it’s asking someone who has come to visit to hold the baby while you have a quick shower, or taking someone you trust up on their offer to watch the baby while you get out for a quick walk , do it. Life is swings and roundabouts. We all need a bit of help sometimes and there’ll be another opportunity for you to be the person who helps in the future.
3. Be realistic about your expectations. Not many babies are sleeping through the night at six weeks. You are not doing something wrong. If you breastfeed, some babies, particularly in the early days might feed every twenty minutes and yes they can be starving again an hour later even after taking a substantial feed. If you’re bottle feeding, the same rules can apply. Do you eat on a strict four hour schedule? If you plan to go somewhere, allow yourself adequate time and be realistic about how long you can manage to be out for. Babies are predictably unpredictable. If you allow for the unexpected, you’re less likely to end up frustrated if and when things don’t go according to plan.
4. Don’t take the baby books as law. People are different, babies are different, even within the same family. The books can be a great source of advice, but they’re a rough guide. Not all babies crawl, sit, walk or talk at the same time and that doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. There can be months of a difference between different babies meeting their milestones. Trust your instinct and talk to your G.P. or P.H.N if you’re worried.
5. Enjoy the coos and the smiles. There is nothing more infectious than a baby’s laugh. It won’t take away the tiredness but it helps you cope with the daily slog!

Mother’s Day

I can’t remember my life before I was a mum anymore. I can’t remember the last time I had a full night’s sleep, went to the bathroom without an audience or made an uninterrupted phone call. I can’t remember when I last went to a shopping centre without clock watching, knowing I had 23 and a half minutes before the whining would start (impressive eh?) or a time leaving the house without preparing for the apocalypse (just in case). 

Sometimes, when you list it out (and we all know there are many, many things missing from that list) it seems that the difference is mainly negative when you consider your pre-mum days to your now 24/7 mum days but of course we know that’s far from the truth. Being a mum lets you know love you never knew existed and it is the greatest privilege I’ve ever known. It gives us an insight into how things were for our own mothers and while we might or might not do things differently to them, we now know the conditions they were operating under! Mums are great! Happy Mother’s Day to mums everywhere especially those celebrating their first one as a mum. Thinking also of those whose mums are no longer with them.

Playdates!

Friday is generally playdate day here. Sometimes my kids go to their friends’ houses, sometimes their friends come here but, because I haven’t quite mastered the skill of managing to farm them all out on the same day, there are generally always other children here on a Friday afternoon. It can be a great way to see how your children mix with their peers. It can be a fantastic bribe (or threat) during the week to get them to focus on their homework, eat their dinner, put their underwear in the wash basket (tick as appropriate). It can also be a great way to keep the kids occupied on a Friday afternoon or, depending on the child who comes over and his/her effect on the group dynamic, throw the afternoon into excited chaos!ng the week to get them to focus on their homework, eat their dinner, put their underwear in the wash basket (tick as appropriate). It also can be a great way to keep the kids occupied on a Friday afternoon, or depending on the child who comes over and his/her effect on the group dynamic, throw the afternoon into excited chaos.

Playdates have changed a lot here over the years as the children have grown up. Obviously we still have a lot of younger kids coming over for the younger children but the older kids don’t have friends on playdates anymore. They have friends over to “hang out”. It can be very funny to observe a cool “meeting of minds” taking place around the dining room table over pizza as my daughter and her friends discuss important things in life, such as the Kardashians, who’s meeting who these days, and other stuff that I couldn’t possibly be cool enough to know about because I’m mam. What’s even funnier is to see my daughter’s reaction when the two year old walks into the dining room and interrupts the deep and meaningful conversation to proudly declare “I’ve done a smelly poo in my potty! Want to see?” After initial looks of absolute horror the girls burst out laughing and my daughter takes her brother’s hand and says “sure baby, show me”. 

Meanwhile, in the sitting room, where the potty has taken pride of place in front of the T.V., boys have gathered from every corner of the house, some related, some not, to admire what has been produced. No looks of horror here! Then after the two year old has been congratulated, everyone returns to what they were doing. It’s like feeding time at the zoo when the kids and their friends are called for their dinner and excited chat takes place around the table. I have to admit I love that part! Collection time involves a mad search for shoes which were discarded literally everywhere, as soon as the kids came into the house. Most recently, one child went home with different shoes, my son’s shoes, not noticed by me or the other child’s mother for several days! In our defence, there were a lot of black similar sized shoes, to wade through. 

Finally when everyone has gone I collapse on the couch, promising myself I’ll check out the playroom later, when I’ve built up the courage, to see what damage has been caused by the human tornadoes that went through it. Playdates are great, but nothing beats the feeling after when you know the kids are happy and the weekend’s really about to start. Good luck to all the mammies having playdates this afternoon!

Homework

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to the kids being on their Easter holidays. Yes there will be 7 kids to occupy. Yes my head will be done in come day three when the crappy Irish weather means we’re trapped indoors rapidly running out of ideas as to how to occupy them all without needing to remortgage the house BUT the freedom from making lunches and sorting uniforms and having to be somewhere at a certain time, I just can’t wait. Most of all I can’t wait for the break from homework and the battle involved!

It can be like a warzone here some evenings. I have five lots of homework to contend with. It’s enough to break even most hardened Marine! The “fun” starts when the kids get home from school and after their snack they get a “gentle” encouraging call from me to take their places at the dining/kitchen/playroom table, depending on whose turn it is to sit where. Five minutes lapse and I realise no-one is where they’re supposed to be so another “slightly less gentle” call to take their places is issued. Cue row number one. “I don’t want to do it in that room/ sit beside him/her”. Finally I have them sitting down and homework started and within two minutes there’s another call “Mam, I forgot my Irish book”. I suggest numerous places in the bag it might be and eventually it turns up, on the table, having already been taken out. 

Peace returns to the galaxy for all of five minutes when there’s another call, “he hit me”, “she’s laughing at me” or the best and most frequent “he/she is annoying me”. The source of annoyance here can be something as trivial as breathing. My usual threat of no dessert after dinner quietens them all down again for a while. The two year old comes into the kitchen laughing “I funny, I funny” and I look up to see he has swiped his sister’s glasses and she hasn’t even noticed that they’ve gone missing. Eventually comes the onerous task of checking the homework to discover half the stuff hasn’t been done yet and there’s a note in someone’s journal for something that HAS to be in by tomorrow and the bloody shop I need to get it in is closed. Stress levels are high and the project hasn’t even been started yet…………

Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dog’s Tails – the truth about boys!

I am from a family of all girls. Not quite sugar and spice and all things nice but it was as you’d expect quite a girly household and the world of boys was pretty alien to us. I was quite the football nut growing up (I’m sure to my father’s relief a little bit and certainly my mother’s amazement) but asides from that our house was full of make-up, clothes, perfume, dolls, and girly bits and pieces. The fact I played and loved football meant I was categorised as somewhat of a tomboy but that was ok because that was acceptable. 

Fast forward a few years and while we all look quite alike, we have grown up to be four very different women, four very different types of mother and we have four very different personalities and interests. Again, not surprising because we are four different people. My sisters are fantastic and different. I went on to have my own children, and I have, you might say, a fair few boys. Raising sons has been quite the eye opening experience for me. Having no brothers, I had no experience of little boys to draw upon. I’ve learned clothes aren’t considered a necessity – nor are underpants. Farts are something to be proud of (I think this continues into later life), snot isn’t gross and “rude” words are just hilarious. I have also learned boys are so, so full of love. Boys are as different from each other as the genders are. Some are soft. Some are sensitive. Some are physically gentle. Some are definitely not! Some like sport. Some like drama. Some like art. I even have a son who likes clothes, and by this I mean style rather than actually wearing them! 

My boys are all so different and I love this fact. Variety is definitely the spice of life and the world would certainly be a very boring place if we were all the same. I do worry however, that life has very set expectations from boys and that can prove very difficult and isolating if they don’t meet them. Differences which are embraced or at worst accepted in girls are often discouraged in boys. There is sometimes a failure to recognise in our society that different boys have different needs and even just within the confines of the family, school environment, or on the sports field different boys need different parenting, teaching, coaching. It is personality rather than gender determines a child’s needs. My lads keep me on my toes and they’re great. It’s a lot of responsibility for us mums (and dads of course) shaping the men of the future and encouraging them to wear underwear!
 My boys are all so different and I love this fact. Variety is definitely the spice of life and the world would certainly be a very boring place if we were all the same. I do worry however, that life has very set expectations from boys and that can prove very difficult and isolating if they don’t meet them. Differences which are embraced or at worst accepted in girls are often discouraged in boys. There is sometimes a failure to recognise in our society that different boys have different needs and even just within the confines of the family, school environment, or on the sports field different boys need different parenting, teaching, coaching. It is personality rather than gender determines a child’s needs. My lads keep me on my toes and they’re great. It’s a lot of responsibility for us mums (and dads of course) shaping the men of the future and encouraging them to wear underwear! ~ Jen