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  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!

An Ode to Christmas

It’s Christmas week, the countdown’s on
Til Santa’s on his way
With lots of gifts for girls and boys
All loaded on his sleigh,
The kids are filled with Christmas cheer,
Excited by the season,
While mums and dads rush everywhere,
And shopping is the reason,
For all the family and everyone’s friends,
Teachers and neighbours too,
Houses to clean and turkeys to buy
So very much to do
And panic, panic, rushing on,
Becomes the assumed position,
No lack of money or shortage of time,
Can thwart the Christmas mission,
All must be perfect in every respect,
And new traditions made,
Such pressure on all, to get it right,
Not enough attention paid,
To remember the things that matter most,
During this special time of year,
That we’re surrounded by those we love,
The people we hold dear,
No shop bought gift, or internet bargain,
A person’s place can take,
Around the table or on the couch,
And so for happiness sake,
Just take a breather, enjoy the moment
Engage in lots of niceness,
If you have good health and people to love,
Then your Christmas gifts are priceless.



Tips for taking the stress out of Christmas.

Halloween is over and whether we like it or not, the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. The shops are decorated, Christmas adverts are all over the television, Santa lists have started and my own personal marker that Christmas is coming – I’m a Celebrity is set to return to our screens!

While certain “celebrities” are preparing to feast on kangaroo testicles and ostrich anus, those of us not renowned for reality show appearances will probably be more focused on the million and one things that have to be done ahead of December 25th  – and how many types of potato are too many for Christmas day.

It may well be the season to be jolly but that doesn’t make it any less a stressful time. With that in mind I have compiled a list of 6 things that I have found help with the financial, emotional and time pressure stress of the coming weeks.

1.Make a list
Before you hit the shops, make a list of what you are looking for. It’s easy otherwise to get caught up in the frenzy and supposed offers in the various shops. With a list, you know exactly what you’re looking for, which hopefully can save you time.  Without a list, there’s a huge temptation to buy lots of bargains and blow your budget on things you didn’t want or need.  There’s also the danger that you’ll forget some of what you set out to buy!

2. Look out for offers
The shops are in competition mode with seemingly daily changes in offers, from 3 for 2’s, to half price gifts, to vouchers if you spend a certain amount, to the lure of Black Friday deals! Details of most of these offers can be found online and while advertising naturally actively attempts to encourage us to part with our money through the promise of “must end soon” and “while stocks last” the reality is that a lot of these offers are ongoing for a period.
Take stock of the offer, “google” around to see how it compares and make your decision then. Don’t feel the pressure to jump right in and buy something that you didn’t really want or need anyway.

3. Online saves time
Online shopping has given us, not only the opportunity to buy what we’d like from home, but to also do our research before we leave the house, if we fancy braving the shops.  Many websites now let us see if the desired item is in stock in particular locations and, if such is the case, let us reserve it before we make a wasted trip. So very important as the crowd levels increase and parking becomes a nightmare!

4. Wrap as you go.
Rather than leaving all the wrapping until Christmas week, or worse still Christmas Eve, free yourself up by wrapping your purchases the day you buy them and label and bag ‘em . You’ll be grateful in the long run.  Just don’t hide them too safely!!!

5. Remember Santa is on your side.
The man in red has come ever more on board in supporting parents in their choices of appropriate gifts. Santa recognises that there are different rules in different houses. It’s worth reminding your children that Santa only brings things that he knows parents allow – that goes for dwarf hamsters too!

6.Don’t sweat the small stuff.
We’re all guilty of wanting things to go a certain way and Christmas can magnify that as we attempt to recreate idyllic scenes from childhood, or create our own new “picture-perfect” ones.  Life is life though, and things go wrong.  Try to keep everything in perspective.  It’s not the end of the world if your Christmas tree can only be decorated from two-thirds of the way up thanks to an inquisitive and destructive toddler. It’s not the end of the world if your domestic goddess skills are somewhat lacking and you have to buy rather than make your own Christmas cake and pudding.  It’s not even the end of the world if your annual family Santa visit is somewhat overshadowed by your toddler’s screams of terror and the photographic evidence that you’ve paid for.


What is important is that you’re a family, spending family time together, celebrating the joys of the season and supporting each other too.  While Christmas can be a magical time it can be an emotional time also, particularly if you’ve lost a loved one that year, if illness has been prevalent or if it stirs sad memories from Christmases and times past.  Be kind to yourself, be kind to each other and celebrate in a way that suits you and your loved ones best.

Sunday is not a weekday!

Halloween is coming so the geese aren’t getting fat quite yet but the kids are certainly getting grumpy – reason being, I still haven’t put up the Halloween decorations! Halloween is second probably only to Christmas, in terms of excitement, in this house, and the costume planning has been going on for many weeks now. At the moment it’s looking like several Spidermen will take up residence in this house on October 31st, assuming the motto “with great power comes great responsibility”. Bad guys needn’t come here!

The plan originally this weekend gone was to decorate the house in a typical ghoulish and spooky manner with seasonal lights and scary doorbells thrown in for good effect.  Work, birthday parties and a mountain of laundry which even by Sunday night was still of Everest proportions put paid to my best laid plans. I won’t be forgiven in a hurry!

Saturday evening it was the turn of my 5 year old to celebrate his upcoming birthday with his classmates and he shared his party with two of his friends.  Once the curly haired one had got his head around the fact that he was still 5 at his 6th birthday party, he threw himself into the celebrations and had a ball with all of his buddies.  It was an evening party and as the shorter evenings are drawing more rapidly in, the partygoers were very excited by their belief that they were at a party when they “should be in bed”. The cuteness of the little dudes was almost too much to bear.

Once I arrived home, and it was actually bedtime for the younger ones, the questions started about the Halloween decorations.  “But you promised” I was told, when I had merely said “we’ll see” earlier in the week. That’s why as much as possible I try to stay off “autonod” – you never know what you could end up agreeing too.

Knowing I had a prior commitment on Sunday afternoon and that the rest of the day would undoubtedly be spent preparing for the week ahead, I tried to avoid any suggestion of the decorations going up then either.  And so it came to pass that the decorations didn’t go up and I spent the day washing uniforms (and a million and one other items of clothing).  The usual preparation for lunches and the search for single missing school shoes took place and I realised that Sunday has sneakily once again assumed its place as “preparation day” instead of day off.

 There is one more weekend until the mid-term officially begins and I am determined to figure out a way to reclaim some of future Sundays anyway.  How – I have no idea yet, but I am intent on stopping Sunday from morphing into yet another work/school day.  In the meantime I have resorted, as all good parents do, to bribery, in the shape of Halloween buns, to buy me a little time to get sorted and to beg forgiveness for my blood oath swearing promise comment of “we’ll see”.

A reminder of what’s important

I had known since the week before, that last week was going to be a particularly busy one. What I didn’t wholly appreciate, was that it would also be a week in which I would be reminded once again about the things that are truly important. The things that are so often forgotten about in the daily chaos and mayhem that is life.

As anticipated, my Spiderman loving, Power Ranger costume wearing, Iron-man beaker bearing, three year old kicked up quite the stink when Monday morning came around and it was time to return to Montessori. Whole-hearted declarations of “I’m not going to school” were reiterated at two minute intervals and my Houdini-like escape artist unbuckled himself from his car seat six times before we finally managed to get out of the driveway.  Prior to this, the usual morning madness had run it’s course as “tired and emotional” children ate breakfast at a snail’s pace and climbed the stairs to clean their teeth at an even slower one. Even the most falsified, cheeriest tones of encouragement and persuasion could not speed my reluctant troops up!

Once they had gone to school and I had finally managed to reverse out of the driveway with my superhero strapped into his car-seat, while his adoring baby brother watched on in amusement and hopefully without any intent of  his behaviour in the future, we set off to montessori.  As the declarations continued I decided there was only one fail-proof way to tackle the situation -bribery!

I knew that once my “not very shy” little dude gave montessori a chance he would be as happy as that proverbial pig.  I also knew that my “not very shy” little dude is quite possibly the most stubborn child of my lot and so convincing him to give it a chance was not going to be easy. “Oh you are such a big boy now” I told him. “You’re going to have so much fun with your new friends.”

Still, he gave me nothing. “In fact”, I added, “I’m so proud of you for starting at montessori that I think I’ll have to have a present for you when you come home”. Finally I had his full attention. As I continued with my explanation that it was only right he should get a present to celebrate starting at big school, my three year old super hero, unbuckled himself again and started to put his Spiderman bag on his back. “Let’s go mum” he said. And we were off.

Thankfully the rest of the week went pretty smoothly, montessori wise, and the €1.49 that I spent on a Spiderman bubble wand proved to be my soundest financial investment of the week (still no sign of my lotto numbers coming up!) As expected the “not so shy” little dude quite enjoyed the company of his peers and while he was always very happy to see me at collection time, he was content enough going to school each morning. A new week, of course will test this once again.

The other kids meanwhile, plodded along through the school week – literally plodded every step of the way, including through homework.  By Tuesday night I thought I would lose what little of my sanity was left, after another afternoon of battling with my kids to just sit down and focus.  In fairness, no one had an excessive amount of homework but no one had an excessive amount of focus either.

And so it continued into Wednesday, and I wondered how we were going to manage next week when after-school activities came back onto the scene again.

Thursday was a different affair.  Thursday morning, before daybreak, I set off for the airport to travel to England for a funeral.  My aunt had a passed away after a long illness, still a young woman, and had left a devastated family behind.

Cousins and sisters all met at the airport and chatted ahead of our travels and it was a reunion of sorts when we reached England. As we have all grown older and my grandparents have passed on I have realised that I
only see certain family members at occasions like this, or weddings. Life
operates at a hundred miles an hour and everyone concedes there’s just not
enough time, and yet in our hectic schedules we can all make enough time for an occasion like this.

The funeral was a heart-breaking affair as we remembered a wonderful woman, who had had such a difficult last few years. I watched my mother, her sisters and her brother broken by the loss of a little sister. I watched them support each other and experience a grief unique only to siblings
who grew up together. A time before us, a time of shared lives.

The world keeps turning and life goes on. Thursday was a reminder of the importance of our own unique families, whatever the dynamic. We grow up together, we experience things together and we’re hopefully there for each other to offer support in difficult times. It was also a reminder that life is for living and not just existing, bulldozing through the mundane.  There are things in life that have to be done, but there are things that can wait. Sometimes it’s important to reassess priorities.

As John Lennon said “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”….

Car journeys ain’t what they used to be.

Last week we set off on our family holiday to West Cork.  Packing took an eternity as I tried to locate 56 pairs of socks, jocks and pants, not to mention ordinary items of clothing, for the kids alone.

My own personal packing was done in about 5 minutes flat as the laden down car practically reversed out the driveway without me. With every available space in our red bus filled, and a bum on every seat, we set off on our marathon journey.

Car trips have taken on a new meaning since the children’s arrival.  Gone are the days of leisurely drives.  Nowadays it’s all about bribery and distraction and trying to make sure child number six doesn’t swipe child number seven’s soother en route!


We had set off in the evening time, after rush hour traffic and after the children had been fed their dinner.  The hope was that the younger children might doze on the way and we could carefully lift them into their beds when we arrived, where they would sleep peacefully for the entire night and wake up wholly refreshed the next morning, full of the joys of life.  That’s one of the fascinating wonders of parenthood.  Even though you know there isn’t a hope in hell of something happening you still dare to dream it might.

And so the early part of the journey began with my husband and I nodding in agreement that they were definitely getting tired and they’d most certainly drift off any moment now. And as the miles passed we knew they were definitely just about to go to sleep.  And after we stopped to let some of them go for a wee, we knew that that was obviously all that was keeping them awake and their now empty bladders would mean they’d be fast asleep before we knew it. The conversations directed at us from the back of the car however, suggested sleep wasn’t on their minds just yet.

“Do you know that beavers’ teeth keep growing?” the five year old informed me “and we better get there before midnight because that’s when the mud monsters come out”. “This city is upside down” the three year old exclaimed, in spite of the fact that there wasn’t a house to be seen, never
mind a city! “I’ll really miss you when you die mum” the five year old continued, “I think you’ll probably be 109” “I think Ireland might be a planet sometimes” he added. This comment was enough to bring the seven and ten year olds in on the conversation. “Ireland is not a planet” they roared in unison.

Undeterred by his brothers, the five year old continued “yes I think it is a planet, but I don’t think foxes are real”. The seven year old wasn’t entertaining this notion at all “of course they’re real” he said “I’ve seen one” “Yes, but he was probably trying to sneak up on you like a mud monster” the five year old replied. “I love Spiderman” said the three year old. “I’m going to be a daddy when I grow up” said the five year old, “not a mummy, because I have a willy, like Spiderman”. “I love Spiderman”, said the three year old once again.

I attempted a little gentle persuasion to encourage the younger children in particular to go asleep and said that their daddy and I would carry them into bed once we arrived. “But we’re not tired” the five year old protested “we just have itchy eyelashes.”

Finally, at 11:30, we arrived, and all seven children were awake. As we left the cramped confines of the car, we realised, not for the first time in our lives, that we were very sadly deluded.  The kids had no intention whatsoever of going to sleep anytime soon.  They ran excitedly into the house we had rented, running up the stairs in heated debate over the sleeping arrangements.  It was a long car journey, but an even longer night……