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?

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.

Unexpectedly short-lived resolutions!

2017 has arrived and the Christmas holidays have drawn to a close. While the return to some semblance of structure will be welcomed, the return to morning madness, frantic searches for missing pieces of school uniforms, lunch-making and bloody homework means that my new year’s resolution to “live in the moment” will be truly challenged this week.

Looking at the long faces of my children last week as we took down the Christmas tree and packed away the decorations, I reminded them that they have so much to look forward to this year. I spoke to them of upcoming communions and confirmations, mid term breaks and zoo trips and the not too distant return of the longer evenings which means more playtime.

It was then that I had to stop myself. So much time is spent wishing away the now, believing things will be better at this time, that time, holiday time, weekend time and not enough time is spent appreciating what we have in the here and now. “You don’t have to wait until the weekend to have fun” I reminded my children. “Most of you finish school by 2:25, the evening is your own- if you just got stuck in and got that homework out of the way”.

Unconvinced by my reasonings, the usual protestations about the injustice of life and homework took place, so I persisted. I spoke to them about redirecting the daily effort that they put into complaining, into productivity. I reminded them that if they just focused they could get that homework done in a reasonable time and if they stopped killing each other mid-task they could also sort out their rooms in ten minutes.

“This year I want things to be different, we will enjoy our weekdays”, I insisted ever so slightly manically.

A call came from upstairs to say that there was a half-eaten teacake and the baby’s soother in the bottom of the toilet. For good measure someone had already pee’d on it.

As I fished the offending items from the bottom of the loo another call came, this time to tell me that the dishwasher wasn’t working.

I looked at the soother and tea-cake and thought about the mountain of dishes that would need washing by virtue of the fact that Chicken Tikka Masala was on the menu for dinner tonight. I figure there are exceptions to every rule and this must be one of them.  This is not a moment I want to live in.  I want to fast-forward to that moment, when at some stage this week hopefully, the repair man arrives!!


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.



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”….

Father’s Day

A father is a hero,
in his child’s adoring eyes,
He keeps the family safe from harm,
from villains and bad guys.
A father can do anything,
he’s the best at every game,
And stronger than every other dad,
he’d put them all to shame.
A father can fix anything,
from sadness to a broken toy
With a hug, a kiss or sticky tape,
for his little girl or boy.And even when we’re grown up too,
some things will never change.
A father remains a hero,
for his kids of the adult range.


Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere! Thinking also of
those especially missing their dads today. Jen, x

Family pet

Our dog will be sixteen later this year. He was our first “baby” and is called Rodney (we’re huge Only Fools and Horses fans here!). He is a black and white border collie cross with two different colour eyes. He has an incredibly gentle nature which is tested on a daily basis by an over enthusiastic two year old who tries to use him as a horse and a five year old who tries to coax him into his bubble car. He greets the children excitedly every day when they go out the back to play with him and they in turn never fail to include him when asked about the number in our family – ten of course!

They love to find him asleep in the morning time and take turns to give him a doggy treat or some warm milk on the colder nights before they go to bed themselves. He has worn birthday hats at their parties and has his own Christmas sock complete with embroidered name.  He is a much loved part of our family.

But he is old.  These days I can see that he doesn’t have the energy to play with the children as he did before. Now, after a comparatively short while running around with them, he escapes to his kennel to rest and, try as my two year old might, cannot be coaxed back out. His breathing is louder and more laboured, and he’s definitely more grey around the temples. He has been checked over by the vet and is in good health – for his age. Sometimes during the day when I see him lying in the sun, a little bit too relaxed, I bang on the window and disturb the poor fella, just to check……to check what I know is possibly not that far away.

Rodney has met every single one of our children as they came home from hospital. He accepted his fate, as over the years, he moved further and further down the pecking order. He has been through everything with us as a family, playing excitedly through good times and sitting quietly by our feet through the sad ones. My back garden looks as if we own as race horse rather than a dog and we curse him daily for that but my children have learned a lot through having a family pet. They have learned responsibility, compassion foranimals and to always check where you play for dog poo first (definitely the worst part of having a dog!) They have also learned a special type of love.

While my older children are aware and fearful somewhat of Rodney’s advancing years and we’ve tried to prepare them for what might not be too far away, the younger kids remain oblivious.  I know when the day comes there will be heartbreak in this house, after all Rodders has been there their entire lives.  While it seems strange to be considering his obituary just yet, I feel compelled to try protect them from what’s coming, but I can’t. I can’t even bear to imagine him not being here myself. Seems daft, he is after all an animal, not a person, but he’s our Rodders, a plonker in his own right, but still our gorgeous black and white sixteen year old puppy dog.



Favourite Child

Research or no research, I’m not buying this claim that parents have a favourite child. My five year old, on the other hand, would beg to differ.  Somewhere along the way he has become convinced that he is my favourite child and if he’s annoyed at me threatens to withdraw this honour. “I won’t be your favourite child anymore” can be said to me for all number of reasons from insisting he eats his carrots to telling him Superman is cooler than Batman.

It has become quite the standing joke with the older kids in our house at this stage, while the younger ones remain oblivious to his claims. I’ve no idea where he got the idea from but he’s happy enough to argue the point with his Gran, who in her loyalty to my other children tries regularly to convince him that I don’t in fact have a favourite. He won’t entertain the notion, however, and remains confident that he holds the most privileged position in my affections.

Most definitely there are certain aspects of my children’s personalities that I find easier to live with (and certain aspects that drive me to the brink of insanity) but that’s human nature. I’m aware of my different children’s strengths and difficulties.  I’m aware of the fact that even though the same ingredients went into making each of them, the end results couldn’t be more different.  They might look alike but their personalities and temperaments are as individual as they are. We have a couple of them we call the “charm offensive”, the kids we send to meet and greet when we want to make a good impression. We have another couple we hang back on introducing to a scenario until that same impression is made! There are some in which I see a lot of me, both in mannerisms and interests and some so much like their father it’s uncanny. Having more in common with one or more children does not change how I feel about the others.

I try my best to be fair to them all (though I’m sure they might disagree) but I don’t treat them all the same because they need different things from me. I don’t parent them all the same because they need different parenting from me. I do however love them all completely and utterly equally with all my heart….except for the ones who do their homework with least complaining….I probably love them a bit more…and my five year old of course!

Last Day Of The Hols

The Easter holidays drew to a close here yesterday in pretty
busy style.  We had visitors in the shape
of my parents in law and my sister in law with her family.  Our nine year old returned from a friend’s
sleepover after having far too much fun to sleep and so was in the sort of form
you’d expect from a walking demon.  Our
teenager went to the last disco before her Junior Cert which started at 8
o’clock so obviously she had to start getting ready from 2 o’clock, (that
certain shade of tangerine they all like to be, takes a while to take hold) while
the “in between” kids played happily with their cousins without any regard for the
Department of the Environment noise pollution guidelines.
While eating we were treated to a floor show by my two year
old who is well capable of using the toilet but preferred to show the accuracy
with which he can aim at the potty , the sort of accuracy you tended to see
from the person who answered the questions on bullseye.  The five year old meanwhile imitated Dusty Crophopper,
complete with sound effects and actions from the Planes movie which was being
shown simultaneously on RTE and the seven month old looked on bemused but
definitely not fazed by the whole spectacle. It was a lovely afternoon.

When everyone was gone home and most of the kids were in bed,
all that was left to do was wait for my daughter to come home.  The baby, who doesn’t rate sleep, kept us
company and greeted his sister with a big smile as she came in the door.  It’s an almost surreal feeling sometimes to
have a child old enough to go to a disco and have a child so young he needs
propping up with cushions on the floor. It’s funny to have children who keep
you up at night for very different reasons.

Today, much to my kid’s disgust will be about getting ready
for the return to school tomorrow. 
Trying to reel back in bedtimes which have gone more than a little askew
over the last couple of weeks and making sure everything is ready for the week
ahead.  I have loved the break from the
routine, the freedom from homework and afterschool activities and the
reclaiming of our afternoons.  There has
been lots of fun had and far too many rows too but all good things must come to
an end. Now how to convince them that the return to school is not all bad……
#atleasttheresagrandstretchintheevenings #mamatude


The Easter weekend was a hectic but mostly fun time here. Saturday, or Easter Eve as my children like to call it, involved tearing our house apart and trying to put it back together again ahead of visitors that we were expecting on Easter Sunday. Kids ran every direction possible, except towards us, hiding in the hope they wouldn’t be asked to do anything, and developed a selective deafness as we bellowed their names and most unfairly asked them to put their shoes in their rooms and hang up their coats. The mere suggestion they might do something further to help us prepare for the next day, resulted in protests of ruined childhoods, exhaustion and a general breach of child labour laws. Needless to say their protestations fell on deaf ears! In typical Irish style, I peeled what felt like a thousand potatoes and two tonnes of carrots to go with the roughly ten other types of vegetables that we had for the next day. I was almost drowning in vegetable skins but sure, you know yourself, you couldn’t have anyone going hungry.wink emoticon
Sunday morning saw excited children swap carefully chosen eggs and soon after the countdown to their cousins arriving began. When the cousins finally arrived the noise decibel levels went through the roof and hyperactivity of levels rarely seen before, kicked in. Its occasions like this among all the excitement and craziness that I am reminded what is truly important to my children. While they were looking forward to seeing what eggs they would receive, most of the excitement was reserved for the arrival of their cousins.This was what really made the day for them.
I love to watch my children together. I think they’re pretty close (that’s not to say they don’t kill each other frequently too) but they look forward to seeing each other after school and when one gets back from a playdate or an overnight stay with their grandparents. I have always taken particular comfort that they’ll have each other as they grow up but I suppose that will largely depend on whether or not they make the effort. I really believe in the “monkey see, monkey do” theory. It has come back to haunt me on plenty of occasions when my kids have reacted as I have, or said something that I have said (and definitely shouldn’t have!). The same I believe will apply to their involvement and contact with each other as they grow up, and go on possibly to have their own families. As adults they will have influences other than their original nuclear family in their lives. I hope they will remember the fun that they had with their cousins and grandparents and consider it high on their list of priorities and try to recreate the same fun for their children. I hope they will recognise the importance their parents placed on their own siblings and remember to be there for each other. Mostly, I hope they’ll still be the same (mostly) close knit bunch of lunatics that they are today.