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?

Back to School with Marks and Spencer (who have 20% off uniforms at the moment!!)

School’s almost out for summer and the prospect of carefree days and weeks stretch out ahead of schoolchildren around the country. While
homework won’t be missed by parents or students alike, summer holidays hold a very different meaning for parents. Summer is about keeping the kids occupied, enjoying some family time and dare I say it – preparing for the return to school.

The world moves at a crazy pace and even though the school holidays have yet to begin, the shops are already filled with uniforms and the endless amounts of paraphernalia that goes hand in hand with back to school.

Recently Marks and Spencer approached me about a back to school collaboration. With five children in school and one in Montessori – this one was a no brainer!
All trousers have adjustable waists and adjustable hems for growing children
Free education is very expensive. There are endless lists and mounting costs, and it’s natural that we as parents look for savings wherever we can find them.  I have to be honest – Marks and Spencer’s uniforms are a little more expensive, but when my order arrived, I came to understand why.

The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. Children come in various shapes and sizes and the school trousers definitely allowed for that. The adjustable waist is a life saver with lean children and even more so as your children get older and taller.
Non iron shirts and slim leg trousers
Finding trousers to fit my teenage son can be particularly difficult. Tall and slender, a lot of trousers that are long enough for him, are far too wide in the waist. A little celebratory dance may have been done in my kitchen (ah the things that us parents are excited by) when I discovered that trousers in the older age category not only still included an adjustable waist option but factored in an “adjust a hem” in recognition of the fact that kids grow like weeds!
Slim leg trousers and non iron and easy iron shirts

 

The promise of non-iron shirts won me over immediately, but discovering the velcro fastening behind the top button on the younger children’s shirts was an unexpected bonus. Anything that speeds us up in the morning is always welcomed!
Too cool for school – top button has velcro fastening for an easier life!
The durability of their sportswear will be well and truly tested here. Both in P.E, and after school activities, my rather active children, like to get stuck in – there will be no tender treatment of their clothing! Again the tracksuit bottoms came with an adjustable waist and were really comfy according to my inspecting troops.
Sportswear in an array of colours and even the tracksuit bottoms have an adjustable waist!
Another child wings his way to secondary school this September and like most mums whose children are facing a great change, my heart is in my mouth. Will he be happy? Will he make friends easily? Will he ever get to school on time?!!! – These are the questions that flood my thoughts, but
while parking my own personal concerns there is a need to recognise that he is growing up a little. While school uniforms may never be cool in the eyes of a teenager, he is a little more image conscious now and chose the school shoes himself. He, however, likes to be “comfortably cool” – looking good alone, will not suffice. These ones got a definite thumbs up.
Shoes from the Marks and Spencer “back to school” range
And probably one of the very few things that kids get excited about when it comes to back to school attire is the schoolbags. Herself, generally likes to be classically understated – often granted though, in that teenage, tangerine glow-like, kind of a way. She chose a black polka dot school bag. I think it’s probably more suited to primary school children to be honest, in terms of capacity. My daughter begs to differ, however, – I think we may have varying ideas about the amount of schoolbooks that will feature in her daily life!
Easy to iron blouse with revere collar
The eight year old – named after a character in his father’s favourite film and equally fanatical about it himself, went for a Star Wars bag. The force is strong in him and he was very pleased with his choice.
Star Wars school bag
The cost and all the expense that goes hand in hand with back to school is an undeniable factor for consideration. “You get what you pay for”, the claim goes, and that’s exactly how it appeared to me. The quality is there, the cut is there and the additional features are there. I hope that these uniforms will last my children the entire school year. In fairness, there’s few houses and families that will test them more!
school uniforms for all ages
Of course the early bird doesn’t just catch the worm, he catches the discounts, and at the moment, Marks and Spencer have 20% off their school uniforms.  Taking some of the expense out of “back to school” and one less job for August!

Sweatshirts and t-shirts in an array of colours

 

*This was a paid collaboration with Marks and Spencer and Shopping Links. All thoughts and opinions however, are my own – and that of my troops.

Reaching the end.

 

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

It’s book deadline day!

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

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

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

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

 

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

Happy days!! 

 

Exhausted-ese – the language of a tired mum.

If “motherese” is the term used to describe the way in which a mother speaks to her child , then “absolutely exhausted-ese” might be the term of choice to describe the complete lack of ability to string a sentence together accurately or even use the correct word or name in reference.

My mother told me that I never slept much as a baby and apparently himself wasn’t a great sleeper either, but never in wildest nightmares did I imagine that ALL seven of them would subject me to torturous sleep deprivation.

There are many reasons that I am grateful to be a woman.  Make- up is one of them.  It covers a multitude and disguises the rest. It cannot however, cover up my lack of precision when I try to make a simple request but just can’t get the words out.  At this stage I’m waaaaaay past just the whole just calling the kids the wrong names, though I haven’t yet managed to overcome my irritation when they don’t know who I mean. My exhausted train of thought means that I regularly ask children to put new toilet rolls in the chest freezer, hair gel in the linen press and dog food in the playroom.

I have realised now that it has become a very significant issue.  The thing that has alerted me to this fact is…that the kids have started to notice……and …..question if what I said is actually what I mean!

To appreciate the seriousness of the situation, you would also have to appreciate that my children’s minds are usually on much more important things, such as who could win a battle between Batman’s sidekick Robin and Spiderman or whatever the latest teenage crisis is such as “how much
contouring is too much”.

These days however, they no longer blindly follow instruction (after the fourth time of asking) but openly question and even laugh sometimes at the now recognised ridiculousness of my requests.

Yesterday was one such example when I heard the seven and ten year old laugh at my insistence that they go upstairs and put their pyjamas on immediately because we needed to leave shortly for Kung Fu. “Pyjamas” the ten year old questioned. “Yes” I reiterated, “now hurry up or we’ll be late and you’ll have to do press ups”. The seven year old laughed again and said “Don’t you mean Kung Fu uniform mam?” “I think we’d be made do press ups if we turned up in our pyjamas too” the ten year old added. “What? Of course I mean Kung Fu uniforms” I quickly mumbled.

I was overcome by shock. This was so out of character for my children. They had actually listened to me.  They had actually heard what I had said – even if it was nonsense. They had used their initiative and recognised the appropriate attire necessary for the task in hand. Had they not proceeded then to argue and batter each other over a pair of shin guards, it would have been a perfect moment.

Inconsistency, however, still prevails and when I discovered the new tube of toothpaste in the little boys wardrobe later that evening, I began to appreciate that I need desperately to get more sleep and unlearn this language of exhausted-ese. Otherwise, the next thing I might find is the baby in the dog’s kennel.

 Now, how to convince the twelve month old of the merits of
sleep…….

Resolutions!

After two days in school, Sunday has resumed its old familiar feel and the wash basket is calling to me. Within its confines, a hundred different pieces of uniform are waiting to be laundered, some worn a bare five minutes, but the alternative to putting the “barely seen the light of day” jumpers into the wash basket, is folding and placing the “barely seen the light of day” jumpers into the respective drawers. For anyone with similarly reluctant clothes put away-ers to me, you’ll appreciate how it goes.

A weekend break after such a short school week is not conducive to coaxing child number six back to Montessori tomorrow.  I have already been informed, in no uncertain terms, by my headstrong threenager, that he won’t be going to Montessori again. In spite of leaving on Friday, full of the joys of life and informing me that he had so much fun, he has decided now that its Sunday, that he hates it. Monday morning looks like it will be quite the battlefield.

Child number one, is quite keen to return to school tomorrow.  Having
missed her transition year camping trip due to a horrendous dose of
tonsillitis, she is fearful of missing any more of her “year off”. She is also
afraid that if she spends any more time at home recuperating, I might find some jobs for her to do – especially now that I’ve decided it’s time the older kids pulled their weight a bit!

Child number two has always been reluctant to go to school, so no change there come tomorrow morning, while child number three and four alike, are still in the honeymoon phase of the new school year. Child number five, my self-declared favourite, is thoroughly enjoying the fact that he is now in “seniors” and has plenty of willing participants for superhero games come yard time.

As part of my annual new school year resolutions that never make it past the second week of September, I am trying my best to “be at one” with Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest- actually I can’t even type that without laughing, so let me rephrase – a day of slightly less stress than a weekday. This week is due to be a particularly crazy one but I have decided not to be fazed by it.  I can rant at the time.  There is no point in starting early.

Approaching my crazy week in a zen-like fashion that is totally unrepresentative of who I am, I have decided that I will not be perturbed by homework. I will find a way to be at the school early each morning with my approximately twenty five children to sign up for afterschool activities which are allocated on a strictly first come first served basis. I will remain calm when Spiderman insists he wants to be the Incredible Hulk, no Ironman, no Batman, no Spiderman again, just as we’re about to leave the house to collect his big brother. I will not lose the plot when I am handed a note at 8:15 a.m on Wednesday for something that needs to be brought in that day, but was never mentioned to me before.

And so full of good intentions, positive vibes and inner peace, I will finish typing and load the washing machine – again – for the fifth time today. Today is Sunday.  It is a day of slightly less stress.

Have a great week!

You know you’re a parent of a larger family when…

 

1.   Every day is laundry day, several times a day at that, and what the bottom of your washing basket actually looks like is a distant memory. Furthermore there is a real and very likely possibility that whatever clothes are actually stuck at bottom of this basket have been outgrown by the child they belong to and in all probability the one that comes after him/her too.

And it’s not just dirty clothes that you’re drowning in. As the washing machine works overtime, the mountain of clean, fresh smelling clothes builds up in your, wherever you store them, until you get a chance to put them away.  Building, building, building waiting for your toddler to sneak past  you in his mucky wellies and recreate that scene from Peppa Pig “jumping up and down in muddy puddles (of clean clothes)” minus the part where Mammy Pig rolls on the ground laughing .

2.   You count how many children you have with you when you leave the house and as you enter and leave all shops, parks and elevators. You in all likelihood quickly check you have predominantly the right gender and do a quick scan on hair colour

3.   You feel completely justified in not remembering all of their names and believe your children should know who you mean when you call “you” “whatyamacallit” or “whateveryournameis”.

4.   People count as you go by and frequently ask “are they all yours? What do you drive? Have you not got a television? Are you done?” and slightly less frequently (but have asked all the same )“are you Miriam O’Callaghan?”and declare “you must be devoutly Catholic”.

5.   You have to motivate yourself to load them all into the car because that task and locating the necessary, shoes, coats and underpants takes longer than the reason you’re actually leaving the house.

6.  You have to label the toothbrushes because toothbrushes only come in so many different colours and duplication is necessary.  This is especially important if you need to identify which toothbrush the three year old used to fish the breakfast waffle out of the toilet.

7.   You watch reruns of the Waltons and find yourself looking for tips on how to make mealtimes run more smoothly.

8.   You find that’s not the only thing that you’ve taken from the Waltons and as you kiss them all goodnight you add in “Goodnight Mary Ellen. Goodnight John Boy” just for good measure.

9.  No-one is quite sure how many children youactually do have – just that you’ve “a load”

 

10.  In spite of the noise, mess, relentless workload and constant battle with certain family members to wear underpants, when you see them all together in a rare tranquil moment – you just can’t believe your good luck.

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!

Time passes so quickly

Without a doubt, for me, one of the most challenging things about having a larger family is trying to meet the needs of the relatively vast age span. Stroppy teenagers, tantruming toddlers and a six month old who just won’t be convinced of the merits of sleep, no matter how hard I try, can lead to a very cranky mammy. Sometimes I find myself in a sleep deprived stupor, unable to correctly link the name to the child and so revert to my mother’s tactic of listing through all our names in the hope someone will come. I have been known to say “you with the curly hair” when I’m trying to get one particular child’s attention or just “you” after a particularly bad night. It’s easy to see why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture! 

I remember shortly after my daughter’s birth, 14 years and 9 months ago ( but who’s counting) when the mother of my neighbour came to have a look at my precious little bundle who, like her six month old brother now, could not be convinced of the joys of sleep. In addition to this, my daughter (who had colic) could cry, and cry and cry. As I loaded my little pink bundle into the car, my neighbour’s mother said to me “enjoy these days, these are the easiest”. I thought she was quite obviously off her rocker. Now my bundle of pink stands three inches taller than me and I can’t quite believe that 14 years and 9 months (but who’s counting) have passed since she came into my life. My now teenager, brings a whole different set of challenges and not just the obvious ones of mood swings and door slamming, but the balancing act of trying to be her mum and protecting her and guiding her while trying to let go a little, to let her find her own way and to continue to become the wonderful young woman that she is growing to be. 

These days I think my neighbour’s mother was right. They were the easiest years. Difficult when you’re coping with constant feeding and nappy changes and sleepless nights but the time goes so quickly – too quickly. So when my toddler throws a wobbler because he can’t find his magic wand and my baby gets up for the umpteenth feed during the night I try to remind myself of the mantra – this too shall pass ………..but hopefully not too quickly….. 
😊 -Jen ‪#‎mamatude‬

Hi Everyone. I’m so excited to introduce my new blog . As a mum of seven life is hectic, crazy and certainly never dull. My house isn’t always pristine and the beds aren’t always made by lunchtime but it’s a house filled with love, laughter, tears and the odd tantrum wink emoticon . I wouldn’t change a thing! Looking forward to sharing the journey and chatting with you all. Surviving and enjoying parenthood with a little mama-tude! -Jen ‪#‎parentingblog‬‪#‎mumofseven‬ ‪#‎mamatude‬