The A-Z of Motherhood

Being a mum is wonderful.  Yes it teaches you about a love like no other and yes it is one of life’s greatest privileges – but let’s be honest, it’s also bloody hard work. It’s all consuming, requires an element of omnipresence and the pay and holiday entitlements leave a lot to be desired!

All is changed, changed utterly – to somewhat paraphrase (and completely take out of context) a wise fella. While life might never quite be the same again, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be gained from our new found role. With that in mind, here is my own personal A-Z of motherhood.

A is for arguments. A daily occurrence about homework, putting underwear in the wash-basket, pokemon, who breathed on who, whose turn it is to pick something up off the floor and who left the top off the milk. The choice and subjects are endless and plentiful and require superbly honed and finely tuned negotiation skills. In the interest of maintaining some shred of your sanity, pick your battles – cos you can’t pick theirs!

B is for Basket, namely the wash one, virtually unrecognisable to underwear-wearing youngsters.

C is for cuts, from paper to impressive – all inducing the same levels of hysteria and convictions that the limb is unsavable

D is for dinnertime. That time of day when in theory we sit down together and have a chat but in reality mop up three glasses of milk, clean up a bowl of dinner that has just hit the floor and get called to deal with a bum that needs wiping.

E is for efficiency. It’s quite amazing how much you can achieve in a limited amount of time. From making your house semi-presentable in ten minutes flat because a visitor is on the way to scoffing as many cookies as possible because the kids’ antennae have gone up. Us mothers are masters of the apparently unachievable!

F is for forgetfulness, a new found state of mind. Why I did I go upstairs? Why am I sitting in a parked car outside my son’s Montessori on a Saturday? What are my kids’ names? Rather than feel defeated I prefer to view the latter as a descriptive vocabulary-enhancing exercise. “You with the curly hair, green eyes, girl child” etc has to suffice largely these days!

G is for goals, personal by nature and changing by the day.  Monday’s goal is usually to have a good week with calm vibes and positive interactions. Friday’s goal is to get through the day without yet another banshee impression and counting down the hours to wine o’clock.

H if for hungry, which my kids always are, unless something suspiciously healthy looking is offered.

I is for infinite – the amount of patience required for the job!

J is for just about.  My kids answer for everything from “Are you dressed yet” to “is your homework done?” Experience has taught me that “just about “really means, “I’m actually off doing something else other than that”!

K is for our king sized bed which feels remarkably small by the time the approximately 25 children have joined us throughout the night.

L is for love, which I never really knew the true meaning of before these little terrors came into my life.

M is for mouthguards, which seem to disappear into thin air in this house and whose disappearance I’m only ever made aware of, right before a match or training.

N is for No which my children seem to interpret as “lets ask her another 50 times and she might change her mind, or failing that, lets ask dad”

O is for obstacles, a mere challenge to be overcome for a walking wobbler, who audibly laughs at your attempts to keep him from danger and seem to prove much more fun than his mountain of toys.

P is for poo in its many colours, forms and textures. Just part of daily life and conversations now!

Q is for quiet which should always arouse extreme suspicion.

R is for robust which thankfully kids are. Bumps, bruises and relatively minor trauma is quickly and completely forgotten by them as toys, games and cartoons take over. We on the other hand beat ourselves up for the hours, days and weeks that follow!

S is for sleep.  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha ‘Nuff said

T is for the toilet, the most likely place to find missing house-keys, mobile phones, toothbrushes, teddies and breakfast waffles.

U is for unexplained and suspicious looking marks everywhere. Is it snot? Crayon? Food? and please God let that be chocolate…….

V is for vegetables, depending on the kid, considered equal to offering them poison.

W is for wipes, a mum’s best friend that can clean anything and is the 21st century’s answer to spitting on a tissue.

X is for x- ray. The more kids you have, the more time you’ll spend in this department.  Have your lead apron ready!

Y is for yesterday, when it feels like they were born. Time goes so fast and when school is added to the equation and you’re living by the school timetable, it seems to go even faster – unfortunately.

Z is for zucchini which is either a fruit or a vegetable and which I’ve never eaten but my six year old told me about it. 

The Homework Poem

T’was the first day of new term
A scene that’s well known
On the dining room table
The school books were thrown
The children were wailing
At the thought of the chore
While the parents were reminded
There’s nothing they hate more
Than the prospect of Maths
And English aplenty
Spellings “as gaeilge”
Learning how to count to twenty,
The stand-off continues
Much longer than should
As the troops battled homework
As hard as they could
A project is mentioned
A twist of the knife
In an afternoon filled
With stresses and strife
And united all parents
In their heads scream so wild
“I hate homework more now
Than when I was a child!

When Man-Flu strikes!!!

Winter is well and truly here. Along with the usual festivities in the build up to Christmas, it has brought to this house a dose that strikes fear into the heart of any parent of boys. Man flu has arrived with a bang.

Man-flu is making its presence felt with a vengeance. Much as I love my darling sons, I’m afraid there are no warriors among them.  My daughter managed to catch, just a cold – lucky her, but the boys have been struck down so badly with this cursed dose, that any attempts to encourage movement from their slumped position on the couch brings about the sort of whines and moans that are associated with this terrible, prohibitive illness.

According to the six year old, it’s my fault that he’s sneezing because I gave him peas instead of beans yesterday.  I’m also responsible for his teacher having caught his sneezes because of my insistence that he bring a tissue to school – apparently the mere sight of it set her off “astishoo-ing”.

I’m trying not to take any of this to heart.  Confusion is one of the side effects of this illness. The three year old, also suffering – and definitely not in silence, has become confused as to how the sponge ended up down the toilet.  The ten year old has no idea why his dirty socks keep piling up on the floor of his bedroom, even though he DEFINITELY put them into the wash basket. The seven year old is confused as to how he has managed to come home in a pair of school shoes that are three sizes too big for him and have laces – which he can’t even tie! The twelve year old is confused as to why he must go to the school having sneezed twice at this stage and so obviously therefore, very much in the throes of it. The one year old is blowing snot bubbles from his gorgeous button nose at a very impressive rate.  He’s not confused at all – he knows he’s miserable and he’s letting us know all about it.

Begone man-flu– leave my poor boys alone. I’m not sure how much more of their “suffering” my female self can endure!


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.

Because mums are people too!

Parenthood is demanding and all consuming – we all know that. It’s a 24/7 job where the pay is love and the breaks are non existent – but the pay is love, so those of us lucky and privileged enough to have children, get on with it, grumbling sometimes, moaning others and appreciating our glass of wine all the more for it!

Time is the one thing that most of us parents feel we lack.  Time with our children, time with our spouses, time for extended family, time to do the million and one other things on the list – even time to get a haircut.

We hear constantly about taking the time to look after ourselves and while most of us appreciate that happy mammy generally equals happier children, we still have a tendency not to prioritise our own needs.  None of us are superhuman however, and it does eventually catch up!

Last week, a friend of mine suggested a mum’s night out on Friday.  The message had barely arrived when I replied an emphatic yes and when and where and could we somehow ensure it was set in stone and that nothing short of an Act of God would result in its cancellation (it’s fair to say I don’t get out much).

Friday arrived and with all the excitement of a teenager I counted down the hours. Not even my grumpy five year old or guilt tripping ten year old (the Halloween decorations still weren’t up) could dampen my mood.  The baby and the 3 year old weakened my resolve alright, when they found a tub of sudocrem that I hadn’t nailed to a surface and proceeded to smear it all over the floor, table, my planned outfit for the night, and left me with a trail of handprints on the stair carpet for good measure, but I stayed strong and took the advice of some wise Mama-tude Facebook followers who believed wine would help with the stains.  They were right – two glasses and I didn’t care.

And so I set off to the restaurant to meet my friends and had a great night.  We had cocktails, lovely food, and as always happens when a meeting of great minds take place – we debated some real life, significant issues. We pondered the overworked “Ms Rabbit”, and thought how similar she sounded to “Nanny Plum”.  We laughed at Daddy Pig and agreed, controversial though it may be, that he is a bit of an eejit and remembered the time that he tried to hang a picture and ended up taking a piece out of the wall. We scoffed at the Wise Old Elf and his belief that “magic always leads to trouble” and thought of the time that he was stuck up Mount Everest and wished Nanny Plum had her wand then!

Talk moved swiftly on to Halloween and we discussed kids’ outfits, how in “our day” we made do with a black plastic bag and improvised in relation to things that we didn’t have. We wowed at the creativity of one mum who made a parrot costume from pieces of felt.  I shared my tales of Boy George costumes (lots of plaits and too much make up) and Bosco costumes (a box and a blue metallic wig, because I didn’t have a red one). We learned that there are indeed things to be learned from the “olden days” when we realised a black sack was just what another mum needed to create the perfect witches outfit for her toddler son.

And so all too soon the evening came to an end.  There were lots of laughs had, (apologies to the other diners for our lack of volume control) and tales exchanged and we left with a date scheduled to do it again in the not too distant future.  We all agreed if we left a date to be decided upon, too much time would pass once again as “life” took priority.

On Saturday, with renewed vigour and recharged batteries, I took on the task of converting our home to spooky, ghoulish, (slightly terrifying for the 3 year old unfortunately) haunted house and I surrendered my claim to the “world’s worst mother title”. The kids were delighted and I lived first hand the theory that happy mum really does equal happy children.

 Another weekend is drawing to a close and though there’s the usual mountain of “stuff” to be sorted, Halloween and all its excitement is just around the corner –  as is another mum’s night out. So if my friends are reading remember – that night is set in stone, not to be cancelled except in the occurrence of an Act of God.  My sanity depends on it – no pressure! 😉

Have a great week!

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


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!

An ode to “Back to School”

The new school year is drawing near,
The teachers start to cry,
While parents empty bank accounts,
For school books they must buy,
And uniforms and bags galore,
Shoes and runners are a must,
And pencils, pens and rulers too,
Parents feel that they’ll go bust!
There’s books to cover,
A lovely task,
And then they’ll need a label,
As do the crayons, and lots of pens,
Which adorn the kitchen table.
The hope in labelling every one,
Is that they won’t get lost.
That the kids will take good care of them.
After all the mounting cost.
But hopes are not enough I fear,
When it comes to lunchbox lids,
Which disappear in the first few days,
Lost by those pesky kids.
And pencil cases filled to the brim,
At the beginning of September,
By two weeks in, will be quite bare,
Because the kids, they won’t remember,
Where they’ve left their pens and pencils
Or parers or rulers either,
You’ll feel your hard work was all in vain.
You’ll need to take a breather.
It’s the same old drill each and every year,
With a lesson that makes you pensive,
With all the costs when you add it up,
Free education is expensive!

Housework is not just for mums!

Housework is the bane of my life. In fairness, it’s not the doing of housework that especially bothers me – if anything there’s something quite therapeutic about taking a room apart and putting it back together again, discovering a hairbrush, baby talc and the portable dvd remote control all of which have been missing for the past week, in the process. It’s the less therapeutic effect of returning to the same room two minutes later only to find it has been restored to its former lack of glory as Spiderman scrambles over the now cushion-less couch while Ironman drags the decorative throw along the floor giving Superman and The Hulk a sleigh-ride. Darth Vader meanwhile turns the playroom on its head in search of his lightsaber and a watergun.

This summer, I decided it was time my kids learned to do a few things for themselves. To start with I wasn’t looking for miracles, just basic things like putting their underwear in the wash basket.  The sort of things that are supposed to distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. And after daily reminding of approximately 5 – 226 times we’re finally starting to have success, some of the time.

More recently I decided it was time to encourage some age appropriate chores.  Not only, I figured, would this give me a little bit of help , I felt it might make the older children aware of how much effort goes into running the house and hopefully make them think twice before creating a mess.  My naivety never ceases to amaze me.

Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry had nothing on the sort of reaction I was greeted with.  The mere suggestion of making their own beds and tidying their room after some of them had ALREADY placed their own used breakfast bowl in the sink was met with declarations of “that’s not fair” and insistence that the requested child would only tidy their side of the room. Cue stomping upstairs and a literal battleline drawn. Two minutes later the dulcet tones of two lads killing each other echoed down the stairs and I was forced, in a gentle manner, reminiscent of a fishwife, to lovingly call “don’t make me come up there!!!”

Downstairs, meanwhile, the next two up to the “not literal” plate were all ready to resist the task in hand. Emptying the dishwasher and hoovering apparently is tantamount to child abuse, plus the hoover is a very complicated piece of equipment to operate, it seems.  Grumbling every step of the way the two carried out the job asked of them, badly. Their claims that none of their friends would ever have to do anything like this, fell on deaf, but fed up, ears.

As I slowly lost my mind following battles which ended withhalf hearted, half completed jobs I realised I have a long way to go.  I am however, determined to persist and teach my children a bit about responsibility. All I need now is to summon up the strength to be consistent. As Gloria Gaynor so eloquently put it “At first I was afraid, I was petrified” but “I will survive”!

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.