Parenting in my shoes – My little girl has diabetes

Jenni is married to gadget and technology loving Aussie Andy (who goes by the affectionate and wholly original nickname Skippy in certain circles). Mum to drama and dance loving daughter Alana (7), and would-be astronaut son Zach (6), she loves coffee, spending time with her family and friends, travelling and watching her children play together happily.

Being a stay at home mum wasn’t something Jenni visualised for herself but as she says,  you never know what “curve-balls life will throw at us”.

Jenni’s curve-ball came in the shape of a diabetes diagnosis for her daughter at just two years old. She explains the reality of life with a child who has a chronic disease, and the significant restrictions involved.

Suspecting something was up…

My husband Andy and my sister also have Type 1 diabetes so I was somewhat aware of the symptoms. It all happened quite quickly over the period of about a week. Alana had been particularly grumpy and tired leading up to that week, which I had put down to the typical “terrible twos” stage and the fact that I’d just started a new job after a year off with my babies. As the week went on she started asking for more and more water and was going to the toilet more and more frequently. When she started waking at night crying for water alarm bells really started ringing. I remember lying awake at night googling symptoms and trying to convince myself she was ok – like I hadn’t noticed a big weight loss or sweet smelling urine.

I’ll never forget THE DAY. We spent the afternoon at Brittas Bay with friends, I confided my fears to a friend that same day but again convinced myself she was ok. Then after we got home we noticed that she went to the toilet 3 times within half an hour, so we used Andy’s glucometer to do a blood glucose test on her. The result just read “HIGH”. Our fears were confirmed and we rushed straight to A&E!

Getting tested…

Alana was sent straight to the triage nurse as soon as we arrived in A&E. The nurse did another blood test with a glucometer to check her blood glucose levels and again the result read “High”. Before treatment could begin we had to await the results of a further blood test to confirm certain antibodies were present. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease – Alana’s immune system was attacking the insulin producing beta cells in her pancreas. Without insulin glucose cannot be absorbed by your cells, so the body starts to break down fat for energy. This process causes a build up of acids in the blood called ketones, which will lead to a dangerous and life-threatening condition called “diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)” if left untreated. Because my husband is a type 1 himself, we were fully aware of this danger so the formal diagnosis couldn’t come quick enough – we knew she needed insulin and she needed it fast!

Our feelings on diagnosis…

HEARTBROKEN – although we knew in our hearts she had Type 1 diabetes as we were racing to A&E, the formal diagnosis hit us both like a tonne of bricks.

I also felt really AFRAID – how were we going to manage a 2 year old with this condition? How would we constantly prick her little fingers to do blood tests and give her daily insulin injections? What damage had already been done to her little body? Would we ever sleep again for fear she’d slip into a diabetic coma overnight?

LONELY – we realised quite quickly who our real friends were and that some people would just never understand the impact (and potential danger) of this disease no matter how much we tried to educate or explain. We received a lot of “At least she doesn’t have xyz”, or “Sure that’s fine, isn’t Andy a Type 1 so it’ll be no bother” and the classic “Sure she’s so young she’ll know no different”

Then there was the GUILT – had we done something to cause this?

 

The misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes..

The main misconception is that Type 1 and Type 2  are the same thing. While they are both characterised by having higher than normal blood sugar levels, they are caused by different things and treated in different ways.

There is a lot of media attention on Type 2 diabetes and how lifestyle choices (bad diet and lack of exercise) can increase your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Then the old diabetes jokes that if you eat 36 Mars Bars or whatever you’ll get diabetes.  I feel there is such a stigma attached to the disease, that it is your own fault for getting it and easy to control or prevent!

People (including professionals) don’t always differentiate between the 2 different types of diabetes or give all the facts. Type 2 although often associated with excess body weight, can occur in people who are of a healthy weight – it can develop as a result of the effect of other medications or just purely because of your genetics! You could be extremely unhealthy and never get it too. I don’t know much about the treatment but I believe losing weight (if needed) can postpone the development of type 2 or put it into remission, then there are tablets you can take and finally you may end up on insulin therapy.

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. A person does need to be predisposed to the condition but for a lot of families it seems to strike from no-where.  No-one had type 1 diabetes in either of our families before my sister or my husband were diagnosed. Something needs to trigger the autoimmune response that causes the beta-cells in the pancreas to be attacked. With Alana is is presumed to have been triggered by a virus. Nothing we did caused this monster to take over our child’s body!

Another misconception is that Type 1 can be controlled or “cured” with a special diet. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. It can only be managed with injections of insulin. You could of course limit the amount of insulin needed by eating less carbohydrate containing food but a child needs carbohydrates for growth and development. Also there are so many factors that affect insulin needs, not just food – the time of day, exercise, illness, growth spurts, stress, excitement, the weather to name some; I already dread the effects puberty will have on her blood glucose levels!

The symptoms of type 1 appear quite suddenly and worsen quickly. Watch out for increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, weight loss, irritability and fatigue. We have heard so many stories from other parents who have experienced GPs assuming these symptoms are just a virus, and are lucky that their child is still with them today! Please ask for a blood glucose test if you feel your child shows any typical symptoms. Type 2 has similar symptoms but in contrast often develops slowly over years. Type 1 although usually diagnosed in childhood or the early teenage years can also present in adults!

And most importantly – yes Alana is allowed to eat sweets and cake! No food is off limit as long as we counter-act the amount of carbohydrate in it with insulin. Just like any other child a healthy diet with treats in moderation is encouraged.

The immediate (and continued) impact…

Alana could not be discharged from hospital until her ketone levels were safe and Andy and I were trained and capable of caring for her, so we pretty much moved into the hospital for a few days.

It was very difficult trying to cope with the emotional side whilst also learning how to basically keep her alive. Information overload is an understatement. Although Andy is also Type 1, it is very different managing a child as you cannot feel how she feels.  She was also only 2 and understandably did not take too kindly to finger pricks and injections.

It did help though that it was not a completely foreign disease to us and I knew some of the basics already. She also didn’t like sugary foods or drinks – again she was only 2 so just hadn’t been introduced to them! Initially we lived in fear of her blood sugars going low as the treatment is to eat or drink fast acting sugar immediately.

The biggest change for me was taking the decision to resign from my job to care for Alana (and of course her little brother Zach). I’d only started a new contract role, which was a 50 minute commute and full-time.  We were lucky that we could just about afford to do this with some cut-backs.

The first few weeks were intense as we worked closely with the hospital team to adjust her insulin levels to suit her individual requirements. This involved recording everything she ate and how many units of insulin we gave her, regular blood glucose tests throughout the night as well as during the day, hospital visits, and daily phone calls to the nurse team.

I do believe I lost a part of myself when I stopped working. It definitely affected my confidence (and still does!). I would find it very hard now though after spending the past 5 years off work as a full-time mum to go back to a full-time role and it would be hard to find someone I’d trust enough to manage Alana during all the school holidays etc. Because I spend so much time with her it is easier for me to spot trends and make background insulin adjustments for example.

We do not have to juggle work to attend hospital appointments or if either kid is ill and I love being able to attend all their school shows etc. There are pros and cons but there is no doubt that you are just as busy (in a different way) when you are a stay-at-home mum!

We are very conscious that Zach does not feel left out but the reality is that Alana’s condition requires extra attention. Type 1 diabetes is a 24/7 role – you do not get a break from it but it does eventually just become part of your daily routine.

A typical day…

As soon as Alana awakes her blood glucose level is checked. Her breakfast is weighed and the amount of carbohydrate calculated and this combined with what her blood glucose level is determines how much insulin she requires.

Alana now wears an insulin pump which we programme to do a lot of the calculations for us, so for any food she eats throughout the day we enter the amount of carbohydrate in it and the pump delivers the required dose of insulin.  We have a notebook system with her school, so for her snack and lunch I write out the carbohydrate value and her SNA delivers the insulin via Alana’s insulin pump.

Throughout the day she would do at least 4 blood glucose tests – It can be more depending on what activities are happening on that day and how her blood glucose levels are running on that day. She does not go anywhere without her glucometer and treatment for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels). If her blood sugars go low she needs fast acting sugar immediately. In contrast if her blood glucose goes too high she needs more insulin.  It’s all a balancing act! I never go to bed until I know she will be ok overnight (or if needed I will set an alarm to wake and check on her).

I cannot leave her with anyone who is not aware of her medical condition and knows what to do if she goes hypoglycemic (for me that is my main concern). They also need to be aware that she cannot eat carbohydrate containing food unless she is first given insulin, so for parties, camps, playdates etc I will always be there at food times to deliver insulin.

Her insulin pump is attached to her by a cannula. Every second day the insulin reservoir is changed and the cannula removed and a new set inserted. She also wears a sensor which continuously monitors her blood glucose level. This is removed and a new one inserted every 6 days or as needed. We also monitor trends in high or low blood glucose levels and amend background insulin ratios and calculations as needs be.

Our support network…

My parents were invaluable as they minded Zach whilst we were being trained and snuck into our house to leave a meal now and then or to do some laundry. My mum is one of the few people I’m comfortable to leave Alana with for an extended period of time, but even that requires refresher training and planning.  Also my mother-in-law actually got the first possible flight from Australia to come and help us as soon as she heard of the diagnosis – you can’t ask for more than that! She encouraged me to get out of the house for a walk or to meet friends for coffee and just took over some of the housework.

When we picked up our first prescription from our local pharmacist, they took my number and passed it onto another mum in the area who’s boy is also a Type 1 diabetic. That mum rang me straight away and it was just so wonderful to talk to another mum in the same situation and to hear that everything would be ok!

We attend Crumlin Children’s hospital and have access to their diabetes team at any time if we have a question or need advice. Every quarter we have a hospital review with the nurses and Consultant where Alana’s HBA1C (measures Alana’s average blood glucose concentration over the past 3 months) is checked as well as her weight and height and we discuss how things are going and any needs to change her insulin doses etc. We also have access to a psychologist through the hospital who helps children and adolescents cope with the emotional impact of their diabetes. It is great to know Alana will have that access if she needs it in the future.

There are a couple of private facebook support groups for parents where you can ask advice, share tips or just rant to people that understand. Diabetes Ireland (link here) also have a kids club and they arrange outings and opportunities for Type 1 children to get together. Crumlin hospital also arrange some outings.

 I feel Type 1 diabetes is an invisible disease..from the outside Alana looks like a healthy child, but a lot is going on in the background to keep her that way.

The challenges for Alana…

So far I don’t feel it has created any difficulties for Alana really. As a mum I was worried she’s be excluded from playdates and parties but thankfully this is not the case (or if it is in some cases she hasn’t noticed). I’d seen some worrying posts via the facebook support group regarding lack of support in primary schools or about SNAs just not realising the seriousness of the condition or refusing to do parts of the necessary treatment but thankfully her school have always been extremely supportive and each year she has had access to a fantastic SNA that she builds lovely relationships with and who is more than capable to care for her. She hasn’t mentioned ever been teased about her diabetes yet either.

I expect challenges to arise as the teenage years approach.  We will always be there to support her but she will have to independently manage her diabetes herself. It will be important for her to have a supportive group of friends who don’t make her feel conscious or embarrassed by her conditions and that understand that if she acts “off” it could be because her blood glucose levels are too high or too low and how to manage that. We will need to watch out for “diabulimia” where people deliberately restrict insulin and run their blood glucose levels too high in order to lose weight and “diabetes burnout” when you have had enough and grow tired of managing diabetes 24/7 so you just sort of give up for a while! Not looking after your diabetes properly can result in all sorts of health complications.  Again a balancing act of stepping back so she can learn to manage herself but yet keeping an eye on things to ensure she is looking after herself and not putting her health in danger.

An additional factor…

She was diagnosed with coeliac disease last November. For about a year and a half before the diagnosis she’d been complaining of bad stomach pains and feeling yucky and her health and energy were deteriorating. She started having really bad mood swings and saying she felt sad and frustrated and didn’t know why! We suspected coeliac disease but blood tests weren’t picking it up, so were pushing from all sorts of angles to find out what was going on with her or was it just what people refer to as “growing pains”. She had a biospy last November and that confirmed the coeliac disease.

It has definitely added another level of care, it is yet another thing we have to plan for and work around.  I never realised that for someone with coeliac disease that something as simple as touching a piece of bread and then the gluten-free food can cause a reaction (and in her case it does!).  There are so many foods that you would think are gluten free and indeed are but because of manufacturing processes there can be a risk of cross contamination with gluten, so certain brands are not deemed safe for a person with coeliac disease. The Coeliac Society publish a Food List which at the moment is our bible! It is all worth all the effort and label reading and researching foods though as she is back to her old bubbly, energetic self already!

For the first few weeks that she went gluten free we’d to monitor her diabetes more closely as her body adjusted to the gluten free diet. Her insulin requirements needed tweaking and still do as she is still recovering from the damage the disease has caused to her gut. I have heard that once her gut is healed fully that her Type 1 diabetes may become more predictable and her HBA1C results might improve. Her hospital results are usually pretty good anyway so an improvement would be an extra bonus. We are lucky in that she doesn’t react to gluten by vomiting like some people with coeliac disease do as that would be very difficult to manage with Type 1 diabetes – if you can’t keep food down you are at risk of serious hypoglycemia.

How Alana copes…

Alana has an incredible attitude – I thank Andy for his relentless optimism that she seems to have inherited! She is actually quite proud of having both Type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease and feels somewhat special and enjoys the attention. It helps that her dad and aunt both have Type 1 as she greatly admires both of them!

When she started school we were amazed and so proud of how responsible she was in telling her SNA or teacher if she wasn’t feeling quite right – she is very in touch with her feelings!

I do notice moments of worry creeping in from time to time but they pass. She might be scared to go on a playdate (this has thankfully passed) or lately she has expressed a fear that her insulin pump will break or that she’ll be stuck somewhere with no sugar and go hypoglycemic. All we can do is re-assure her. It’s hard to get the balance right between making her feel just like everyone else but ensuring she is aware of her medical condition and what to do if she doesn’t feel right.

We want her to live as normal a life as possible and to never let Type 1 diabetes hold her back and so far she seems to be doing pretty well at that

Advice for other parents…

As hard as it seems at first it will get better – just take it day by day.  A nurse told us that we would go through a grieving process similar to if we had actually lost our child and that did indeed happen – we lost our “healthy” Alana. Knowing that those feelings were a normal reaction really helped me get through that period of time.

As soon as you can reach out to other parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, whether through facebook support groups or the Diabetes Association. The hospital you attend may also have support groups.
Jenni, Andy, Alana and Zach

Parenting in my shoes – My child has dyspraxia

Benny is a father of two who lives in Waterford and is married to his childhood sweetheart – or long suffering wife as he likes to call her. He has an 8 year old son, who loves technology but not football, and a 2 year daughter who is a Paw Patrol fanatic and is the boss of the house (those of us with toddlers can definitely relate!)

Benny is a stay at home dad and his son has dyspraxia DCD. He spoke to me about life as a stay-at-home dad and what having a child with dyspraxia means for his family.

 

Why I became a stay at home dad

My wife was returning to work after Maternity and a year off to concentrate on studies (but how she studied while being at home I’ll never know). We were right in the midst of making arrangements with crèches and after school, who’d could collect who etc when I dropped the bombshell… “What if I stayed at home?” After the initial shock of my idea we sat down and worked out the figures. Between the tax saving of only having one income, not having to pay for childcare and some tightening of our belts we decided that it could be done. We reckoned it would give us a better quality of life and this was the main thinking behind it.

 

The reactions from other men – and women

Most people are great. Most women have a ‘good for you’ attitude to it. Most men are like “huh, huh, you’re retired then!” But it’s all in jest. I say ‘most’ because there are people who don’t seem to grasp it, yup, you guessed it ‘the elder generation’. The ones who grew up with defined roles of ‘male breadwinner’ and ‘female home keeper’ but this attitude is dying out, literally. Us younger folk are fairly on the ball.

 

The best and the eh “most challenging” parts of being a stay at home dad

The best is easy, being with the kids. When I was an auctioneer I worked long hours (there was no ‘off’, my phone was constantly going outside of hours), I used to see them for a few minutes in the morning and come home stressed to land on top of the bedtime routine. It just wasn’t working for me. Now I get to watch them grow and develop and be much more involved in their lives.

The most challenging aspect, ya ready for this? Being constantly with the kids. There’s no ‘off’ as a stay at home parent either. No sick days. No going to the toilet alone for God’s sake!! But you know what, I’m delighted I made the decision. Plus it’s allowed me to start up daddypoppins.com and write both comedy and serious pieces for various newspapers and websites. I’ve always wanted to write and being a stay at home dad gives me the best of both worlds.

 

How we discovered our son had dyspraxia.

 We knew there was issues at school but their description of our little man and how we found him to be at home were very different. He gotten on great in crèche and Montessori and they thought he’d fly at school but he just never settled. He became anxious and socially awkward and the happy boy we knew retreated into himself. As time went by he became worse and worse as we explored every avenue to help him. Unfortunately the Irish system has waiting lists of up to 2 years for assessment. In fact at the time of writing this we are still waiting. We have paid to go privately (as early intervention is key), he’s been diagnosed with Dyspraxia DCD and sensory processing disorder, we’ve had 2 separate blocks of occupational therapy and still nothing. You have to be wealthy in this country to be seen (something we aren’t, but we’re struggling in to help our kids in any way we can)

In the end it was actually a relief, for us and him. We knew what was going on and put a plan in place to try make things as easy as possible for him.

 

Dyspraxia is…

That’s the issue, it’s very difficult to describe. There’s no one sentence that sums it all up. It’s different for everyone affected by it. To me, it’s a brain-based developmental condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement (both fine and gross motor skills are affected). Dyspraxia isn’t a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence, in fact the Little Man is super smart. Some children with dyspraxia struggle with balance and posture. They may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment. Our little man struggles with writing, organisation, emotions, breaks from routine etc. our little girl is the same, there’s definitely something happening there too but at 2 and 1/2 she’s too young to diagnose.

 

The difficulties dyspraxia presents for our son – and for us.

The Little man is 8 and like all 8 year olds there’s worries to be had. How much of it is down to dyspraxia and how much of it is down to him being our first kid is up for a bit of debate. You’d never really know without a control subject. Why don’t they come with manuals?

Dyspraxia has made our life hectic and full of worries about how he’ll cope with situations. It’s made me much more of a ‘helicopter parent’ than I ever thought I’d be. Everything has to be done in a specific way or there’ll be meltdowns; from laying out of clothes in a specific order for the morning and checking upon every detail as we work our way through the daily routine. It’s exhausting. He isn’t able to do what other 8 year olds can, everything needs parental supervision.

 

Finding support

We’ve created our own support system because there’s been a total lack of support from the state. We are still waiting on public assessment. If we hadn’t gone private (much to the detriment of our finances) then I’m not sure where we’d be. The little man’s mental health and emotional wellbeing were deteriorating at an alarming rate.

It’s another reason I’m delighted I made the decision to become a stay at home dad as I know my sons routine and needs. Both myself and my amazing wife are his home support. The wonderful Hannah in Sunflower Clinic is his support and I’m glad to say that since her report the school have rolled in behind us and life has been made much easier.

I’ve become immersed in dyspraxia since the diagnosis. I attended a local meeting one night (hastily arranged by a small group of concerned parents) and it snowballed from there. It was only then that I realised how many people are affected by it. So many people don’t know a thing about it. It’s pretty invisible as a special need and has gone unnoticed in so many people in the past. Did you know that 1 in 20 people has it? I know of 7 kids in my estate of around 60 houses that have Dyspraxia DCD (to give it is full title). This meeting has spawned a group of concerned parents (all in the same boat as me) and has grown and grown and we hope to have club formed by September of this year that will provide an outlet for kids and parents going through everything that dyspraxia brings (from the initial worry, to diagnosis and acceptance, planning, engaging, techniques and tricks and the support and friendship of someone who understands your situation).

Because Dyspraxia isn’t ‘obvious’ to the naked eye it’s often dismissed or ‘tutted at’ by others and assumed to be ‘bad parenting’ or an ‘unruly or emotional child’ or something to that effect. It’s not. They don’t grow out of it. It needs to be recognized like autism or dyslexia. It’s currently being pushed to the side by our health services as regards funding.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve become the public relations officer for the Waterford Dyspraxia DCD Support group (link to page here) and currently run both their public and private Facebook pages. So I’m part of the support, but it’s a huge group effort, we have a board of 16 (who all have different skill sets, from; barristers, insurance professionals, special needs assistants and fund raisers) at this point we also have 15 fully trained couches (some of whom are young adults with Dyspraxia). So to answer your question about support, the involved parents are the support, others don’t seem to understand. But we’re working on making them.

 

The biggest challenge.

In a word, worry. What does the future hold for my child? How can we continue with this exhaustive routine. How can we afford to continue treating them privately? Will they ‘fit in’? Will they be able to secure work and look after themselves properly later in life? Will they be happy?

..and the positives

 I’m not sure whether it’s dyspraxia or just my little ones but they are the most caring, in touch with their emotions individuals I’ve ever known. Their empathy levels are off the charts and when they find something they are interested in their concentration and knowledge of the subject is off the charts. Bottom line, they’re still the special little people they were before a label was attached.

 

Advice for other parents in a similar situation

Address it ASAP (and I mean both them and you) it’s a shock but it provides a roadmap to help. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know the question. The sooner you get to work on things the better the results.

I’d personally say ‘Let them know’ (although some others may not agree) it helped my little man no end to know there was a reason he wasn’t as quick at writing and found some things more difficult than his peers. It changed his attitude from one of ‘I’m useless’ to one of ‘That’s just because of ‘my difficulties’ but now I know how to get around that’.

Finally, get online and find your local support group. People have been there before and can provide a sympathetic ear and advice on who to call or what to do. You aren’t alone. If you can’t find your nearest group then give a call to Harry in Dyspraxia Ireland (link to site here). He’ll set you on the right track.

Benny and his son

Tips for cutting the cost of “back-to-school”

We went to hell today, otherwise known as a shopping expedition with all of the children in tow. The sun shone much brighter than it had promised to do resulting in hot cranky kids and even hotter crankier parents.  The adults traipsed from shop to shop, without any semblance of enthusiasm, whilst the children resisted and complained, and complained and resisted every step of the way.

It’s not that we’re martyrs to the cause, or complete gluttons for punishment either – but taking all of the kids was a necessity as there were feet to be measured and school shoes and runners to be bought. With the summer holidays half over, it’s time to consider the return to school.

It’s a hugely expensive and pressurised time for parents. With five in school here, including two in secondary and a sixth in Montessori, the costs are scary and the need to make serious savings is real. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips for cutting the costs involved with very expensive, free education.

1.    Book Swap
This is a great and easy thing to do amongst two or, even better, a group of parents who have children of different ages. Get out the booklist, set up a Whatsapp group and send out the searching texts. In a time of every changing editions and book requirements, hoarding books for younger children coming up the line is not necessarily the best course of action as frequently the required books change. Some years you’ll manage to do better than others in a book swap but even one book acquired this way is a saving to your pocket

2.  Sell ‘em

No not the kids, the books. Many educational book stores buy your old school books if they’re in good condition and either pay you or offer store credit, which leads nicely on to tip 3  …..

3. Second-hand books
It’s always worth checking a second hand book store for the school books you need and the earlier in the summer that you do this, the more chance there is of you managing to get several. Just be very mindful of editions and always double check that you have the correct one.

4. Watch out for special offers.
Around this time of year, may outlets such as Easons and schoolbooks.ie offer online discounts towards the cost of new school books or the option of free delivery or free book covering. Heatons are another place worth checking for back to school stationery as they often run a 3 for 2 offer, providing the potential for great savings if your numbers are up!

5.   Discount outlets.
School shoes and runners are a very expensive part of back to school. If there’s a discount outlet near you (such as the Kildare Outlet) it’s worth considering a trip. There’s significant savings to be made on shoes in Clark’s, which for me is a lot more than the cost of the petrol involved! The many sports shops on site meanwhile can see you make savings on runners and possibly even school bags.

6.  Schoolbags
And speaking of schoolbags. Before purchasing new ones, double check if a quick wash in the machine with lots of fabric softener is enough to make the bag look good as new and obliterate the pungent yoghurt smell from last year! If you are buying a new one however, – shop around and don’t forget to check stores online to compare value. Sports Direct can offer great value too, but always double check the measurements. Pictures can
be deceiving

7.  Crested uniforms
When it comes to uniforms, crested pieces are usually the most expensive parts. Don’t be embarrassed to ask around. If you have friends who cannot pass their child’s outgrown school uniform to a younger sibling, ask them to pass it along to you instead. Sometimes people are afraid to offer for fear of causing offence. Personally, I’m eternally grateful for the amount of outgrown crested uniform pieces that are passed to this house. And remember to share the love. There’s always someone who will happily receive your own children’s uniform hand me downs.

  8. School sales
Check on the school website just in case a uniform or book sale due to be held ahead of the return to school.

9.  Veer from the obvious
Don’t assume that certain things can only be bought in a certain type of shop and keep your eyes peeled – always. Book Station for example, usually renowned for selling good value books, also sell lunch boxes and good beakers for very good prices. The “smash” beakers have stood the very testing, test of time, here.

10. Buy in bulk

Sounds obvious but list your copy needs and stationery needs and buy together. If you’re trying to spread the cost over a few weeks, spread by purchase type rather than by child. Copies bought in 10 packs work out cheaper and getting all stationery together lets you make the best of special offers and avail of 3 for 2’s.

 

Sunday Night Syndrome

It’s Sunday Night, you know the drill,
It never seems, to change,
Lunches to make, ahead of school,
And uniforms to arrange,
All neatly at the end of beds,
When they’ve come through the laundry,
Except for the missing pieces of course
Therein begins the quandary,
Where could they be, the kids deny
They put them anywhere,
Except in the wash-basket of course,
And into space they stare,
“Yes definitely there, I remember it well,
Straight after we had our bath”
I look in disbelief at them,
Knowing generally there’s a path,
Of clothes that they leave in their wake,
All strewn across the floor,
One sock here, and a shirt over there,
Underpants hanging from the door,
A frantic search begins upstairs,
As shoes are missing too,
A white runner is under one bed,
But the one we need is blue,
Ah here it is, in the underwear drawer,
I really should have thought,
And the trousers are there, under baby’s cot,
Just a jumper now is sought,
Hurray more washing on Sunday night,
Just what every mother needs,
And fun and games to get them dry,
Visions of an early night recedes,
Yes it’s Sunday night you know the drill,
As the week ahead is beckoning,
But I won’t be able to sleep tonight,
It’s a syndrome by my reckoning!

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!

T’was the night before midterm

T’was the night before midterm,
And all through the schools,
The walls were adorned,
With witches and ghouls,
The teachers were smiling,
At the thought of a break,
While the parents they pondered
What childcare route to take,
The children were dreaming,
Of Zombies in beds,
While visions of pumpkins,
Danced in their heads,
And Halloween planning,
Of costumes galore
With make up and masks,
Were right at the fore,
Of every child’s thoughts,
As the big day drew near
With the hope of creating,
A real sense of fear,
In every poor neighbour,
They’d encounter and meet,
When they called to their door
And said “trick or treat”,
Then return home with bags,
Filled with sweets and crisps plenty,
Try to eat them all quickly,
Until it is empty,
So the sugar filled kids,
You can picture the scene,
Won’t be sleeping that night,
Have a Happy Halloween! 🎃

It’s nearly that time again….

Two days to go before the old routine returns.  I’m still in a place that fits the Fianna Fail slogan of yesteryear –  “a lot done, more to do”. Half the books are covered, most of the twistables have been painstakingly, individually labelled (for all the difference it will make) and I know where the majority of the uniforms are.  All I need now, is the motivation to finish the job in hand.

I always quite enjoy the first day back at school.  The children aren’t quite as  resistant as they will be a week later. There’s a nice buzz around the school yard as parents and kids alike catch up with each other after the long summer break and “new school year” resolutions are made. There’s a definite Pollyanna feel to the whole day.

I will admit that the house will seem quieter when I return from the drop, especially this year as child number six, my resident foghorn, starts Montessori. Child number seven, no doubt will be confused for a while, when there are no brothers or sister to play with. I, in the meantime, will surely find it strange to look out my kitchen window without seeing Captain America, from the corner of my eye , run by without any trousers on, followed in hot pursuit by Spiderman, identifiable only by his calls of “I’ll shoot him with web” as Spiderman, in this house, often prefers to go completely au naturel.

It will be an adjustment for a while and I will definitely miss them.  Not having to resolve a hundred arguments a day will help ease the pain. My neighbours will doubt miss hearing my gentle tones, ones they have become very familiar with over the course of the Summer, as I lovingly called to Spiderman to stop bouncing on the trampoline and come inside immediately to put on some clothes.

All good things must come to an end and so Summer 2016, I bid you adieu. It’s back to early starts, homework, school lunches and after school activities.  What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, the saying goes. I wonder does that apply to school projects too……

One final battle

Mid-June already and we’re trundling towards the end of the school year but not before the one last torture that is Summer Tests.  This house is still under the dark cloud of the Junior Cert and now the end of year exams for my older primary schoolers have been thrown into the mix. Stress levels are rising. The already manic afternoons now have an extra demand on them and frantic scouring of revision sheets is commonplace once homework is completed. The weekends haven’t escaped either as mountain, rivers and counties of the Emerald Isle are listed off and alternate discussions about the Bronze Age and the Great Famine take place in the kitchen depending on which child happens to have wandered in at the time.

But let me clarify. It is not my troops who are initiating these discussions, nor they who are feeling the stress.  It is not they who are scouring the revision sheets to check what needs to be known for their impending tests and it certainly isn’t they who feel the need to know the where the Galtee mountains are or which river flows through Cork. Horizontal, is not a strong enough word to describe my “Summer tests takers” and “laid back” doesn’t do them justice either. They’re much more focused on playing outside with their waterguns, flickers and lightsabers.  They see the
reduction in written homework as an opportunity to escape to their own planets all the quicker.  I am reassured by them on a daily basis that it will “all be grand”, after all, it’s things that they have done through the year. I use the word “reassured” loosely. They talk the talk but they certainly don’t recollect the details!

Getting the motivational balance right is proving more difficult every year. I don’t want them to be overly worried about their tests but I would like them to have some interest and try their best. Any attempt to keep them at the dining room table just ten or fifteen minutes longer to revise for the next day is met with huge resistance. Every day I am told the tests were “fine”. I think this might be my lads’ favourite word – non-committal, covers a multitude and pacifies mam, the kids think anyway.

 

Roll on the summer holidays. Free from homework, free from making lunches, free from school runs and most importantly, temporarily free from the reminder that I still can’t pinpoint the counties, mountain and rivers of Ireland!

Sports Day’s a comin’!

This week sees the annual occurrence that is sports day at my boys’ school. I had a vague recollection of it’s mention in the school newsletter a few weeks ago but watching my older lads running laps of the back garden while passing the dog’s toy to each other this weekend, in preparation for the relay and discovering my seven year old going through my husband’s tie drawer for a “nice colour” tie confirmed my suspicions that it was drawing ever closer. The countdown has begun and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that the weather will stay fine.

Experienced parents have booked their time off work and one first time Junior Infant parent asked me earlier “is it that big a deal?” My reply was “Oh yes – sports day is a huge deal”

Love it or loathe is, and I’m really not sure what camp I’m in, sports day is a huge deal for the kids and for several of the parents too. Yes it’s great to see our children having fun with their friends and, if your child is any way sporty, maybe even win a medal or two. The “it’s all about taking part” line, however, does not wash with all of the children, particularly those past Senior Infants for whom a medal is no longer guaranteed, just for taking part.  In this house, with children of extremely mixed sporting ability I know there will be tears and sadness on the day for some of them, when best efforts will still leave zero chance of coming anywhere.

I know it could be viewed as a life lesson but, as an adult, I’m not likely to put myself in a competitive environment for something I know I am absolutely brutal at, and I can handle disappointment slightly better than a child.

And speaking of competitive environments, the highlight of the day for many there will be the parent’s race! You will see some, kitted out in their top notch sports gear and expensive running shoes, laughing off suggestions that it’s anything but a “bit of craic” but discreetly warming up on the sidelines as they cheer on their sons in their races.  Toned and tanned limbs give away any misconception that these parents are anything other than seasoned runners, and they mean business. Elsewhere, the more reluctant sportsmen and sportwomen among us will panickedly try to think of excuses not to take part. I already, am lamenting an absent pregnancy bump for different reasons to usual. It has crossed my mind to just stick a cushion up my dress, after all I’m always pregnant and I think most of the parents from the school have lost count at this stage.  Would anyone even be suspicious?

Failing that I’ll just have to hope the organisers turn the tables on those magnificent sporty parents and that the parent’s race involves an egg and spoon!

 

Escape from Buggy-traz….

I can usually be seen huffing and puffing, pushing my big red double buggy which accommodates my two youngest children, most weekdays, as I head down to the school to collect my junior infant.

Yesterday my mam timed a visit perfectly with collection time, so I decided to leave my baby with her while I went to pick up my son. My two year old asked if he could come along and decided he wanted to walk. I thought it might be a good idea to give him a little practice at it, as I’m hoping to move him to a buggy board type thing soon.  The whole excursion reminded me why I usually restrain him!

 

To somewhat very loosely paraphrase Daddy Pig in his consideration of muddy puddles, “to be at one with a two year old who is free, one must think like a two year old who is free”!

1.   Two year olds are fast, very fast.  Within a micro second of having walked out the front door he was off, insisting there was no need to hold my hand because he was a big boy and there were no cars coming.  I ran most of the way to school in a sideways crab like fashion trying to near pin him alongside the wall while dodging parents and little girls on their scooters who had just left school.

2.   Two year olds are like magpies, well mine is anyway…except things don’t need to be shiny.  All manner of things can grab his attention.  One minute he was belting along the path on the way to collect his brother, the next minute he spotted dog poo, then a worm, then a paw patrol scooter.  The first two he stopped to examine, the last one made him turn in the opposite
direction and run after the child on it!

3.  Two year olds are at the perfect height for parked car wing mirrors and older kids school bags. Both of which he managed to run into on his journey.

4.  Two year olds have an uncanny ability to choose the place of maximum potential audience for a meltdown.  After his collision with the second school bag of a dancing junior infant girl (their school finishes five minutes before my son’s school and is located directly beside it) and my insistence that he was holding my hand the rest of the way, I could sense one building. I started to wonder how many people around actually realised he was mine and, if it all kicked off, could I stand on the periphery with folded arms (once he was safely within the confines of the school playground of course) and pretend to look around for his mother.  Thankfully the crisis was averted –  he spotted a crow.

5.  Two year olds see. Two year olds want. Two year olds go and get. When we arrived at the school he spotted his big brother waiting in his line.  Normally the teacher allows the boys to go to the person collecting them one by one as she spots them.  My two year old bulldozed through the crowd of waiting parents and launched himself at his brother. Quickest pick up ever!

 

We ran the whole way home