The Silly Season

Next week marks the beginning of the silly season in this house and by silly season I mean birthday season part one.  Through careful bad planning, four of my children have their birthdays inside a three and a half week period including two on the same day!

Birthdays are big business here.  The kids are already so excited and a countdown of days began a few weeks ago. A tradition we started many moons ago of giving a small token present to the people “whose birthday it’s not” means everyone looks forward to their sibling’s big day for that reason too. It can be more hassle sometimes trying to think of and find all the token presents necessary for my not unsubstantial brood, than it is actually sorting the birthday boy or girl’s gifts, but we get there in the end.

I never work on the children’s birthdays and my husband always takes a half day – he used to take the full day but the increase in numbers puts a real pressure on his leave! Birthday dinner will be the birthday child’s choosing and for the school going birthday children there is never homework. Everyone loves birthdays, well everyone except me a little bit.

I am possibly the world’s most sentimental person or at the very least on the shortlist for the title.  I lament every passing phase of the children’s lives. Much as I crave sleep and the ability to visit the bathroom or take a shower without an audience and much as I would love to be able to finish a conversation with another adult without being needed to solve someone’s immediate “crisis”, I don’t really want my kids to grow up.

I love to see their happy faces on the morning of their birthdays and to hear, when they get back from school, how the principal mentioned their names on the intercom and their classmates sang “happy birthday”.  I love to see how excited my kids are for each other and I love also the effort they make for each other on birthdays by drawing a picture, making a card, or even buying a chocolate bar for their sibling because it’s their special day.

I love how special the birthday boy or girl feels. In the midst of all of this my mind is cast back to that particular day however many years ago. I, of course, blank out the gory and painful bits and rewrite history in my head when they pop in.  I clockwatch a lot of the day and remind my other half of exactly what was happening at this stage. He doesn’t need a reminder, not only was he there, he gets a rerun of events every single year.

Depending on the child he hears how I was watching “only fools and horses”, I thought I needed a wee but couldn’t go, we had to stop for change at a garage while I was in labour so that we could pay for parking at the hospital, I was wearing my purple shirt (echoes of Fr Dougal Maguire here) or I went to watch the junior infant nativity before I would agree to go to the hospital.  Whatever the child, like most people, I have a story leading up to their birth.

I remember seeing each of my perfect little babies for the first time as clearly as if it was yesterday and I find it hard to believe that so many years have gone by since they came into the world.
The first birthday up involves my third child reaching double figures! I was wearing my purple shirt going in to have him :-D. He is beyond excited as Wednesday approaches and chicken tikka masala is on the menu
for dinner (courtesy of his nana to be honest).

The tidal wave of anticipation will sweep us all up as the big day draws nearer but I will remain somewhat nostalgic as my baby boy grows up way too quickly for my liking. I know it’s my job to help and guide him as he grows and to try to keep him safe and I know I am incredibly lucky to so far have had the privilege.

Over-sentimentality can be a curse. The rational side of me will just have to try to focus on the yummy dinner that’s coming….

Family pet

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

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

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

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

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



Baby Love

Something I wrote about my youngest, but it could be any of our babies….💜
It’s 3am, the night is dark,
But baby wants to play,
He beams at me, touches my face,
So I begin to sway.
I softly sing him lullabies,
Encourage him to doze,
But he keeps smiling up at me
And wriggles baby toes.
I try another tactic,
I stroke his little cheek,
His baby blues begin to close
And ‘neath his lashes peek
My baby boy is fast asleep,
All snuggled in my arms,
And though I’m tired, I gaze at him,
Won over by his charms.
For nothing ever could foretell,
The love that I would know,
When baby came into my life,
And how that love would grow.

Mother’s Day

I can’t remember my life before I was a mum anymore. I can’t remember the last time I had a full night’s sleep, went to the bathroom without an audience or made an uninterrupted phone call. I can’t remember when I last went to a shopping centre without clock watching, knowing I had 23 and a half minutes before the whining would start (impressive eh?) or a time leaving the house without preparing for the apocalypse (just in case). 

Sometimes, when you list it out (and we all know there are many, many things missing from that list) it seems that the difference is mainly negative when you consider your pre-mum days to your now 24/7 mum days but of course we know that’s far from the truth. Being a mum lets you know love you never knew existed and it is the greatest privilege I’ve ever known. It gives us an insight into how things were for our own mothers and while we might or might not do things differently to them, we now know the conditions they were operating under! Mums are great! Happy Mother’s Day to mums everywhere especially those celebrating their first one as a mum. Thinking also of those whose mums are no longer with them.

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 â€ª#‎mamatude‬