Monthly Archives

June 2015

Family, Motherhood

Boys Don’t Cry (yes they bloody do, all the time)

June 29, 2015

Growing up with one sister and no brothers and also attending an all-girls school till the age of 17 left me clueless to the world of men. As a child they were feral creatures to be avoided at all costs. We would visit cousin’s houses and I would try to make myself invisible while observing their behaviour…I was the David Attenborough of the male species, storing the information for a future life. I witnessed the hyperactivity, messiness and violence first hand. These were also the days of unrestricted E numbers which could have had an effect on this..  generic coke and sugar puffs rounded out the 80s kid’s diet. I would veer between pity and jealousy for my female friends and cousins with brothers.  On the one hand they had someone to protect them from the mean suburban streets and a potential for hot friends but they also faced extreme forms of torture; chinese burns, forced fart smelling and having to watch football.

Now here I am at the mercy of three small men (and one big one) and while I know that most kids are messy assholes, here are some traits that seem to be primarily male ones.

giphy (15) 

  • The toilet seat. From the dawn of… well toilet seat invention this has been the cause of many arguments and possibly divorces? murder? It isn’t  just the laziness of not replacing the lid but the petrie dish of germs and stainage left on the rim that causes palpitations for me and I won’t even get started on the non-replacement of a new roll of toilet paper. I’ll give a nod also to the crop-circled (often skid-marked) jocks loving left 5 inches from the washing basket and always crotch up.
  • Not playing with toys. I have said many times before that I am forever searching for the elusive toy that my kids will attach to and while away a quiet few hours. They cry and beg for toys like any kid and when they get them they play with it for 30 seconds and then resume their assholery. Point in case is my two year old’s obsession with Kinder Eggs. He loves to open them and then throw the chocolate away (I eat it, sometimes off the floor). He looks at the toy briefly and then walks away. Right now 2 year old is pushing the double buggy around the house, knocking stuff everywhere while my 4 year old is climbing inside a quilt cover. I have heard from friends that their kids will sit and have tea parties or brush their dolls hair, all nice role-play stuff. tumblr_mgbuq5Ie3u1rnr47go8_250The only role-play mine know is possibly John and Mary from Father Ted or a WWF wrestler. As a disclaimer, my husband and I don’t wrestle or beat each other with garden implements (not in front of them anyway).
  • They like to mess with their junk.. ALOT! enough said.
  • They have so much energy. No matter what time I put my 2 year old to bed, he wakes at 6.30 every morning and is marathon ready. They were cursed with a lazy ass mam who is allergic to parks and the outdoors (psychologically). I may invest in a treadmill for them to run. Before bedtime they like to chase each other around the island in the kitchen for a half hour. This raises an eyebrow from visitors but is a successful full-of-beans remover.
  • They love their mammy as I’m sure girls do but the boys are unabashed in their love. I am told many times a day that I am loved and how much (to the moon, then to mars and back to earth again). Conall still likes me to walk him to the door of school and kiss and hug him while his female peers prefer to be dropped at the gate and walk in independently. He has faced a dilemma when his girlfriend Emma bumps into us at the school gates and informs me that she is walking in parentless. Conall is then faced with a Sophie’s Choice of mammy or girl? He looks beseechingly at both of us and I know in an ideal world we would both hold his hand and skip in together but Emma is insistant and he chooses her. I’m happy he’s made the right choice but can’t help mutter “ungrateful bastard” and “harlot” under my breath.
  • I don’t have to watch Frozen on repeat or any Disney princessy shite.10343616
  • Poos, farts, willies, bums (front and back) are guaranteed to get big laughs. Forget your sophisticated knock knock jokes, our house is more Farrelly Brothers than Coen. Don’t get me wrong I like a poo joke as well as the next but it’s hard to listen to them shout poo and laugh hysterically on long car journeys.
  • They wear whatever I put on them which is fabulous, no arguments at all. They wouldn’t notice if I put Borat’s mankini on them, they’d skip out to play oblivious. Haircuts are a pain in the ass as they are so often and as I know short hair is difficult to manage… putting hair in a ponytail is an easy option when compared to sticking down a multitude of cowlicks.
  • They like to eat! My middle son is built like a rugby player and it is so hard to keep him full. He’ll eat a steak and a half in a sitting and will want more. He spends half his day standing on the ledge inside the fridge staring at food. He’ll ask “what are you eating?” I’ll say “prawns” and he’ll ask “can I try?”. Then he’ll say mmmm and steal my dinner. The other two are a bit more picky but I am envisioning future food bills when they are teenagers and have started to research the price of camper vans and gas masks.
  • The washing, the motherf**cking washing….. it’s too much! I dress them, wash them, gel their cowlicks and five minutes later they are like a miner. How can their fingernails get dirty inside the house?

 

This list is certainly not exhaustive but I’m sure as they get older I will have more bullet points. I am well aware of the hell that teenagerdom will bring, or am I? The washing….although I have heard they take a hankering to washing their own sheets, how thoughtful.

I know that raising girls brings it’s own hardships and if anyone is up for a challenge, I will gladly post for you on my blog. One point I must mention though is the absolute annoyance of people asking if I’ll be “going for a girl?” Do they not think that my family is complete? Sweet Jesus, one more baby and I’ll lose the last few brain cells I have left so PLEASE stop asking, it ‘aint gonna happen. I am queen of my semi-detached castle and I will continue to clean all those socks and jocks in return for all the sweet hugs and love I get in return, I just put feminism back 50 years didn’t I? Apologies future partners and Emma.

A Cornish Mum

Family, Motherhood

Assholery

June 25, 2015

Being a parent has so far been an eye-opener and a complete shock to my system. It has been nothing like I ever thought or expected. I was so judgy pre-kids and rolled my eyes at tantruming kids and their frazzled parents blaming bad diet and a lack of discipline. I read every pregnancy and parenting book I could get my hands on in the first couple of years. When things began spinning out of control with my first, organically-fed child I began to watch Jo Frost with a pen and paper.http--i.dailymail.co.uk-i-pix-2008-07-19-article-1036217-0200ACAF00000578-428_468x534

What nobody warned me about was the level of assholery I would have to put up with from my progeny. They astound me with their brazen demands and torture me physically and mentally. I once thought I was a patient person but they would provoke Gandhi into giving them a clip around the ear. Their proficiency in whinging is at an olympic level. I CANNOT abide whinging, I’d rather listen to a tap dripping, a fly buzzing, Rosie Perez saying mass. I don’t deserve this as I have never been more unselfish… I give them my food if they want it (even though they’ve had theirs and it’s the first thing I’ve had time to eat all day); I clean their asses (while dry-retching sometimes); I don’t sleep more than 3 hour stints; I am literally at their beck and call and yet they treat me like a Kardashian’s personal assistant. How is it possible that I can love these three boys so much while they relentlessly abuse my sacrifices?

 

PP005 (Peppa jumping in muddy puddle-CMYK) copyI will list some examples : (please note that all examples happened in the last 10 days)

    • They wanted a sandpit and to stop them digging up the grass in the back, I succumbed and bought a plastic pit, 2 bags of sand and all the paraphernalia. A half hour later I looked out the window and they had sprinkled all the sand to the four corners of the grass. Koray took it up a notch by pouring water on a patch and turning it into a muddy puddle.. damn you Peppa!
    • One of them will ask for a specific meal ie; ham, grated cheese and pasta and on presentation will say yuk, I actually want nuggets. I used to like cooking but now it’s a loathsome deli-assistant job akin to catering for people with imagined food allergies.
    • They can be stubborn little shits, “Mam, I want a gintair” “It’s called a guitar love” “IT’S NOT, IT’S A GINTAIR IDIOT” Fast forward 5 minutes to where I’m on the verge of tears and he’s apoplectic with rage and I’m agreeing… “alright, alright it’s a bloody gintair”. Then I catch sight of his smug face in the rearview mirror arggh.
    • “Mam, you’re pretty…..pretty ugly” cue hysterical laughter
    • Look at what I’m doing!” “I can’t, I’m driving the car”LOOK LOOK LOOK LOOK…. for the next 10 minutes
    • Check out that old guys face, it’s SOOO red” “Stop shouting, he’ll hear you!” “But it’s RED”
    • 4am: “MAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, My blanket fell off the bed”
    • The two smallies decided my sitting room carpet wasn’t stained and damaged enough so they poured conditioner all over it and then rubbed flaky, powdery play doh into the mixture. Not satisfied with their carnage they then rolled in it and ran up the (carpeted) stairs touching everything in their path (jackets, my handbag etc). I have often joked about burning the house down for insurance purposes but this time I half-meant it.

 

 

 

hoo-ahIt’s a form of torture and I don’t have Liam Neeson’s unique skill-set to deal with this. They like “the step”… it doesn’t faze them and my shouting voice has become my normal speaking tone. I’m like Al Pacino HOO HAA! I thought motherhood would soften me and I’d acquire a glow and parents worldwide would flock to me for advice and a slice of my famous home-made bread.

giphy (14)Instead I am a broken woman, dealing with three ninjas… I am Clouseau to their Cato but alas forbidden to karate chop. I make sure they get their 5 a day while I make do with the odd Coke Zero and biscuits… sometimes I’ll find time for a crisp sandwich… I’ve probably got rickets.

It’s a thankless, messy and difficult job and the only thoughts that help me sleep my intermittent sleep are those of revenge (these involve embarrassing pant-shitting stories told to potential love-interests) and dreams of successful sons’ accepting an oscar, a nobel or a booker prize and thanking me for all my sacrifice and serenity in the face of their absolute assholery.

 

Modern Dad Pages

 

Family, Like Magazine

Daddy’s Girl

June 20, 2015

Father’s Day is approaching on June the 21st. It’s not as easy to buy for the men in our lives as it is the women, the same goes for praise. I’d like to pay tribute to an unsung hero… my Dad, Damo, a gentle, kind man with a sharp brain and his light planted firmly under a bushel.

My Dad is exceptional (I’m not in the least bit biased). He has always been a solid rock of support for myself and my sister. No man was ever going to live up to the precedent he set and the men we married are reminded (and agree) about that frequently.

In our house as kids if we heard wait till your father gets home, we’d roll our eyes and giggle whereas if we knew our mother was on the warpath, we’d start looking for alibis. He was old-school, going out to work Monday to Friday and spending weekends wallpapering or breaking down a wall (my mam directing wildly from the sidelines like a crazed Anna Ryder-Richardson). 20150620_214559

 

Here are some of the reasons I love him;

 

  • When I got bitten by a dog at 12, he calmly held the wound together till we got to the hospital and it subsequently didn’t need stitching. He somehow managed to calm my hysterical mother who was driving and keep me from passing out with shock all the way.

 

  • He taught me how to wire a plug and which wire was the live one (brown) although he should’ve heeded his own advice as I witnessed him getting electrocuted several times. He can fix anything…electrics, plumbing, ikea furniture, maxed out credit cards..

 

  • I learnt how to swear from him although he replaced all the Fs with Bs so it was buckin this and buck that. I once overheard him call someone an antichrist on the phone and asked my Mam the meaning, earning myself a wooden spoon encounter and the silent treatment for him.

 

  • He taught me to drive; it was only a few years ago and he took over from my husband who’d washed his hands of me and my corner-reversing. He lost his cool and I ended up crying but he didn’t give up and in the few minutes before my driving test we cracked it and he was waiting at the test centre for the good news and the best hug ever. 20150603_125738

 

  • He thinks all problems can be fixed with a drink, I tend to agree.

 

  • He calls everyone Mickey and if they’re lazy he’ll say “pull the finger out mickey”, I don’t know why.

 

  • He’s an expert exaggerater and he’ll start a story with “there were thousands there”… I’ll say “Dad?” He’ll say “ok… maybe hundreds”. After some goading, he’ll admit it was him and two others. I may have inherited this trait.

 

  • He’s a hypochondriac. I’m not denying his chronic back pain, his brush with prostate cancer or his hip issues but you can’t tell him about any illness without him adopting it.  I was in early labour at my parents house in 2008 and my Dad started to complain of stomach cramps. When he starts my Mam looks at me and we burst out laughing while he gets indignant (and possibly indigestion) I’m glad he’s a technophobe as google would mess with his head altogether and his pension would be spent on lengthy and invasive tests. I may have inherited this one also.10685531_10152575761648138_4611795287399279905_n
  • Kids love him. He’s always been a messer and would feign putting some of his nephews and nieces in the washing machine or goad them into punching his stomach (abs of steel). He would chase me and my sister to bed, turning off the lights and making scary noises as we howled in terror; he’d also dangle us over the banisters which could explain his bad back. He is my 7 year old son’s hero, so much so that he dressed up as him for Halloween sporting his signature white hair, moustache and leather jacket.

 

  • He has copious amounts of patience as my Mam will testify; laid-back she’d call him but in a family of hot-heads and hormones he is the voice of calm and reason and if his voice is raised we will all pipe down knowing we’ve gone too far.

 

  • He is a voracious reader and reads 2 to 3 books a week. He may not remember what any of them are about but we share a passion for Stephen King and Ross O’Carroll Kelly.

 

Thanks Dad, for my red hair and freckles; for my love of books; my open-mind, my profanity and my proficiency with plugs. You are my hero and I hope the socks and hankies I got you adequately convey this.

 

Musings

School, Sour milk and sweaty knitting

June 15, 2015

The school that our children go to is very different to the one my generation attended. I was in school from 1980 till 1993 and even though beatings were outlawed; aggression, sneering and sarcasm were not.

Primary school was fine for me as I enjoyed learning and didn’t find the work too difficult, with the exception of Irish. I have looked back with rose-tinted glasses and actually used the phrase “best days of my life”. It is only since my son started primary and I see the changes in teaching methods and attitudes that I now look back on my days with disbelief and some black humour of course.

DSC01811_largeI went to an all girls catholic school that my Mam had gone to. She had nothing but hatred for the place so I presume she sent me there as some kind of social experiment. She told me one night after a few drinks and a lot of preamble that she’d been made to stay back a year because she couldn’t recite the creed (Apollo? I’m nearly sure this was pre-Rocky and I don’t know of any other Creed?). The nun flipped as a glitch in her mind-control exercise was exposed and inflicted maximum punishment. The unbelievable thing is the shame she still carries as an adult for this ridiculous “crime”. I know I’ll get a phone call after publishing this giving out that I’ve exposed her darkest secret. It’s not Prince of Tides Mam, move on.

It hadn’t changed much from her days interior design wise with dark mahogany and little sunlight. The desks still had a hole for an ancient inkwell and if you were unlucky enough to get a backless one, you’d spend the school year picking your books up off the floor. There were large religious statues and iconography everywhere and strangely enough some what I think in hindsight were  Salvador Dali prints that slipped by the censors. There was one near the junior classes of a little naked woman in a cage that we would point at and giggle.

smoking-nunsWe were lucky that nuns were a dying breed at this stage and there was only a handful.. the principal, Sr. Marcelina, stayed ensconced in her office mostly, emerging only at lunch to lean on the frame of our classroom door and blink repeatedly while berating us for speaking.  There was Sr. Sibena, a cranky, portly little nun that was spotted more than once in the local off-licence. Then there was Sr. Catherine, tall and manly who was famous for picking her nose. Rumour had it she flicked it right into the mouth of a student once, but that’s hearsay. They sound exaggerated like Roald Dahl characters but they existed. I didn’t have the pleasure of their teaching but had two run-ins with Sibena…(did we nickname her ribena? I hope so).

1103037_Knitting_Kit_07HShe visited our decrepit first class prefab bi-weekly for knitting. I’m one of those tight, sweaty knitters whose needles squeak and wool is damp. She was walking up and down behind us observing our progress (may I state that we were 7). I dropped a stitch and she smacked me across the back of my head and the knitting went flying. That night my Mam got it out of me with her gestapo methods and I begged her not to say anything but next knitting class there was a knock on the door. My Mam was all smiles and said, “Sr, may I have a word?” It all looked civilized to me and Sr Sibena was profuse (and shaky) in her apology when she returned. Turns out my Mam was only short of pinning her against the wall and told her she’d had to endure that kind of bullshit (I’m paraphrasing, may have been an F bomb) when she attended by her lot (said something derogatory about nuns, possibly using dried up and in need of a good something) and she wouldn’t stand by and let it happen to her daughter. If anyone was hitting me up-side the head, she was and not a stranger. She had that scary Mam smile the whole time and an air of Tony Soprano that I’d say had Sabina running to the offy that afternoon. children-christmas-tree-drawing-11788335Another time she caught me drawing a Xmas tree on my notebook just before we broke for holidays. She held it above her head by the corner as if she’d found hardcore porn and shouted “Idling is the devil’s tool” to the class. A fucking Christmas tree!

The teachers weren’t much better. I won’t name them as some are still alive and probably working for the Iona Institute and we all know how litigious that lot are. Back to first class and I had and have strangely flexible legs for one so short and unfit and like to sit in hippy-like contortions. One day the teacher roared FREEZE for no reason at all and we were all frozen in our seats, unaware of what had happened but nervous nonetheless… she patrolled our desks and found me sitting with my legs folded under me. I was made an example of and shamed.. I’m unsure why she was upset, perhaps because she was a tub of lard and would have induced a deep vein thrombosis in this position.. again I’m speculating. I spent the rest of my school career prepared for another freeze and possibly my adult life.

tootsiemrsdoubtfire__140417010005Third class and the shit hit the (non working) fan. We had a teacher who I still believe could have been a man pretending to be a woman for the job, like Tootsie or Mrs Doubtfire but without the glamour and niceness. To my 9 year old self, she resembled a “woman” whom life had continually disappointed her… a last minute jilt at the alter, Bobby Ewing choosing Pam, missing out on a job with the KGB. She had a hatred of bad handwriting and segregated the class into good and bad handwriters. I was a bad handwriter, very bad; I still have trouble deciphering something I’ve written myself but my Mam placated me saying doctors are the worst. I can still see the list she nailed (blue-tacked) to the wall as proud as Martin Luther and his 95 theocrats. My name had many stars after it, not good ones, black evil ones.

tip1I’m not sure why but I had been signed up to school lunches, my mother must have been delusional as at home I lived on a staple diet of marmalade sandwiches, crackers and minestrone cup of soups. I may get this wrong but Wednesday and Friday were currant bun days (everyone got excited for these disgusting “cakes” until a mouse hopped out of the bag one day) Monday and Thursdays were corn beef sandwiches (more jelly and gritty stuff than meat) and the other day was cheese ( a substance I would not have eaten even if served by Michael J. Fox holding a care bear). The milk was my main issue but you had to be ingenious hiding unwanted lunch. We were made to write our number (yes we were all assigned a number from the role book at the start of the year, a nod to previous successful childcare institutions like Auschwitz) on a folded up part of the carton. I had used the outside postbox for some disposal but one carton I hid somewhere in the jacks. Possibly a week had passed and Mrs Cowfire called me to the top of the class. She then pulled said carton of milk from her desk like a magician and brandished it about asking what was the meaning of it. I tried to stammer that I didn’t like milk but she was foaming at the mouth at this stage. “Drink it” she said calmly. “But it’s old…” “Drink it!” I took a sip of the lumpy grossness and started gagging, I may have puked but my recollection ends there as does any chance I ever had of liking milk.

fry64th, 5th and 6th class we had the same teacher who we all loved and I always looked back fondly on till a latecomer to our class and a still-friend put me straight. Orla had come from a “normal” mixed school to our class when she was 10 or 11. She was terrified by our stepford class and how we would all answer in unison and be willing to rat each other out just for the glory. She spoke very quietly and when she would answer a question we would all chant “we can’t hear you” while teacher looked on smugly. She would then be made to go outside the door and answer the question from the other side. When the teacher asked a question we would become rabid in our fanaticism. We’d leave our desks and all swarm hers saying “teacher, teacher, teacher teacher” while waving our hands in her face. She once picked me and I had no idea of the question, I was just caught up in the adulation and frenzy.

There were so many undiagnosed kids back then, possibly dyslexic, spectrum, ADHD and all sorts of learning difficulties and they were ridiculed primarily by the teachers. We can all remember a teacher calling someone’s name to read and thinking “oh fuck this is going to be painful”. The poor kid would stammer through their reading with no prompt or help at all. We did have a learning support teacher but we had no understanding of why she was carting these poor kids off and branded them as stupid and not as needing a little extra help.

When it all got too much for our stressed out, patience-less wardens/ cult leaders they retired to the staff room, a place of mythical legends where no student dared to tread. If you had to knock at the door and it had better be a good reason like someone had fallen into a coma or a skirt had been pulled up, you would be enveloped in a thick cloud of nicotine that would have you high for the day and more than a little asthmatic.

 

nieuwefotossIndividuality and creativity were not nurtured in school at this time. As we got older and our Stockholm Syndrome took hold, we became “big girls”… the name you were given in 6th class, lucky we were immune to patronising. We made sure the younger ones didn’t speak during lunch; we enforced invisible barriers between yards and told on anyone who may have pulled up skirts in the yard.

There are many differences in schools today, mainly that sadistic teachers know they would be filmed on the kid’s mobile phone, shamed on social media and then sacked. Teachers are generally lovely and although overwhelmed try to do their best by each child.

Learning supports are done more subtly now with kids even feeling jealous of my son being taken out for some Wii time when he’s getting antsy. There still isn’t much room for individuality and I get that. Most classes are at the 30+ mark and having everyone toe the line and recite as one makes things run more smoothly.

I do like the positive vibe I get from my son’s school though and he seems happy. He’s rewarded with stars and praised when he does well and this is the main difference in 30 years. I find it difficult to remember any praise in primary bar the comments relayed back by my Mam after a positive parent-teacher meeting, the teachers in their Irishness found it difficult to praise you to your face. It is much easier for me to remember the negative things and still identify as a bad handwriter, shit at Irish and crappy hider of food.

 

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Guest Post, Jen's Movie Musings

Top 5 rom-coms

June 13, 2015

Romantic Comedies or Rom-Coms tend to leave a very bad taste in my mouth, like when you take a sip of the wrong cup of tea and it’s sugared or not depending on your preference. They’re predictable, unoriginal, and more often than not neither funny nor romantic. So I thought about the worst offenders and where it all tends to go wrong;

I then realised it would be a very, very long list and I’d probably have to watch a lot of them all the way through, which could induce nausea, headaches and possible seizures.

However, I decided to remain positive and have compiled a good old fashioned top 5 list.

I’ve applauded where they went right (usually by not casting Katherine Heigl) and tried not to include the really obvious ones: When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, Pretty Woman and the very re-watchable Dirty Dancing (it lacks the comedy aspect but let’s have a moment’s silence for the charismatic and always wonderful Patrick Swayze….).

You may find a gem here that you’ve never seen or you might have a suggestion for me. So, in no particular order, here we go…

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)giphy (9)

In a time when it seem rom-coms are constantly popping up and one is more indistinguishable from the last this is a breath of fresh air. I think there’s 2 ways the bigwigs in Hollywood go about making rom-coms. One is when they need a vehicle for someone. “People can’t get enough Katherine Heigl at the moment, let’s get her in something asap with whatever actor is hot right now…Gerard Butler? Sure he’ll do.” 

The other is when they have an actual well-written script, a director who cares about his work and most importantly great casting. We’re used to seeing Ryan Gosling all broody and serious (The Notebook, Blue Valentine) and this is a welcome change. He’s charming, funny, well-dressed (and ab-ed) even though he’s kind of a dick. Steve Carrell, is the hapless everyman in his ill fitting chinos and sneaker combo.  When Cal’s (Carrell) wife leaves him, suave womanizer Jacob (Gosling) takes pity on him after observing him in his local meat market (bar) and takes him under his wing. He gives him a makeover and all the moves he needs to become a ladies man. It’s kind of like Clueless for guys, but it’s got real heart, great laughs and a few little twists. Julianne Moore and Emma Stone round out the cast with some fiery red hair and womanly charms. Fun for the whole family, except kids, really not appropriate for kids.

Jerry Maguire (1996)giphy (10)

“You had me at Hello”. Enough said. No? Okay. Cameron Crowe has always done the rom-com well, in a cool, thoughtful, non-cheesy way.  I could equally have picked Say Anything but my Tom Cruise affection always leads me to include one of his movies in any list I make. And this is probably my favourite. Cruise as sports agent Maguire whose love life, work life and life in general is falling apart thanks to his growing a conscience while managing to hold onto one client and employee. The path of both relationships are rocky and this movie is actually a romance and a bromance as Jerry falls for Dorothy and her cute little boy, just as much as Rod “show me the money” Tidwell, the football player. Everyone knows the famous quotes, and you’ve most likely seen this one if you’re a non-rock-dwelling-human, but it’s always worth a rewatch. Cuba Gooding Jr brings the comedy and there’s more than a few lump-in-the-throat moments.  And a great Springsteen song to boot. What more could you want?

Groundhog Day (1993)giphy (11)

Is this a rom-com i hear you ask? Well, yes of course. It may air more on the side of comedy than romance but that’s down to the always hilarious Bill Murray. But the general story is of a man trying to win over a woman who is initially less than enamoured with him in some extraordinary circumstances. Bill Murray’s Phil Connors lives the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again; no matter what he does he wakes at 6am to Sonny & Cher’s “I Got you Babe”. Phil and his producer Rita and cameraman Larry get snowed in in Pennsylvania when sent to do a weather segment on famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.  As Phil relives this day over and over he starts to use it to his advantage to try to win over Rita (Andie MacDowell). Things get a little dark for Phil at one point but for the most part this is hilarious family entertainment at it’s best.  An interesting note of trivia, Bill Murray seemingly has a reputation for losing enthusiasm for a project as it goes on, so director Harold Ramis (Bill’s pal from Ghostbusters and Stripes) filmed it backwards so he’d be upbeat and happy for the final scenes and get grumpier for the burnt out weatherman at the start.

 

The Princess Bride (1987)giphy (12)

One of my favourite films of all time;  this is the ultimate romantic comedy. Its got love and romance in spades between a young Robin Wright (before the Penn was added then dropped) as Princess Buttercup and Cary Elwes as sword wielding Wesley.  Buttercup and Wesley’s true love is in jeopardy after they are separated for some years, but nothing, not even Rodents of Unusual Size, 6 fingered men, or death will come between them.  It’s laced with clever humour, classic one-liners and magical performances (Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin is wonderful) and cameos by a host of comedians from the time (look closely, some are disguised). This is from director Rob Reiner, Mr. When Harry Met Sally, and in my opinion this gem is superior as it has a little fantasy mixed in. Definitely one for the whole family, and will delight one and all. That’s it, I’m off to watch it again.

 

Oh, wait, I said 5.

 

27 Dresses (2008)

Just joking…this is a Heigl-free list.

 

Chasing Amy (1997)giphy (13)

You may be familiar with the serious actor/director Ben Affleck getting snubbed by Oscar and squeezing his manly jaw into the batsuit, but he got his start with cult fav Kevin Smith. After a small part in Smith’s Mallrats, Affleck is his main man in this offbeat, romantic comedy. Affleck plays Holden (I’m sure there’s Catcher in the Rye implications here but lets not over-analyse) who writes a somewhat successful comic book with his bestie forever Banky (Jason Lee). On a typical night out they meet Alyssa (90s hot girl Joey Lauren Adams), a cool chick who turns both their heads even though she is a lesbian. Ignoring this, Holden falls in love with her and has to deal with a jealous best friend, a girl with a checkered past and his own insecurities. This movie definitely showcases Ben’s acting chops and watching it now it’s no surprise that he has such clout in the acting world today. Jason Lee is the funny, sarcastic best friend, a job he did so well there was danger of him being forever typecast until he broke free with My Name is Earl . (why did you break free?)  As always with Kevin Smith there’s a little visit from Jay and Silent Bob (his alter ego) and watch out for an appearance from Ben’s pal Matt Damon. Overall, this is a welcome alternative to the boy meets girl rom-com but beware there is a lot of F-bombs and sexually explicit conversations so send the kids to bed early.  In fact, unless it’s a Richard Curtis rom-com, send them to bed… they can watch youtube there instead of being exposed to any filth on your watch.

 

As I thought about romantic comedies for this list, I realised the definition has changed. Originally, they were comedies with a romantic tone but now, the romance aspect has become the dominant theme. You could hardly call Maid in Manhattan or Love Actually a comedy, but rather cute, vapid romantic stories.  I think this is the part of the genre that has turned me off when actually some of my favourite films could be classified as rom-coms…. I Love You Phillip Morris, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Lars and the Real Girl (more Gosling), Beautiful Girls, Tootsie and okay let’s throw in Knocked Up, Katherine’s not all bad.  I concede that it is not the most well-rounded of lists and confess that my knowledge of the classics is very shaky (I only cover my own lifespan, starting from the late 70s). I’m sure Roman Holiday or something Clark Gable-y would be much more respected but it’s all subjective. It’s nice to know I can now go forward with an open mind and continue to enjoy the best of this category.

 

Too Shy Shy

June 8, 2015

I know that many of you will think I’m taking the piss or being sarcastic when I say this but I used to be REALLY shy. It was crippling and controlled everything I did and I don’t know how it started but I know how I learnt to diminish it.

ugly_duckling_2_by_fernlAs a child I felt self-conscious. This is a turn of phrase that we never really consider properly. I was conscious of my self. I would over think every expression and body movement and how they made me appear to people. I was uncomfortable around others and felt under scrutiny. I wasn’t under scrutiny at all obviously but this is how I felt.

I suppose it didn’t help that I had red (strawberry blond, yes Mam) hair and Ken Dodd’s teeth. I was also rake thin, an affliction I long for now and was and am a walking freckle.

I didn’t feel very blessed in the looks department and my mother tried to placate me saying I was like the Ugly Duckling and would one day blossom into a swan which as you can imagine gave me no comfort whatsoever.

198436_10150141943503138_6525319_nI loved school as there were no scary members of the opposite sex there bar some male teachers that were Cliff Richard-esque in their asexuality. I was kinda academic and revelled in praise (kiss ass). I always had amazing friends, most of whom are still in my life and can attest to my crippling shyness in a court of law if it comes to it.

When I became a teenager my shyness grew legs (wish I had, mine stopped growing at 12). I could no longer hide behind my Mam and I didn’t want the independence and freedom that growing older brought. Socialising with the opposite sex was a nightmare of epic proportions. I was nostalgic already for my Barbie and fancy paper days and ill-equipped for boob-growth and boys.

91MXucMfZML._SL1500_At 14 the pressure was on to go to the Grove. For those of you not from the northside of Dublin. This was a weekly (Friday) disco held in the gym of a boy’s school in Raheny. Allegedly you had to be 16 but a passport photo seemed to pass for ID. It was a meat market for hormonal, dubiously dressed teens. The guys mostly wore gooley-crushers; tight black jeans that were supposed to give them the swagger of Jim Morrison but just gave them the facial expression of someone trying not to shart. The girls wore tartan skirts, wooly jumpers, long witchy dresses, tie-dye and everyone wore Doc Martens, the more holes, the cooler you were. Makeup consisted of Constance Carroll pressed powder in porcelain and some smudged red lipstick channeling Robert Smith. Alcohol was imbibed, not by me and I’m not doing a Bill Clinton here, I just didn’t want to drink, an alien thought to me now. The compound was an outside area where a girl could get pregnant merely by inhaling the stench of hormones (Quorum).

Before there was Joe Duffy, there was Gay Byrne and he devoted a week of radio shows to all the french kissing and dry humping going on at the grove and most of us had to miss a few weeks of it at best and at worst have a facts of life conversation with our parents. One pivotal teenage moment happened during a slow set, probably to the strains of Starry Starry Night… the girls would all hang out trying to look oblivious and non-desperate while the boys would do laps looking for someone to ask up. I was sitting on the ground trying best as I could to become invisible while harbouring fantasies that a ridey guy would pick me to dance with (damn John Hughes). Out of the corner of my eye I saw a skinny bet-down yoke of a punk wannabe approach me. He crouched down in front of me and lit a lighter near my face then shook his head, said no and walked off. I laugh at it now and wish I could return to this moment to kick the little bollocks off him but it crushed my already fragile sense of self. When I got home that night my parents kept asking why I was so quiet and I upped my teenage stroppy ante. As I made my way to bed I heard them giggling that I must have a boyfriend.

UCD_General_1_WebThe night before college I crept into my Mam’s bed and told her I was terrified and how would I talk to boys? Every day in UCD was an exercise in avoidance. I would often seem stand-offish but that’s because I couldn’t allow myself to engage in banter as I knew it could possibly lead to me blushing. This was a huge problem for me as going red was my giveaway. I could try to pretend to be comfortable and relaxed in a given situation but my scorching cheeks would tell otherwise.

I had my first proper boyfriend at 19 and he was really understanding but enabled my shyness further. It had gotten to the stage that I wouldn’t go into a shop as the interaction scared me so he would do it for me and let me wait outside.

Alcohol was not a good thing at this time in my life as it took all those inhibitions and confidence problems away and like someone in the desert that had found an oasis, I grasped this lifeline on nights out and probably (definitely) made a holy show of myself, revelling in the freedom and non-blushery it brought.

I would always go straight to the problem pages in magazines hoping to find someone with the same problem and get some advice; no google then. I found an answer once… it said to confront your fears, I didn’t like that answer.

How did I become the confident, amazing swan that I am now? Baby-steps…. (more like big Doc Marten stomping ones)

m-4When I moved to Turkey in 2004, I had to find work. I was supposed to be doing some babysitting but ended up on the back of a motorbike, ambushing tourists and asking them to come to the bar I was working for. This was beyond terrifying for me but being a kiss ass I wanted to please my boss. I then got a job as a transfer rep. I had to stand up on a bus of holiday-makers with a microphone and introduce myself and talk about the resort. I was a state the first few times, dashing to the toilet beforehand; my voice was shaking and my ears were ringing. After the first 10-20 times, it started to become easier and I’d even use some inflection in my voice and possibly a little joke. The following Summer I got offered a full time repping job. This was amazing as these jobs didn’t come up very often and the pay and perks (best seats in Jimmys) were fantastic. Immediately I began to stress about the welcome meeting. I’m sure you’ve all been to one on holidays… free non-alcoholic cocktails and a harangued rep shouting over the drunken hecklers about some ancient ruins. I had prepped my first set of guests on the bus ride to the hotel, told them it was my first time and they were really kind to me. I sped through my talk, palms sweating and tummy lurching. I did this a couple of times a week and by mid season I was pacing the aisles of the bar with a microphone like Tom Cruise in Magnolia.giphy (8)

The following year I had 2 hotels and was doing approx 4 meetings a week. On my night off we’d go to a karaoke bar where I’d no problem getting up and wailing through You’re So Vain or Black Velvet. I started to like the sound of my own voice and meek little shy Aisling had and has LOTS to say and catch up on. I am now the go-to person at funerals and events to do readings (non religious please if you’re asking) and I have to be literally beaten off a karaoke machine.

I am opinionated and unafraid to speak up if it matters to me, I may still blush but I’ll laugh it off as peri-menopause now.

anigif_enhanced-2034-1414526630-9While my particular cure is not applicable to everybody, I would say that the problem page answer I once read was right.. as uncomfortable as it may make you, you need to confront your fears. No amount of hiding or acting will cure your shyness, you have got to put yourself out there and I promise things will get better. Accept your flaws and if you ask those around you, they will tell you they haven’t noticed your teeth (for example) and may even say they like them or have admired their whiteness (for example). They may be lying but fuck it, it’s nice to hear. One of the advantages of not being stunning (hun) is it forces you to nurture other charms, your humour, intellect, contouring skills and these can make you stand out from the one dimensional, vapid Megan Foxes beside you… not judging Megan at all… an example. One piece of advice I would love to impart to any kids struggling with shyness is advice I got from a blog that an autistic dad writes. He wished he could go back in time and tell his young self the following;

“I know it’s hard. And I know you never believe it when anyone else says it but maybe you’ll believe it from me, from yourself… endure this because it’s worth it.” read more

 

 

My Cranio-Child

June 4, 2015

704423_10151233565723138_605851805_oMy third son was such an easy birth, 9lb 13 oz and not a stitch.. think I was cavernous by then. (click here for explanation)

I had been robbed of an easy postnatal experience on baby 2 because of his heart condition and subsequent stay in Crumlin hospital. I was so relieved to see Rian’s pink colouring and for the nurses to proclaim him perfect. He latched on beautifully and was so placid. He was the darkest of my 3 boys with sallow skin and dark hair, at last the Turkish genes stepped up.

I was changing his nappy in my hospital bed (breaking all the midwife rules) when I noticed his willy (penis is too grown up a word for a little baby) was odd. I called a nurse over and asked her was she concerned. It appeared to have been circumcised and was bunched up looking. A doctor came to visit and diagnosed a hypospadias. He wasn’t peeing from the tip of his penis but from close to the base (where willy meets testes) and it would require future surgery.

After the heart thing I didn’t think this was too serious an issue and I rang my husband who was almost inconsolable. I guess it takes having one to appreciate the potential pain.

531975_10151234084278138_1718372287_nAnother thing I asked every nurse and doctor that passed was why was there a ridge down the middle of his head. His head had a pointy look and if you felt the middle of his forehead, there was a pronounced ridge. All the professionals asked was he forceps? I answered no and they explained it away saying it’ll rectify itself as he grows.

 

664967_10151252971113138_1920522816_oWe got home and the chaos of 3 small kids engulfed us, 2 in nappies. The health visitor called a few days later and asked if I’d any concerns? I commented on his head and she said it was odd but it’d probably sort itself but to put my mind at rest she put me on a waiting list for a specialist.

At Rian’s 6 week checkup, I asked the nurse about his head and she called the doctor who again dismissed it as the baby’s head settling after birth. Every time I held my baby, I rubbed his forehead, hoping to feel some improvement and as the months passed, my unease grew.

At 5 months we had our appointment with the baby head specialist guy (his technical title), he told us it was probably nothing but because he wasn’t 100% sure he referred us to Dr. Sinead Harty in Drogheda.

1014604_10151570356043138_696661106_o 2013-07-30 16.12.03In the meantime all three had gotten chicken pox and we dealt with that horror. A few weeks later we went for our appointment in Drogheda. We had to bring Koray, our then 2 year old who had gotten the worst dose and was covered in scabs. In the waiting room my main concern was him freaking out the other parents and I wanted to roar, he’s not viral. It was our turn and we met with the nurse who examined Rian and took a medical history. She then called for the doctor. Dr, Harty entered the room by saying “ let me have a look at this triangular headed baby” . She started talking to the nurse and called me over and said look at his head from an aerial view, it’s very triangular. She said she had just diagnosed another case and it was called trigonocephaly. I was relieved that we had a name and asked what next? “A helmet“? “No, he’ll need surgery.”  “What? something small”? I asked getting nervous. “No it’s a major operation” she answered frankly and said she would be referring us to a craniofacial specialist in Temple Street called Dylan Murray. We left her office as if we were sucker-punched. We barely spoke the whole way home and my cheeks were wet with tears I didn’t know I’d shed. At one point in the journey Ossie said, he’s not having an operation!

That night in bed I went crazy googling everything I could pertaining to Rian’s condition and confused as to how I hadn’t found these answers previously. I’m normally so good at a google diagnosis. I watched some youtube videos of kids journeys through surgery and I was a mess. Ossie watched the operation performed and looked horrified. He maintained that he didn’t need it, I knew he would but kept silent for the first time in my life.

2013-11-27 21.32.18After a couple of months we were back to Drogheda for a CT scan that confirmed everyone’s fears. He had craniosynstosis. It’s a condition where the cranial bones fuse prematurely in the womb. Craniosynostosis is a rare condition. It is estimated that one in every 1,800 to 3,000 children is born with the condition. Three out of every four cases affect boys. Surgery is recommended in the first year of life for cosmetic reasons and if left untreated can cause intracranial pressure which in turn can cause learning difficulties and persistent headaches. We got to meet with the craniofacial department in Temple Street when Rian was about 8 months old. Dr. Murray felt his head and said he would definitely need surgery and it was to be scheduled for around his first birthday. The date was eventually set for December the 4th. I spent all of November, bringing him to Santa and indoor play spaces trying to compensate for what he didn’t know was to come.

We arrived at Temple Street early and checked him in and were led to our ward. I thought I was coping fabulously but when I look back on photos of the time I was like a skeleton through stress.  We dressed him in his hospital gown and I carried him to theatre. He fought against the gas  a little then slept. It was heartbreaking and I don’t know how I left him. The operation was to take 5 hours so we decided to go to the cinema to distract ourselves, as sitting by his empty bed would have been too much. We watched The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and it did a great job of numbing the worry. As soon as we left the cinema my stomach was churning and I had to run to the hospital to be sick.

2013-12-04 16.55.02We were told Rian was in recovery and everything went well, he’d needed a transfusion but that was common enough. When our baby was eventually brought back to us, he looked so beautiful and exactly how he should have always looked. I thought that I would grieve for his pre-op appearance but I didn’t at all, I couldn’t stop staring at his beautiful, perfectly flat new forehead. The operation was a success and they had removed the top of his skull and jigsawed it all back together, all under the watchful eye of a neurologist.

The next day, the swelling started and his eyes closed. He had a zigzag scar across his head from ear to ear that was like something out of a horror movie. As awful as it was, I couldn’t help but think he looked like an ageing actor who just had a major facelift.

2013-12-06 21.24.13

 

We celebrated his first birthday on the ward but he was miserable understandably and his eyes were still closed. He got comfort from some of the singing toys that friends and family brought in for him. Four days post op his eyes opened. I noticed him reaching for a snax accurately and I was thrilled. He started to smile too. The next day we were ready to go home and after 5 days with no sleep on a mattress, I was more then  ready. I had to bath him every night and shampoo the scar vigorously to prevent scabbing… not a pleasant task and his skull was so bumpy and felt like egg shells and then apply an ointment. Pain was managed with calpol and nurofen and he was in good spirits. He’s lucky to have Ron Burgundy “a fine head of hair” and the scar would only be noticeable if he shaved his head in the future. We are a year and a half post-op and see Dr Murray on a yearly basis to check how Rian is doing developmentally but as a mother, I know he’s absolutely fine. I have no regrets and want only to raise awareness as my story seems to be the norm rather than the exception. Go with your gut mammys, if you feel something isn’t right, keep questioning!

In case you’re wondering about his willy… the operation is set for 2 weeks so no doubt that’ll require another blog post.20150604_103959If you want to see Rian’s journey put to emotional music, click here

If you think your baby/child has an unusual shaped head or any bumps or ridges there is a fantastic support group in Ireland Cranio Ribbons Ireland run by an amazing lady Elizabeth Kane. She has a facebook page and a closed group if you have any questions. The members have all had children with some form of craniosynostosis and are at varying stages of treatment.

Temple Street have an informative page also, click here.

Books for kids

June 1, 2015

I have always loved books and spent most of my childhood hiding in them. I was happy to be given them for Christmas and birthdays and loved nothing more than a food/book/comfy space combo. Shopping trips with my mam to Northside Shopping Centre were made sweeter by a book of my choice from Books Unlimited where I’d carefully choose an Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl and have it read in a couple of days. I wanted my kids to share my passion and started Conall on baby board books as soon as he was able to sit on my knee.

1744989The first books to spark some interest were those touch and feel books. He loved to touch the textures and I made up little stories about the characters. Strangely, my sister in her 30s would ask if I’d gotten any new ones when she visited and would sit there rubbing them in a trance. Hmmm best left undiagnosed.

mx6cFcfKhZbkJQMX3ks3zzQNext we moved on to the Usborne Look and Say series. The illustrations were amazing and this series was a great way to expand my son’s vocabulary as I would point to each picture and ask him to name the item.

PeterAndJane_1a_PlayWithUs_9781844223602HI did order all the original Peter and Jane series that I remembered from school which he enjoyed and mammy had a nice trip down nostalgia lane. However, I do have some questions. Where were their parents? I know it was the 70s but how could they let their two young kids go to the beach unsupervised? Also, I don’t think the above cover and title would get past trading standards today.

leslie-patricelli-booksI was now getting bored with all the baby books and stumbled across Leslie Patricelli’s hilarious series of board books for kids. Gems such as No No Yes Yes  and Yummy Yucky have made it through 3 boys who have laughed and hopefully learnt life lessons such as “burgers are yummy, bogies are yucky”.

cat20in20the20hat20jugglingDid you know the reason Dr. Seuss wrote Cat in the Hat? This is a piece of trivia that I’ve used to fill many awkward silences that became even more awkward; In the U.S. in the 1950s there was much debate about literacy (and lack thereof) among young children and Dr. Seuss was given the enormous task to create a book for kids aged 6/7 that was unputdownable and asked that it be limited to 225 distinct words from a list of 348 that were selected from a standard first grader’s vocabulary list. He succeeded and the book has stood the test of time as I loved it myself as a kid and my boys cheer at the chaos caused by thing one and thing two; they base their lives on it. Another of the Drs favourites in my house is Green Eggs and Ham which he wrote on a bet that he couldn’t write a book with fifty or fewer distinct words. That guy loved a challenge.

The_Lonely_BeastAt 3, my oldest was ready for actual stories, yay! I stumbled across an Irish writer Chris Judge and his fabulous book The Lonely Beast (by stumble, I mean I saw it on the Late Late Toy Show book section… nerd). Conall was enthralled and I read it every night for months until he knew it by rote. I got two more of his books that were just as brilliant, surprising and funny; The Great Explorer  and The Brave Beast. You cannot go wrong with these child-pleasers.

The-Smartest-Giant-in-TownAlso Julia Donaldson stuff is always welcome… of course the Gruffalo and it’s spin-off the Gruffalo’s child but my boys adore The Smartest Giant in Town and Stick Man.

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_cover61FW7QHRTKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Where the Wild Things Are is timeless and a nice quick read for tired mammys as is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Owl Babies.weregoingonabearhuntcover

51gpKWEzG8L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_417QHP8L27L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Honourable mentions go to Allan Ahlberg for making me laugh as much as the kids with his book The Pencil. Also Oliver Jeffers for Stuck.

6a0120a7356fc1970b017d3dfcbaf7970cLadybird books are a hit also and I’m forever ordering them online. You need to order the original, scary as shit ones and not the P.C. bull doing the rounds these days. I loved Tom Thumb and especially the picture illustrating the contents of the wolf’s stomach when I was a kid, but that’s just me. The boys love Jack and the Beanstalk (anyone else find themselves replacing the word englishman with irishman when reading it?)  And of course the Billy Goats Gruff, that original troll is the stuff of a Guillermo Del Toro movie.

roald-dahlI’ve moved Conall on to Roald Dahl (yesssss, I’ve been dreaming of this day since his birth). When I read at night to him and say that’s enough for tonight, he says “NOOOO I need to know what happens next”. My work here is done. For me, one of the biggest perks of having kids is rereading preloved books to them, same goes for movies.

I discovered Stephen King at 12 and his phenomenal “The Stand”, I hope my boys can share my love of Mr. King in the future. I made the mistake of telling Conall about Pennywise recently and he had to sleep in my bed for a few nights, not my proudest parenting moment.

It’s difficult to find the time to nurture a love of books in your kids, particularly when you’re faced with a nemesis as powerful as Netflix but they will thank you for it. It’s nice to have that close contact last thing at night and even nicer when they are engaged and laugh out loud or shout in fright. It’s beneficial for their imagination, vocabulary and eventual reading skills. So go… read, read, read.