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Help the Halloween parties

October 19, 2015

As a parent of three small boys, I couldn’t survive without a calendar; not a digital one but an old school one that hangs on the wall. Every hospital appointment, birthday party and extra curricular activity is written on there as I cannot trust my mammy-brain.

Looming large is Halloween which I would choose to ignore only for school projects and euro shop window dressings reminding my children who in turn remind me (hourly).

giphy (22)Once upon a time in the 1980s I loved this holiday and thought my black bag outfit and sweaty plastic mask to be a most worthy costume. One year I was Hilda Ogden and then Madonna completed the last few years.. early 80s Madonna, lots of ripped t-shirts and blasphemous rosary beads. I’m not sure which upset my mother most (probably the t-shirts). I sifted through my bounty (contained in a Quinnsworth bag or my mam’s old handbag) that night which consisted of grapes and monkey nuts to find a handful of sweets which were *gasp* not hermetically sealed. My next door neighbour, Granny Jones we called her would always gift us with large, shelled nuts that required a hammer to open (no nut-crackers in our ill-equipped kitchen) and disappointment on tasting. The ultimate Halloween experience however was being allowed to roam the streets in the dark with my little gang. We felt like the Goonies.

giphy (23)Then came the fateful day in late September 1988 as the kids began bonfire preparations (started early in our estate) and lugged wooden crates up the street. I was petting a friend’s dog and the noise spooked him prompting him to attack me and take lumps out of my face. While it wasn’t on the scale of a Michael Myers attack, it scarred me, literally. I was at an age where dressing up had become baby-ish anyway and my self-preservation instincts were strong when it came to bonfires and fireworks so I steered clear. I regained a little love for this holiday in college when dressing up became less black-bagish and more sophisticated (slutty).

Halloween has changed a lot since the ‘80s and has become completely Americanised. Instead of “help the Halloween party” it’s “trick or treat”. We are expected to decorate our houses as if it were Christmas; Halloween you are not and never will be Christmas! Pumpkins are now an integral part of the occasion with pumpkin patches thriving and carving kits being sold everywhere. I hate the bloody things and spend ages gouging out the flesh, it’s akin to chopping up a large turnip (I now buy these pre chopped and frozen). The kids get bored and slope off and I’m left to lose a finger and my mind. After a few days the pumpkin starts to decompose and attract flies; an unwelcome addition to my decorations. On the plus side, I do love the seeds toasted and the soup is divine; I have yet to try a pie as I’m unsure if it’s sweet or savoury and the uncertainty freaks me out.

11381_10152681078093138_1650261608467733319_n10009291_10152473805373138_3019627880417218482_nThe costume issue begins in September when one of the kids tells me he wants the €50 Darth Vader outfit complete with light saber that he saw online and I try desperately to sway him towards the €4 zombie ones in Aldi. No matter what they wear it will rain and they will need to wear a big jacket over their precious costume, concealing time and money spent.

If my kids get sugar, a molotov cocktail of hyperactivity will be lit and they can appear rabid and incoherent with the strength of the Hulk and the ingenuity of Horrid Henry. Halloween evening I can do nothing but sit and watch them gorge on the enormous bag of E numbers that they have procured and put emergency plans into place.

I hate having to answer the door every 2 mins to a throng of saccharin-saturated Elsas/ Minions. There’s always a token ’80s-throwback kid in a black bag that I have to ask who or what he/she is and get an indignant answer. Then there’s the unexpected 2nd wave of trick or treaters at about 8pm when I’ve run out of treats and I have to start handing out household items.. slices of bread, McDonald’s raisins, tampons.

Fireworks are gorgeous when viewed from a distance but I dread the day that my boys will want to be in close proximity to one. Mine are still too young and can be satisfied with sparklers and fun snaps but I am apprehensive of sparks and polyester costumes. I normally spend the evening with my fingers under a cold tap due to excessive sparkler lighting; If I ever decide on a life of crime, I am now fingerprint proof.

shutterstock_711717The kids like to play games in the evening but the ones of my childhood don’t translate well. I can’t dangle an apple from the light fitting as mine are fragile ikea ones and not the big brass fittings my parents had. I don’t do ducking for apples in a bowl of water because that is gross… lots of saliva and apple bits. I do however like to give chase with the lights out and scare the crap out of them as revenge for the sugar mania that I’ve endured although this game can end with the Exorcist-style projectile vomiting.

giphy (24)Then there’s the tail end of Halloween, late at night that seems to belong to actual zombie teenagers who year after year steal my green bin and set it on fire while cheating death with fireworks and cheap alcohol down by the river.

Nope, let’s get this scarefest done with and move on to Christmas, a more refined and genteel holiday where I and my green bin can relax without the threat of a fire….unless it’s an open one roasting chestnuts.

A Bit Of Everything

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Back to School

October 1, 2015

It’s September and the kids are back to school. I for one welcome the routine that the start of the school year brings, but one thing I don’t welcome is the dreaded school-run.

Day one and I’m up at 6.30am. Showered, dressed, fully made up, I prepare fancy, healthy lunches for the kids and have a cup of tea before waking them. Everyone is mildly excited at what the new school year may bring, so the car journey is relatively calm. At the school I wave and smile at other parents and teachers as I settle the kids into their new classrooms. I get home and pat myself on the back for a job well done, tackle the washing up, and start on the evening’s dinner. I re-apply lipstick and collect the boys, taking in all their news and sharing the excitement that no homework brings.

keith-richardsNext day I wake up late and have to forgo the shower. I cover my unwashed hair with a threadbare cotton headband that makes me look like Keith Richards, throw on my mammy uniform of leggings + long vest + baggy jumper, and run around opening curtains and shouting “we’re late!”. I can’t think why, but the boys seem narky at this rude awakening, and the day begins with a few unpleasant exchanges. Lunch is thrown together while the kids eat breakfast, and as I wrestle the three of them into their respective uniforms I feel a sweat breaking out.

traffic_lightsI eventually get them all in their car seats, diffusing the tantrums when somebody wants my phone or one of them looks at, touches or bites one of his brothers. I leave the driveway to a soundtrack of screeching – my tyres and their wails. I realise I didn’t brush my teeth, so I pop some gum in my mouth, but one of them notices and a war erupts. I turn the radio up and convince myself we’ll make up for lost time when we get stuck behind a tractor or the temporary traffic lights that appear sporadically on the back roads during the year.

giphy (15)We pull up at the school late and bail out of the car, and if I could do an ‘80s cop show roll over the bonnet, I would. I put on my huge Jackie O sunglasses and avoid eye-contact with parents and teachers, hoping they’ll think I’m Aisling’s dowdy au pair. I drop off the two eldest and head for the playschool, a little less fraught, then it’s back in the car where I crank up the radio and audition for X Factor all the way home.

I get home and look at the dirty dishes, the pile of washing and the empty fridge, and I plod upstairs, defeated, and collapse onto my bed, waking to shower and collect my little men at 1pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm, dreaming of 2019 when they will all have the same school schedule… FOR A YEAR!

On day three the homework has started and it’s tough – 2nd class has upped its game. My 7 year old spends most of the time crying and trying to avoid his maths, so I give him the following problem: “If Conall spends 10 minutes doing his maths and 40 minutes whingeing about it, how long does it take Conall to do his homework?” He squeals laughing at this but I know it’ll be the same tonight, and every week-night, until roughly 2025.

article-2298032-18BB057C000005DC-55_634x600To do this thing right I have to get back into the mindset of when I was in school… but then again I had weekly detention for lates and mostly did my homework on Sunday night to the strains of Glenroe, or on Monday morning, copying whoever sat next to me. Perhaps I’m not the best example. Instead I will use Gwyneth’s mindset and wake at 6.30am every day (I won’t), having I laid out their ironed (nope) uniforms and prepared their lunches the night before (ha!). I will be a super-organised wonder woman and my school run will resemble something out of a Disney movie rather than a Quentin Tarantino one. These are my goals. Wish me luck!

 
Friday Frolics

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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.

 

Family, Like Magazine, Mental Health, Motherhood, Musings

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?

May 14, 2015

I’ve always loved referendums, it’s an exciting time to vote. Elections can be confusing and, let’s face it, a little boring. Referendums tend to get people animated, and heated debates can be overheard in the workplace, the home and the pub. May 22nd is no exception. We’re being asked to vote on marriage equality and as the date approaches things are heating up. It’s starting to feel like a fight between the insular Ireland of old and a modern Ireland encompassing many different nationalities and lifestyles .

father-ted-careful-nowThe No campaign have tried to muddy the waters on what should be a clear cut decision of marriage equality for all. They have made the argument about children and in doing so have gone for the human jugular. If it wasn’t such a serious matter I would find their posters funny in the way that Father Ted’s poster down with this sort of thing was  Children deserve a mother and a father” and “surrogacy? she needs her mother for life, not just for 9 months”. They have managed to alienate a vast number of the population asides from the LGBT community; single mothers, widowed parents; adopted kids; surrogates etc

I am doing my best to raise my kids to be as open-minded as they can be. I want them to grow up in a world where they are accepted and loved. They have each had a shaky start; My 7-year-old has aspergers. He struggles socially and I worry for his future relationships. I have never worried about the sex of his future partners, to me that is irrelevant. My only concern is that someone will find him as amazing and hilarious as I do. My middle boy has a heart condition, and I worry for his future health. I don’t worry about his love life… He will be loved wholly and completely, two minutes in his pouty, wide-eyed company and anyone would fall for him. My baby boy had major surgery at age two for craniosynostosis. He was born with a metopic ridge down the centre of his forehead that gave his face an unusual look. Faced with the difficult decision to proceed with major cranial surgery for what were primarily cosmetic reasons, we did it for him because life can be hard and cruel and we wanted him to feel acceptance and not to be judged by his appearance.

Your life changes forever when you have kids. You become almost primal in your desire to protect these helpless little beings. To flourish, they need someone batting for them. They need to feel pure love with a side order of discipline. There are many parents out there doing this alone and I take my hat off to them. With two parents you can take some time out for yourself, have some support with family decisions along with all the good bits a relationship brings.

The sex of that other person has no bearing on things whatsoever. Someone to teach them ball? My husband doesn’t play sports and the boys aren’t interested anyway. Would two men raising a daughter have difficulty preparing her for periods? My Mam didn’t have a notion about biology and my Dad explained it to me factually and it wasn’t slightly awkward.image

Raising boys I’m always conscious to keep the lines of communication open. I have a worry book that I use each night with Conall in which we draw and discuss anything making him anxious. I lie beside each one of them at night and tell them to feel free to tell me anything.I would be heartbroken if I thought that they felt they had to hide some key part of themselves- after all, statistically young men are prone to suffering from mental health issues that end tragically. Boys are taught to be self contained and can become emotionally stunted as they get older. They need to know they can disclose anything and we won’t love them any less. Well almost anything- I could accept them telling me they’re gay, bi, transgender anything but a priest. That I would struggle with – but I would find a way.

We are told by the no side to “think of the children”, and indeed we must. We must think of our own kids and the kind of world we want to raise them in. We must think of the children growing up in Ireland right now, and realising they might be gay. What will a no vote say to them? That they are less than their straight peers? We always tell our children they can be anything they want to be*. Do we want to put a small disclaimer at the bottom of that lovely sentiment? (*As long as you’re not gay and wanting equal rights.)

So, I urge you, DO think of the children and vote YES; yes to equality, yes to love and yes to being anything you want to be!

yes_ballot-235x300

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Lego, and Thor, and Bismarck! Oh, my!

April 9, 2015
There's no place like home

My life is a clutter-fest. Parts of my kitchen counter are drowning in a sea of “stuff to be filed” and “stuff to be put into drawers”. My utility room – a downstairs toilet that houses the junk I don’t want on the kitchen counter – has shelves that are straining under the weight of everything from drain unblocker to 3D glasses from the cinema. When it comes to the space under the couches or beds, I’m pleading the fifth as I’m deeply ashamed, but suffice to say, I have found fruit that has freeze-dried itself.

From Bismarck to DeGaulleThere are boxes of loose photos everywhere, despite the empty albums and baby books that I promise I’ll organise one day. I have so many books! Vincent De Paul has benefited from many a black bag full, but how could I get rid of my copy of From Bismarck to DeGaulle; who knows when I may need to brush up on my leaving cert history? And cookbooks! I have every kind: desserts, starters, Turkish food, recipes for a slow cooker. I have bought these for the woman I wish to be and not for actual me, whose idea of dinner is popping an Aldi chicken Kiev in the airfryer (it can be done and you’re welcome).

I’ve always been a hoarder, so I’ve boxes of stuff in the attic, under the bed, stuffed in my dresser. Little mementos of my youth; diaries, a gigantic signed Newman and Baddiel poster, old fake IDs, shot glasses, my school shirt with the long faded signatures of old friends. It’s nice to take that stuff out sometimes and reconnect with my young and idealised self.

Bad Trip

Bad Trip by Louish Pixel

But the biggest physical enemy to space in my house are my kids, or more specifically their toys. They are everywhere! No matter how many times I sort them out – superheroes in one box, lego in another – they manage to expand and spread out all over the house. Unless Toy Story is based on true events, and Spiderman and Thor come alive at night, battling for territory, my army of three are to blame. Navigating my house is like an episode of Wipeout… make it down the stairs in one piece without stepping on a toy car; walk around Mr. Potato Head; watch the lego bits. she’s down!

And it’s not just my physical space that the kids encroach on – it’s mental space that has truly become my Emerald City. Parenthood can make you feel so claustrophobic. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I have gone to the toilet with someone on my lap. If I turn on the shower, they tear into the bathroom, ripping off their clothes and jumping in with me. If someone rings me, a fight will instantly break out, or they will simply scream until I’m forced to hang up and whoever was on the other end of the phone will think I live in an asylum.

If someone rings the doorbell the three of them will race to the door and scream over who gets to open it, opening and slamming the door a number of times in the Jehovah’s Witnesses face. When things get chaotic like this, I feel like stepping into my wardrobe for a few minutes, ironically, to get some space. When I get a chance to go for a meal with my girlfriends, we act like we’re on speed, relishing the freedom, talking non-stop and gulping wine, vaguely guilty but supremely blissed-out.

Pandemonium and disarray are almost a given in a house with young kids. It’s human nature to want what we don’t have and in my case that’s serenity and space but when I’m gifted it by a babysitter or family member, I miss the chaos and wonder if they’re ok. Then I’ll get a Viber picture of them somewhere having a great time and I’ll relax and ease into the sound of silence. As for my cluttered house, it’s a home, and I’ve been told by friends that they feel welcome and comfortable. Probably platitudes, but I’ll take it! After all, there’s no place like home.

First published in Like magazine

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Mom Corleone

March 9, 2015
Mommie Dearest

As Mother’s Day is almost upon us, I’m going to dedicate this article to whinging about my mother rather than my kids. For those of you who are uncertain of my skill set, I am perfect in every way (I have been compared to that paragon of virtue Martha Stewart) and am therefore well qualified to slate all around me. A verbal sniper if you will.

I am currently recuperating at my Mam and Dad’s house following an operation. I had a pelvic floor and vaginal wall repair, to be discussed at a later date when healed and fabulous. I’ve only been here 3 days and I’ve regressed 20 years. I’m sullen, weepy, irritable and I’ve put on about a stone. I’m on a diet of white bread sandwiches and Deal or No Deal. I have just sobbed through Long Lost Family with my Mam while my Dad roared laughing at us. My Mam has me ensconced on the couch with a pillow under my legs and snacks on tap but I suspect her well of sympathy is drying up, she’s tucking the blanket in a bit too heavy handed.

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The Devil Wears Mothercare

March 2, 2015
Miniature Bosses

Am I the only one who watches The Devil Wears Prada and thinks that Anne Hathaway had it easy with Meryl Streep/ Anna Wintour as a boss?

My kids are divas on a good day and provide me with their celebrity riders (which are subject to change post-preparation) several times a day. My 3 year old asks for “everything I like” for his lunch. I interpret that as cheese, ham, cucumber and pasta but it could be flung back, not meeting his culinary desires. I imagine this is what it’s like to work for Elton John.

My mornings begin with a barrage of requests, “Where’s the tablet?” “ I need juice” (a mixture of  apple, orange and blackcurrant with two ice-cubes and a red straw) “my pants are wet.. get me new ones” I run laps of the house attending to everyones needs aware that the clock is ticking and we can’t be late for school AGAIN. I’m also aware that if I try to rush anyone things will take longer so I plaster a calm look on my face as my forehead beads sweat and I bite the urge to scream.

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Confessions of a Good But Often Crappy Mother

February 23, 2015
Stepford Wife

It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment I turned into a stereotypical mother and wife. As a teenager I sneered at my own mothers willingness to cook, clean, take my crap and drop cliches into every conversation.

I promised myself I’d be different; I’d travel the U.S. in a campervan and paint every room in my house black, but twenty years, a husband and three kids later I’ve become a Stepford Wife – albeit an incredibly bad one.

Things I swore I wouldn’t do when I became a wife and mother:

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