Tuesday, 1 September 2015


I have very vague memories of my first day at school.  I do remember a sense of confusion and wondering what it was all about.  I’m sure it was explained to me beforehand that I was going to a place called school and I would stay there for a few hours before coming home again but I honestly don’t remember that.  Hence the bewilderment when I got there.
My first teacher is retired now and I often want to tell her she was the person responsible for showing me how to decipher those weird, squiggly hieroglyphics into proper words that made brilliant, exciting sense.
My next teacher was a tiny nun who spoke so quietly I found it difficult to understand her.  Especially the day she hit me on the hand with one of those old fashioned butter paddles.  I still have no idea why. 
When I made my First Holy Communion my teacher was a dark haired lady called Miss Lundy.  She would set me extra homework each evening with some picture cards.  I had to write the story according to what was happening in each scene.  I loved it.
In second class I had two teachers.  My “real” teacher was heavily involved with music and spent most of her time teaching it.  The stand in nun had us learn off ridiculous and pointless religious paragraphs and then she would test us on it.    We didn’t do anything else. 
I remember each and every one of my primary school teachers and one or two from secondary school.  Each and every one of them made an impact on me in some shape or form.  Some good, some bad, some indifferent.
Now I am sending my own kids to school.  Into the hands of people who will teach them things I cannot and possibly by means I won’t necessarily agree with.
I have no bad stories to tell of my time in school.  I enjoyed primary tremendously whereas secondary came as a bit of a shock to me and pretty soon I learned that if I kept my head down and didn’t draw attention to myself, I would be ignored.  By the teachers.
This effectively meant that when I struggled with things, it went unnoticed and I was very much the type of person who liked to stick her head in the sand hoping it would all go away if I didn’t think about it.
I consider my kids to be fortunate to go to school in an age where this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. 
One of our boys didn’t settle into school as seamlessly as his brothers.  He struggled for a while and in turn, I did too, wondering how to help him. 
Thanks to the fantastic help, forward thinking and pro-active steps of not one but two teachers, our boy is on top of things now and much happier as a result.
Last week my phone pinged with the usual reminder text that school is back.  There was an additional piece of information included.  One of those teachers, the school principal, had resigned.
This lady was with the school when it started out with just 21 children in 2004 using a prefabricated building as their place of education.  In 2007 she saw it granted permanent recognition from the Department of Education and Science.  She was there in 2009 when the students moved into the new school where it has continued to develop and grow. 
I can only hope that our boys’ education continues to be as positive as it has been so far, they are surrounded by people outside of family who care about their emotional and social development believing this is just as important as academia.
Múinteoir Sinead, go n-éiri an bother leat.  You will be missed.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Re-Setting Your System

The school gates are due to open in a matter of days.  I have helpfully reminded all those concerned about this fact in an effort to ease them into the next mind-set. 

Monday night our quieter boy came back down the stairs to tell me he thought he was going to be sick.  I managed to convince him otherwise and tucked him back in.

Last night he appeared again.  “I have the hic-cups so when I lie down I think I’m going to be sick.”

He is not going to be sick.  I know exactly what is bothering him.

School is bothering him.  The thoughts of it are bothering him.  I went upstairs with him and sat on his bed.  We had a chat.  Or at least I tried to chat to him.  He turned away from me to face the wall.  I chatted anyway.

We did a little relaxation exercise taken from a book I can highly recommend called A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety” by Dawn Huebner, PH.D. 

You might also find it helpful for your child if they are worrying about the return to school.  Or about any other anxious occasion in their life. 

Picture your mind like a television and the worry thoughts are a programme you don’t want to watch.  Think about changing that channel on the television.  You can do this by “re-setting your system” and this means doing something to change the way your body feels.


Try this relaxation exercise.

Squeeze your hands into tight fists.
Scrunch up your face.
Tense your body.

Hold this “body scrunch” for 5 seconds.
Then let everything go so you are nice and floppy.

Now it’s time to breathe deeply.

Imagine the breath you are taking in as being cool and calming.  Think of it going all the way down into your tummy.
Now breathe out.  Think about this breath out as beign hot and bothered air.

In – cool and calm.                        
Out – hot and bothered.

Do this 5 times.

This next bit is my favourite.

Pick a happy memory.  It can be anything at all.  As long as it gives you happy thoughts when you think about it.  It can be a tastier than usual hot chocolate.  A day at the zoo.   Going into the shop and finding your favourite magazine.

Now, think about what you see.  What are you wearing?  Can you hear anything?  How do you feel?

When I did this exercise with the boy it was intended for, two more joined in and had a great time.

Ten minutes later the hic-cups were gone and all thoughts of feeling sick had stopped.  He wasn’t facing the wall anymore and he wrote down a couple of good things that had happened that day as well.

Then he fell asleep.

I think a little distraction exercise like this can work for everyone.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Nothing Should be Rushed on Sunday

I don’t know why it’s taken me the best part of four decades to figure this one out, but this morning I had an epiphany of sorts.

I woke up.  The weather was gorgeous!  The kids were downstairs, television blaring and by the sounds of rattling bowls, being fed.  My favourite part.  The field outside my window had grass the colour of the ocean blowing in the wind and I could hear fledglings in the chimney.   I felt rested and ready to face the day.  The tummy bug had finally left the building having come back twice to take another bite of two apples.  Bastard thing.

Did I say the weather was gorgeous?  I decided there and then I was going for a run.  My first in over a week. 

As if she could read my mind, our Juno dog appeared at the bedroom door.  Or rather, her nose did.  I called her name and she came in.  Her wet, cold nose touched my hand in greeting.  She sniffed my runners and I swung my legs out of bed.

I dressed quickly and arranged to meet Mister Husband and the kids in town and I set off with the dog.

It was glorious.  I felt totally and utterly at peace with the world and with myself.  We weren’t the only ones on the road, Juno and I.  Plenty of cyclists, walkers and people with dogs passed us.

I took it nice and handy as I had fallen foul of the tummy bug as well.  The Sunday Business Show was being broadcast in my ears and every time I felt my pace quicken I slowed it down.   Nothing should be rushed on a Sunday.

Juno heard the car before I did and we both turned on the roundabout to see our red Citroen C8 pass with windows wound down and four sets of waving kids’ arms sticking out the windows.

Five minutes later I joined my menfolk in the café for coffee and croissants.

A couple of hours later we were in a shopping centre where I picked up the last of the copybooks for next year.  Yes, you read that right.  A few weeks ago I made a decision not to be left with school supplies at the last minute and now I am finished with the school books for next year. 

I wandered into Boots where I picked up one or two fripperies for myself.  There is something so deliciously pleasing about picking up a bottle of body lotion and an item of make-up that you don’t actually need, but want.

We all need nice things.  Nice things are good for the soul.  A wise lady named Claire once told me subconsciously you don’t consider yourself important, good or worthy enough if you don’t treat yourself every now and again.

Life is fast and we all need to take it slowly on occasion; slow down our thought process and actions.

Today was the day I chose to do that.

Nothing should be rushed on Sundays.

And guess what?  I still got everything done.  The lunches made, the washing hung out, a tear sewed (badly) in a red school jumper, lunch supplies picked up and right now I am enjoying a cold glass of wine.

Because nothing should be rushed on Sundays.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Minding Your Mindfulness

Mindfulness seems to be all the rage at the moment.  Interestingly enough Mister Husband and I had a chat over the weekend (or rather, I did all the talking and he listened) about how we are living in a fast and furious world.  Everything has to be now and no-one has time anymore for the simple things in life. 

That’s what mindfulness is; finding the calm and stability in our busy lives both for ourselves and with others.  Trying not to sweat the small stuff, taking a large(ish) step back and seeing.  Really seeing. 

It all sounds so New Age and faddish but when was the last time you stared off into space and genuinely blocked everything out.  Even if it was only for two minutes before someone brought you back down to earth with a demand for sandwich or a request for help with homework.

Without even realising it, you were practising mindfulness.  You were so lost in the moment that you zoned out. 

Some people practise mindfulness by meditating but if I am to be completely honest and speaking solely for myself, that isn’t something I can get completely on board with.  I am going to trot out the usual “I don’t have time” excuse even though you can, with a bit of practise, mediate several times a day for as little as five minutes at a time. 

I do like the sound of meditation but I think in order to be mindful, we need to find something that works for us as an individual rather than what the magazine article or Facebook page dictates.  I think that’s the neat thing about it; it isn’t a one size fits all model, mindfulness can be tweaked and adapted to suit your own needs.

Let’s be upfront about something.  When you’ve got small kids it can be almost impossible to finish a cup of coffee or visit the bathroom alone.  Trying to be mindful in an allocated space of time can be farcical to say the least so here’s my take on it.

I think it can be as basic as enjoying the simple everyday things.  So, what are the things you enjoy on a daily basis?  Those few minutes first thing in the morning when you wake up but want to stay there just a little bit longer?  That stretch before your feet touch the floor?  The first cup of coffee of the day?  Maybe it’s that half hour alone before the kids wake up?  Your eleven o’clock coffee?  A glass of wine with your evening meal?  Reading the headlines when the kids are in school?  Using a favourite moisturiser after a shower?  Going for a walk or a run?  A cappuccino after the school run?  Your favourite soap on TV?

The list is endless.  But whatever it is you enjoy doing, take your time and really enjoy it.   
And make sure you take that time for yourself. Every day.  Not just when you can fit it in. 

Only you can mind your mindfulness.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Bedtime Guilt

Parenthood brings a lot of unwanted guilt.  Again, why didn’t I read the small print before signing up for this?

Guilt because you’ve lost patience and maybe snapped (okay, yelled) at your child.  Guilt because they asked you for a small treat in their lunch box and because it is not treat Friday you had to say no.  Guilt because you were just too damn tired to run a bath for four kids so they went to bed with dirt under their fingernails.  Guilt because there was only enough milk left for the morning and no was said to a bed time hot chocolate because you really really didn’t want to get in the car and drive to buy more.

Guilt because guilt begets guilt.

Bedtime guilt is one of the bigger ones, I feel.  It is the end of the day and energy levels are not so much low as almost completely and utterly depleted.  Bedtime becomes a rushed affair.  No you may not have something to eat.  The toothbrushes are lined up, pyjamas in separate piles and water bottles filled.  Rush, rush, rush to get a pyjamas on a child who needs assistance and another who is just so slow it drives you crazy and pushes your patience to the limits.  A request for one to wash their face and hands and when they refuse rudely you tussle with giving out to them or suddenly suffering from selective hearing because it’s just not worth a meltdown at 8pm of an evening.

Then there are the shenanigans that happen when they finally troop upstairs. 

 “I want you to read the bed time story.  Daddy can’t do the posh voice for Reginald Rake.”

“I want you to bring me up to bed.  I want you to listen to my Two Good Things.”

“I need you to give me a carry.  Mine legs are asleep.”

And on it goes.

I honestly believe a decent 10 minutes spent with them at tucking-in time, reaps massive benefits. But sometimes I just don't have the energy and I'll admit these are the nights I take a glass of wine up with me.  Arrest me now!  But as long as they get their "mammy time" at bedtime, it mostly, usually, sometimes sees them all asleep in about 10 minutes.

Other times one of them will, without fail, reappear in about ten minutes looking for a drink or cream to be rubbed in somewhere or to tell me a fascinating detail about Xbox.

Sometimes the four year old can be heard thundering about as he enjoyed a decadent three hour nap earlier on that day and is wide awake.

But two out of four really do fall asleep in approximately ten minutes and as long as I’ve got my ear phones plugged in and the thundering about isn’t too thundering, I can ignore it all. 

But the guilt of it.  The guilt gets me every time.  I'm at home with my lot all day and I still feel guilty if I don't put them to bed. 

Anyone else?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

I Am Glad

As another day draws to a close and I chase my boys up the stairs and into their beds, hoping they’ll stay there, I am glad.

Glad that all I have to deal with is the boring minutiae of every day life such as school runs, homework, uniforms, and meals, cooking and cleaning.  Thankful that I don’t have anything more serious than that to contend with.

What troubles me and my family can be sorted and is being sorted.  But for others it goes on.  Never really goes away.  It’s always there in the background, insidious and evil.  

We never know what the person we chatted to in the supermarket is going through.  What they are going home to or what they are escaping from.

Always be a little kinder than necessary. 

As our world grows ever bigger, louder, competitive and busy, we are all still trying to get 
through the same day.

Each with our own troubles and difficulties.

Say hello.  Smile.  Tell that harassed looking mother in the school yard or supermarket that she is doing a great job.  Buy that suspended coffee in your local café. 

Try not to judge. 

It’s a funny old world filled with even funnier people.  Sometimes it’s so funny it can reduce you to tears.

But we’re in it.  And we’re in it together. 

There’s room for us all. 

Move over.  Push up.

Your problems could be worse. 

Mine too. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Clocking Off!

pic: escapethroughalens.blogspot.com
Someone once told me their mother used to “clock off” at 10pm each night without fail.  If he or any of his siblings had the audacity to approach her after this time, they were given short shrift.  He said she stuck to her guns; she neither would nor could not be moved.  Whatever it was they needed or couldn’t find, they were on their own.

I was both horrified and aghast.

10pm!  Cripes. I’m dragging my sorry arse up to bed at 10pm not winding down for the night. 

No siree.  My clocking off period is 8pm and I fully intend to stick to it over the years.

Kids will keep taking and talking and finding ways to entrap me and snare me back into their little world. 

If they want to have a vital conversation about a rock or Terraria (Minecraft or some such) I will nod enthusiastically at a more palatable hour such as 6pm. 

I have my own very important stuff to be getting on with thank you kindly and it is of utmost importance that they know that.

One of my absolute pet peeves (and I have a few) is people who are constantly late or keep me waiting as they faff around looking for their keys/wallet or bag. 

It irks me greatly that they seem to be of the opinion my time is not important.

Which is why I covet those two hours between the hours of 8 and 10pm.  I am most selfish about them. 

And here’s the moan.  I’ll get the disclaimer bit out of the way first.

I love my kids.  I wouldn’t be without them.  I am so glad at this stage in my life when I am fast approaching the beginning of the end of my child bearing days that I will never wake up and go shit! I’ve left it too late and now I might not be able to have kids.

This was a factor all of those moons ago when starting a family was imminent.  And low and behold, once I started I found it hard to stop.

But stop I did.

Kids will take it out of ya, let me tell you.  I feel great at the moment.  I know who I am and what I want in life and am at that great *old* age where I don’t particularly give a shit if I’m not cool or in with the crowd or what people think about me.  I don’t fear missing out on anything anymore. Chances are it probably wasn’t all that great anyway.

But I do completely and utterly feel like the best years of my life are slipping by.  I regularly project 10 years into the future when the boys are of an age where they can look after themselves.  The oldest will be 19 and hopefully even living somewhere else.

Yes.  I am that mother.

See that bit about *old* age and not caring about what others think of me. 

But I also have to remind myself that I too will be 10 years older and that puts me firmly in my fifties.

I actually had to pause a moment before I could type that.  All of the other milestone birthdays didn’t cost me a thought but I will struggle with the big five oh. 
I am already struggling with it.

Back to my original gripe.  Will I be able to run almost 10k when I am in my fifties like I can today?  (Finally!)  Will I have any interest left or energy to do things?

Will I still be writing?  God, I hope so.  In fact I hope what I am doing today is putting down groundwork for proper writing down the line.  You know that old fantasy – turn your hobby into your job and you’ll never work a day in your life again.

I want that.  Even in my fifties.  I have grand old thoughts about going to bed at 3 and 4am (I used to in my twenties before I gave the whole thing up) because I am caught up in something and trying to finish it. 

Not snatching a useless ten minutes here and there before I am dragged off to do something.

I am feeling very frustrated at the moment because I simply cannot get the head space in which to do my stuff.  I have been given another opportunity to branch out and try something else and pesky mundane things like cooking and school runs and washing and homework and all of that minutiae shite is in the way.

I know there are many of me out there.  I see it every day.  People swallowed alive by life.  

Life is good, life is pretty good but at the moment it just doesn’t feel like mine.

Thank you if you are still reading. I don’t mean to drag you down.   I’m just letting off a little steam.

I toyed long and hard about posting this one.  And then I received some very welcoming words recently from someone who says she has been here too and how the future only brings better things.  More fabulous things.  It came in the midst of other people admitting their own frustrations about their own lack of headspace and time away from the kids.  So here it is.  I’ve published it.  Go easy on me.  These are my genuine thoughts and I can’t help the way I feel when I am caught up in a funk.  It will pass the way it always does.  Again, thank you for reading.

I found this article by Sarah Caden of the Irish Independent somewhat reassuring if you care to have a read.  Seems like we all go through feelings of doubt and uncertainty at times.