Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Doing My Head In

It was Saturday afternoon and the end of a two week school break.

The weather had been glorious for 10 days in a row bringing with it ladybirds, dandelions and cups of tea in the garden.  A full washing line of bed linen flapping furiously in the breeze was another common sight. 

But the nerves were raw.  We were tiring of having been in each other’s company for 14 days with nary a break; a mother and her four young sons.  Better not forget the dog.

All other avenues of entertainment had been exhausted; swimming, cinema, the park, a playground or three, some very lovely lunches out and in a fit of sheer desperation a bake off with mini cup-cakes, pancakes and cookies.

I found myself sitting in the car.  In fact, I wrote this sitting in the car.  Not on the seat.  No, they’d see me out the window of the house that way.

We put a seven seater through its many paces and in order to create extra room within, we removed a back seat.  Thereby creating a nice vacant space behind the driver seat.

Before I beat a hasty retreat into the car, I had sat on the top landing.  Drinking a cup of tepid tea.  Shouts and screeches floated up the stairs after me.  I remembered my sister in law mentioning she sat her legal exams with ear plugs for maximum concentration.  I made a mental note to procure some for myself.

Small feet approached.  I stiffened and an involuntary sigh filled my lungs.  It was just the dog.  She stuck a cold, wet nose under my chin looking for a pat down.  Then small human feet sounded out their approach.  Giving in, I picked up the cup of cold tea and went downstairs. 

I had sat on the side of my bed, lingered much longer than was necessary in the hot press.  Boredom forced me out. 

I made another cup of tea and doled out flapjacks to give their jaws something else to do other than shout and roar.

I got a three and a half minute reprieve.  The dog approached me again.  This time her paw lifted and she pointedly placed it on my knee.  She was hungry.

It was as I poured kibble into her bowl I had the idea of escaping into the car.

So here I am.  Sitting on the floor, writing in my notebook, listening to the sound of the wind around me.  Feeling it rock the stationary vehicle.  Every now and again a scream or a shout sounds faintly from the house.  I ignore it.

It’s quiet out here.  It’s solitary. It’s peaceful if a tad cold.  I scribble the odd word, sentence or two into my notebook and then look up as a bird hovering over the chimney catches my attention.  I can hear the hum of traffic on the main road. 

I like sitting in my cocoon, my isolation chamber.  But it doesn’t last long.  Like all of my attempts that Saturday.

The house door opens and four boys and their dog fall out and down the steps.

Screeches of delight, of victory as they find me and I am yet again hunted from my hiding place.

Sometimes, in times of need the only cure is a cup of tea.  A large cup of tea.

And maybe some earplugs. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Today I Am Annoyed

Today I am annoyed.  I woke up that way.  Call it week two of the Easter holidays and it’s all beginning to grate or just plain old contrariness but I’m plain old annoyed today.

Then I had reason to be.

I took the boys swimming.  We go once a week but they particularly enjoy it on a holiday from school.

I forgot that 11am is the time usually reserved for older members of the community to enjoy their aqua aerobics class.  The pool was pretty busy.

That was okay.

The lesson was taking place at the side of the pool we are most familiar with.  It is the perfect depth for the boys.  Three of them can swim but two are confident only where their feet can touch the bottom.  They are unable to tread water properly yet.

Due to aqua aerobics taking place this morning, it was necessary for us to use the other end.  

We walked towards our swimming destination and I watched other families to gauge how my two newbie swimmers would manage. 

I enquired from the (young) lifeguard about the depth of the water.  We are lucky enough to have a leisure centre where the swimming pool has a moving floor.  The lifeguard said it was the same depth as the lessons.

Now, the deep end of the pool means I am on my tippy toes but for smaller members of my family who are recently free of arm bands the tippy toes part spells danger for them. 

I issued strict and loud instructions to the newbie swimmers to wait until I got in first.    

I knew immediately they wouldn’t manage it.  It was way too deep for them.

The water started to bubble around me with frustration and annoyance.  I sourced an extra pair of arm bands for the five year old and the six year old managed just fine.  As long as he stuck to the side where he could grab hold of something when he needed a break.

If anyone else had taken my boys to the pool this morning there could have been a different outcome.  I’m not talking about a tragedy but definitely about two young boys getting into serious difficulty.

Not good enough.  Not good enough at all!

And to make things worse I’ve only got two fekin tea-bags left in the house. 

Annoyed?  I’m rightly pissed off now!

Don’t mind me.  I’m only letting off a bit of steam.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Striking a Balance
People often ask me how I strike the balance between kids and work/play/home life etc.
What is this balance you speak of, I always riposte back.

I admit to being stumped by the question and I wonder what my own mother’s response would have been as a non-driver Stay at Home Parent to 8 children.   We lived three miles outside town and didn’t have a phone in the house until we were teenagers.  It was also pre-internet era.
I would put money on her answer being, “we just got on with it” or “two feet on the ground and arse to the wind!”

I know I didn’t have balance when we had our first three children.  I jumped straight into the deep end and I stayed there.

I had taken a huge step back from the social scene and my only other outlet was with family members, attending my wonderful breast feeding meet up once a week and various on-line support groups.

Looking back I wasn’t sinking per se but I definitely wasn’t swimming well either.

I just bob, bob, bobbed along.

I considered myself lucky that mothering my babies was all I had to do.  I wasn’t returning to work.

I did experience deep and dark moments of depression but without entering into that here, they passed of their own accord.

When I was pregnant with our fourth son, I wasn’t in great form at the fifth month.  I was also anxious about post natal depression returning when the baby was born.

Thankfully, I was ok.  Our fourth fella was a great sleeper from that fabled 6 – 8 weeks milestone.  When he was four months old I decided to do something about the baby weight that was stubbornly hanging around since baby number two.

This is where I found my balance I think.  In the form of exercise. 

When I started walking to lose some weight, I took to it like a duck to water.  There is such a thing as muscle memory and I believe my body was kicked into touch with a little daily exercise. 

The dormant memories of what it was like to raise my heart beat a little and swing my arms, stretched and woke up.

After a while the seed to try running my circuit was planted and today, almost two and a half years later I run regularly. 

I never saw myself running for anything except maybe a bus and I really surprised myself.

I run because I love it. 

Another obvious and very satisfying benefit is I am now a little over three stone lighter.

I also write a blog, have a weekly column in a local newspaper and contribute regularly to Irish parenting magazines.

I experience regular frustration and resentment because it is hard to find the time to write with four boisterous boys whose own hobbies are demanding my attention.  To have three hours a couple of mornings a week just to devote to writing would be nothing short of luxurious. 

If I am to be completely honest however, I know I wouldn’t be satisfied with just three mornings a week.

I would quite happily spend all day every day in front of the computer.

But that wouldn’t be a balance at all.

This year we will have another boy starting school and I have great plans for at least two of those previously mentioned mornings.

Looks like that balance just might be mine after all.

Thinking about it, it seems I didn’t find a balance; the balance found me.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Pat on the Back

Today I am giving myself a little pat on the back.  Why?  Purely because I feel like it. 

I am managing, for the most part, to raise healthy and happy kids.  They may go to bed with dirt under their fingernails but they are fed and warm.  And I get them there.  I get them to the end of the day and all of them in one piece.

I also get myself washed, dressed and fed.  Okay sometimes the food part is hit and miss but I have yet to leave the house wearing odd shoes.

There are days when I can’t see the forest for the trees.  It all seems so endless, so fruitless and the frustration I feel knows no bounds.  Those times can run into weeks and I go a bit ka-BLUE-y at the end. 

Then I found this.

I told myself to pin it to the fridge where I would see it a million times a day and just breathe.

On yet another day when I was struggling, this presented itself to me.

Trust what’s happening.
Trust it will be okay.
Trust all is well.

It comes from an uplifting blog post on and you can read it in its entirety here.

That single word trust has been my mantra for the last while.  During those days when I can’t see that forest for all of the crazy trees.  When my head is splitting with noise levels and frustration.

I trust that it is happening for a reason.  I trust that it will be okay and I trust all is well.

In fact, I know all is well.

That is why I am patting myself on the back.  And because I feel like it.