Wednesday 26 December 2012

Joy Pockets for December

Where on earth did this year go to?  When I think how quickly it has passed, particularly the last quarter, I get a little freaked.  Is the rest of my life going to go by so quickly?  Sometimes I want certain aspects of it to be done and dusted but to wish for that to happen means everything else must pass quickly too. 

December is most of all a Christmas month.  But it is also a time of great stress and worry for a lot of people.  Especially today.   That is why I think it is particularly important to take note of the little things that happen to make us smile.  So these are my joy pockets for December.  Some are big, some are small and one or two are just plain OCD weird.  But they’re mine.  All mine.

I won a dress!  Me that wins nothing!  Ever!  A truly lovely dress that I intend to blog about anon.  And what’s more, it was delivered to me within 5 days.  None of that waiting around stuff. 

Realising I have lost almost three stone in 18 months.  Not only do my clothes fit but I feel much better.  My body feels stronger.  It is not the slow, sluggish one I inhabited this time last year. I can run comfortably.  I can sing a song without breaking for breath.  My aches and pains seem fewer and far between.    

Opening my email one Friday afternoon and seeing not one, but two messages about being successful in my quest to have something published.  And one of them was a paid piece.  I have made thirty euro through my art this year.  Thirty euro towards a pair of new running shoes.

I turned 40.  Not a bother on me. Despite, or maybe in spite of, the depressing jokes and mind-sets about an age with a zero attached to it, I don’t mind being forty. I am twenty years older, wiser and a lot more confident than I was at twenty.   And to celebrate I had a lovely birthday meal with family and friends.  Delicious food, great company, nice wine.  Great fun.   Quote of the evening came from Iarla.  “Mammy, why do you look pretty this night?” 

The week after that I had a date night with Mister Husband and I got to wear another new dress.  Not the one I won, a different one.  With new shoes.  Car to Bar shoes.  My feet didn’t complain too much the next day either.  Best part of the next day was a late afternoon nap.   I’m getting old you see.  Quote of the evening.  “You’re never forty!!”

Ellie Goulding.   This is a definite joy pocket for December.  A British singer songwriter who has been around for a few years now and I have to admit, one who passed completely over my radar first time round.  She was just background noise until she released the first song “Anything Could Happen“ from her new album Halcyon and I am hooked.  I have been listening to her every night since.

I sometimes get into a little tizzy at not having posts ready for the blog but I still manage to come up with something at the eleventh hour and I have not missed a deadline in a year.  It was a little arrangement I made with myself when the blog was born and it means a lot to me that I have been able to keep it.  

My blog is a whole year old.  I love it.  I love having something that is me.  For me. Just for me.  Something I get to do alone.  I get to write about what I want and thankfully, so far, people are liking it.   

The days are shorter and dark by 4.30pm.  It is not possible for me to get in a run unless Smallest Boy goes for a morning nap.  Recently, there were gaps of ten days where I was using a Davina McCall DVD as a method of offloading some pent-up frustration.  An early morning phone call from my sister in law offering to sit with the kids while I went out for a run was manna from heaven.  I was light of foot and lighter of heart after that run.  It only strengthened my resolve to get back into it properly in January.

I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions.  Why wait for the start of a new year when there is the start of a new day in a few hours?  But for 2013 I already know what one of my goals are.  I am going to hit 10k before the end of the year.  If you can run 5k from scratch with only 6 weeks of training, I will use the same game plan to reach 10k. I am really looking forward to it. 

A weird one this but I burst into tears in the middle of a glorious sweaty work out with weights one night. I felt better immediately.  Whatever was building up inside me just came out and I let it.

My lovely breastfeeding support group will be meeting up for the New Year on 8th January and in February I will be doing a Parent to Parent Support training course.  I am really looking forward to this. 

I got offered a product for my blog.  Something to run a competition with they said.  I said, yes please and thank you very much.  But they never got back to me.  Never mind.  I got a mention in their Facebook page which was a great buzz.

Smallest Boy is getting bigger and hardier by the day.  I swear he grows overnight.  He is starting to make a real attempt at talking.  A lot of it is still sounds but he is making the right ones.  And one day he fell over, got upset and turned to me for an unprompted kiss. All was right in his little world once he got it and he was off to raise devilment again with his best pal Juno the dog.

Shy Boy will turn five on New Year’s Day and he has asked for his birthday party to take place in one of those indoor family centres. Personally I would rather stick the cocktail sticks from their sausages in my eyes than go there.  We always have parties in our house.  But this year, as I feel he would be more comfortable there with four or five of his new friends, this is where his birthday party will take place.   

The two school go-ers had their Christmas service and I was delighted to be a tad late as it meant Iarla was leaving his classroom just as I was walking in the door.  He saw me and went pink with pleasure.  He knew I was in the hall even if he didn’t see me there.

A little bit of Christmas fun was bought for a tenner in the discount store.  Reindeer “anklers” and a red nose for the car. 

I know it’s important to wash your hands on a regular basis.  And I do wash them on a regular basis.  They’re raw with the washing.    But I especially love doing this when I’m out in public.  It just feels so cleansing.  I love watching the dirt from the escalators, the car door handle, the sticky mess from the boys and the handling of money residue turning the water brown.

I don’t like to cook.  But sometimes I get a mad urge to do something new and that’s when I enjoy it.  Oldest Boy has developed a fondness for chicken and vegetable soup.  I made chicken stock so I can make him soups from scratch.  The house smelt fantastic for ages afterwards.

We put up our Christmas tree.  I made two cards;  one for the cafĂ© who feeds us each and every Saturday morning and another for Liam’s playschool.  I do not like the lads to help me when I make and do.  This is the anal side of me.  I allowed them to stick on one piece of cotton wool each to make the snowman.  But I let them do whatever they liked with and to our Christmas tree.    

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Be Good

“Be good.”  (Even ET was at it for fek sake) “Be good or no-one will be your friend.”  “Be good or no-one will like you.”  “Is he/she a good baby?”  “Be good or you’ll go to hell.”  “It’ll be a black mark against your soul.”  “Be good, Santy’s robin is watching.”  “What goes around comes around.”

When I was growing up, be good or no-one will like you/be your friend were mantras.  Two horrible mantras.  Fek that shit.  It is completely impossible and unrealistic to expect to get through this life without someone somewhere not “getting you” or for someone to “not like you” for no other reason than they just don’t like you. 

It’s ok that not everyone will think you are marvellous. 

It is also pretty much guaranteed that you will encounter people who are not to your taste either.   

And guess what?  That’s ok too.

What’s not ok is to beat yourself up over it. Be better than that.  Be stronger than that!  

How many of us have been asked if our baby “is good” at only two weeks old.  A tiny baby, new to the world, busy eating, sleeping and pooping. Who gets a “bad” baby?   I’m not going to go into the physiological reasons why a newborn, indeed any baby, cries so much in the early days.  But is that not just a delicious excuse to soothe them? 

Going to hell.  In my head this was a place with volcanic like fires and a Minotaur in the corner.  Another version of the carrot on the end of the stick, a ploy to beat us all into obedience.  Ditto the black mark against your soul.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get any of it but I believed it.  Does that make sense? 

Santy’s robin lives in our garden in winter but I tell our boys that he is a spy! The boys think this is cool. 

What goes around probably does come around.  But we still shouldn’t relish in it. 

So here’s an idea.   

How about being kind to yourself instead.  Give yourself a bit of a break.   

Especially at this time of year.  There have been some horrific, desperately sad stories in the media in the last six months alone.  Two little babies killed on an innocent walk with their father.  A pregnant mother dying alone leaving two small boys motherless.  A shooting in a cinema in America, killing dozens.   Young girls taking their lives as a result of cyber bullying.  Two young sisters falling foul of the same fate within six weeks of each other.  And more recently, just mere days ago, small children dying in another senseless act of madness in Connecticut.    

It is all so short.  So fleeting.  So now.

So why aren’t we enjoying it more?  Why are we so rushed, so hell bent on being ahead all the time. 

Human life is so fragile, so easily wiped out, so easily forgotten about. 

Lately, a young man lost his life when he fell in front of a bus on a busy Dublin street.  A similar accident happened some years back on the daily commute from Dublin.  A male pedestrian stepped too close to the kerb and lost his life to an articulated truck. 

The news swept through the bus and I found myself looking out the front window at the body of the man lying on the road.  Minus his head. 

The driver of the truck, completely oblivious to what had happened continued on his way and was finally stopped at Newlands Cross. 

We sat there for over an hour and during that time watched as an ambulance and Dublin fire brigade arrived on the scene.  The body of the man was loaded into the ambulance and the rest of his life, the one that was swept from his shoulders, literally hosed off the street and swept into the gutter with one of those yard brushes.

That image stayed with me for a long time.  How easy it is to clean up after a life. 

Someone out there had given birth to that man.  He had a family, maybe a wife, maybe children.  But he was here.  He had life.

And it was wiped out in minutes. 

Like those babies, the pregnant mother, the people at the cinema, the teenage girls, those children and their teachers in the school the morning the gunman entered the premises.
It’s hard not to think of the families and how they would have been located afterwards.  How they must have felt on hearing the terrible news of the senseless deaths of their loved ones.

The circumstances of their passing.

It’s hard not to imagine those people saying if only I had asked them to stay a bit longer they would be here today.  If only she had received help sooner, perhaps she would still be here and looking forward to Christmas with her four children.  If only they went to an earlier show.  If only they had spoken to someone, anyone, our children would still be here with us.

And maybe, just maybe there was one thank god I kept her at home today because she said she wasn’t feeling well.

The last thing my mother used to say to us each and every morning, as she stood waving us off to school, was “be good.”

I think I was.

She still says it to me today if I am going somewhere. 

I think I am.

I tell my kids to “have fun” when I wave them off at the school gate.

I know they do.  I don’t know what the future holds for them but I do know we are extremely fortunate to live in a country where the laws are different and yes, they may be bullied, but the chances of them being gunned down in cold blood are very, very remote. 

So by all means be good.  Be very, very good.  To yourself that is. 

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Let me Entertain You

Right.  So I don’t entertain my kids.  By that I mean, I am not a make and do mother. I hate glitter.  I hate it so much that when my kids come home from school with it on their masterpiece, that work of art goes straight in the bin.  No looking back.  No regrets.

Birthday cards with glitter on them do not get put in their scrapbooks.  Glitter is not pretty and shiny; it is brightly coloured bits of grit.  Budgies eat grit.  You bring grit into the house on your shoes.  Your cat shits in grit for god sake.  There is no room for glitter in my house.   

Apologies if I went on a bit there, but that is the strength of my dislike for the stuff. 

When it comes to doing stuff with the boys, you might catch me making a jigsaw with them.  You will definitely hear me “spelling down” a word for Oldest Boy when he is writing one of his stories.  I will (under duress/pester power) read stories during the day.  If they want to draw a picture, I will provide them with the paper and colours and they do the rest themselves.

I let them crack eggs when I am baking and Shy Boy loves to peel carrots for me.

I don’t join them in their games and I don’t “solve” their boredom complaints.

When we had our Halloween party, I didn’t organise Halloween games.  We don’t pass the parcel or pin the tail on the donkey at birthday parties either. 

I don’t entertain kids. 

They don’t need it. 

In fairness we have four and they entertain themselves and each other.  Mostly.  Sometimes.

It wasn’t always this way, however.

When Oldest Boy was Only Boy Child, I did an awful lot of entertaining.  I spent as much time on his play mat as he did.  I sat on the floor and shuffled around plastic blocks and a myriad of cuddly stuffed toys that were binned as soon as he tired of them.

We watched those Baby Einstein DVD’s which bored me to tears and in hindsight, him too.   
Until the day I put on the Old McDonald one and realised I hit pay dirt. It was the only one he would watch.  Over and over again.

Happy days.

I spoke out loud to him about everything and I feared he might never learn to speak purely because he wasn’t able to get a word in edgeways with me yakking on all the time.

When I think back on the days I took him to the bathroom with me.  Because, don’t you know, he would die of boredom and or loneliness for the two minutes it took me to cross the hallway and use the facilities. 

These days I run to the bathroom for refuge and lock myself in there. 

No, I don’t entertain my kids.

We were never entertained growing up.  Toys were strictly for Christmas and we made do for the rest of the year.  Poster paints that came in pots you could store your eye shadow in today, back then were still being used in the summer months.  Purely because once they were gone, that was it.  No more.

We learned to swim by going to the pool each week.  Self-taught for 10p a session and 10p for the shop on the way home where we carefully and meticulously picked out our money’s worth of penny sweets.  In those days you could get two for a penny.  The lady in the shop always had great patience for us, four or more kids, each of us taking turns to pick out the sweets we wanted.   

We didn’t watch television.  Certainly not to the extent our kids, watch it today.  Trips to the cinema were a very rare treat.  I think we were teenagers when the first video player came into the house and that was only on loan as our cousins were going on holiday and we got to babysit their VCR. 

We enrolled in a thing called The Summer Project when we were kids.  A far cry from your Cul Camps and your Football Clubs and whatever else is all the rage these days. 

The Summer Project, if I remember correctly, cost 80p each to join up and then you paid a further 15p for each activity you signed up to do.  Every child in the town paid to play rounder’s, tennis, to go swimming, and have video afternoons.  It was great.

We also used our bicycles to get into town.  Nobody drove us to our clubs and we also had to make our own way to school and home again each day.   

I was lucky though.  When I was little, there were enough of us to entertain each other.  Our mother never read us bedtime stories.  We didn’t own jigsaws.  She certainly never got down on the floor to play with us.    And television consisted of just two channels one of which did not wake up till mid-afternoon.

We lived out in the country and did not see our school friends from one end of the summer till the other.  We didn’t go on family holidays.  None that I can remember, that is. 

The ones I do remember were spent as pre-teens in Birr, Co. Offaly, with relatives, for a week or two.  We swam in the river in Birr town and some days went to Banagher to swim in the river there.  We always had ice-cream afterwards.

As kids at home, we spent our time roaming the fields and playing in some practically dilapidated sheds, totally at one with nature and each other.  We really did leave the house first thing in the morning and returned only at meal times. 

We had the run of the place and the countryside.  Nobody came after us to stop us from climbing, exploring, discovering, wandering.  When my little brother came along, he literally lived in the hedges. 

Yes, our parents were wary of the road.  I have a strong and abiding memory of the front gate tied shut and a plank of wood jammed in where a railing was missing.  We still played tennis on that road.  We rode our bicycles up and down.  One winter when we had a heavy snow, the road was our ice rink. 

We didn’t know what video games were.  We did know what was going to be for dinner because we tended to have the same thing every Monday through to Friday.  Friday being our favourite as it was always proper home-made chips that day – made from peeling and chopping spuds and using a chip pan.     

And we were always hungry.  There was always dessert.  On Saturdays there was even a packet of biscuits, Custard Creams I think, with a cuppa afterwards.  That same packet of biscuits called me in from the back of the aforementioned sheds.  I had run away.  The back of the sheds was as far as I got.  My parents didn’t even know I was missing.

I got a reading part each and every year at our Christmas plays in school.  Nobody in the audience had a recording device. 

Our Christmas tree was religiously put up, much to our chagrin, on the 23rd of December.   

We were almost sick with excitement and up at dawn on Christmas morning. 

We didn’t have much but we never went without.  I know that our mother did to see that we didn’t. 

Our kids get a small toy when we do the grocery shop.  A small toy multiplied by four means an added twenty euro onto the cost of the shopping.  That small toy either gets lost in the shop before we leave, gets dropped down behind a car seat and left there or the dog will eat it within a few hours. 

I have to beat them away from magazines that cost more than a chicken.  They have swimming lessons.  I bring them to the cinema on occasion.  They get brought out for breakfast every Saturday morning and sometimes even have a hot chocolate.  Each.  Complete with cream, marshmallows and a flake bar.  (Thanks, Barry!)

They get a Kinder Egg once a week.  Friday is Freddo Friday in our house. 

I don’t begrudge them their treats.  Much.

But I do not entertain them.