Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Crazy Lady

A crazy lady lives down my way.  She’s alright, not dangerous or anything, but definitely a little crazy.  Most mornings there is a mad flurry of activity in her house followed by a demented rush to herd her kids into the car and off to school.  You should see her, or rather you should hear her sometimes.  I’m not judging, really I’m not, but lawks, I don’t know who’s louder; her or the kids. 

There’s a crazy dog in the mix as well.  Gorgeous creature who seems to know the lie of the land and at the last minute refuses to go into the house when it’s time to leave.  The kids, all still shouting and roaring over something or other, are in the car and the crazy lady rushes back into the house.  She’s still shouting too but this time it’s not “get into the fekin car.  We’ll be late!” this time it’s “treat, treat”” at the dog.  Maybe that’s the dog’s name.

Finally they’re off and all is grand until they reach the roundabout where the toast slides off the kids’ plates and onto the floor.  And they all start shouting and roaring again.

One time she yelled “you’re welcome!” after a lady who just waltzed through the door she had held open for her.  She often shouts at other drivers who don’t indicate and use their park anywhere lights.  She’s not too fond either, of the ones who beep at traffic lights when things aren’t moving fast enough for them.  She’ll say, “Take your time on him now.  Let him honk his fekin horn!  None of us are getting any faster.  Arrive alive is the name of the game.”  That day one of her kids asked “Is he a bollix, Mammy?”  She laughed and said no, and don’t be listening to me when I’m talking to myself.

The crazy lady takes them all swimming.  They go a lot as the older two have lessons and she gets in with the two smaller ones.  She usually gets out first to shower and be half ready to help the older ones when they finish.  This particular day the crazy lady was standing near the showers shouting one of her kids names at the top of her lungs.   I remember it.  She was trying not to panic and ignoring the man who was looking at her with his gob hanging open.  There was no sign of her boy in the water and the swimming instructors were sitting at the side.  Then the child appeared behind her.  Where he had gone into the bathroom.  Crazy lady started yelling again, giving out to her boy because he frightened the life out of her when he didn’t answer.  She didn’t give a toss who saw or heard.  Especially the man who was still looking at her with his gob hanging open. 

At the supermarket the crazy lady seems to be a magnet for lost baby shoes.  Tiny little things, that appear on the floor in front of her in the dairy aisle.  She walks the shop until she finds the owner.  She always feels like putting the shoe onto the baby’s foot just to make sure as these things, for the size of them, are desperately expensive.  And one shoe is no good to anybody.  Even a little child who is probably still being carried round half the time.  She would like to be found with a lost shoe if the situation were reversed.  

Another time she cried.  At the check-out in the supermarket.  Her baby was just 6 weeks old and he was crying too.  Her second oldest was standing in a pool of his own body waste, shrieking for help.  No one appeared to wipe the mess off the floor and the tearful crazy lady grabbed a handful of baby wipes and bent to do the job herself.  The young girl at the check-out looked on, completely out of her depth, not having a clue what to do.

She does a lot of shouting this lady.  She cries some too.  But I’ve also seen her laugh.  She laughs a lot actually.  She laughs at crazy things.  Their dog, her kids on the trampoline, the baby when he barrels into her legs for a hug and at all the funny things her boys come out with.  Sometimes she laughs when she really should be giving out to them, like when they swear.

The way she sometimes handles things may not be ideal, but she does the best she can.  Her bark can be worse than her bite but you can never be too sure either.  Sometimes she’s not sure herself! 

When she thinks of the teenage years up ahead, she gets a tight feeling in her chest.  She knows just shouting and roaring won’t cut it then.   It worries her but she reckons if she manages to let them know that all they have to do is shout at her long and loud enough, she will eventually hear them and listen. She’s only one woman after all and there are four of them.  Sometimes she can’t see the wood for the trees and needs a little help.  She needs them to have a little patience and wait till she is finished meeting the demands of one before she can help the other.

The crazy lady is only human.  Only a woman.  Only a mother.  Only feeling her way through the dark.

She is only me.    

Wednesday 23 January 2013

What the Wonderful Wagon Did Next

So it was the second week after Christmas and I was feeling extremely virtuous.  I had lost some weight over the Festive Season.  Forget the virgin birth; I've a miracle for yiz all right here. I had a shitty week. I mean shitty. I was all, "What'll I do now? I know! I'll eat a tin of Hero's!" Boredom eating. All week. With no running whatsoever.

Was seriously tempted to give the weigh-in a miss but I was brave and stepped up. Guess what! I had lost two pounds!!!!!! I was so sceptical (and shocked!) that I moved the scales downstairs and tried there too. Same reading. That made it five and a half pounds in total that I lost over December and into January.

I was sick the week before Christmas and nothing was getting past the inflamed area that was my throat.  Much the same over the holidays.  I had neither interest nor inclination to eat. 

I was also a better parent.  In my own mind at least.  This was due to the presence and assistance of Mister Husband and the regular change of scenery.  I was able to go out for a run most days and to say I enjoyed each and every one of them is an understatement.

It was a lovely Christmas.  I even managed to get out and socialise no less than three times.  That is three times in one month.  The last time I had been out was during the summer.

It’s a bit like having that first Pringle.  Once you pop, you can’t stop.  I’ve had my appetite whetted once again for a bit of craic with a glass or five or six of Guinness and I intend to keep going.

Then the schools opened and it was back to abnormal.  Ho hum.  I could feel the walls of the house (and my brain) closing in on me. 

I am not cut out to be a housewife. Or a cook. Or a child minder.  I crave conversations with people over the age of 7.  And myself.  And Ray D’Arcy.  I covet head and body space.    I can’t seem to escape the constant noise that breaks me, each and every day. 

I woke up, Thursday 10th January 2013 still with a strong urge to kill or at the very least, seriously maim something, anything and poor Conor was nearly that something, anything, anyone.   (Sorry, Con)

To add insult to injury the car was going through a serious teenager phase and refusing to co-operate.  Not even the jump leads or a swift belt with a wrench could persuade her to giddy-up those last two days. 

*I have fallen into the man trap of calling the car a “her.”*

Grandad received a phone call that morning and he very obligingly came over to help us out.  As we knew he would.  Many apologies for hauling you out of your winter morning bed.

So I was housebound. Housebound, I tell you!  Yes, it was frustrating, especially at this time of year.  But it also meant that Mister Husband had to do the remainder of the school runs.  And the pick-ups until the car was sorted.  It was harder on him as his work was interrupted.

That Thursday morning, the three older ones were in their various places of education and it was just me, Juno and Smallest Boy.  I put on my wellies, our coats and we went for a lovely walk around the garden to chase away the cobwebs that had been lingering all week.

It wasn’t a run, not even close but it helped.  It helped a lot.  I realised that it was the first time I had been outside the door of the house in two days.  Maybe there is some truth behind all that Vitamin D stuff.

And then a little chink of light made its way through the closed curtains.  Smallest Boy went for a snooze and I got to spend a very enjoyable and most productive couple of hours at the computer.  It. was. Bliss.

Mister Husband got rasher sandwiches for his lunch and I got three blog posts done.  From scratch.  And etched out a couple more.

I love Thursday mornings.  They are the new Friday and I want more of them.  I was in my happy, creative bubble and loving it.

The washing, cooking and cleaning will always be there but those few hours of easy silence are precious and will be gone in exactly one hundred and twenty minutes.

Make the most of them.  I intend to whenever they present themselves.

Wednesday 16 January 2013


I’m a bit of an escapist.  By that I mean I go off into a little fantasy world every now and again.  Something, a word, a sound, a smell from my childhood, a song or just a mood will transport me elsewhere.  I can become quite absorbed, forget where I am and start talking to myself.   I have fascinating chats with Ray D’Arcy where I am the guest in his studio and many’s the time one of the boys will ask who I’m talking to. 

One evening, on one of my trips, I found myself, in my head, introducing the boys to someone.  I have many cousins who are a great deal older than me. I’m not completely sure how I’m related but it’s on my maternal grandmother’s side. Two of them in particular, I will meet only very occasionally. 

They amaze me each and every time.  Both of them always get my name right.  Always.  Without fail.  They always have done.  Bearing in mind I have 6 sisters and 5 of us share the same initial. 

And what’s more they know the names of our boys too.  But for some strange reason, that particular evening in my head, I was introducing the boys to one of these ladies but also describing briefly what each of them are like. 

It went like this:  This is our eldest boy.  He is 7 and a great little artist and very good at telling stories.  The next fella is 5 and he is the Irish speaker in the family.  He is really good at it.  And this chap here is one of the most affectionate boys you will ever meet.  He is forever telling me he loves me, touching me, hugging me and asking me to bend down so he can kiss me.

Our third boy is indeed, the most affectionate child you will ever meet.  He is happy out.  He wakes up, most times, happy, if a little groggy.  He is friendly, sociable, will talk to anyone, tell you his thoughts, and still have tonnes of hugs and kisses to dole out any time of the day or night.

Mister Husband is a cuddler but it is Liam who wraps his arms round my head in the morning as I am still sleeping.  He whispers “Mammy, is it morning?  I love ya,” all in one sentence and then I get an unhurried kiss on my forehead.  His hand rubs my hair.     

I love it.  I love his openness. His readiness to show and accept affection.

And then I had my AWARE moment.  I became Alert.  Suddenly Wary.  Then I was Accepting.  I Realised something and knew I had to Educate myself.

If I am angry, annoyed, upset, stressed or in bad form, Liam will ask me “what’s wrong, Mammy?”  He will touch my leg or my arm and look at me.  I always tell him that nothing is wrong.  Of course I do.  Sometimes I say I’m just a bit tired, I’ll have a cup of tea and I’ll be grand.

Passing on that Irish Mammy myth that a cup of tea can fix everything.

Liam will say “OK, Mammy.” And then he tells me he loves me.  But this is different. 

He is trying to fix me. 

Telling me he loves me is ok.  But trying to fix me when I’m not OK is not OK.

That is not his job.  That is my job.  It is my job to fix me and make me happy again.  No-one else can do that.

And definitely not my three and a half year old son.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

The Penny Dropped Over Christmas

My mother used to say a lot of things when I was growing up.  I was baffled by a lot of them but now I get it.  I totally get it.

Two of her mammy-isms are very topical so I will start with this one. 

Us:  What do you want for your birthday/Christmas?
Her:  The house to myself/peace and quiet.

As a clueless pre-teen I was absolutely thrown by her answer.  What on earth would she find to do in an empty house?  Sit there and drink tea?  Watch TV? Read a book?  She never reads.  Anything.  Peace and quiet?  Tsk. How boring is that?   Would she not ask for some new make-up, chocolates or perfume or something?

So one year, stumped, I gave her a kitchen weighing scales (I know!) and I made a Baked Alaska.  The first one I ever made.

I hadn’t a notion about quantities so I used maybe a dozen egg whites, a huge shop bought flan base and a tonne of ice-cream. 

It was huge.  I mean, massive.  Think ski slope for Barbie dolls.    The top of it got knocked off as I put it in the oven.

But it also got eaten.

The other thing she used to ask us was on Christmas morning.

Her:  Well?  What do you think?  Do you like everything? 
Me:  Yeah.  It’s great.  (In my head I was thinking:  why is she asking us that like it would be her fault if Santy fucked up?)  For the record, Santy never fucked up.  Never.

Now years later, that seemingly mental birthday request of getting the house to herself makes perfect sense. 

And the fog has also lifted on the “do you like everything?” enquiry.

Somehow when you are laying out the DS consoles, boxes of Lego, books, magazines, bits and pieces for your kids on Christmas Eve, five hundred euros worth at least, it looks less. 

A lot less.

It looks mean.

Everything is swallowed up by the leather armchair.  Books sliding down the back of it and refusing to be propped up in an attempt to make everything look “more.”

Will they like it?  Are they too young for DS consoles even if there is always a crazy rush and an inevitable fight for Mister Husband’s phone when he comes home in the evenings?

Will Oldest Boy be disappointed because he got a mini Bop It instead of the full grown one?  Will the dog take a bite out of the space hopper before mid-day?  

Will they fight over their books?  Will they like their laminated cinema tickets with instructions for me to take them to see Rise of the Guardians over the holidays?

What about the nifty little lights that Velcro to their finger and have three settings?  The ones I smuggled out of The Art and Hobby Shop that very day because they wanted them?   

Would they remember them and be delighted that Santy “knew?”

I know now why my mother asked us those questions on Christmas morning because for the second year in a row, I found myself asking our lads the same ones.

Now I know.