Wednesday 24 April 2013

Swim Little Fishes

So the boys swimming lessons have changed day and time.

I received a phone call last week asking would I consider taking the Friday afternoon lessons instead of Monday as numbers were low and they were trying to make up the classes. 

No problem, I said, at the very least a late swim on Friday evening might keep them in their beds a bit longer on Saturday morning.

It was our first Friday afternoon lesson with Dolphins today, 19th April.

Now, I am a bit sneaky when it comes to the changing rooms in the pool.  But only because it is virtually impossible to cram five people into a cubicle made for one.  So I try to make damn sure we are there in plenty of time to get a large changing room.

And furthermore, instead of placing 97 items of clothes, 15 shoes, several towels and three large sports bags in the lockers, I leave everything in the changing room.

I’m not supposed to.

But I do.

So that first Friday we toddled along and I was thrilled to discover the largest cubicle was free.  We got changed in record time and stood on the poolside wondering at which side Oldest Boy’s lesson was going to take place.

It kind of went downhill from there.

No-one seemed to know.  The instructor giving the lesson stopped a male member of staff to ask him.  Stress was bouncing off him in waves.  He answered her with a harried shrug and went on his way.

After it was decided the lesson would take place at the other side of the pool, we all walked over there.

I continued down a little further with the other three and sat Smallest Boy on the side so I could lower myself into the water. 

Shit!  Where was the floor??  The water was well up to my chin and although I am more than capable in the water, I am not so masterful with a two year old in my arms when I have to stand on my tip toes to hold him and at the same time, ward off those who want piggy backs.

When another pool person came my way I asked him was there any chance the floor could be raised a bit as I wasn’t managing very well.

He apologised and said that he knew the level was a bit high at that particular spot but the “lessons came in on top of him” and he hadn’t a chance to remedy it.  He had tried management who weren’t in the office and he didn’t know where they were just then.

To be fair to him, he did his utmost to get me into a section of the pool that was a bit safer for us but it was busy with lessons taking place and a public session also going on.

We got on with it and started splashing about.

Then the loud speakers came on.  Something was said about clothes, changing rooms, lockers and immediately. 

I put it out of my mind.

Until I heard it again.  Any clothes that are left in cubicles will be removed to the office.  I saw the life guard repeating it to a couple of girls who promptly jumped out and ran to the changing rooms. 

I was neck deep in blue water with three kids aged 5 and under by my side and another one a few feet away holding his breath under the water.  I was in my ill-fitting swimming suit hauling us all out to stuff our belongings into lockers and get back into the water again.

But I couldn’t rest.

I kept looking towards the changing area and expecting to see 5 people making off with armloads of our clothes.  I told myself the nappy and bra on the floor would scare them off.

They mightn’t though.

I lasted about five more minutes and then I hauled them out.  Our door was swinging wide open but the nappy and bra were still there.  As were all of our belongings.


Except I was pissed off.  Stressed and pissed off.  

I had handed over €105 euros for less than half an hour in the water. 

I paid €105 for twenty minutes of anxiety.

I had my doubts about posting this one because I sound ungrateful.  And in the grand scheme of things, the boys were none the wiser of the stress felt both by me and the pool staff, but that’s the problem.  Especially today.

People don’t complain enough.

I wasn’t happy.  I wasn’t satisfied. 

Oldest Boy was flying along with his lesson, having breath holding competitions under the water with two friends; the other three were with me, splashing along with their woggles and having water fun.

But the whole thing was ruined for me by the stress of it. 

Earlier on this year I emailed them about how cold the water was.  Even being in the water was cold.

I would watch the lines of kids on the pool side, during lessons, with their vibrating arm bands giving the person next to them friction burns because they were all shivering with the cold.  Once Oldest Boy’s lips were blue and he asked me to get him his towel because he was freezing. 

That same morning I got chatting to a lady who had travelled specially to use our town’s facilities as her daughter was competing in the Community games which were taking place in the leisure centre.

“Is it always this cold?”  She asked me.

So I sent in the email. 

No response.

I wasn’t expecting any but I felt it was important to give them the customer feedback they are always asking for.

I didn’t push the cold issue probably because I had ordered wetsuits to combat the shivering.

That email was on my mind as I wrote this post.  I couldn’t have them saying I was always giving out, could I?   I didn’t want to be seen as a nuisance or a pain in the arse.

Even if I whole heartedly believe it is the nuisances and the collective pains in the arses who get recourse from their complaints.  Exactly because they complain.  And loudly.

 So what did I do?

Nothing of course.  I dried the boys, walked them all out to the car and thanked the receptionist on the way out.

I will be back again this week, and the 8 weeks after that again, for more of the same.  I’m sure.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

All the What If's.

Why is it after an upsetting event, particularly when everything turns out well, there comes a barrage of what ifs?

I have a photograph that is typical of the before and after shots you see in all the magazines.  It was taken almost two years ago and I hate it.  But I will always keep it.  Despite being at my heaviest ever, and tucking into a plate of take away plastic lasagne with cold rubbery chips, it serves as a reminder to me. 

It was taken the day Oldest Boy had to go to A&E for a chest x-ray.  He is in the photograph too, all smiles and excitement over the prospect of going to hospital.

He couldn’t catch his breath and his eyes were streaming but he was very much looking forward to that afternoon’s adventure.   He had missed school that day due to an impromptu doctor’s appointment; I thought he had a chest infection.  It wasn’t clear what the problem was but a nebuliser didn’t help him at all in the surgery and it was thought best to get it checked out. 

In the photo, I am looking straight at him and I can remember exactly what was going through my mind at the time.

I’m sure every parent has had one of those moments where their child’s life flashes through their mind. 

In the wind up, after talks of him having to spend the night in hospital and another round or two on a nebuliser, Conor was diagnosed with asthma. 

What a relief.  But still.

All the what if’s?

What if they hadn’t found anything wrong with his chest? What if it had been his heart? 

Last week Smallest Boy had an upsetting confrontation with the front door the day before his second birthday.  He had only just, that very morning, worked out how to open it without any help.  It was his second time to escape the house.  There is a nice drop out onto the ground and he cannot as yet navigate it so he sits on the step and lowers himself down.  This is how the third finger on his right hand got squished.  And squished quite badly.  He will lose his nail.  And most likely end up with a funny looking lump of scar tissue on his finger.

He lifted the entire finger pad “pulp” away from its moorings but thankfully didn’t damage any bone.   

You never ever want anything bad to happen to one of your kids, but if I absolutely had to pick a child for whom an injury to befall, it would be Brendan.  (Hear me, ye Gods.  I have not just jinxed myself further) it also happened at the right time.

If there is such a right time to have a ka-bluey.

We were just in from the school run as were our lovely next door neighbours so I was able to go with Brendan to the GP’s almost immediately and leave the older boys with people to watch them. 

Thankfully, although Brendan had removed his finger print until such time as his flesh repairs itself, he was in great form.  A real little trooper.  I gave him some painkillers as my own finger was throbbing something awful just looking at his and also pain relief was suggested by the GP.  But do you know what? I honestly don’t think he needed it.

I was waiting for sleep to claim me that night and that was when the what if’s started.

What if Brendan had held onto the door jamb instead of sitting on the step? 

The damage would have been much worse; I know that for a fact.  Quite possibly maybe even losing a finger.

What if he had lost a finger?  Would I know what to do?  I doubt it.

Everyone knows how frightening the prospect of something can be; in some cases it’s almost worse than the reality.  At least with reality you know what you’re up against and can take action.  The trouble with your imagination is it can go wild. 

I really had to tamp mine down after FingerGate.  Or FingerDoor. 

Smallest Boy was fine.  His finger not so. But both of them lived to tell the tale.  And he’s still telling it.   

As for me?  I’m off to find out how to preserve a severed digit.

I repeat, ye Gods, I have not just jinxed myself.  I have not

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Joy Pockets for March

These joy pockets are all about the Easter holidays.  Either before, during or after.  It really was  lovely month.  Weather aside, there was a definite hint of Spring in the air. She may have been still in her cave sleeping but the brighter evenings and mornings made me believe she was finally stretching and thinking about coming out to play.

In fact, the weather has had such a bearing on my mood of late; I am no longer in doubt that the winter and I are sworn enemies.  That in itself is a joy pocket because I have realised it is not me, it is just the way my head works at that time of year.  All my little tricks didn’t work a damn and I feel I have something to really work with now.  In the same way I know Oldest Boy will have to spend July sucking on his inhaler so I have to build up his resistance in June, I too may put in place, a winter killing blues arsenal.  I am doing my research on this as I type.

But as it is starting to look like this post is rapidly becoming a Stress Pockets post instead of a joyous one, I will crack on with my giving thanks for the month of March.

Good weather. There are a couple of lethal holes outside our back door courtesy of the boys.  They spent hours in them one day, in the dirt, in their bare feet. One of them came in and asked for his swimming trunks.


A wonderful night out in the pub. Really really wonderful.  Must do that more often.  Can you tell I Don’t Get Out Much?

A lovely Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday morning with friends.  Despite the freezing cold wind that threatened to turn us all to stone, hot beverages and warm chat kept the adults going and the kids opted to sit in the cars to enjoy their spoils.

The change in the hour.  Definitely springing forward is miles better than falling back.  Brighter mornings and longer evenings.    

Easter holidays from school with my boys.  They were great.  The holidays I mean.  Really enjoyed them. There were lots to do, places to go to and it took the burn off the summer holidays which are just round the corner.  Where is this year going???

Having lovely play dates on those school holidays with the lads.  They were happy.  Their friends were happy.  And I was happy out sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee all afternoon with a lovely friend.  Just shooting the breeze.

Swimming on Thursday mornings followed by pancakes and hot chocolates. 

Running in the Ray for 5k in the Phoenix Park on 29th March.  What an almighty buzz!  Literally ran it with a smile on my face for the whole thing.  I love running.  #foundmything 

Massive joy pocket alert.  Being contacted by an editor who asked me what my going rate is.  She also called me a free-lancer!!  I felt very professional.  Good things to come!  Chasing this gig for ages now. 

Music choice for March was The Lumineers, an American folk rock band.  Am particularly fond of “Flowers in Your Hair” to get your feet stompin’.  Have a listen to them.  You won’t regret it.  Ho Hey!

The Lumineers

Organising a holiday for the summer.  Another week away in Ireland.  When I say organise, I mean taking phone calls from my sister in law who is doing all the hard  organising work and telling her everything sounds fantastic.  Which it does. 

Running another lovely 5k in my hometown at the beginning of April.  The first in hopefully an annual event.  It was great.  I loved absolutely every single minute of it.  Even when I was getting carried away with the thoughts that it was looking like I was going to be the first “lady” across the 5k finish line and then my competition appeared as if from out of the hedge.  Whooped my prideful ass and made me second “lady” instead!  Great fun run!

Lovely Liam absolutely insisting that he goes to sleep with me because he “wants to mind” me.

What do you give thanks for this week/month?

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Am I Odd?

Am I odd?

Don’t answer that just to be clever.  I know we are all a bit odd, a bit eccentric in our own right, it’s what marks us out as individuals but sometimes I wonder am I just plain outright odd?   

When people say to me that they enjoy the noise their kids make, I think they’re cracked.  When I’m told that it all goes past in the blink of an eye, I mentally rejoice and urge myself to blink faster goddammit!  When they intone that one day I will look back and miss the noise, the craziness, the mayhem, I think they’re the ones who need their heads examined.

I know there are people out there who openly admit to keeping their smallest a baby regardless of that child’s age, because they are the youngest in the family.

Am I odd because I cannot wait for my baby, who will be two years old next week, to finally get the hang of feeding himself without pouring milk and sauce down his face and all over the floor?  For him to be finally out of nappies.  For him to be again, that little bit older so I can just let him run wild with his older brothers and not have to keep checking on him all the time.

Am I odd because for the last 18 months I have been all over a “this time next year” mind-set?  Practically wishing their little lives away.

And my own. I tend to forget that. 

As much as I am looking forward to them being teenagers, it also means I am going to be 5 or 10 years older too. 

I might be looking forward to them becoming teenager but I am not looking forward to the teenage years.  I am dreading it.  Dreading the testosterone riddled house I am going to find myself in.  I used to joke when people pointed this out to me and I reassured them all it will be ok because I will be drinking again by then.

Reaffirming the Irish stereotype that alcohol solves every little ailment.

I’ve said it out loud, twice I think, this year already that youth is wasted on the young.  Mother Nature got that one so wrong.  Maybe she was having a little laugh at parent’s expense. 

There are so many things I want to do.  I discovered running 15 months ago and for the first time in over twenty years I am writing consistently and regularly. 

I love both. The trouble is I want to do them all the time.

All. The. Time.

Well, not running because that would be exhausting.  But I would dearly love to be able to get up and within an hour of waking, go for a run. At least four times a week.  And not when I can fit it in. 

I do know fitting it in is better than not being able to do it at all which is the case for me in winter. 

As for writing.  That’s a different kettle of fish altogether. With writing, I could sit at the table from early morning and still be there late that same evening. 

And I want to. 

But in the words of Scooby-Doo, “those pesky kids” kind of get in the way. With their tummies that need feeding, their minds needing education, bums and noses wanting wiping every Nano second. 

It’s a hard knock life for me 

Sometimes, usually on the really, really shitty cabin fever days, a little ghost from my past, the teenage me puts in an appearance. She gets in real close and pipes up in my ear, “I told you so.  I told you this is exactly what it would be like.  But you wouldn’t listen.  So suck it up!!!”

(You can almost hear the unsaid bitch at the end of that sentence, cantcha?) 

So for the foreseeable future it looks like I will just have to do exactly what my teenage me ghost says.

P.S. I actually had a lovely day when I wrote this piece.  Tuesday 2nd April 2013.  The kids were/are still on Easter holidays and we had been to Lovely Group that morning.  I ran a 5k in the Phoenix Park with Ray D’Arcy of Today FM fame on Friday and had a wonderful night out in the pub on Saturday night.  I was practically glowing from all the fun I had.  

School holidays are great.  There isn’t a parent in the world who would be without their child, regardless of how they came to have them but by god, nothing sucks up your time like school runs, lunches, uniforms, homework and clock watching.  Kids are little time suckers in their own right too. 

So I am in good form lately and I’m great craic at parties but sometimes, just sometimes all I want to do is write.  And write.  And write.