The day before tomorrow.


I’m feeling all of the feelings today.


The last few hours of maternity leave have come. The time is now.


A maelstrom of emotions hijacked me in the strangest of places today.

Starting off, the shower. 

This came as a surprise.

No build up.

No lurking depths of emotions barrelling to be freed.


It was taking the baby bath out of the bathroom that caught me unawares. I cried me a salty river. 


But, not for reasons you’d think.  

I caught myself thinking of the sheer energy and willpower I’ll need to actually shower on a daily basis. Like, waaaay more often- since I will be engaging in conversation with more than 3 understanding relatives on a daily basis!  


Let’s face it. 

Breast milk and vomit are not legit when you’re sharing an office. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. Youth workers – they’re a subversive bunch, so who knows, I might get lucky.


I’ve also felt gurgles of giddiness with the anticipation of catching up with friends. Writing in my new notebook. Smelling my fancy paper. Ok! No fancy paper, but definitely drinking hot coffee, get this –  while it’s still hot!


I’m feeling fizzy thinking about the amount of things to do. I have only achieved 2 things off my priority list. Buying new clothes is one. The washing machine’s been shrinking clothes. Well, only my clothes. How strange is that?


In pursuit of finding clothes for my Mum bod- i leapt into action, i saw some beauties, i went up a size.


Painful. However vainful.


But I had a word with myself in the car on the way home. I decided to treat myself with kindness and give myself a break. Will I be wearing a bikini anytime soon – eh no! Hands up if you’re keeping a little human alive – hell to the yeah! I agreed with myself and took my hand down.


Oh and I’ve been feeling emotionally damp.

Like I just came home from a walk in hazy rain. Like i’m stuck, rain dripping from my nose in the hallway wondering what to do next. 

Like i don’t know where to start.


But really i know once i get fresh and dry,  I’ll laugh at being caught in the rain shower and wonder how hazy rain is THE wettest rain known to humankind.


Back to work.

Yes indeedy!

I remember my role.

I remember me in on my role.

It’s just, I’m not sure I’m necessarily fit for purpose just yet!


I once bought a Nissan Micra.

Yes, by choice.

And whenever I went around the roundabout in the Omni, the passenger door flung open. Never anywhere else. Never any other time. Another moment in life when i’ve used the term- not fit for purpose. It all ended well though, i traded it in for a delicious, hot Red Red Mini  (I miss you Ruby!).


I remember what it’s like to return after maternity leave. Sure, I’ve done it twice before. It feels different for sure, not easier.


So, I decided to search Dr. Google for tips on returning to work after maternity leave.


They all joke about winning the lotto. Those messers!


I find almost every article mentions buying new clothes. They all exclaim that shopping will make you feel ‘fabulous’ and forget to mention the trauma of mirrors. How and ever. Tick!  


They mention easing back into work. Now this is GREAT advice for me. Tick!


However.

I’ve also met me and know this is like asking the Kardashians to refrain from selfie-ing. Impossible!


You see, I’m all in. Always have been.

It’s dually one of my best and worst traits.


Finally, one article in Vogue.com catches my eye. It mentions a Harvard Study that conclusively finds working mothers are good for the economy, super for society and great mothertruckin’ role models for their children, particularly daughters. Ohhhhhhhhhh! I have one of those. Tick! Tick! TICK!!!


Interesting.

I pause.

I consider the facts.


Tick.


Tock.


In a flurry, I double check the clock.


All things considered.

Next stop, Eurospar.  

I’ve still 5 minutes before the 7.20pm deadline.


It could be me?

Mocha-chocha-latah-yahyah


So sorry I haven’t been blogging the last 2 weeks. I’ve been rather busy.

Partying.

Yep.

True story.


It was wild. I could finally let loose, meet new people and just laugh my socks off.  

Who cares that the party was for a 7 year old, and the laughter primarily took place in a cinema in Santry, chortling like goodo to Baby Boss, or is it Boss Baby. Either way it was awesome baby.  


I had however, a bit of a discombobulating moment in the foyer of the cinema. Just before we went in, I decided to give a talk to the 10, pint sized party goers about the plans for the day. They were simple – cinema and McDonalds. Easy peasy.


I introduced myself as Jennie, Ziggys Mammy; and then, to add colour to proceedings, I added that I grew him in my tummy and was really, really, reh-eallly happy to be celebrating his birthday with all of his friends.


Multiple confused faces stared up at me.


I sensed maybe this is not how many 7 year old boys parties begin.  

Or girls parties, for that matter.


Cue a look from Ziggy that signalled me to stop talking. I can assure you, I could hear myself and was indeed picking up what he was throwing down.


However.

I was in full youthwork autopilot mode and was compelled by an unknown force to continue. I followed with bathroom procedures. 


Later, on reflection, I thought I lost them when I started signalling like an excitable air hostess miming the ‘in case of emergency” exit routine. Ziggy assured me it was the tummy statement.


They began to jump around, stand on the chairs and blatantly ignore me.


I refused to let a gang of 7 year old boys break me.  I was wearing makeup and an underwire bra for god’s sake. I am a full sized, mothertruckin’ adult force to be reckoned with. One ‘LADS’ at a slightly louder voice seemed to do the trick. Ta-dah! I was back in the room.


It was brilliant craic and Ziggy was on cloud three. It’s his favourite number to be perched on.


I’ve been trying out different tones of voice this Easter midterm. I’ve given myself (some might declare), an impossible challenge –  to not raise my voice and remain a breezy, fun Mama every, single, day of the break.


But it’s like the kids have undertaken an alternate challenge – in opposite land.Let’s just say, it’s day 6 and I’ve had to restart the challenge every, single, morning of the break.


My Zen pitfalls so far (not an exhaustive list); the 1 full hour it took to get everyone ready for a trip to Ikea, the green machine bike fiasco, the rogue buggy,  the screeches of Ariana Grande on loop, the mystery of the lost Carmex lip gloss, the dog poop on the car seats, the uneaten ‘too many vegetables’ spaghetti bolognaise, to name but a few.


But mostly, we’ve had a whole hoopla of fun. Even when I’ve had to raise my voice (at home) and release the death stare (in public). I tell ya, when i’ve forgotten my ridiculous self imposed challenge and just inhaled the joy of no timetables, a break from routines,  playing games and just being present – it’s blooming loverly.


April –  I’m a fan!  Ziggy and Millie’s birthdays, daffodils, and this year – Easter eggs! A cornucopia of cocoa*.  Besides my family, goats cheese and Jack Pearson from ‘This is us’ – chocolate is my favourite.


I’m also on the countdown back to work. Just over a week left!  Eeek. My nerves are jittery. But the thought of copious amounts of chocolate eggs are easing my anxiety ever so much.

Ah here! I’ve gotta go. I’ve to help Ziggy search the house for his chocolate bar that I ate last night. Emotional eating- what ya gonna do?!?

 

Happy Easter peeps! 


*Oh and remember, cocoa comes from the cocoa plant. Which is essentially salad when you think about it? So have no shame in getting choco-wasted – I’ll be joining you!

Hey Mama


“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” 

                                             — Robert Browning

She was christened as Catherine Delaney, but most people call her Kay.


She loves the colour lavender.


She has soft, warm hands.


She bakes apple tart most weekends.


I get to call her Mam and she is beyond loved.


Growing up my Mam saved her hard earned money, every pretty penny she could spare,   and  brought the full glorious gaggle of us ten children on a Summer holiday to Kerry every year.  From Ballymun to Bandon.


As if there wasn’t  enough humans in the car,  we also  brought our dog, our clothes, our weekly food and a diverse array of personal objects.  

We were a chocabloc movable tin can –  busting at the seams. How the car could travel anywhere is a mystery. We stopped off along the way, gorging on our travelling picnic  of egg and onion sandwiches and a pressure  cooker filled with coddle, just in case.


Personal space was an issue, so we all fought over who got to travel in the spacious confines of the  boot. The least you’d get was a cramp in your leg from sitting in a scrunched up position. Plus, the stench of the sambo/coddle combo seemed to soak into the speckled fabric and the unlucky humans nearer the driver. A calculated risk worth taking.  


The boot was better than the actual seats. There were 2 layers of young people; the bottom half – the oldest and heaviest, the top half – the youngest and lightest. My poor older siblings had dead legs for days, only regaining feeling and movement when it was time to hop back in the car and make the whole 8 hour  journey back to Ballymun.


In my memory, it was always shiny and sunny. My Mam agrees, but she also remembers the preparation, the cooking and the seemingly endless hand washing of clothes. You see,  the houses we rented didn’t have washing machines.  She says she used to be more exhausted on our holidays, than at home.


What now?  

That sounds grim.

Not at all in line with my memory.


As a young adult, I nearly choked with shock and confusion when she told me this. I didn’t have children and couldn’t understand why she’d go to all that hassle.


I asked her why we went away every year? Why not take it easy at home? We wouldn’t have known anything different. But she smiled  and replied,  “because I knew it made you all happy.”  Simple as.


She wanted to get us out of Ballymun, out of the high rises and down to the country so we could all just be. Be together, breathe fresh air and know a different world of colour and texture outside of our familiar suburban greynes.


Mothers. Putting others before themselves since the beginning of time.


Here’s to the Mothers, Mama’s, Mams, Moms and Ma’s. Thank You for all of the love and sacrifices you made. For us.


To the mother figures I’ve been lucky to have throughout my life too. Starting with my sisters.


To my friends, that can’t physically hug their Mama’s today-  may you find the strength in those memories, those moments of love and togetherness.


Here’s to Kay. My mother.

You are my queen. 


You are beyond loved.

Questions, questions, everywhere!

Meryl Streep can do no wrong in my peepers. She’s a legend. 

I woke up this morning thinking about her – wondering, if the world and its mother adore Meryl, who then, is Ms Streeps favourite actress? Out of the blue, all of a sudden, Meryl singing memes were everywhere. I’m not saying myself and Meryl are simpatico but, I like to see this ‘coincidence’ as a sure fire sign that we would be besties.  She would arrive early, Chianti in hand,  for my famous and hilarious (in my head) karaoke, dead or alive dinner party.  C’Mon, we’ve all played this game. She’d surely be the life and soul. I know she’d crack Obama up. Not too sure about Sylvia Plath, mind you. Her duet with Gandhi would rock the block!


You see, I’m full of questions lately. Questions of recent note include – 


Question one: When will I ever care about shaving my legs again?


I give it another month or four, depending on that one day of Summer we have. I’m holding out for September, just as the kids go back to school. It’s always Summer then. Meanwhile, I’m treating the hair growth as insulation. Just like breastfeeding, look at the money I’ll save on waxing. I know, my lucky hubby!


Question two: Can i get my spectacles alarmed?


I couldn’t find my glasses for half the day last week.  And I’m as blind as a white cat with a blue eye. The cruel irony of having a dark sofa and black glasses revealed itself to me in all its glory. I searched everywhere, including inside the sofa. Danger. Never do this. And just like that, perched high up on the chair arm and gazing down at me, on my increasingly flustered hands and knees, were my glasses. If inanimate objects could talk. Let’s  just say I felt I was being judged from a height by these all seeing spec’s.  We usually play this game of hide and seek at least twice a day. In the end, I always forgive her stinking  attitude because I need her so much more than she needs me.


I spend a lot of time searching for misplaced objects around the house; batteries from the remote, baby wipes, the vacuum cleaner. Actually, that last bit’s not true. That’s the one object in the house I know exactly where it is and keep it safely locked away, just in case my partner in crime has notions that I’ll add daily hoovering to my domestic duties! What? Do people actually have the time to vacuum daily?  But, there’s so many books in the world and things to Google!


Recently, the most annoying part of losing my glasses was… i just couldn’t seem to remove a large blonde blade of hair that was attached to my bra.  It was playing havoc with my nursing. No matter where i moved, this piece of long, thin hair followed me and I couldn’t see clearly enough to remove it. I performed the find and grab routine around the sitting room. I had Babybear in one arm with one unleashed boob, trying to grab the elusive hair. No joy. It wasn’t until i walked into the natural light of the window, i realised it wasn’t a hair at all – but a milk duct that simply wouldn’t turn off. Like a thin, milky, threadlike arched rogue spray.


Question Three: How will I fit working, doing actual paid work, into my day?


It’s so busy already – between the spectacle searches, and the dinner making, and the googling. How will i get out the door? Also, when will i be able to leave the house looking presentable without white gloopy or green sticky residue on me?  


I know once I answer a question, with a question. It’s over. The game’s  up. No point in getting overwhelmed.


So instead, I open Safari and find the answer to my most pressing question. I’m horrified. Blasphemy. Turns out, according to my search engine – Cate Blanchett is the new Meryl Streep.  And there’s even some anti-Streep pages too. Say it isn’t so! But, she gets a standing ovation wherever she goes. Eating her breakfast deserves a Tony award. It’s Meryl.


Everything I have known to be true and good in  the world becomes shaky. There you go. You go to bed thinking one thing, the next day it’s something else.


I’ll always love Meryl though. But according to my conclusive research, not as much as Meryl hearts her favourite actress Viola Davis.

BA BA LAND

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Sunday. Hands down my favourite day of the week. My partner in crime usually takes the crew over to their Nana Carmel’s for roast dinner, victoria sponge cake and copious amounts of love bombing (disguised as slagging). Everyone hearts the Sunday Club.

I sometimes use this window of time to get the weekly shopping and batch cooking done. If time allows, i squeeze in a coffee date with my sisters too. Wild, I know.

Today however, I decided to break free and head to the pictures. (No one says that anymore, do they?). Odeon Cinema Charlestown, here I come! “Yes Susan. I will have the large nachos with 3 dips to accompany my large Diet Coke…Thank you very much. Me too Susan – I’m also a fan of Sleepless in Seattle… €22.45? Wow! Trips to the cinema are expensive nowadays, huh?”

I was giddy with anticipation. What can I say. I had a lot to look forward to – an afternoon spent with Ryan Gosling. You know what they say, a Sunday well spent…..

My afternoon was going so very well. Most importantly, I was riding solo. No other dependents. No juice clean ups, no lunch making, no sibling refereeing. Just Sunday funday.

It took me a moment to unwind, but after my second dip of salsa, I was right there in the rhythm of the movie; toes a-tapping, head a-swaying.

Even when the movie was losing its way two thirds through, I stopped myself from overthinking it. This was my chance to switch off my brain, get lost in Gosling-land and not for a moment question how the ‘fresh’ guacamole (really Susan?), keeps its iridescent green glow, even in the dark.

I had a lovely, easy, laid back time. Afterwards, I applied some lipstick in the bathroom. I ordered a skinny latte on the way out and browsed through Carolyn Donnelly’s bed linen in Dunnes. All before my 5pm pick up.

I returned with my partner in crime to pick up the crew from Nana’s – just in the nick of time for some after dinner delights. Unfortunately, this was short lived. We were interrupted by a horror – Ziggy screaming from upstairs. Wait a minute – I hadn’t signed up for a double bill. Ziggy came running. Followed by hysterical girls stampeding down the stairs. There was blood. A split chin. Crying. Snozlers. The works.

The D-Doc was contacted, there was talk of A&E. My partner in crime panicked. He lost his cool. He became a melting ice cap in hot water – rapidly heating up, unsure where to move, trying to gain composure by telling everyone to relax in a really, really, re-healllly loud voice. This, of course, had the opposite effect. Babybear was whimpering with tiredness. Millie was crying in sympathy. Ziggy wondered if there was blood on his favourite t-shirt.

As Ziggy sat on my lap, I began to hum ‘City of stars’ from the soundtrack of the movie, softly into his ear. Everyone was amped to eleven- I thought a lullaby might soothe the mood. Ziggy asked if I was ok and could I please stop singing that song. He has lovely manners, even in crisis.

Turns out, the person steering the ship amidst the frenzied fog, was my injured 6 year old.

The cut under his chin finally stopped bleeding. We packed the car. It was abundantly clear – my partner in crime and I had failed at adulting. Big time. I blame Emma Stone. I’m not sure what my partner in crimes excuse was?

He started the engine. In unity, we held hands in the front seat. A silent acknowledgment. Meanwhile in the backseat- Ziggy talked about Pokémon to Millie, who delicately held a sleeping Babybear’s pinky.

We decided my wondrous Mam would know whether a trip to A&E was necessary. After all, she’s seen broken bones, spit skin, infections, poxes, nit epidemics…all of the lovely dramas that go with rearing a bunch of human children. She’s like a paediatrician- with years of experience, none of the pay, but a cornucopia of hugs and cookies nevertheless.

She had one look at him, took out her medicine box, pinched the skin together, stuck a plaster on and gave Ziggy some tea cakes and sent us on our way.

On home turf, Ziggy wanted to show off his war wounds to his friends. Millie followed, cartwheeling.

We went inside, put Danny to bed and acknowledged that our parenting skills had seen better days. And just like that, the day was coming to an end. A day of 2 halves. The first half, wondering if it was too late for coffee and the second half, if it was too early for alcohol.

I began my weekly batch cooking. My partner in crime got ready for his gig.

Bedtime snack- tick , kids washed and dressed for bed- tick, puréed baby food- tick, clear dishwasher – tick, tidy downstairs- not a chance!

Putting the kids to bed proved hassle free. A short and sweet snuggle with Millie. Ziggy was still buzzing, talking about ‘the chin incident’ with bulbous pride.

I made it back downstairs to freeze the baby food and looked longingly at a bottle of beer in the fridge. Could I? Should I? I heard a cry from upstairs – Baby bear. I closed the fridge door. He had his needles on Friday and has a nasty raised bruise on his left thigh. I take a sip of water instead and grab the Calpol from the windowsill, just in case.

I resign myself to an early night, jump into bed and slide Babybear  under the nook of my arm and we’re off to snoozeville.

Before I know it, I’m woken up in the am by my partner in crime asking how Ziggy is. He’s all good, I reply. All good.

I’m a Gangsta Napper!

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Babybear’s been having trouble sleeping. I lie, he sleeps, just not in a row. He also catnaps, little cute daytime energy boosters for him. For me, not so much!

The weird thing is, 3rd time round – I know it’ll pass. But I’m also aware it can take a really long time for that to happen – like, 5 years with Millie! Ziggy’s always been a super sleeper and napper. Maybe because we spent so much time trying to sort out Millie’s midnight wanderings, inexplicable 3am thirst and 5.49am urge for cereal. He had no other choice than to batten down the hatches, bless him.

However, we’ve never actually had a baby that slept through the night early on. And so, like other parents in our similar tired and sluggish boat, we believed that babies sleeping through the night was a myth – like unicorns and anti cellulite scrubs! I also loved when people agreed with me on this – they were my favourite. In a sleep hazed paranoia, we believed the myth was put out there to mock our lack of parenting and non existent baby whispering abilities.

I tend to get this belief from my Mam. She’s had a bajillion babies and not one slept through the night, so she says. I think, based on the sheer volume of babies, we can all agree – she knows what she’s talking about. However, I think, to be fair, all of the (ten) children were probably waking each other up, but I tend not to mention this.

My Mam would wake up under a sea of pillows and children – only recognisable from our toes and elbows. She insists she didn’t mind at all, she didn’t have to clock watch – she just went with what felt right for her, the child and the family. Sounds free range, carefree and rather peaceful. Except I was there, and yes – the reality had delicious slabs of this, but a whole tiered cake of chaos too!

Recently, my wondrous Mam told me a story about one Christmas morning in the late 70’s/early 80’s. We all sprung up, delighted that Santy came – the gaggle of us went outside on our bikes/scooters and she made us a full Irish breakfast, while it was still dark outside. It was only later during the washing up, she decided to turn on the radio. She realised it was 3.30am. She promptly called us in, sent us to bed with full bellies, only to wake up 3 hours later to do the whole thing again – starting with breakfast part 2! The next day she spent a bit of time apologising to the largely understanding neighbours – good on the Shangan Garden residents.

But I’m guessing, every Christmas after this, she clock watched – although she doesn’t let on. Knowing my Mam, she just wanted us to enjoy Christmas and be happy. She was relaxed and fun in that way, that is, once we were all washed and in good voice for the Virgin Mary kids mass at 10.30am.

On Millie and Ziggy, the lack of sleep was at times, all consuming, submersible torture-like pain. What made it worst was when Ziggy was born, we’d already had 2 years of broken sleep, so we didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We figured we would survive being in the baby trenches, until we weren’t. We rationalised that people couldn’t die of lack of sleep, could they?

I suppose we tried everything; the drop and crawl out of the room tactic, the outside of the room stand off, the show no eye contact during night time shenanigans.

Oh and we may have prayed to St Anthony to help us find us the sleep we’d lost. Amen.

With Babybear, I’m breastfeeding. I formula fed my other two babies. Both have their pros and cons. For example, I actually didn’t realise that formula sustains the baby’s appetite for longer, and breast milk goes through their tiny systems, sometimes in as short a time as 1.5 hours. The bond is breathtaking beautiful, but the exhaustion from always being the source of food and comfort can be brain numbingly debilitating too.

In my baby massage class in Finglas recently, all the formula fed babies were night snoozing champions, the breastfeeders – all night drinkers! It’s always nice to sit with some other bedraggled parents without speaking, because that’d take up too much energy. Good times!

I also don’t remember major feeding clusters on Millie and Ziggy, but on Babybear there have been times when, delirious from 12 hour straight cluster feeds, I felt like the guy in the pot noodle ad – when he pretends he’s shrunken into the couch.

In one of my particularly tough early days, I actuallŷ shouted ‘I’M A NOOOOODLE’, out loud, to my partner in crime. Luckily, he understood the 90’s ad reference. I had clearly lost my mind, but he brought me tea and toast and hugged me tight until I felt less like food, more human again. He’s great at that – hugging until all i can feel is slow breath leaving my body. Like a warm, drunk rainbow. It’s a gift really.

But I suppose the biggest thing breastfeeding offers is the opportunity to embrace the new way of life, at a much slower pace. You can’t get someone else to feed the baby unless you express milk, but to be honest, that’s almost like double the work. So, I’ve only expressed a handful of times. There have been times I would have leaped out of the window at the chance to go out in the evening, but at the moment, it’s still not an option. So, It’s easier to sit down, have a cup of tea and eat Aldi’s shortcake biscuits and just go with the flow. This habit is not helping my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans goal but sure, what you gonna do?

Also, with breastfeeding – no late night kitchen trips, just into the bed, and we’re off! Whereas, pre Babybear, I was anti co sleeping – now I’m a-loving it. It works for us, for now. But, nothing ever stays the same – especially with babies.

And the truth is, tiredness didn’t kill us – we survived. So this time round it’s all about perspective and expectations. With Babybear, I don’t actually expect him to sleep through the night up to the first year, because breastfeeding babies, by and large, don’t sleep through as quickly. It’s biology. There’s a simplicity to it. And when you look at it a certain way, a Brucie bonus for me. I have the luxury of nocturnal snuggles for a little while longer.

Now, get back to me when I’ve returned to work and am trying to balance it all with a non sleeping infant – I may very well sing a different tune, with more of a Metallica vibe.

But for now, I’m going to relish in the snuggles. And after a particularly sleepless night; I’m going to stay in my pj’s past 9 am, without an ounce of guilt and hope for a visit back to bed with Babybear while the older kids are in school. Because do you know what, it goes too fast and I’m going to press the pause button wherever I can and savour the experience – even the challenging times. There’s no rainbow without rain, right? I think Dolly Parton said that, and she was all about finding balance was Ms. Parton – working nine to five, managing Dollyland and denying her dalliances with Burt Reynolds must have been quite the juggling act!

Plus, I know, just as I glow from ear to heart thinking of Millie and Ziggy as babies, there’ll be times in years to come I’ll wish, just for one last time, to hibernate with the softest, most snuggable Babybear I ever had the pleasure to have grown.

P.s

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I’m lo-hov-ing this blog experiment and hearing all of the lovely feedback is the icing on the lemon drizzled cake!

Keep in touch…

Jen x

Flu. My least favourite season.

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Is there anything worse than having sick children?

I just want to smother Millie and Ziggy with kisses and fill them with flat 7up until they’re back fighting with each other/fit!

I’ve learned to be thankful for one thing during these bouts of sickness – my health. Being able to take care of them; sit with them, listen to them when they’re ill – it’s all part of the parenting deal.

The last 2 days have reminded me that the only thing worse than having sick children in the house – is being sick in the same house, at the same time.

Recently, our house was overrun with some strain of cold and flu. It started with Baybear’s cold and cough symptoms, manifested in Millie as strep throat, Ziggy complained of stomach pains until finally, I ended up floored with a hybrid version of everything going.

My eyes hurt. It took effort to walk around and when I did, I felt every step reverberate in the back of my head. Similar to the worst hangover imaginable, but with none of the party time precedence.

The big, silver lining however, is Babybear never caught the full blown sickness swirling around our house. High five breastmilk and its awesome antibodies!

I found myself regularly asking Millie to use her ‘indoor voice’. Turns out, her indoor voice is the same as her outdoor voice, just with less gesticulating. I didn’t have the energy to point this out.

When I’m ill, Ziggy likes to ask me the percentage of unwell-ness I feel; as in, “Mam are you feeling 76% today?” Then, he continues to ask me until I’m in the 95th percentile.

Ziggy sure loves maths, but I think I’ve a lot to do with this particular quirk. It all began with me, trying to lessen the impact of my colds and flu to the kids by saying, “I’m not 100% today”, instead of “I feel so awful, if I don’t survive the next hour, remember I love you”.  (When I feel sick, I do have a tendency for melodrama!)

So, I chose the lesser of two evils – the mathematical health summation. During my time of least energy, and at Ziggy’s request, i somehow summon the will to calculate my health in percentages, at intervals throughout the day.

Come to think of it, I also urged my partner in crime to turn down the TV on many occasions. He couldn’t, it was at volume 9 of 100. He tells me – of all his gifts, super sonic hearing is not one of them. He can however take the bass guitar on a wicked walk.

Parenting- It’s a delicate balance, especially when you feel under par. You want to let your children know you’re sick, so they can be considerate of you, have empathy, and maybe pull back on all the excessive noise making. But, you don’t want them unnecessarily worried about you, either. And, ultimately i know i’m leading by example, so whatever way i deal with being under the weather, little eyes are always watching and learning.

Regardless, I know my children pick up on how I am feeling, even when i think I’m putting on an Oscar worthy performance. And actually, it’s the pretending and martyrdom that’s so confusing to them. After all, if they’re unwell- I’m all about telling them to relax, sit down, lie down, take their medicine and get some rest.

But in the past, when I’ve been unwell- I’ve put my foot on the gas, and kept going until i fell over! Literally. When, the one thing I needed to do was the only thing I was resisting – to stop.

So, for future reference. I’ve written a memo to myself. Here goes –

  •  Help! (I need somebody)
    Ask for help Jennie Pennie; with school drop offs, shopping. Every little bit counts. (P.s remember to heartily thank family and friends afterwards. You may have to write this on your fridge door as a reminder!)
  • Stop! (in the name of love)
    Rest your bones and shut your eyes. (However, I must warn you Jennie Pennie – shutting your eyes in public, while standing up, is widely regarded as strange behaviour. Remember when you closed your eyes for longer than socially acceptable, waiting in line at the til in Aldi. The cashier didn’t know what was going on.)
    Jennie Pennie, You’ve tried to barrel through colds and flu before, but as far as I can remember, no one ever gave you a badge of bravery because you just.kept.going. Or a medal, come to think of it! So, remember to fight this urge for gold stars (they don’t actually give them to adults) and kick back, forget about the baskets of washing and handprint stained windows! It can all wait…
  • Thank you! (for the music)
    Be thankful that the cold and flu passes. Reject the urge to host a pity party. You know you love them, Jennie Pennie! And remember, count your blessings. Sure, aren’t you lucky to deal with everyday illnesses- it could be a whole lot worse.

And so, time has passed and we’re all coming round! My strategy worked well this time. Mainly because I had nothing to do most days, other than keep myself and the kids fed and watered. It’s putting this into practice when I’m back off maternity leave, into the swing of juggling work and life. I tend to drop to the bottom of the priority list. Even though I make the list! I am getting better at this, though.  But, I’m going to try to remember, self care is vital – a happy mama, is a happy home afterall.

So, here’s to a Spring of good health and remembering to treat ourselves as we would treat a good friend – with bundles of compassion and (self) care.

No doubt, there’ll be more ‘strains’ coming our way, but it’s nothing that regular hand washing, extra soft tissue’s and boxes of paracetamol can’t help. Plus, there’s always Netflix to binge on and ice cream to ease the pain. Or, is that the other way around?

Oh and I called in the reserves this time too, family and friends support made a big difference!

And finally, cheers to my partner in crime; for putting the TV on mute, taking Babybear on a walk and sending me to bed so I could gain some shut eye in a horizontal, socially acceptable position.

Sometimes, it takes a village! Onwards we go…

P.s
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Thanks a bajillion for reading.

I’m lo-hov-ing this blog experiment and hearing all of the lovely feedback is the icing on the lemon drizzled cake!

Keep in touch…

Jen x

I’m Batmam.

 

Red lipstick is my superpower. I, like Bruce Wayne, wasn’t born with superpowers. But, hot red lipstick is my Batman suit – when applied, I feel like I can take on the world.

Without the lipstick, I’m Jen, Mam of 3, ready to kiss foreheads and pain away without leaving a trace. Besides, Ziggy finds lipstick “creepy”. He has a morbid fear of coming near me if I’m wearing any. I try to explain that someday he’ll love girls with lipstick and he is adamant that he won’t cause, “it’s just a stupid idea to paint your face”, plus he doesn’t fancy stupid people. This delights me. I go on to tell him I agree, “Brains are beautiful Ziggy, especially in bright, open minded, curious girls… like your sister Millie.”

Stop talking Jennie.

I instantly realise this sounds all kinds of wrong. I’ve bamboozled his little 6 year old brain. He smiles and continues to break up his Lego. At least he can always rely on Lego to make sense.

I’m coming out of the haze of the newborn early days and thinking about the future; going back to work, nights out with alcohol without expressing, spontaneously saying yes to unplanned evenings! This is both exciting and terrifying.

You see, I’m a bit squishy still. My body feels like playdough. My shape is in here somewhere, but it’s like I bought something lovely and they gave me extra. This happened when I got my first car too. The salesperson should of said “Here  is your car, congratulations you don’t have to walk anywhere anymore. Here’s your keys and an extra stone and a half that you’ve inherited, due to an immediate and sudden drop in all physical activity. Drive safe!”

I finally now understand where people were coming from when the new U2 album downloaded onto their iPhone for free. I get it, they were unhappy because it felt like an invasion of space and an extra they hadn’t bargained for.

It’s a storage issue for me too really; I have surplus folds on my back, a pouch hanging out on my lower belly and let’s not mention the size of my boobs. They are so big now, that even my nursing bra is sagging, begging for mercy at the weight of the load. Who knew you could have a uniboob? At least you can thread away a unibrow!

I know it’s superficial and base to think this way. My body grew life, is nourishing life. I am truly thankful. Women’s bodies rock the kasbah.

But, to be honest, almost 5 months in, I also really want to see my waist again and wear tops that aren’t sensible and made for quick access for a hungry baby.

Also, I’ve noticed that when I talk to other humans now, I largely don’t make any sense. I am literally lost for words, can’t find the simplest turn of phrase. I usually resort to miming and talking about the whatchyamacallit and the thingy! Or, painfully, I get over excited about chatting to adults other than my partner in crime, I end up over-sharing and frightening them. All of these things are nothing new, it’s just they’ve reached a whole new level.

I fear, on a night out, I will be the embodiment of the stupid girl that paints her face. The one Ziggy talks about.

Strangely, both impediments can happen simultaneously. At my very first Baby Massage class, I arrived late in a fluster. I began to try and set myself up as fast as I could. But for some bizarre reason, I began to give a running commentary of what I was doing, out loud, to the rather startled group.

I had a lot of layers on. So, I began to sweat profusely. All before 10.30am. The whole time I was thinking – Stop talking Jennie.

I finally did.

Turns out I exhausted myself; I was sleep deprived and getting ready and arriving late made my blood sugar peak. I was out of juice. Which was unfortunate, because when she asked me my name and my babies name, I gave the wrong name. I didn’t even notice until I looked down at my sticker that said Jennie + Ziggy + Smiley face. Wait, that’s not Babybear’s name?

Then, when they were moving around the circle during the icebreaker, I actually thought, I should just go with Ziggy. Sure, why not? They don’t know any different, they already think I’m stone mad, besides I’m all outta explaining power.

Nope, I might want to come back again, I rationalised. I have to do something.

So, I decided to try and peel off the sticker slowly and discreetly to rewrite Babybear’s name. Turns out, stickers on velvet make a really, really, reh-eeeeeeeaaaaaalllly loud sound when being removed. I interrupted the whole class again and had to explain that this sticker did not, in fact, display my son’s name. Cue perplexed faces. But have no fear, I continued, it’s not a random name either, I’m not crazy, it’s my other son’s name! To which one of the other women said, “You’ve another son…oh I thought he was your first.”

Yes, I was so conflustered and frazzled that I appeared a newbie, unsure, unconfident mother. I had to stop myself from explaining, ‘You have me all wrong, it’s not because I’m a Mama I’m like this. I’m kinda like this regardless.’ But then I thought that might not help my case.

To be fair, the 2 women who ran the class couldn’t have been nicer plus, it was fancy free. What a brilliant service. I did go back. I just took a really deep breath before I entered the room and everything was tickety boo!

But, I know it’s time to step into the crack of light and let the sunshine of the adult, responsible world in. I need to get out more, without Babybear, and just be me, with a slick of Ruby-woo lippie to ease the transition.

But actually, the biggest thing about moving on is you have to acknowledge that you’re saying goodbye to something. And that is the crux of it. I want to freeze time. I’d hang onto my extra 20% body mass, verbal constipation and TMI’ing if it meant standing still for a little while longer. Not just to freeze time with Babybear, but to be fully present and mindful with Millie and Ziggy. Once I go back to work, my brain becomes all about childcare, batch cooking and a million pockets of tiny other things fighting for attention. It’s a lot harder to just be in the moment, as much as I try. That’s life, we all know that, but if i’d one genie wish- that’s what I’d do!

But, then reality hits and i remind myself, babies aren’t just for maternity leave. Someone needs to feed and water them.

Plus, I don’t want to give them back – so, onwards we go!

I am not cool. Fact!

image

We’re not X Factor fans in our house. Strictly Come Dancing rules our Saturday and Sunday nights viewing every year. But as Millie gets older, she wants to watch the X Factor because everyone in her class watches it apparently. Everyone!!! She has FOMO.

I fought the good fight this time, but it may be the last year we all watch Saturday night TV together, as a family, in the one room. Sheesh- you can’t stop change- no matter how much you fight it!

But like everyone else, we weren’t immune to the Honey G hype. She of the “When I say Honey, You say G” fame.

Turns out the chant is a sonic ear worm- unforgettable and can be used in lots of different ways, using lots of different names. Even 2 months since the end of X Factor, Millie and Ziggy still sing her signature chant in the car. They say this happens a lot in school; in the school yard, during school swimming lessons, queuing for the toilet at break. You just can’t avoid Honey G- itus! It’s ready to strike, there’s no hiding from it, trust me I’ve tried.

Millie tells me Honey G is “so lucky to be so famous”. Cue my discussion with her about fame for fame’s sake, versus being famous for mastering a craft, a skill, a talent! She says I’m ‘old school’ and she’s going to be a famous gymnastic/singing/primary school teacher/mother/youtuber. A quintuple threat! She has it all figured out.

All I can hear is ‘oldschool’. To counteract this, I drop names of the famous people I know in said categories – just to prove my pop culture prowess. I am not old, I’m current! I’m down with the kids. With the help of my partner in crime, we even made 3 of them. Plus, I work with hundreds of young people. Crazy talk!

And I am on pooooint! Victory dab. My answers are on fleek, just like Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows! See #imdownwitdakidz

Out of nowhere, Millie offered me my final blow. I didn’t even see it coming. She set me up and I just ran with it, with all the gusto of an over eager puppy, hoping for a pat on the head. I think I may have been high from my previous slaying?

My final hurdle;

Millie: Mam, Mam…(puts on Honey G voice) When I say Kylie, you say
Me: (jumping the gun) Minogue
Silence.
Millie: (confused) Who?
More silence.

There’s no going back. We both know that.

But, strangely, I’m proud I didn’t give the right answer. I have a fierce loyalty to Ms. Minogue you see – she formed poptastic parts of my childhood. Without her, there’d be no Jason and sure, then where would we have all been in the 80’s in Ballymun? I’d definitely have no giddy memories of going over and over the same dance routine to ‘The Locomotion’, in the basement flats of Shangan with my bestie. Kylie was the musical score to the greatest of summer days and latest of sleepover nights.

Turns out Ms. Jenner is Millie’s Kylie. She of Kardashian fame. She’s part of Millie’s childhood, just like scrunchies and leg warmers were sewn into the fabric of mine.

There you go, you can’t fight change. I’m now a Mam to a soon to be 9 year old girl that thinks I’m really quite nice most of the time, but pretty uncool the vast majority of the time. Just as I thought of my Mam. And that’s how it works. To her I’m beige, but in my head- I’m still hot pink, well…powder pink  at least?

Nothing stays the same, but sometimes history has a way of repeating itself. I foresee the day Millie comes to me, slightly crestfallen and bemused with the same realisation my grandchild has about her. And I’ll remember to hug her tight, be kind and remind her she’s still cool, vital and fun – just in a very different way. And hope she sees the true beauty in her journey* and the real privilege that not all mothers are afforded – of watching her wonderful child grow independently and self- assuredly before her very eyes.

*P. S Sorry for dropping the j word. Eeeeek! I know I’m not Oprah, but I just went with it anyway! I promise to use this word only in extreme circumstances from now on. How about that? Deal? Deal.

 

Nothing compares to Millie-Moo

img_0075I’ve been ripped off many a-time. Once, I paid my electricity bill in a local post office, pre internet banking, and it never reached my account. Disappeared. No trace, Narcos style. I had to pay the whole bill again. Needless to say, I’ve felt nervous of post office banking since.

Another time I was busting a gut with excitement about a trip to Slane. Turns out, paying near €100 to see Madonna live also tops the list of one of the biggest rip offs ever!

But, actually, the one thing that tops the list for me. Which has eaten so many hours. Actually when I think about it, I spent my twenties revelling in it. Comparison. Comparing myself to other people; their experiences, their Facebook highlights (minus actual facebook, but you know what I mean, please don’t make me mention that social media didn’t exist then! Eeeek, I feel auld!!)

Comparison is the biggest rip off, because it robs so much joy in the here and now. And sure, I can’t be anyone other then I am, so this way of thinking just adds suffering and encourages a skewed self image. As a result, I sought comfort in many a late night chinese takeaway, which led to a wardrobe of clothes ranging from sizes 10 to 16. Eeeek!

Now, I say this in past tense because, by and large, with a few slip ups, I just try not to do it anymore.The comparisons I mean, still loving the late night chinese to be fair.

I think age, life experience and the realisation that it does you no good whatsoever has a lot to do with letting go. I have a little word with myself and remind myself, in the words of Dr Seuss, “there’s no one you-er than you”. And sure isn’t that just great, all’s well and good in the world. The end.

Except my 8 year old daughter Millie has come down with a serious dose of the comparisons. And this is on a whole new level. She talks about the clothes and brands she’s seen on other people; River Island clothes, Jojo bows, Black polo necks (don’t know where this particular fashion fascination came from, maybe it’s the beat writers I’ve been talking to her about?)

So I’ve tried to explain the Dr Seuss quote and how comparison kills joy (in retrospect, might have been a bit heavy handed for an 8 year old). Finally, I come to the closing line of my mama sermon, and I think for a second that this mighty speech may work. I deliver the final line – ‘Millie, it’s best to just be an original, be yourself – a leader, not a follower’. A pause. She smiles.

This is it. I’ve broken the cycle! Peer pressure, social media and Kylie Jenner have nothing on me. She respects my opinions and hears me – her wise and beloved mother. And haven’t I raised such a smart, bright wonderful young girl that can truly comprehend the power of consumerism and materialism and overcome it. Pat on the backs all round. Smug as Kimye.

Until she looks up at me and says, “Brilliant Mam- you’re so right, that black polo neck that Julie has is sooooooooooooo me! Let’s stop off and pick one up in Penney’s before we get that backpack in River Island I showed you on Insta?”

Hashtag epic fail.

She’s doing exactly what I was doing, what we all do. I’m just seeing it in its infancy through her young eyes. She’s creating herself and beginning to explore her world. Whether we’re 8, 38 or 58, we’re all subscribing to a tribe; by the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, with whom and how we spend our time and money. I  realised in that moment that just because I’m older, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped. I’d just forgotten the mechanics of it. Sure, I still want to dress like Jo Whiley during Glastonbury season. She is my style port of call – when in rag order I ask, what would Jo do? And I’m good to go!

So this is my plan; I’m going to be less judgemental of Millie’s fashion choices, let her mould her own style, settle into her own skin and watch her grow into her very own person and hope she finds a rocking, supportive tribe all of her own!