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Saturday, April 30, 2011


I like chocolate. Not unusual I would have thought, but when I was getting my hair cut the other day I stopped the hairdresser in her tracks when I outlined my weekly consumption. We were having a detailed chat about food and ended up going through exactly what we eat in a typical day:
Her (Laura): nothing at all until about half ten in the morning and then she has a sandwich or, if there is milk in the fridge at work, a bowl of cereal. Later in the day if she still has the sandwich she eats it and otherwise eats nothing (nothing!) until about eight in the evening when her husband cooks her a nice dinner.
Me: at about eight in the morning, I have cereal (two weetabix)and tea, at eleven, toast(two pieces, real butter) and tea, lunch is usually what is left over from yesterdays dinner(pasta/curry) and mid afternoon brings more tea and a bar of chocolate. Dinner is for me too at about eight and cooked by my husband.

Laura lowered the scissors and looked at me in the mirror.
“You eat all that? Every day?”
I nod. Every day.
“A whole bar of chocolate?”
Yup, sometimes a large bar, (caramel/golden crisp) now that they are on special offer in Superquin. (Two for two fifty).  Apparently some people can eat just a few squares and then put the bar away for another time. And some people, Laura being one of them are just “not that into” chocolate. The mind boggles.

One of my little boys is sort of a chocolate Scrooge. As I write there are four triangles of Toblerone in a kitchen cupboard. They are the remains of a whole bar he was given in January (it’s the 30th of April today). Two whole uncracked Easter eggs are in his egg hunt bag, gathered in the garden almost a fortnight ago on Easter Sunday. (I’m surprised he has them actually. For the first ten minutes of the scrabble for eggs he let his brothers get the lions share as he wasn’t interested in anything that wasn’t Lindt. He walked past Nestle and Cadburys with his nose in the air!) So my burning issue of the moment is, how long do I leave the Toblerone before its ok for me to eat it? Forever? That’s what his dad thinks. Three months, that’s what I think. I know it is literally taking candy from a baby but I could still live with myself. What I really want to do is wait for a weekday and when I reach that post-school run pre- homework afternoon slump, make a cup of tea and sneak out to a sunny spot in the garden with the purloined chocolate, tea, a cushion and my book (Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow, gripping in a totally un housewifely way). Or even better, if it’s Wednesday, Grazia magazine. That’s it; I’m giving him until Wednesday. If it’s still in its golden box in the cupboard by then, its mine.

Monday, April 25, 2011

cola flavoured Wham bar

Last week my five year old was invited to a party. He said what he always says, that he didn’t want to go “by himself.”  He considers the company of his whole class “by himself”. Instead of his dads sensible response suggesting he stay at home and venture out on the party circuit next year, in Senior Infants, I say that I will go to the party with him. And that I will stay there until he tells me it is ok for me to leave. On the one hand, I get out of our house on a Saturday and escape the vacuuming/laundry because its Saturday versus lounging on couch reading because its Saturday debate. On the other hand, once I get there I feel like a bit of an eegit, parked at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, trying very hard not to furtively inspect the house. A friend of mine once said that going anywhere with me was like hanging out with a detective. Apparently, when dining out my eyes are always darting all over the restaurant, and I constantly eavesdrop on the conversations of the people at nearby tables. We were eating out when she told me so I didn’t hear her the first time, obviously. Anyway, at the party I was really doing my best to control my nosiness.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could look around people’s houses the way kids do. They march in and immediately start scanning the place like an estate agent, taking square footage, number of reception rooms, value and age bracket of toys, up to date-ness of game consoles and age rating on games.  They pick things up and put them down until they feel they have a good approximation of the property.  And that is what the kids were doing here.  Every now and again my son passes and gives me a tiny, almost imperceptible shake of his head that means “Suck it in. You’re not leaving anytime soon.”  Effectively, I am a hostage.

I nurse my cooling tea and watch the party progress. I’ve done this a few times and have to hand it to other couples, they always seem so symbiotic compared to us. They work together, as a team, doling out food, filling cups, organising queues at the face painter, finding party bags, smiling at every one and each other. This couple were more or less finishing each others sentences. If my husband and I did that they would sound like this
“I’ll be home from work at .. the last time I’m hanging your coat up for you. What do you think those hooks are for?”
“Have you eaten those two squares of Golden Crisp that were on the .. key of the car is supposed to be in the drawer. I’m pretty sure you were the last person driving.”

Oh well. I ended up staying for the whole party, never coming close to being granted release. We drove home in silence, him digging into the party bag, me wondering if I should clean the microwave. I asked if he might try to go to a party by himself the next time. “No.” he answered, while thoughtfully chewing a cola flavoured Wham bar, “I think the next time I just won’t go at all.”

So what is the moral of that story? Wait until Senior Infants? Listen to your husband? I decided to be the bigger person and tell him he was right. And from now on I will listen to him and we will operate in a symbiotic bubble of kindness and cooperation and joy. That is of course, if  he’s got the vacuuming done by the time I get home.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I was lying in bed feeling like the woman with everything when the doorbell rang. My beautiful new baby lay asleep in the crook of my arm, my brand new kitchen extension was downstairs; lovely pale grey tiles on the floor, sun blazing in on clean, new units, bunch of flowers in a habitat vase on the window sill. My other children were playing in the garden, their happy voices reaching me through the window which was open because it was a balmy, warm, sunny day. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying but it sounded sweet and innocent. Bliss. Anyone would wish they were me, but I am me! Yippee! And my husband was in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher. Just kidding. (Nobodies life is that perfect.)

My husband was answering the door. I heard women’s voices from outside saying something about “living on this road too.. sponsorship.. five mile walk.. for charity” and then I heard my husband saying “Sorry, I can’t talk at the moment, I’m just washing my feet.” Yes, that is exactly what he said. The front door closed and I knew I had two options. I could run into the front bedroom, open a window, see what direction the women had gone in and shout “He never normally does that! Usually he has showers or baths! We are clean people! Did you see the kitchen extension?” Or I could stay in bed and pretend it had never happened. And that’s what I did.

Unlike me, my husband doesn’t really care what people think. For example, he doesn’t care if they think he only washes himself in sections, feet on Saturdays, arms on Sundays and so on. (He really does have showers, but the way, just for the record. I have no idea what the hygiene situation was that day but washing only his feet is not an everyday occurrence).He doesn’t care if people like the extension or not, or even if anyone sees it. So, whenever he answers the door he doesn’t leave the sitting room door open to give whoever is outside a view into the expansive kitchen. He’s not a show off, (like me). When parents collect their kids from parties in our house, I bring them right into the kitchen at the back of the house, in a really “easy going” way. I am basically trying to say “look at my child friendly, happy, (tasteful in a Designer’s Guild/IKEA/vintage way) amazing life! Look at the cake I made myself! And the pizza. Aren’t you jealous?”  At least three quarters of the time I’m pretty sure they are thinking “Why didn’t you just go to Leisureplex? Look at the state of your skirting boards.”

I could hear the childrens voices in the garden, singing loudly. It sounded like they were figuring out who was “on” in a game of chasing. This time I could hear exactly what they were saying;
“My mother and your mother went to the movies!
My mother punched yours in the boobies!
What colour was the blood?
You’re on!”

I wonder which of the other third class mothers would want to punch me in the boobies, should we ever have an outing to the Movies@Dundrum? Probably a few of them, now that I think of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A family day out

So this is how an argument starts in our house.

It’s the first day of the Easter holidays. A couple in their early forties, sit propped up in bed with Ikea side-sleeper pillows. He is holding a Ross O’Carroll Kelly book and quietly hoping she will wander downstairs so he can luxuriate in bed and finish it. She knows this and has no intention of doing so. Another lie-in? She doesn’t think so. The have to do something as a family today. Heading her off at the pass he talks first. (In the background ,the SpongeBob Squarepants theme tune drifts up to them through the floorboards.)

“I suppose we’d better do something with the kids today. I won’t have another day off work for a fortnight.”
“You sound really eager. Doing something with the kids isn’t so terrible you know.”
“I never said it was terrible. I just don’t particularly look forward to working every day for two weeks. Is there something wrong with that?”
“First thing in the morning and you are already in a grump. We have to go somewhere. I don’t think I can let them do another full day on the Xbox. They’ve been talking about Fort Duncan?”
“Why not? It’s the money I suppose. Sometimes we do have to pay entrance fees you know.”
“No. its not the money! I’m just not mad about that tacky, fairground shite.”
“You are not really thinking about what the kids want at all are you?”
“Well no, not completely. Believe it or not I might be also thinking about what I want to do.”
“Great. The Botanic Gardens. I saw you looking at the website last night.”
(Angry, accusative tone)
“You’re a very lucky woman, you know. A lot of wives say that and they’re not talking about the Botanic Gardens website.”

In the kitchen. Children sit around the table, two of them focussed on their Nintendo ds’s, and one is focussed on his parents.  “Are we doing anything today?”
“Well you are not going to be on that Xbox all day.”
“X Box 360. Are we going somewhere?”
“Daddy and I are just talking about that now. We will let you know in a few minutes.”
“Can I have a hot cross bun toasted with the butter put on when it’s still hot?”
“In a minute.”
“Can I go on the computer?”
“In a minute. Daddy is just looking something up.”
“What’s he looking up?
“The weather forecast.”
“Can I go on the computer when he’s finished looking up the weather forecast?”
The Dad lifts his head from the computer screen and quietly exits from his Fantasy Football site.
“You can go on the computer if there is time for that. We are going out today.”
“Mum just said I can go on it when you are finished.”
Child number two looks up from the ds.
“Where are we going?”
Child number three looks up from his ds.
“Are we going somewhere?”
“Daddy and I are talking about that now, just give us a minute.”
“Can I have the hot cross bun while I’m waiting?”

An hour later they are all in the car. The day is brightening up and they are headed towards the M50 and Fort Duncan.  A little voice pipes up from the back. The voice of someone who has been uncharacteristically quiet all morning and noticeably pale, had anyone thought to notice. However in the throws of  arguing how much these neglecting poor children need a day out in the hot sun, going down water slides, playing crazy golf, climbing up towers, his mother meant but forgot to have a closer look at him.
“My ear hurts.”
Those three words combined with red cheeks and pin prick pupils mean one thing. A temperature. Fort Duncan is off the cards. Its time to turn around, drive back home, administer calpol, pick up the buggy and head to the Botanic Gardens.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Old Navy, Polarn O. Pyret, Boden etc..

Spent two hours online this morning. Spent is the wrong word really. Wasted would be more appropriate. Although today I didn’t actually spend any money, doing my usual thing of filling a basket with clothes the kids “need” and then balking at the last minute when I see the final price, with shipping added. That last six pounds or twenty dollars just seems to make all the difference.  Mostly its because I know that the kids just don’t need distressed carpenter jeans, waffle long sleeved tees in sky or berry (blue and red)or triple roll socks in robot or cool lines (pattern and stripes) or jackets in teal, graphite or burnt orange(green, grey and rust). This morning I spend most of my time getting sore eyes scrolling through reviews.

My active four year old just loves the funky design of these socks and his mommy loves that they don’t shrink!
Age: 25-34, Chigago, Il.
Priority – style and cuteness).

My normally fussy pre teen finally agreed to wear these jeans  last week and hasn’t taken them off since! I bought them in two more colours!
Age :35-40, Middle England,
priority – comfort.

I usually sneer at these reviews, the women who wrote them and their attention to detail.
Cuffs sometimes roll up, ..
wasn’t keen on style of button..
buckles might scratch leather couch.
But I am the same really. And I’m totally with them in the quest for picture perfect kids. As well as that those reviews are actually useful. Who wants beautiful faded cords that sit perfectly on the skateboarding sneaker if they are going to tear up a leather couch?  Or pyjama tops that are too short after one wash?

Even thinking about going online has my fingers itching to see if there are any cosy pyjamas left in the winter sales.  
Why do I waste so much time on the internet? Could I call it gathering useful information? Information! Who am I fooling?
You have four items in your shopping bag.
This item is no longer available in taupe.
We now have skinny jeans in husky sizes!
Now shopping with us is even more fun – spend over $200 and get 15% off all other purchases!
Time to shut the lap top and walk away. Load the dishwasher and try and slow my heartbeat down a bit. Look out the kitchen window, take a few deep breaths and see is there any drying out for the pile of softly coloured, wet waffle tops in the washing basket.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Today I  am spending too much time peering out a bedroom window looking for the postman. That’s the downside of shopping online. The waiting. The tracking. The imagining sorters in some imaginary mail depot seeing my box come towards them on a conveyor belt and think to themselves “Will I put this in a delivery bag so that it gets delivered today or will I go on my tea break?  Or will I check to see if anyone has texted me in the last five seconds?” They go for the latter option and take out their phone, chuckle and spend the next ten minutes formulating a witty reply. The end result of which means I have to wait yet another day for my shopping. Wierdly I imagine all this in animation. Thats probably from watching so much Monsters Inc, Robots, Dispicable Me etc. The conveyor belt motif is one that comes up a lot in kids movies.
When will my stuff get here? Does “five days” include weekends? Does “ten days” really mean two weeks? Two weeks is an eternity.
Hearing the doorbell and racing to the door hoping and praying there will be a man standing on my doorstep holding one of those chunky electronic things for me to sign. Instead it’s a twenty two year old in square toed shoes holding a clipboard. “Hi! Don’t look so worried! Nothing too serious! Have you ever thought of switching to Eircom? Why? If you don’t mind me asking! Who is your current provider? How much do you pay them? If you don’t mind me asking!” The disappointment reminds me of answering the phone in the olden days, before caller i.d., when every call was a mystery until the voice at the other end identified themselves. While it rang I could live the fantasy that it might be a boy. When I answered it I lived the reality that it was my friend calling to see if a boy had rang. After I got married the sound of a ringing phone lost all the anguish and excitement and became just nothing, at worst an interruption, at best a distraction.

Two weeks (ten working days) later, my husband is on his back in the driveway, underneath our car. Swearing loudly, he is  trying to do something to the suspension which was the reason that caused it to, just that morning, fail the NCT. After much heaving and ho ing and sweating, he appears in the kitchen, grease stained and cross. He is carrying two boxes “These just arrived for you. You do realise that the car needs a new battery? Is all this stuff going on the visa?” He trudges out again, a fixed, worried look on his face, to try and replace the indicator bulb himself, because the garage charges fifty euros to do it, knowing that the contents of the boxes negates the whole exercise and thereby confirms to him the crapness of life and the pointlessness of tiny economies. On his knees with a screw driver his thoughts continues in the downward spiral through life, why did I buy this car? Why did I buy this house on this road with all these shitty ramps? Why the fuck wont this nut loosen? Right. I want to throw something now. Faaaaaaaaack!

In the kitchen I can hear and curse the timing of the delivery.  To somewhat make up for my greed I try to do worthy things and shamefully ignore the boxes.  I wash up, set the table, make an apple pie and feel like a terrible, terrible person. I find a long lost spelling notebook that would be have been safe in a school bag had I not spend so many selfish hours gazing at shopping websites. I look at Neily, checking his body count on the x box. If I was a better mother he would be sitting in the kitchen, doing collage and listening to Harry Potter audiobooks.  Instead he is damaged from violent video games and I have all these possessions, and for what? I continue down my own spiral, hugging the kids, looking into their faces eagerly offering quality listening time. They looked puzzled, then bored. Where is a hair shirt when I need it? Probably on sale in some website now that I think of it.

The Space Race, Snow Leopard, Pokemon Annual

Project time in the National School. Second class is doing The Space Race.  Every boy was given a sheet of thick white paper that we were not allowed to fold! And now all we need to do is get ten facts to write out, cut out, and then glue onto the big page. And then theres pictures. No problem to Neily. As far as he is concerned we just “use the internet.”  Not books, the computer. Because no one is using books. Really? No one in the whole class? No. No one in the whole class. Which brought us to Wikepedia, which he wants to copy word for word from the screen.  Which is impossible because the screen is on a table too small to fit a copy aswell. And half of the information on the screen is irrelevant. And once he starts writing he realises it is “too much” too hard!” This in turn leads to rows about:
  1. using the computer at homework time. “Neily is on the computer!” “Its homework. I have to!” “He’s doing club penguin!” “He hit me!”
  2. Endless whining “I have to do my project” but not actually doing it.
  3. Looking for glue and not finding it.
  4. Looking for scissors and not finding them.
  5. I suppress an urge to scream at someone, anyone.
  6. Telling son to lay out his clean white page and get started and then watching him put it on a pool of milk, diving across the kitchen in slow motion shouting “stooooop” (also in slowed down deep quavery voice) but of course not getting there in time. And in the process stamping on a little hand that was innocently attached to a younger, quiet little boy plugged in to his Nintendo. Twenty minutes after he had been asked to turn it off and start his homework. Thus follows crying, guilt, guilt about the thought that I will do anything, anything to avoid heading to a hospital. Including letting a broken foot set badly thus leading to a lifelong limp. No! I wouldn’t really! But it did cross my mind. Neurofen, (one spoon for the injured party, one gulp for me) tears, hugs and two episodes of Simpsons later we have all recovered. And the project sheet remains blank.
  7. Lying to son that I will be able to clean milk off when he is in bed.
  8. Wishing he would just go to bed so I could get on with project myself.
  9. Ruminating on Buzz Aldrin. How did his wife feel? If only he was  just a little bit more handsome? Why don’t Irish people smile in photos like the Americans do?
  10. Endless whining to myself that I have to do my sons project but not actually doing it.
Eventually he did fall asleep and I settled at the kitchen table with the scissors, cutting out the facts I had paraphrased from the internet. I was quite proud of one of them. “Cheeto, a chimpanzee was the first hominid in space. After orbiting the earth he landed safely in Arizona, his only injury being a bruised nose.” It was relevant, mentioned an animal and ended happily. Perfect! The next day he headed off into his classroom, where a flurry of boys surrounded the desks, examining each others work in horror and or admiration and I walked home to a cup of tea and a sigh of relief. All was forgotten until later in the week when, after four or so casual enquiries about the teachers comments I was told “He asked me what a hominid was, but I didn’t know.”

It was obviously the time of year for projects as the following Monday, six year old Rowan came proudly out of his classroom with the big white sheet (don’t fold it!) and instructions to do an animal project. It was basic enough. Pick an animal and write ten facts about it. He isnt a perfectionist like his brother so he scrawled, as quickly as possible the ten facts we found online. Once again I had to convince him to paraphrase, rather than copy word for word, and luckily he cant read too well yet so as long as I kept moving the screen up and down I could convince him that the words I was “reading” were actually on the screen.  But all too soon  it was finished, pictures and all. I say “picture” in the loosest sense of the word as it was a pencil outline copy of a picture on the screen which didn’t need to be coloured in as he was a snow leopard and needed to blend in with his environment. He insisted on cutting out his lines himself and sticking them together with sellotape. I watched in agony as he hacked away with the scissors and stuck and unstuck and stuck again with the sellotape. Basically he wanted to get a project done, start to finish in the advertisement break of the Simpsons. Luckily for him there are huge add breaks on Sky TV. But still, It was a rushed job.

 After we dropped it to teacher I noticed some work on the wall outside his classroom. A few eager beavers had already finished their projects and they were displayed in the corridor. My heart sank. Each one had the ten facts typed out and pasted on a large sheet accompanied by high quality pictures. Larger sheets than the one teacher had given us. No fair! I wanted to shout, teacher didn’t give those ones! One even had a nest containing eggs pasted onto the sheet. Our little offering, with its large shaky writing and barely recognisable snow leopard (which wasn’t even coloured-in!) was incomparable to this lot. I considered asking the teacher to display it somewhere in the classroom, somewhere away from the gaze of the other critical mothers. Mothers like me.

Its competitive, this mothering game. From the first time your chubby baby claps his hands you are watching other children and gleefully noticing how they compare unfavourably in their developmental milestones. This is all great until it is your child who dosnt do everything first. Then it becomes panicked observing (please let him not be able to put on his shoes! Please let him wait for help on that climbing frame! No, up he goes, agile as a monkey. Gross motor skills bang up to date, particular strengths being balance, core strength and general showing off.) Meanwhile my little lad reclines in his buggy, thumb in mouth, waiting for me to encourage him to climb out and brave the baby swing.
As a reward for all this work, I had promised a treat to be chosen by each boy. Neily chose Skullduggery Pleasant the faceless ones. Rowan chose the Pokemon annual. So one dull Wednesday morning I headed off to the bookshop to keep my promise. Skullduggary Pleasant was on the shelf but the annual was another issue. It was February and seemingly annuals (despite their name) are only readily available at Christmas. Secondly, annuals are not really considered books by book shop people. Their response was, generally “Annuals” (puzzled look followed by recognition...oh you mean books for people who don’t really read. No, we don’t have any left since the people who only come in here at Christmastime bought them all.) And then “Pokemon?  Oh no, we never had that one in the first place.”  By the third bookshop I was asking for the Pokemon Annual in hushed tones, as if I was asking for pornography or marriage guidance counselling workbooks whilst sporting a black eye. Apologising for not asking for Roald Dahl or J K Rowling or something that is quite definitely a book. I was even offered the Roald Dahl Annual and the Harry Potter Annual which sensibly, the people who had bought annuals at Christmas time had rejected, the whole point of an annual being that its not any good if it doesn’t have a picture of a character from Nick Toons on the cover. My husband got it in a discount book shop in the end and Rowan has been poring over it ever since.