I think I write a variation of this post every year on here, or if not here on my Facebook page, so you’re probably all sick of me waffling on, but hey, tradition is tradition so here it is.
I like Valentine’s Day.
It seems it’s a bit of a novelty these days to admit that you like Valentine’s Day, that you get some pleasure out of the day. In every newspaper and blog, in online forums and in real life people poo poo Valentine’s Day, giving out about commercialism and overpriced tat and forced love.
And you know, I get it. I do. Because in a way they’re right. Nobody needs a six-foot teddy bear holding a heart. ‘Special Valentine’s Menus’ in restaurants bring me out in a rash and spending €6 on a supermarket card makes me die a little inside. So I really do get it. That aspect of Valentine’s Day isn’t necessary at all. (Though, if it’s your bag, fair play, none of my business.)
But here’s what I think IS important and IS necessary – taking a breath and telling someone you love them. Just that. It doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, it can be your Mam, your kid, your best friend. Just taking that breath, that pause, from our busy lives to remember love is important.
And why Valentine’s Day comes in handy as a reminder of that. Just a reminder, a nudge. Of course we should be telling our loved ones that we love them everyday, we should be showering our lovers in rose petals and champagne every hour, we should be texting love notes non stop, we should be permanently ensconced in a rosy glow of desire – but the reality is we don’t and we’re not.
Because life gets in the way. Kids get in the way. Sick parents get in the way. Demanding bosses get in the way. Mortgages and sky-high rents get in the way. Job losses and illness and depression and worry and stress and being ALIVE gets in the way.
So for me Valentine’s Day is a chance to press pause. A chance to take a breath. An opportunity – an almost State sponsored opportunity! – to focus on love. To tell the people in my life that I love them and that I care for them. I think Valentine’s Day can also be a hard day for many people – particularly those who have lost a loved one and it can have unhappy memories, which is why I think it’s important not just to focus on romantic love, but on an all-encompassing love for those people who are important to you. And I find that when I really celebrate the true meaning of the day, that it makes me more inclined to be romantic or loving or just to take that breath and remind myself that I am surrounded by love, on other days of the year too. So it’s win win.
So tomorrow for Valentine’s Day I’m going to spend the day telling the people who are important to me that I love them. I’m going to spend some one on one time with my little man and I’m going to cook a special dinner. And I’m going to pause and remember how lucky I am and how wonderful it is to know love and to have love and to give love. And I’m going to resolve to try to keep Valentine’s Day in my heart all year round (thanks Charles Dickens).
And really, when you think of it, what’s so bad about that?
I’ve decided to embrace big knickers.
This isn’t about size or weight and it’s not about ‘letting yourself go’ it’s just about the fact that big knickers fit me and are comfortable.
And I like being comfortable.
Over the years I’ve tried every kind of knickers: briefs, thongs, bikinis, French knickers, lacy knickers, shorts and they were all grand, except when they weren’t.
Like when I was hauling bikini briefs back up to my waist, after feeling them slowly rolling down my thighs. Or reefing thongs out of my arse crack.
Or almost disembowelling myself when my French knickers rode so far up my hips that the gusset felt like it was actually trying to crawl up into my vagina.
Or secretly trying to scratch my Lady Garden on the bus on the way home after wearing lacy pants all day.
I’ve had enough.
I want a nice big knicker. A ‘full brief’ is I believe the proper term. Knickers that cover your bum, that actually come up to your waist and, even more radically, that cover your hips. Knickers that stay put on your body. You put them on in the morning and … they stay there. Covering your body. In a normal fashion.
And, possibly more importantly, big knickers tend to be made of cotton. Not nylon or polyester or even silk, but good old-fashioned healthy breathable cotton. Hello big knickers, goodbye cystitis.
I still have fancy knickers. Knickers that match my bra and I wear them regularly. Sometimes if I’m going out with my husband, or for a night on the town with my friends, but other times just on a random Wednesday, just because I like fancy matching underwear and I feel good when I wear them. But sometimes the matching bra is in the wash or the knickers are in the wash so I need a supply of regular every day knickers and I have decided the full brief is the brief for me.
I don’t care if they’re not sexy, or pretty or becoming. I don’t care if they make me look like I’m either pregnant or 80 years old – or both! I don’t care. They’re comfortable, they’re soft, they’re smooth. I am one with the full brief, and they are at one with me.
My name is Karen, I’m 38 years old, I wear big knickers and this is how it feels in my pants, every day:
Pox Mam lives in the Family Tree
With her Pox Husband Love and her Pox Beasty, wee.
One day she wakes early, for a bagel and lox.
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, beware of the Pox.
A Mam! Cried Chicken Pox. A well rested Mam.
Let’s change all that, I don’t give a damn.
I’ll push up the temp and bring out a spot,
Why stop at one, I’ll bring out a LOT.
I’m not just a Mam! Why can’t you see,
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me
And I want to burn down the family tree.
I’m not a Mam who needs sleep at night,
Sleep is for the weak,
I’ll stay up and fight.
I can go on, who needs a rest?
I’ll stay up with Pox Beast, it’s for the best.
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it and then,
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it again!
Pox Mam is lonely. Pox Mam is lost.
Pox Mam forgot her slippers, at her own cost.
She sits by the bed, stroking a feverish nose,
Trying to comfort, but dying to doze.
She cuddles the Pox Beast, wanting to cure
Then suddenly remembers, Calpol for sure!
She checks the time and sees it’s ok,
He can have another dose, hip hip hooray!
She squirts and she spoons and she gets it all in,
Another smear of Pox cream, why not, for the win.
The Beast’s breathing slows, he’s sleeping at last
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, get to bed fast!
Early next morning, after sleeping a while,
She checks on the Pox Beast, there’s more spots, by a mile
She thinks it might be a very long week,
Chicken pox really is not for the meek.
Still, Pox Beast is smiling, he’s really alright,
These pox won’t last for ever, a few more days (and a night!)
Pox Mam will get through, the best she will make
But also, fuck it all, she’s making a cake!
Because it’s her birthday, yes really, today
Chicken Pox bedammed, what do you say?
Chocolate or lemon or vanilla, oh my,
And coffee too, obvs, so she doesn’t just die
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me!
And I’m baking right here, in the family tree.
(This is ripped off from the wonderful Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, ‘Stick Man’ which is available here if you haven’t already got it. It’s one of The Beast’s favourites!)
I REMEMBER the first time I saw a homeless person as a child. It was in the city centre of Dublin, on O’Connell Bridge and he was sitting on some cardboard, with a cup in his hand, asking for money.
I was about ten years old I think and I remember my Mam dropping a few coins into his cup from her pocket and telling me that we were so lucky to have a home and not to have to live on the streets like this poor man.
She was right of course but for a long time I equated homelessness with this cold man on the bridge, thinking that all homeless people were like him. That you had to be sleeping rough on the streets to be considered homeless
I know now however that this, of course, is not the case. The reality is homelessness is multifaceted, encompassing everyone from rough sleepers to those sleeping on a friend’s couch to those living in B&Bs. You can be homeless even when you have a roof over your head or a bed to sleep in.
And for 1,200 families this Christmas – including 2,400 children – that’s the reality they face every day. Squeezed into hotel rooms or hostels with very little space, no cooking facilities, no room for toys, no privacy.
No home. No haven. No place to call their own.
Yet as Ireland’s homeless crisis deepens, more and more people, families and children are forced into this situation – something Focus Ireland is hoping to tackle.
And for that they need your help.
Focus Ireland recently launched its Christmas appeal highlighting the record number of homeless people now living nationwide – both rough sleepers and those in emergency accommodation. Far from eradicating homelessness, the problem gets worse every day.
Launching the campaign Sr Stan spoke passionately of the terrible impact being homeless has on families and in particular children. She said: “Christmas should be one of the happiest times of year for children and their families. However, it breaks my heart to think that up to 2,500 children will be homeless on Christmas day this year.
“I know from meeting families who are homeless that we support it’s the children who feel it the worst. Many times a family who are homeless are often squeezed into one hotel room – 3 or 4 people in one room, nowhere to cook or for children to play. There are also many single people and couples homeless and they all need a place to call home.”
Sr Stan highlighted the vital role Focus Ireland has played in supporting families to secure a home, in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and local authorities, this year, saying however that more funding is urgently needed. She urged people to give as much as they could afford to help the organisation continue its vital work.
One Mam, Gillian, who was homeless but has now secured a home with the support of Focus Ireland said: “When you have a home you don’t realise how lucky you are… my daughter was only two weeks old when we became homeless, I don’t think I’d even be here now if it wasn’t for Focus Ireland. I wake up every day now and think ‘I have a home’.”
Focus Ireland depends on your donations to keep supporting homeless people and families year round. In 2016 alone the organisation supported 12,500 people who were homeless or at risk and they need your help to continue that work.
Turning the key in the door of your own home shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a basic right, for all our citizens. For all our children. Please, if you can, dig deep and donate to Focus Ireland. You can do so here or by calling 1850 204 205
**This post is part of a Blog March by members of the Irish Parenting Bloggers network, to raise awareness of homelessness and Focus Ireland’s campaign. You can read more posts on the subject by following the hashtag #FocusOnChristmas on social media. Thank you. **
Here’s Kate Take’s 5’s take on it: http://www.katetakes5.com/2016/11/homelessness-in-ireland-what-can-we-do.html
NOW look. I know. It’s November and I’m already talking about Christmas gift guides. I KNOW! Ok? I know.
But there’s method in my madness. Some of the beautiful little handfuls of gorgeousness below are hand made and limited edition, so if you don’t get in early, you might miss out.
Plus, I’m a parent now, I can no longer browse for gifts in a timely fashion, instead I have to wait for The Beast to be occupied for five minutes and then panic buy on the internet and I want to spare you that. I want you to have a lovely list to hand, for all your gift needs so that you don’t end up with some monstrosity you purchased at 2am. I’m doing you a favour here!
So without further ado here’s my Christmas Gift Guide. (This is my guide for adults, I’ll be doing a children’s version later on in the month. These are all items that have simply caught my eye as lovely things, this Gift Guide isn’t affiliated with any of the companies featured here, I haven’t been sent anything for free, nor paid for this post, or sponsored for it in any way.)
- First up the stocking filler to beat all stocking fillers. A Bite Size Natural Skincare Set from Bia Beauty in County Cork, featuring a cleanser, moisturiser, eye gel and skin superfood. This little set features some of Bia Beauty’s most loved skincare, in a mini set so you can try them to see do they suit your skin, before buying the larger version. Packaged in a dinky little box, this sweet set is only €12.95 and the sample pots contain enough product for about ten days – two weeks depending on how much you use. A friend bought me this set earlier in the year and I just fell in love, I think everyone in the world that I know is going to be getting one of these for Christmas, my poor postman is going to develop a hernia lugging them up my driveway.
- Next up we have some beautiful stationery from Emily at The Nest, who is bringing back her stunning Book of Days journal for 2017. Full of brand new illustrations and paintings created in her studio in the Midlands, this gorgeous diary features a full colour velvety feeling cover with the inside leaves being a heavy silky material, with miniature landscapes printed throughout. There’s even a dinky envelope on the back page where you can keep important receipts. Priced at just €20 this is a truly unique gift. As well as the Book of Days, this year for the first time The Nest is introducing lined and unlined notebooks with beautiful original artwork on the front cover, priced at just €9 each, perfect for the stationery lover in your life. Pre-orders for the Book of Days finishes mid-November so if you want one, you’ll need to move fast.
- Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some tree decorations and Letter Lane Studio based in County Limerick has created the most gorgeous wooden ornaments which would grace any tree, big or small. Made from birch plywood, the ornaments feature festive sayings like ‘Merry and Bright’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and they can be bought individually or in a bundle. They’re €4 each or three for €10.
- If you’re looking for a small but perfectly formed gift for a colleague or your child’s teacher, look no further than Tara Robinson Designs, based in County Limerick, who has this beautiful slim bookmark available for just €15, which can be personalised with a name or date or even just a favourite quote. Stylish and practical.
- Also from Tara Robinson Designs check out this gorgeous leather cuff, which can also be personalised, a really unique gift for the love of your life. Priced at just €30 it’s sure to go down a storm.
- Most of us would mainly associate Tesco with groceries, but the supermarket also has a decent homewares section where you’ll find this pretty ceramic oil burner priced at just €5.60, which let’s face it is an absolute steal. Add in a wax melt, wrap it up in some crepe paper and ribbon and you have a really gorgeous gift for under your tree. I’ve already bought one of these for myself!
- While you’re in Tesco check out the clothes section where you’ll find Touchscreen Gloves in both men’s an women’s sizes. Both fabric and leather gloves, where the thumb and index fingers have a special kind of material which allows you to use your phone or tablet without having to take off your gloves. Nifty! I’m not really sure how it works, I suspect it’s magic. Prices range from about a fiver for basic gloves to around €15 for leather ones. As far as I’m aware Tesco is no longer delivering clothes etc, so you’ll have to buy in store.
- This Christmas give a year long gift with a magazine subscription. What’s better than getting post every month that’s not a bill? Exactly, nothing. Easons has a full range of subscriptions to choose from or you can go direct to the magazine of your choice. For example at the moment National Geographic is offering a year long subscription plus a free world map and a free fleece jacket, for just €39. Not too shabby at all!
- Combine Christmas with some activism. Why not give the gift of some original artwork from a group of pro-choice artists, part of the Someone You Love exhibition, with all proceeds going to the Abortion Support Network. Browse the catalogue here. A personal favourite is this piece from Irish artist Róisín Blade Illustrator.
- Sometimes the best gift is the gift of giving, so consider a donation to charity as a gift for someone this year. You can simply donate some money in a friend or relative’s name, or you can buy a little gift/trinket with the proceeds going toward the charity. You can even purchase medical supplies to send out to disaster zones, for example, with just a few clicks. Pretty much every charity in the world has the option to give a donation as a gift, so just get Googling and find a charity that means something to you. I’d be here all night if I listed off the various charities out there (you might get some ideas from last year’s Charity Guide) but I think this year my main international donation will be going to Médecins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) who are currently operating in Syria and Haiti.
Honourable mention: Gifts are all very well and good but for many of us it’s the Christmas cards that make Christmas so I want to give a shout out to Lemon Squeezy, based in County Mayo, who makes the quirkiest, most beautiful hand made cards in the world. She also makes beautiful perosnalised Santa cards as well which are sure to delight your little ones. Check her out, you won’t regret it!
THE Beast has been in preschool for two days now and I already hate that poxy school run.
Can we pause for a minute actually to discuss the phrase ‘school run’. What does it mean? Do people actually run it? Like put on their runners and their sweat pants and jog up the road, children gaily ambling beside them? It’s an odd phrase, it feels weird in my mouth.
Anyway, whatever the origin, I’ve a pain in my hoop with it already.
You belt around the house like a lunatic packing bags and persuading children to eat something, then hustle them up the road, hurrying them along as they stop to examine every single leaf and stick, wrestle them into the school then walk the same way home. And then a scant couple of hours later you drag your carcass back up that damn road again and do the whole thing in reverse? And you do that every day for, oh, the next 14 years? WHO thought that was a good idea? Surely some sort of Star Trek transporter beam would be more efficient? I’ll have worn a path in the road in the shape of my footprints in another few months.
And I’m probably the jammiest mother on the internet right now because I only have one kid to drop off and we live within walking distance to our school, it’s only up the road, so it’s at the lowest end of the ‘Kill me now, Lord’ scale.
I know another parent in a bloggers group I’m in who spends TWO HOURS in the car doing drop offs and pick ups with various children. Others have to wrangle with school buses and staggered start times, or drive to the opposite side of town in rush hour traffic. I can’t even imagine it, they deserve medals.
I remember the long commute from my own school days – up at 6.30am, on a bus by 7.30am at the latest to travel miles across the city and then often not getting home until 5pm or later depending on traffic. Every day for my whole school career and it was the bane of my existence. I had almost forgotten about it, it was so long ago, until this week when I said the words ‘Hurry now, we don’t want to be late for school’ and I started getting flashbacks.
School run angst not withstanding however, we survived the first week at school and The Beast was a little trooper. There were some tears and a small amount of anxiety, of course. This is his first time away from me and it’s such a huge adjustment but he’ll get there.
He’s already mastered the art of telling me absolutely zero about what he’s been getting up to at school though, only two days in.
Me: So how was your first day? What did you do?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: Did you do colouring?
Me: Did you play with the toys?
Me: Do you remember any of the things you did?
On the second day he came out clutching some pages he had been colouring in and his teacher told me they had done puzzles, of which there is photographic evidence, and he had played with a little boy.
Me: Look at these pictures! Did you do some colouring and some puzzles and play with a little boy?
Him: I didn’t play with any toys, I didn’t play with anyone, I didn’t do anything.
On our way out we met The Beast’s pal Little Miss who is also in his class and is a veteran of the school having been there last year, so I thought I’d ask her what they had been doing as she’s a great little chatter, always full of news.
Me: What did you kids do today?
Her: *sighing* Nothing.
So there you have it. Our first week of school is done, I already hate the school run and The Beast did absolutely nothing.
THERE was a knock on the door the other week and it was a little lad from across the road looking for The Beast.
‘Is he comin’ out to play?’ the child asked, looking disappointed when I said that The Beast was with his Nana that day but would come out to play the next afternoon.
I barely managed to close the door before I burst into hysterical sobs – imagine, a friend calling for my boy. He has friends now. Kids that greet him on the street when we go to the shops, that run over to our garden when they see us out playing with trains on the driveway.
It’s too much for me, he’s growing up too fast, he’s not my baby any more, he’s a boy. A BOY!
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
I had barely recovered when we got some post from his new pre-school, which he’ll be starting in September. Forms about allergies and vaccinations, names and addresses, boxes to tick. I can hardly believe the time has come around already but here we are, he’ll be heading off with his bag on his back and his lunchbox in just a couple of weeks.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
To send me further over the edge – sure why not – then we went to the shop and got all the stuff we needed to turn his cot into a toddler bed, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, the works. He hops in by himself now, he doesn’t need his little sleeping bag anymore, he has a big boy blanket. He’s delighted with himself while I’m doubled up with grief, sobbing into his pre-school forms trying to remember did I actually get him his 13-month vaccinations or did I forget. It’s all a blur.
And then today, Yer Man brought him off to get his hair cut in preparation for school, a good tight cut, a man’s cut, to last him until the mid-term break.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
Maybe it’s because I’m hepped up on pain pills from a tooth extraction yesterday (fairly brutal it has to be said) or maybe it’s because I’m a sap but I really just want to put a brick on his head and stop him from growing up and freeze him at this age forever.
It’s odd because when he was a newborn, I couldn’t wait for that stage to end. To be fair, it’s a really tough stage, particularly on a first baby as you’re totally flying blind and haven’t a notion what you’re at. But still, I kind of wished it away, I couldn’t wait for him to get a bit more independent, couldn’t wait for the night feeds to end, that sort of thing.
And it did end of course and once he started walking and talking I really found my groove with him and he with me and we’ve muddled along really nicely. And now I look at him and see that the baby stage is well and truly over, I’m sending him out into the world and he is truly a ‘big boy’ now.
It’s too much. My heart is broken. BROKEN! Pass me a few more Nurofen Plus there, go on, they can’t hurt, I AM BUT A SHELL OF A WOMAN!
I suppose I have to let him go, though, don’t I? Keeping him as my baby isn’t really an option. much as I’d like to. And I know that he’ll always be my baby even when he’s 40 and I know that even though he’s a big boy now he’s still only three, he’s still so tiny and still needs me so much. And I know that his having friends and going to school and having his own proper bed are all good things. They bring him joy and make him happy which is the most important thing.
Bye bye baby, baby goodbye …