First a wedding dress, then a maternity dress, now I'm just trying to fit into ANY dress.

Tales from the coalface – Potty Training 101

WE’VE  been at the coalface of potty training for a full week now and praise all the gods, it seems to have clicked and we’re now on day three accident free.

I’m not the better of it, I’ll tell you that.

It’s just one of those skills that kids have to get for themselves. You can talk about it, read about it, demonstrate but you don’t have control over their urethras so you just have to sit back and hope that they will literally go with the flow.

Seeing as we’ve been stuck at home for the past week wearing just our pants – hey, don’t judge, it’s called modelling behaviour – I’ve been compiling a list of nine things you might need  if you decide to start potty training.

Potty training pants

  • Pants. Loads and loads of pants. I bought 22 and thought that would be enough, but then The Beast had ten accidents in the first day so that told me. Buy 800. And then the week before you start buy another few packs. And then at the last minute buy five more packs. That should be enough, but no guarantees.

Potty training stickers

  • Stickers. Loads and loads of stickers. (If you’re planning on doing a reward chart) We got a beautiful Thomas the Tank Engine book all about potty training, which featured a reward chart with stickers, five for each day. ‘That’s grand’, sez I, ‘five a day will be plenty, sure how many times can a toddler go in one day?’ Forty. The answer is 40. They go 40 times a day. You will need many MANY more stickers than any reward chart has to offer.

Potty training hand cream

  • Hand cream. For you. Do you know how many times a day you’ll wash your hands when you’re potty training a toddler? 657. I counted. By the end of day two your hands will be dry, scaly, chapped shadows of their former selves. Buy hand cream. A lot of it.
  • A potty, even if you’re planning on using a special seat that sits on the regular toilet. We bought the special seats, but The Beast seemed more comfortable on the small, cheap, plastic potty we got in the chemist so we’ve ended up using that instead. It’s also handy for when you take 60 seconds to go for a wee yourself, because it is in that 60 seconds that your child will tell you that he needs a wee as well. So if you keep a potty handy in the bathroom, you can both go at the same time. Alternatively, if your child is hogging the regular toilet and you just can’t hold it any more (hello childbirth, goodbye pelvic floor) it’s handy to have for you to use in an emergency. I’m not saying that happened to me, I’m just saying it might happen to you. *side eyes*

  • Antibacterial spray that smells of something. If you use odourless cleaning products now is the time to break out the scented products. Just …trust me, ok?
  • Extra packs of loo roll. This seems like a no brainer but it’s amazing just how much loo roll tiny bottoms can go through. Ditto kitchen roll for cleaning up your floors. Now is not the time to think of the environment, one sheet will NOT be plenty, you can take that to the bank and cash it.
  • Arts and crafts/baking supplies. To give you something to DO while you’re sitting there on the edge of your seat waiting for the next wee to spring forth. Generally speaking you’ll need to clear a good few days to potty train, you need a run at it, and it’s best to stay at home so you’ll need something to fill those hours. Baking chocolate fairy cakes for example filled a good hour here, plus I then had something with which to eat my feelings when I had to clean up another pool of wee. Win win!

  • A pack horse, to haul about all the supplies you’ll need when you do decide to venture out. Or maybe look into hiring an experienced mountaineer, maybe someone who’s climbed Everest, to come and live with you for a few months. Gone are the days where you could throw a packet of wipes and a bottle of water in your bag and go to the playground for a couple of hours. When you’re potty training you’ll need changes of clothes, extra pants, spare shoes, wipes, loo roll, plastic bags (in case of a rogue poo) and you might even decide to bring the potty along with you. Grand if you’re in the car, you can throw a bag in the boot, not so much when you’re on foot. That shit is heavy.

  • Hard drugs. Patience. I meant patience. Bucketloads of it. Potty training is a big change in a little one’s life and it can be full on certainly for the first few days. The most important thing about potty training is that the child is ready, so sometimes if potty training is hard it might mean he or she just isn’t there yet and you should put it off for another while. But sometimes it’s just hard because it is – well it was for me anyway. Plenty of people find it handy enough but I found it a stressful aspect of parenting. There’s a lot of waiting and watching, a lot of cleaning and reassuring and repetition while you wait for it all to click. I took the advice of better mothers than I in one of my Facebook groups, who told me that The Beast would need some time to realise that he couldn’t just dribble along as he was playing, that he had to get used to that ‘full bladder’ feeling and that eventually it would all come together. And thankfully it did. I’m delighted with him and for him and he’s delighted with himself. I think we’ve broken the back of it now and I’ve everything crossed (literally, the child is hogging the toilet again) that it’ll be plain sailing from here on in.

It’s raining pants

Potty training bear

Bears need to be potty trained too!

THERE’S wee all over my house and I haven’t a baldy notion what I’m doing.

Ah potty training – how are ya?

The Beast turned three this week and has been showing an interest in potty training so we decided to go for it.

I bought a big ol’ pile of pants (22 of them) some big boy vests, a potty and a special toddler seat for the toilet and an enormous bottle of antibac spray, as well as 123 packets of kitchen roll and a bumper pack of Xanax for myself.

Sorted.

We started after breakfast, delighted with our big boy pants, sitting proudly on the toilet.

No wee wee came, but sure, that’s fine.

Still no wee wee came.

We sat and read books and sang songs but no, there was no wee wee.

Five minutes later there was an enormous puddle on the floor.

‘Ooops! Wee wee Mama,’ he shouted, looking confused at the pool spreading over the playroom.

Not to worry, accidents happen, next time we’ll do our wee wee in the toilet, won’t we?

Of course, he promised, fervently, skipping off to pick fresh pants.

I scrubbed up the wee and went to wash my hands, only to be stopped in my tracks by the sound of wee tinkling off my kitchen tiles.

He had done a second wee, within nano-seconds of the first one.

The pants were changed again, the floor scrubbed again and he went back to playing with his trains.

For five minutes.

Yes, another rogue wee. Three wees in six minutes, SURELY that’s some sort of record?

At least I know he’s well hydrated I suppose!

A while later he looked up at me and said ‘Oh! Wee wee in the toilet’ so off we sprinted to the loo and sat up on the toilet.

And sat there. And sat there.

Nothing.

Nada.

Nichts.

It was lunchtime then, so I got together a few bits on a plate and decided just before we sat up at the table that I’d try him again.

We sat there and then, gloriously, like the most beautiful of music we heard it – wee wee, trickling into the toilet.

WE HAVE LIFT OFF!

He turned surprised eyes on me as I danced and twerked about the downstairs loo like a CBeebies presenter on speed (aren’t they all, though?) delighted with himself: ‘There WAS wee wee Mama!’

Yes son, yes there was.

And then 40 minutes later there was some more in the toilet, glorious glorious wee.

It’s only day one and I forsee many MANY more puddles of wee in my future and who knows, it might end in disaster and we might have to put it off and try again in another few weeks.

But for today, for this afternoon, there is wee. And the wee is good.

 

International Men’s Day is November 19

International Women's Day

IT’S International Women’s Day today, a day to celebrate women and their contribution to society and I’m proud of women today.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are published authors and those who have won and been shortlisted for awards.

I’m proud of the women in my life who put themselves forwards for political office and won a seat their first time out.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are marine biologists and college professors and journalists.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are LGBT and are living their lives without shame, with great dignity and strength.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are parenting alone.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are mothers, raising the next generation. And I’m proud of the women in my life who do not want to be mothers. And I’m proud of the women in my life who want to be mothers but for whom that miracle hasn’t happened yet. They are all warriors.

I’m proud of the women in my life who have lost children and the women in my life parenting children with disabilities, who continue on every day with great tenacity.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are bloggers – carving out a little corner of the internet for themselves, using their skills and life experience to put their mark on the world and in some cases who are winning awards and making a living from blogging.

I’m proud of the women in my life who have gone back to college to retrain as midwives and childcare professionals, those who study while working full time or holding a family together.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are activists – who campaign tirelessly for women’s rights, for children’s rights, for everyone’s rights. Those who march and picket and shout out loud.

I’m proud of the women in my life who battle illness and disability every day, be it visible or invisible.

I’m proud of the women in my life who are funny and kind and compassionate and who listen and care and have hearts spilling over with love.

I’m proud of all the women in my life – no matter their story.

I’m proud of myself, too.

A year ago this month I took my last antidepressant tablet, after living with post natal depression for almost two years. I was ready. A year on I’m still medication free and depression free.

antidepressant

So I have a lot to be proud of, a lot of incredible women in my life, a lot of incredible friends. But as well as being proud, I’m also angry.

I’m angry that I had to title this piece ‘International Men’s Day is November 19’. It might seem petty but every year it’s the same, we hear more about International Men’s Day on March 8 than we do on November 19. It’s offensive, to some, that women get a day to themselves. God forbid.

I’m angry that in Ireland in 2016 women do not have access to free, safe and legal abortion.That each year 4,000 women a day leave our shores to access healthcare overseas.

I’m angry that in Ireland men can walk into a vasectomy clinic and take care of their reproductive rights permanently, for free on the medical card, yet the equivalent isn’t true for women.

I’m angry that it is estimated that the gender gap that currently exists worldwide won’t close until 2133 that we’re depressingly still more than 100 years away from that.

I’m angry that around the world gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women of childbearing age than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

I’m angry that around the world girls as young as 12 are being forced into arranged marriages often with men 30 years their senior and forced into childbirth long before they are mentally or physically ready.

I’m angry that it’s ‘boys will be boys’ but girls are sluts; that we teach women how not to be raped instead of teaching men how not to rape; that conviction rates and prison sentences for rape are abysmal.

I’m angry that the voices of good men, our allies, are often drowned out by louder men who don’t want to listen; I’m angry that there are not more good men. I’m angry that in many cases we’re expected to apologise to men for being angry about this. I’m angry that more men don’t realise that this is their issue too, their problem too.

I’m angry about the plain inequality of it all.

For the day that’s in it though, I want to try to direct my anger in a more positive way so in honour of International Women’s Day I’ll be donating to the Parents for Choice #40daysforchoice campaign, raising money to help Irish women access abortion abroad. I’ll also be donating to the Saoirse Women’s Refuge which works with women who have suffered from domestic violence and the Because I Am A Girl campaign from Plan Ireland, working to empower and educate girls and women worldwide.

If you can, please donate too, to these causes or any other that means something to you.

Happy International Women’s Day – here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

15 from ’15 – a linky Review of the Year

MANY moons ago when I worked in journalism the end of the year would roll around and with it the obligatory Review of the Year pages in the paper.

God, I hated them with a passion. I worked primarily for local newspapers and trade magazines so my reviews consisted mainly of headlines like ‘Council sells land’ and ‘Man saves cat’. Really. It was painstaking, tedious work and by the end of it you wished simply for the sweet release of death.

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in papers but each year around this time I raise a glass for all those journos still tied to their desks trawling through back issues of their paper trying to find something interesting that happened in June. I always swore I’d never write another Review of the Year as long as I lived, but then Sadhbh from Where Wishes Come From came up with a fun linky ’15 from ’15’ where you look back at 15 great/funny/thoughtful/whatever things that happened during the past year on your blog and I thought why not? Plus, I’m a big ol’ narcissist so any excuse to talk about myself and I’m in like Flynn. SO without further ado here are my 15 from 15.

1. Most Popular Blog Post: This year’s most popular post was from April and it was a letter I wrote to The Beast on the eve of his second birthday, detailing how I had taken my last antidepressant tablet and finally knocked post natal depression on the head. It was a hard post to write, I shared some personal stuff, but it was celebratory as well. I’m glad I wrote it and I’m really glad it was my most popular post, mainly for this reason: whenever I write about PND or anxiety I get dozens and dozens and dozens of comments, emails, PMs, DMs, the works from women all over Ireland saying ‘me too’. Me too, me too, me too. Mental health is still, despite excellent strides over the past few years, something that is seen as taboo, something that isn’t talked about or is talked about in hushed tones. And in particular post natal depression is something that is often brushed under the carpet, not talked about or seen as something to be ashamed of. You have this beautiful new baby, what have you to be depressed about? I love that every time I open up about having suffered from depression, others speak up too. I love that reading about other people’s experiences of depression, helped ME to speak up. I love being part of this conversation and I hope in 2016 that conversation continues and grows.

2. Favourite Post: My favourite post this year was this one I wrote about having my eyebrows threaded for the first time. Mainly, I love the headline!

3. Favourite Photo: I’ll admit it. I’m one of those mothers. I take endless pictures of my kid. And of myself too. I’m the selfie queen. (Lissen, I told you at the start of this I was a big ol’ narcissist.) So this is a hard one as I’ve roughly eleventy billion favourite photos, but if I had to choose one, I’d pick this, of Seán and I feeding a sheep on our holidays.

15 from 15 fave pic

4. Best Adventure: I think this year it’d have to be parenting a toddler as opposed to a baby. The bottles are gone, the nightfeeds are gone, the naps are gone, we’re having full blown conversations. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time!

Favourite swearword: I’ll level with you. In the original this was supposed to be ‘Favourite Craft’ but I’m not crafty, unless you mean in the ‘like a fox’ sense so I went with swearwords instead. DON’T QUESTION ME! Anyway, my favourite swearword is geebag. It’s so versatile, it can be both negative – ‘You’re only an oul geebag’ – or positive – ‘Ah howaya geebag!’ and it’s quintessentially Dublin.

6. Most Common Theme: Yeah, here’s where the ol’ narcissism comes in again. This is very much a personal blog so the vast majority of the posts here have been about me and/or my son. Occasionally my husband gets unfairly slagged off but mainly ‘me’ and ‘parenting’ have been the themes this year. And will probably be the themes for 2016 as well. Soz!

7. Favourite Comment(s): This is a really tough one, I treasure all of the comments I get here, I really do, they’re always so supportive and positive and I love that when I mess up and blog about it, I get loads of people commenting saying they have done the same thing and they relate. I love that. My top commenter this year was Sharon from Behind Green Eyes who is a fantastic, hilarious, sharp-as-a-whip blogger and if you’re not following her blog, then rectify that immediately.

8. Favourite Celebration: The Malteasers one. Surely that’s everyone’s favourite?

15 from 15 celebrations

9. My Best Move: It’s not a physical move, not even a new job or anything like that, more a shift in my mindset. I’ve become, moreso in recent months, a big advocate of the ‘Good for her, not for me’ philosophy. Simply, I’m trying to live my life as best I can and leaving others to worry about their own lives. It means less judgement, less stress, less worry and I feel like a better person for it. I really hope to continue in this mindset during 2016, cos really, to quote the great Danny Glover – I’m too old for this shit. Sure, I still get annoyed by things, people can still be gobshites, but the vast majority of it is not my concern, so I’m just going to worry about myself and my own little family.

10. Favourite Freebie: Believe it or not, I don’t get a huge amount of freebies from blogging. (And those that do get them work damn hard for them, by the way.) One gorgeous experience I was offered gratis this year though was an invitation to the Elephant’s Birthday Party in Dublin Zoo where myself, Yer Man and the Beast went off to the Zoo with some other lovely bloggers to have a private viewing of the elephant family having breakfast before the Zoo opened to the public. It was lovely, a beautiful family day out and we just adored it.

DSCF2141

11. Best Blog Moment: I’m going to cheat here and put down two ‘best’ moments. The first was being a finalist in the inaugural Irish Parenting Bloggers (IPB) Blog Awards in the Entertainment category. I was SO chuffed to have been nominated and then voted a finalist, by this great group of bloggers. I didn’t win on the night but that didn’t matter, it was so lovely to have been a finalist.

My second favourite moment then was being part of the Virtual Coffee Morning and blog march established by a group of bloggers from the IPB in aid of the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign. A group of us got together and each wrote a blog post about the mounting refugee crisis in Europe, each of us touched and saddened by the impossible situations these families found themselves in. We then decided to try to raise a bit of money for those in need and set up a Virtual Coffee Morning, on Facebook, where people could have a cuppa in their own homes and then make a donation. The Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign was a national effort, bringing food and supplies to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp at Calais in France and our coffee morning raised about €4.5k for this great cause. I was so proud to be involved with it and so proud of everyone who took part. My hands were shaking all day watching the money come in, knowing just how much it would mean to those stranded in Calais.

12. Worst Blog Moment: I don’t think I had one! I was disappointed alright not to make even the long list for this year’s Blog Awards Ireland but it wasn’t the end of the world. But other than that, nothing really upset me this year. I suppose you could say I had a few ‘dry’ spells this year where I couldn’t blog/had nothing to blog about so that was a bit of a pain, but nothing really bad.

13. Favourite Title: I suppose it’d have to be Holy Cheesy Orgasm Noises Muffins, Batman. It’s quite a boring post about cheese and spinach muffins (could I BE more hipster?) but the title makes up for it!

14. Favourite Blog-Series: I didn’t start any myself but I loved taking part in Bumbles of Rice’s Barefaced Beauty linky and her Barefaced dinners linky too.

15. What My Blog Did For Me In 2015: Mainly it kept me sane. It gave me a place to write, to vent, to rant and to enjoy myself. It brought me loads of laughs and it’s a little space on the internet just for me. No rules, only those I make for myself, no deadlines, no regulations, no stress, just fun. And I love it.

So that’s it, that was my ’15 from ’15’. Thanks as ever for reading. Thank you for all the likes, comments, shares and love this year, it means a lot. You guys rock!

If you’d like to read more ’15 from ’15’ articles click on the badge below which will bring you to our host’s blog. Scroll down to the end to the little blue ‘frog’ icon and you’ll be able to click in and read to your heart’s content. Happy New Year!

Linky-Badge-2015

Some days I do nothing

I’M a stay at home mother and some days I do nothing.

I almost feel like I should have started that by ‘confessing’ that some days I do nothing. It’s a cardinal sin to admit that sometimes when you’re at home all day with a kid, you do nothing.

But it’s the truth. At least it is for me. At least some days.

Most days there’s something on the agenda – we meet friends, we go to the playground or the play centre or the park, we go shopping. There’s arts and crafts and baking and colouring and enormous rolls of paper covering the floor for finger painting. There’s reading and building blocks and counting and singing and kitchen discos and elaborate train tracks and always, always, there’s Lego.

But some days The Beast is fed and dressed and kept warm and safe and loved and that’s about it. No structured activities, no outings, nothing. His toys are laid out on the floor and he’s told to knock himself out.

The scene of the crime!

The scene of the crime!

 

I keep him alive. And some days, that’s enough. Some days that responsibility is enough. At it’s very core, I’m mothering. That’s my job. And often I feel like that job is overlooked, the very essence of what it is to be a parent is dismissed as ‘nothing’.

Of course it isn’t like that every day, it couldn’t be. We’d both be bored, for one. Kids need fresh air and friends for another. So most of the time it’s a busy, noisy, action packed life. But some days we do nothing. And I’m over feeling guilty about it.

I often feel like I need to justify what I’ve done with the day – I need a list of accomplishments, or else the day has been a failure. If I can’t list off a least three things that we’ve ‘done’ that day, then somehow I’m not a good parent.

I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to feel like that. Because it’s bullshit.

It’s ok to do nothing some days. It’s ok to hunker down with some toys and spend a lazy afternoon together. It’s even ok to enjoy it.

So here’s to staying in your PJs, long days playing with toys, and relaxing on the sofa; here’s to *gasp* two movies in a row, late lunches and lying out on a blanket in the back garden.

Here’s to doing nothing. Because really, when you think about it, doing nothing some days can be everything.

I’m choosing fun

I LISTENED to the Irish Times Women’s Podcast this week.

Guest presented by Marian Keyes and featuring Irish Times columnists Aisling McDermott and Laura Kennedy, it was one I was really looking forward to.

They were on to talk about their newly released beauty book About Face – Aisling being the co-founder of Ireland’s first and wildly successful beauty blog Beaut.ie which Laura also wrote for – and how make-up can be a powerful tool when you’re dealing with the horrors life can throw at you.

During the interview Aisling spoke bravely about her battle with an aggressive and progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis, something she had never spoken publicly about before.

She talked about how she doesn’t ask ‘why me?’ anymore because the answer is always ‘why not me’. How she isn’t bitter because being bitter takes up precious energy and how she didn’t want MS to define her, how she ‘wanted fun in my life’.

I listened intently, physically rooted to the chair, realisation slowly dawning.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have Crohn’s Disease, a chronic, incurable autoimmune disease of the bowel. For many years I have railed against it. Fought it and hated it and asked over and over again, why me? I’ve cried and screamed and written here and elsewhere about it, tweeted it, Facebooked it and almost without realising it, I’ve become defined by it.

It’s true that I hate this disease, it has taken and taken from me and it causes nothing but pain and illness and sadness and I’m angry about it – but listening to Aisling I realised I don’t want it to define me any longer.

I want fun in my life, too.

Of course there are going to be bad days. It IS ok to not be ok. It’s ok to talk about it, it’s ok to feel hard done by and to cry hot ugly tears. But I don’t want this disease to be who I am anymore.

As I listened to these incredibly brave women talking, I felt a real shift in my thinking. I’m done being bitter. That’s not to say there won’t be hard days, there will, but as Aisling so pragmatically said ‘Life happens, doesn’t it?’

Life happens and I feel ready to accept that now.

And I’m choosing fun.

Son of a Nutcracker! The Ginormous Christmas Charity Guide

NOW that it’s Toy Show Day I can officially talk about Christmas!

While Christmas is the season of presents, selection boxes for breakfast, the Toy Show and an overdose of turkey, it’s also a time of year when many of us like to make a charitable donation. There are approximately eleventy billion charities in Ireland so it would be impossible to list them all but below you’ll find a selection of 50 charities ranging from international charities working in developing countries around the world, to small local charities, to individuals raising money and animal rescue groups. I suppose this is a ‘Christmas Gift Guide’ but with a difference – instead of a list of lovely things that you can buy for yourself or your friends (which I am totally on board with by the way), it’s a lovely list of charities you can donate to. Obviously I’ve left out loads and loads – unintentionally I assure you –  so would love if, in the comments, you could link to any I’ve missed.

So, are you ready? Let’s dive in!

 

INTERNATIONAL CHARITIES:

Let’s kick off with the international charities, many with a base in Ireland, working in developing countries.

You could donate to Plan Ireland, an international children’s charity working with young people living in poverty or how about donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) which provides emergency medical care around the world, wherever the need is greatest, including in warzones and during natural disasters.

This Christmas UNICEF is focusing on its Winter in Syria appeal, providing for children both in Syria and in the surrounding countries. The organisation has also launched its Survival Gifts campaign where donors can purchase actual lifesaving items – such as blankets, warm clothes and educational supplies –  that will be shipped directly from UNICEF to help children around the world.

The Red Cross is also looking for donations as are GOAL and Trocaire.

This Christmas you could give the gift of sight to a child in a developing country by supporting Sightsavers or you could donate to World Vision  and help to give refugee children a better future by providing them with toys and special play areas.

 

NATIONAL:

Moving on to national charities then, you could give a virtual gift to a needy family with the St Vincent de Paul in association with Aldi, or you could donate to Barnardos’ toy appeal, a group working with vulnerable children and their families.

The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland has launched a toy appeal for children living in Direct Provision and if you can spare some cash, the Irish Refugee Council, which works with those going through the asylum process, always welcomes donations.

Perhaps Enable Ireland is close to your heart, (if you’re in Limerick city centre on Thursday December 3 from 1-6pm, there’ll be carol singers entertaining shoppers in aid of this organisation) or you might like to donate to the Post Polio Support Group, a group which aims to create awareness and provide information on Post Polio Syndrome; support polio survivors and advocate on behalf of polio survivors.

Focus Ireland works with people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless and has launched an Urgent Christmas Appeal to help the 5,000 people who are homeless in Ireland at any one time. If you work at a large company or if you’re the bossman/woman at a large company you might consider sponsoring a star, instead of sending Christmas cards to your clients this year.

How about donating to the RNLI, the charity which saves lives at sea, or you might consider the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, an organisation which aims to assist people who are blind or visually impaired – as well as children with autism – to achieve improved mobility and independence.

There probably isn’t a household in the country that hasn’t been affected by cancer, but you can help beat this disease by donating to the Irish Cancer Society here. As well as helping those affected by cancer and their families, the ICS also engages in cancer research. This year the society will host a Christmas Candle of Hope Ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral on Tuesday, December 15 at 6pm.

Women’s Aid helps thousands of women affected by domestic violence every year. It operates a freephone number as well as offering one-to-one support services and referrals to refuges. You can help continue this vital work by donating here.

You can support Age Action, an organisation aiming to improve the quality of life of all older people and in a similar vein you could also click here to support Alone, a voluntary organisation helping elderly people in need.

This year’s Alone Christmas campaign however reminds us that it’s not just financial support that’s important, we should also give our elderly relatives and neighbours the gift of our presence by spending time with them this festive season.

Finally then for this section, the fantastic Christmas FM is back on the airwaves again, broadcasting all your favourite festive tunes from tomorrow, November 28, with all donations going to its charity partner. This year, that’s Make a Wish Ireland, an organisation that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Phew! That was a long one. Hang in there, we’re getting there. Have a little break for yourselves, get a snack, and we’ll continue on then.


LOCAL:

On Dasher then, to local charities, of which there are gajillions dotted around the country. Here are just a few.

The Dublin Simon Community works to address and prevent homelessness in Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath and strives to empower people to access a home of their own. This Christmas they have several ways to contribute, from buying a Simon Gold Star to participating in a sing-a-along.

On Christmas Day when you’re plating up your dinner, consider putting aside an extra portion and dropping it off to the Hope in the Darkness group who are hoping to offer a turkey dinner to homeless people on Christmas night. The group will be setting up a table outside the GPO on O’Connell Street from about 6pm and every plate of food counts.

Over in Galway on Christmas morning, the local branch of Down Syndrome Ireland is organising a Fun Swim at Blackrock, Salthill at 11am. To register visit here or email info@voicesforgalway.org or telephone: 087-6448277. Sponsorship cards are available or you can donate on the day or online, here.

In Cork, you can support Cork Penny Dinners which aims to ensure that everyone who calls to the centre gets a hot nourishing midday meal. As well as donating financially you can donate non-perishable food.

The Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin provides breakfast, lunch and dinner daily to people in need and also provides a medical service, chiropody clinic, optical service and advice and information clinics. The centre also offers shower facilities and fresh underwear and clean clothes, so is always in need of financial support.

The Milford Care Centre in Limerick is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation providing specialist palliative care and Older Persons Services in the Mid West. This Christmas they’re selling Christmas cards to raise funds as well as hosting their annual Light Up A Memory Tree event on December 13 where people sponsor a light on Milford’s tree as a unique gift for a loved one. Further details are here.

Cairdeas Homeless Action is a volunteer group that offers food, clothing and bedding to homeless people in Dublin. More information here or you can contact 085-8241081.

 

CHILDREN/YOUNG PEOPLE:

Bumbleance caters for the sick children of Ireland from rural and urban areas who have long-term illnesses or who are seriously disabled, providing unique child-centred professional ambulance transport services to and from principal centres of care. It was established, as part of the Bee for Battens organisation, by parents Tony and Mary Heffernan who lost both of their children, Liam and Saoirse, to Batten Disease. There are loads of ways to donate here.

You can support Aoibheann’s Pink Tie – a group established by father Jimmy Norman after his daughter passed away from cancer just days before her eighth birthday – supporting families and children battling childhood cancer, by purchasing any of their merchandise here, or making an online donation here.

The Rainbow Junior Arch Club is a Saturday social club for children with special needs based in Glasnevin in Dublin. You can find out more information here and donate here.

Ireland’s Children’s Hospice, LauraLynn, provides hospice services for children with life-limiting conditions and residential care for young adults with disabilities. There are loads of ways to help listed here or you can donate directly.

You can donate to Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland to help fund the provision of highly trained assistance dogs to children with autism and their families; also the ISPCC a children’s charity advocating for children and which runs a 24-hour Childline listening service always requires additional funding. And the Jack and Jill Foundation is a fantastic organisation that provides direct funding to families of children with brain damage, up to the age of four, and also provides end of life care to all children up to the age of four. They have a plethora of fundraising events on over Christmas or you can donate directly here.

Spun Out is Ireland’s youth information website created by young people for young people providing information to around 80,000 active readers each month, on a range of different topics including education, employment and health. You can support these efforts here. BeLonG To is the national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people, aged between 14 and 23 and you can donate and help change lives here.

Another idea to make a child’s Christmas a little brighter this year is to donate toys to your local children’s hospital. Sadly many kids have to remain in hospital over the festive period so some new toys would really help to cheer them up. Contact your local hospital to check out the protocol.

Ok, we’re in the home stretch now, keep reading you’re nearly there.

 

PERSONAL/INDIVIDUAL

Next up are the individuals who are hosting charity events themselves around the country.

Aaron Patrick Cowming is launching a charity calendar on Sunday, December 6 between 4pm and 8pm in the Dungarvan Soccer Club. Aaron is hoping to raise €10,000 in aid of Mental Health Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association and Dungarvan Community Hospital. The calendar isn’t available online but you can message the FB page to find out how to get your hands on one.

On Christmas Day Linda Corcoran will be taking the plunge by doing a Christmas Swim in aid of A Little Lifetime Foundation, a support group for families bereaved by stillbirth or neonatal death. This charity is very important to Linda having offered her and her husband huge support in dealing with the loss of their beautiful daughter, Emma Rose. A Little Lifetime is a non-profit organisation and relies entirely on donations so every single penny helps. You can sponsor Linda here.

There is a Christmas Craft Fair planned for December 6, from noon, in St Mark’s GAA Club Tallaght, to raise funds for Hollies Hopes. Hollie Hope O’Keane was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and attends the First Step Therapy Centre in Limerick for intensive therapy to help her walk. Through great determination and hard work she is making great progress but she needs to continue to attend the therapy and this costs upwards of €10,000 a year. Admission to the Craft Fair is free but there is a small charge to see Santa and do some crafts, with all the proceeds going to Hollies Hopes. If you have a couple of hours to spare, it would make a great family day out.

If you’re looking to ring in the New Year in style you could attend the Ava Fallon New Year’s Dinner Dance on December 31 at the Oakwood Arms Hotel in Shannon, in aid of the Ava’s Waves fund. Tickets are €50 and the night includes a drinks reception, a delicious dinner followed by music from ‘Sticky Fingers’. Ava was diagnosed at 20 months old with an inoperable brain tumour and hydrocephalus, a diagnosis which has had an impact on all areas of her development. Her family wants to raise funds for her so that she can receive additional supports in the form of therapy and equipment that will enhance her life. They also hope to send her to Brain Waves in England, a clinic that works with families on individual based therapy and exercise programmes.

 

FURRY FRIENDS:

Finally then, here are some details of animal charities around the country that you might like to support. Around this time of year donations to animal charities typically tend to die off but then unfortunately after Christmas there is usually an upsurge in the number of abandoned pets being left into centres. Most of these groups receive no Government funding and rely entirely on donations from the public as well as practical support such as food and bedding.

In Galway you can support the Galway SPCA. Contact Emma at the dog sanctuary on 087-2765690 and visit their Facebook page here. You can donate €4 by texting PACO to 50300.

The Clare Greyhound Project is contactable through their FB page here or by contacting Eileen on 087-2955682 or you can donate via PayPal to claregreyhoundproject@gmail.com

In Meath you can contact Ramona and Chris of the Coolronan Dog Rescue by calling 086-3209842 or visiting their Facebook Page. You can also donate via PayPal, here.

Dogs Aid in Dublin is available on Facebook here or you can call Maggie on 087-2944310 or Brenda on 087-2784135 and you can also donate via iDonate here

In Laois you can support Cara Rescue Dogs. Further details on their Facebook Page, by calling 086-0594375 or you can donate via PayPal with caradogs@hotmail.com. You can also text Cara to 50300 to donate €4. If you have any bedding donations they can be left into Vet Care Portlaoise, or PetMania Portlaoise or PetMania in Tullamore.

The Irish Blue Cross is an animal charity assisting pet owners by offering low cost services such as vaccinations, check ups and surgeries to those who cannot afford private vet fees. It also runs a mobile clinic which provides more than 18,000 treatments a year around Dublin.

 If you’ve got this far, congratulations! You did it! That was a long read but hopefully it will give you some ideas for where to donate this Christmas. Remember as well that often practical support such as volunteering your time or warm clothing/bedding is just as important as financial donations.

If you prefer to donate by text, check out Like Charity, which features a list of hundreds of Irish charities who all accept text donations. It couldn’t be simpler to give a few bob, have a goo here.

Finally then – I mean it this time – it’s important to note that by rights the vast majority of these charities shouldn’t have to exist. These services and supports should be fully Government funded without any need for charitable donations. No individual or family should be left in limbo, or should have to rely on charity, when it comes to their basic needs and their basic rights. That’s worth bearing in mind in the run up to next year’s General Election. When the politicians come a-knocking for GE 2016, ask them where they stand on the provision of services such as those listed above and ask them what they intend to do about this abysmal and very obvious gap. Our Government can and must do more.


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