IT’S the 27th of May and I’ve had the heating on for several hours today. I know Ireland isn’t known for its glorious sunshine but it’s like winter out there, it’s gone beyond a joke at this stage.
Watching The Beast banging his head off the back door this afternoon while dolefully repeating ‘Is still raining Mama, is still raining’ I decided I had better do something with him, so we broke out the baking gear.
As you know, I’m not a baker. I don’t weigh anything, I can’t follow a recipe to save my life and things usually end up like, well, this:
But, I have one ace up my sleeve, one recipe that never fails me, that always turns out lovely, my super dooper, healthy but delicious, cheesy, tasty Baby Led Weaning Cheese and Spinach Muffins.
Baby Led Weaning is a method of weaning distinct from the traditional style, where you wait until baby is 26 weeks to start, then skip entirely the puree/spoonfeeding part of it, and go straight to finger foods. Baby eats what you eat, right from the start. No purees, no blending, no mashing, no food processors, no ice-cube trays of food, no watching your dinner go cold as you feed the little one. You just plonk dinner down on the tray in front of them in the high char, and off they go themselves. It’s a method that worked extraordinarily well for us, in fact both Yer Man and I agree that it is the best parenting decision we’ve made so far. There’s a book that goes along with the method, which also includes some recipes that are suitable for babies and toddlers along with the rest of the family.
Enter the cheese and spinach muffins.
Containing no sugar or added salt, these muffins are packed full of iron and calcium and are a tasty, healthy treat, perfect for little hands to feed themselves. And, if we’re being honest, perfect for Mammy to stuff into her gob while making orgasm noises.
They’re that good.
Well, I like them anyway. Mainly because every time I make them they turn out right. I’ve yet to fuck them up and for me, that’s saying something. Also because you can make them in just a bowl with a spoon, you don’t need a blender or a food processor so there’s less washing up.
So this afternoon I decided ‘cheesy buns’ as The Beast calls them were the only way to go.
What you’ll need:
Spices – the original recipe calls for cayenne pepper but I found that too hot and overpowering, so I use a splash of paprika and a sploosh of chilli powder instead, along with some cracked black pepper. You can add in any spices you like, but these are the ones that generally work best.
Splash of milk
Spinach – I use the frozen stuff, two or three little cubes of it, microwaved and the excess water squeezed out.
Grated cheese. Any kind you like, though generally cheddar works best.
A willing helper.
You’ll notice I haven’t included any quantities above. This is because I don’t really weigh anything, I just kinda throw stuff into the bowl? It’s probably about 150/200g of flour, then however much spice you like and a couple of good handfuls of cheese? You’ll work it out yourself, trust me!
Microwave the spinach, couple of cubes in a bowl with a splash of water, for about two mins. Squeeze out the excess water and set aside.
Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl, then add your spices. Add in an egg and a splash of milk and mix thoroughly.
Add in your spinach and your cheese and mix thoroughly.
Voila! The mixture is now ready. That’s right, ready already, it’s pretty much just mixing.
Put a dessert spoon of mixture into a paper case and repeat. (If you have it, spray one spray of FryLight into each paper case to prevent the muffins sticking, or brush with a little melted butter if you have it.) I get about 12 muffins out of this. I have tried putting the mixture into a loaf tin to make cheesy bread kind of thing? But it wasn’t the same, the mixture tends to work better in individual cases.
Stick into the oven for about 12-15 minutes at about 200 degrees C. They come out warm and fluffy and cheesy.
The only thing with these muffins is that generally they’re only good for about 24 hours, 48 at a push, even in an airtight tin. They’re best really really fresh. So don’t make an enormous batch if you’re not going to eat them fairly sharpish. They do however freeze brilliantly. Just pop them in a freezer bag and then when you want one defrost in the microwave for a minute or two or leave on the counter in the morning, to eat at lunchtime.
Another great thing about this recipe is that little hands can help – shaking in the spices, mixing the flour, adding in the handfuls of cheese, it’s easy enough that babies can really get involved.
And just as a recap, here’s The Beast with a list of the ingredients you’ll need:
So there you have it, cheesy buns for a miserable, grey Irish summer day. Enjoy!
IT appears I have given birth to a Kardashian.
Leaving the house is no longer a simple exercise, something we can achieve in a few minutes by throwing a bag of rice cakes in a pocket and closing the door.
No, now we have piles of
shite stuff we have to bring with us. PILES of it. Allowing for every eventuality. The Beast does not travel light – eat your heart out Kim and Kanye – and at this stage I’m about one excursion away from full on curvature of the spine.
We went to a Christening at the weekend, which was scheduled for around The Beast’s lunchtime, so as well as nappies and spare clothes and the like, we also had to bring food with us.
And therein lies the start of the problem. I don’t know if it’s just my kid, but he does this thing where he’ll survive for a fortnight on air and the dirt on the wheels of the buggy, but the minute we go anywhere he develops a ferocious hunger that cannot be sated.
So we need to bring food. Piles and piles of food. Snacks for before lunch, lunch itself and then leftover snacks for after lunch. And then an extra lunchbox of food, just in case.
On Sunday I packed up a lunchbox with cheese and cold meats, crackers and fruit, rice cakes and breadsticks. And then a separate bag of rice cakes and cereal hoops to keep him occupied in the church. And yet another separate bag of snacks for that post lunch peckishness eventuality. We were bent double under the weight of food we had with us. Every pocket of my bag, every pocket of my clothes, of Yer Man’s clothes, every side pocket of the car was filled to the brim with food. And he ate every single bit of it. There wasn’t a crumb left. And in the car on the way home he started asking for his dinner.
This particular weekend, The Beast was also going to stay with his grandparents after the Christening so we had to pack an overnight bag for him – along with his favourite toys – as well as a day bag. That bag contained spare clothes, his sleeping bag, his jammies, spare soothers, the first aid bag with
Mama’s Pink Medicine Calpol (for use only in an emergency you understand, he doesn’t smack his lips when he sees it coming) and a pile of his toys.
Oh Jesus the toys.
The Beast is a funny little fella – he never formed an attachment to one particular toy or lovey that he has to have at all times. That’d be too easy. No, he formed a deep and passionate attachment to ALL of his toys. Every single one of them. ‘My fellas’ he calls them. His Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys. His Thomas the Tank Engine set of trains. His Boots and Dora. His Peppa Pig. His books. His diggers. His fellas. And he travels nowhere without all of them.
So we had to lug Buzz and Woody, his trains and his soft toys in the boot of the car, several other toys in another plastic bag and then his diggers, trains, books, stickers and crayons in my handbag. Just in case he needed them. We thought we might get away with telling him that some of the toys were in the car, and then sneakily leave them at home. But he’s wide to us at this stage – he insisted on inspecting the boot before we left.
“My fellas,” he said approvingly, patting my face in a benevolent fashion. “Good Mama.” I felt like I had dodged a bullet.
Finally packed up – including his buggy, coat, hat and scarf – we trundled off to the Christening, the car scraping the ground, so overloaded was it by The Beast’s essentials.
It was worth it in the end though – the snacks kept him quiet in the church while the important stuff was going on, the lunch kept him going while we got our own bite to eat, the toys amused him while we chatted with family members and he was so tired after all of it that he conked out on the way home. So in the end it was worth the four solid hours I put in packing it all up.
There are two ways this could go in the future – we could pare it right back and insist that one lunchbox, one toy and one nappy is more than enough for one small boy. Or we could upgrade our car.
To an artic.
On a separate note, last week I set up a Facebook Page for Beating Myself Into a Dress and have been overwhelmed with the reaction so far. So thank you to any of you who have ‘Liked’ the page, I really appreciate it. If any of you would like to follow me on FB, there’s a little ‘Follow’ box up on the right hand side of this page.
SO now that The Beast is two, I decided it was about time I
got off my hole found a couple of hours to bring him to a soft play centre.
I know. Seriously. I’m pretty much the worst mother in the world, I haven’t brought my kid to a soft playcentre yet. I genuinely believe he’s the only child in Ireland who hasn’t been to one.
We did try in his first year, but The Beast is a little timid and a little noise sensitive and he just really didn’t enjoy it the one other time we brought him, so that, coupled with my anxiety and PND over the last while meant we put it off.
Just for a few months. A few long months. A good few long months. Two years in fact.
Now that I’m better however I have no excuse and The Beast has really come out of his shell lately – “I go outside to play with my boys” he regularly informs me, grabbing his coat – so on Tuesday when I woke up to find it was pissing rain I decided today would be the day.
I threw lunch and a nappy into my bag and off we went. I won’t lie, my heart was in my mouth.
For some reason I had built this up to be a massive deal. I’d be there by myself, with The Beast. What if he had a tantrum and I couldn’t calm him down? What if he got sick? What if he slapped another child? What if he got stuck up the top of the big slide but I was too fat to fit into the equipment to rescue him? What if the Other Mothers looked at me? And, God forbid, what if the Other Mothers actually TALKED to me?
Shaking I handed over the moolah at the door and struggled with the gate keeping the
inmates children in, pushing the buggy into the abyss. We were in. Alone. In a playcentre.
Sweat dripping into my eyes I found a table to leave our gear at, took off The Beasts shoes and let him loose.
Jesus, but he adored it. He. Had. A. Ball.
I was a nervous wreck. I actually had to have a sit down for myself in the ball pit as I went a bit weak at the knees and then had to coerce the child into hauling me out (“Ughghhhh Mama too big …pullllllllll …. Mama too big … pulllllllll”) but it was really really great.
He played solidly for 90 minutes, in and out of the ball pit, up and down the slide, building blocks with other little ones and generally just running about. While I just sat there with a goofy insane grin on my face. I felt like I had climbed a mountain. It sounds like such a normal run-of-the-mill thing, but for us it was huge.
The Other Mothers did in fact look at me and indeed they talked to me too. But guess what? They didn’t bite. We exchanged pleasantries and it was good. Normal.
After playtime we had our lunch together (playcentre food has no calories, btw, like broken biscuits and food eaten standing up) and then it was time to go home. All in all it was the perfect playcentre experience. There was even a germ ridden green-snotted toddler there, hacking all over everyone, like something out of a storybook. Ah lads, it was brilliant.
The Beast was so wrecked that he didn’t complain when he had to get his shoes and coat back on and he slept for two hours that afternoon so there was really no downside to the day. (Apart from the cold he has now, courtesy of the be-germed one, but lookit, you can’t have it everyway.)
You know those inspirational quotes you see on Facebook, the Keep Calm and Carry On type of ones? Well, I hate those, really, twee badly written over sentimental shite – but my point is just this once I’m going to reference one:
I felt the fear and I did it anyway. And God it was good.
It’s your birthday this weekend and you’re going to be turning two years old. If you could stop growing now, that’d be great. You’re eating us out of house and home and bursting out of your clothes. It won’t be long until you’re heading off to college and then I’ll feel really old.
Anyway, your cousins are coming up for your party on Sunday and we have games and balloons and surprises but before all the madness starts, I wanted to give you your present.
I wanted to give you me.
Don’t worry, I have a noisy shiny toy for you as well – it’s Buzz and Woody! (Your Dad said they were too dear, but I forced him to buy them, so remember that when you’re deciding which one of us gets to go in the good home.)
Anyway, on top of that I’m also giving you back your Mam. You might not have realised it, but for a while there, I was missing.
When you were a few weeks old, we had an unwelcome house guest come to stay.
His name was Depression and He tried to steal me from you.
He slithered in, inconspicuous at first, and took up residence, really making Himself at home. He started slowly, telling me that I wasn’t a good mother. That I didn’t know what I was doing. The fucker.
He told me that you would be better off without me, that I should just pack my bags and go. Anywhere. Away from you. He told me to divorce your Dad.
He even told me that you didn’t love me and that you never would. Big smelly liar.
One night He told me that I could get rid of Him, and myself, if I just stood at the top of the stairs and simply … let go.
And then one afternoon he told me to put you safely into your Moses basket and then to go into the bathroom and swallow all the paracetamol in the medicine cabinet.
There was enough there to do the job. He had checked. That one scared me. I’m well used to dealing with fuckers and liars but standing in that bathroom, He scared me.
What He didn’t know though was that I lived with a superhero, one who was already on to Him. Yer Man might not wear a cape (or his underpants outside his trousers), but Seán, your Dad is a superhero.
He threw himself bodily between me and Depression – at times it was like he was ten feet tall. He comforted and reassured and hugged and talked and then he sat me into the car and drove me to the doctor.
It turns out your Dad knows lots of other superheroes too. The doctor – who was wonderful and who prescribed a course of antidepressants to help – was just the first.
There was also your Nana and Gaga who swooped in to look after you, day and night. There was Granny who cleaned the house until it sparkled and who forced me to bring you for a walk and to get some fresh air, even when I didn’t want to. (“Come on now, it’s not really raining anymore and they’ve downgraded the weather warning to an amber alert, be grand.”
There were my friends who were always there in person or on the phone to talk to, to tell me I was normal, that Depression was the problem, not me.
There were even strangers on the Internet who shared their stories, who listened, who told me that I couldn’t look after you until I looked after myself first.
Between all of them, they helped me to fight Him. Gradually he stopped taking over the whole house. Gradually He moved upstairs. Then into His own room. Then into the attic.
But He was still there and from time to time He’d reappear, grinning, to taunt me again. With that little swagger that said ‘I’m here now’.
I was determined to beat Him though so I just continued on day after day, never giving Him the satisfaction of crumbling, cushioned by the support around me. It took a long time, longer than I had expected, He really wrapped Himself around me, determined not to let go.
Two months ago however, quite suddenly, I just decided that I’d had enough of Him. Really, enough. It was time to show Depression the door. I needed a repeat prescription for my meds and in order to get it I had to see the doctor. I felt that by that stage I was almost using the medication as a crutch and that if I could get off it, I could show Depression who was boss.
I sat in the doctor’s office, you on my knee, and blurted it all out. How tired I was of giving Depression space in my head and my heart. How much stronger I felt, how I didn’t want to have to take meds for the rest of my life to feel normal.
The doctor agreed with me. Doc had met Depression before and knew Him of old and knew the only way to beat Him was to meet Him head on and to be strong.
So we agreed a plan whereby I’d wean off the antidepressant medication as I didn’t need it anymore. The doctor gave me some counselling information to have in my back pocket, should I need it, ensured the superheros were still available to help and then told me to go for it.
I lowered the dose for a month, weaning off the meds, and then went off it completely. I started to practice some mindfulness, where I would focus on the positive things (and there are so many, I mean, come on, peanut butter) and each day count my blessings. I felt good and Depression didn’t like that one bit, He didn’t like that he was losing his grip on me.
But tough. Because He did lose. The withdrawal went well, it was physically hard, but I handled it. And now seven weeks later I’m completely free of medication and free of those negative thoughts.
So today, I kicked Depression out.
I wanted Him gone by time your party came around as your birthday is a joyous celebration and He has no place here. So this morning I just got up and threw his clothes out of an upstairs window. Fucking gleefully. He hasn’t won, He didn’t beat me. I won. He’s gone.
Depression, however, is like a bad smell that you can’t get to the bottom of. He hangs around, He lingers. I can’t guarantee that He won’t be back. He’s only moved into the hotel down the road and in the future He could come knocking again.
But at least this time I’ll be prepared, I’ll know where to go for help, I’ll know what to do. If He returns I have so many people on my side that really He doesn’t stand a chance. I may not have won the war, who knows what the future may hold, but right now, today, I’ve won the battle.
You’re too small now to read this but I’m writing it to keep for you in the hope that in years to come you will read it and you’ll understand. I wasn’t there for you in the beginning as much as I would have liked; I had to call in other arms to hold you, other lips to kiss you, other hearts to love you. But I did that FOR you. And I’m here now, all of me, so I hope that counts for something.
Happy Birthday my beautiful, sweet, precious, clever, funny, charming little man. To infinity and beyond.
I REMEMBER waking up on the morning of my wedding feeling like I was going to throw up and die of excitement all at the same time.
We had been planning our big day for well over a year and had poured money, time and energy into making it the perfect day to celebrate with our friends and family.
We were (and still are) so in love and we wanted to shout it from the roof tops. We had the big day with the pouffy dress and the fancy hotel and the vintage car. I even wore a tiara, for God’s sake. Looking back at 2011 me, I still roll my eyes at that bit. I did lose the run of myself.
But the point is, it was our special day and we wanted to celebrate it our way, so we did. We had 130 guests, we fed and watered them and spent the night dancing the feet off ourselves on the dance floor. True story that, I still have bloody stumps where my toes should be.
When Yer Man got down on one knee at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I had no hesitation in saying yes – in fact I quite literally jumped up and down with joy and almost deafened him by bellowing my acceptance. And I practically danced up the aisle.
I said yes then and I’m writing this today because I believe in marriage.
I believe in love. I believe in fidelity. I believe in promises. I believe in joy. And I believe, more than anything else, that marriage should be open to all who choose it.
Currently in Ireland marriage is only open to opposite sex couples. LGBT people are not allowed to marry, they are excluded simply by virtue of their sexuality.
And I believe that this is wrong.
On May 22 Ireland will hold a referendum asking the Irish public to widen the definition of civil marriage in our Constitution, to allow same-sex couples to marry.
It’s going to be a simple Yes or No question – you either agree with it or you don’t. I agree with it and here’s why I think you should too:
- Marriage isn’t a delicate flower, available only to the chosen few. It is a strong and robust institution, one that gives so many such happiness and joy. And just as importantly, one that confers legal rights and security on the two people involved and their families. Why should a whole section of our society be excluded from that?
- Allowing LGBT people to marry won’t damage marriage, it will only strengthen it. It will only enhance it. After May 22 if the referendum is passed, I – and all other currently married couples – will still be married. Nothing will have changed. My marriage will still be legally recognised by law and all the current legal security I and my husband and my son enjoy will be maintained. This is fact. All that will happen after May 22 is that more people will be given the right to marry if they choose to do so. That’s all. Marriage equality will not take anything from my marriage, it will only add to it.
- Telling people they should be happy with civil partnership is like telling them to sit at the back of the bus. Currently there are 160 legal differences between civil partnership and marriage – it’s not fair and it’s not good enough. It’s second best. I wouldn’t choose it for myself, so why should I impose it on others?
- No campaigners talk about ‘redefining marriage’ as if it’s a bad thing. In my eyes, it’s not and frankly, marriage has been redefined about a bajillion times before. In days of yore marriage meant that your husband owned you. You were literally his property. Marriage used to mean that if you worked in the civil service you had to give up your job once you walked down the aisle. It used to mean that your husband could rape you, and nothing could be done about it. Thankfully, marriage doesn’t mean those things anymore because – you’ve guessed it – it was redefined. The meaning of marriage, the laws behind marriage have all grown and changed and evolved as society has evolved. And this latest move, to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples is another chapter in that evolution. If voting Yes on May 22 means that marriage gets redefined to be more inclusive, then fuck it, redefine it.
- Allowing same-sex couples to marry will mean more security for children. Currently the children of LGBT parents live with a lot of uncertainty. There are questions over guardianship and succession rights that don’t arise for the children of opposite sex married couples. These very real children exist today in limbo and they deserve to be catered for.
- It’s the only fair way to vote. If you vote No you’re saying that you think LGBT people don’t deserve the right to marry. You’re saying that they’re not equal to you. You’re saying that they’re second class citizens. You’re saying that you don’t care about them and their welfare. And when it comes down to the bare bones of it, you’re saying you don’t care about marriage. Marriage will only continue to thrive and to grow and to sustain if it is open to everybody. The more sectors of society we cut off from marriage, the weaker it will get.
I’m not a lawyer or a human rights expert, I’m just an ordinary woman with a blog, so perhaps I’ve oversimplified above or made mistakes, perhaps I haven’t grasped the legal situation correctly, but here’s the thing – I don’t care. No doubt there’s a No campaigner waiting in the wings to tell me how wrong I am, but I’m not interested.
When it comes down to it, this referendum is simply about extending civil marriage to same-sex couples. It’s about love and fairness and equality. Everything else is just noise.
Vote for love. Vote Yes on May 22.
For more information visit Yes Equality, the Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality