HE was no great shakes in the kitchen, my Dad, but he made a decent cup of tea.
Lyons Gold Blend. Strong and thick. A drop of milk. And two and a quarter spoons of sugar.
Always in a proper cup and saucer. He never used a mug. It was a porcelain cup, incongruous in his big weather beaten hands, or nothing.
When he and Mam would come back from the shops, it was his job to make the tea. He’d put away the heavy stuff first – the potatoes, the cylinder of gas for the Super Ser – while Mam sorted out the bread and the milk and then he’d get on to the real business of the day – the tea.
He always warmed the pot first, swirling the hot water around intently, like a science experiment. Three teabags between the two of them, boiling water, not even a second off the boil, and then a good stir with a teaspoon to bring it all together.
And then he’d wait. You always had to wait, you see. The tea had to draw. A good five minutes at least.
Look at that! A decent Jaysisin’ cup of tea, that’s what that is. The last cup for your mother, she likes it strong. Only a tiny drop of milk for her. No sugar. After 40 years he knew how Mam liked her tea. He made it for her every day after all and every day she agreed it was the best cup of tea she’d ever had. She’d sigh and say ‘God I needed that’ after the first sip. And he’d fold his arms and sit back and nod contentedly. Grand job.
He was always so proud. Making the tea after the shops was his job. Making the tea when there were visitors was his job. They all knew about the tea. They all knew Joe was the tea maker, the tea lover, in the house. The tea provider.
He was so proud.
I noticed it about four months after he died. Just suddenly one day, in my house.
Mam was making her own cup of tea. Weaker. With a large splash of milk. The tea paler than I’d ever seen it.
Then I noticed it again and again as the months and now years passed. Slightly weaker tea. More milk. The first cup out of the pot, not the last.
I thought it was grief. I thought it pained her to drink the tea the way Dad used to make it. That she couldn’t cope with the memory of it, the scent of it, the taste of it.
I was wrong.
It wasn’t grief. It was love.
This is how she likes her tea. This is how she has always liked her tea. Slightly weaker, with a slightly bigger splash of milk. The first cup out of the pot if possible. Maybe the second. But not the last.
She never told him. All those years of the tea and the sit down and the grand job. She never told him that it was good but it wasn’t quite right.
For nearly 50 years she drank her not quite perfect cup of tea and assured the love of her life that it was all she could hope for.
Hers is an Irish love story, soaked through with commitment and love and loyalty and tea.
Just like Dad used to make.
THERE’S a sweet spot in the middle of my day that makes this staying at home lark easier.
It’s only a short period of time, just 45 minutes, maybe an hour but it’s precious and wonderful and grounding and I look forward to it every day.
It starts when I pick The Beast up from preschool at noon. We walk home slowly, hand in hand. There’s no rushing, we’ve no where to be. Unlike the rushed walk TO school in the morning there’s time here to stop to examine leaves and sticks, maybe pet the odd stray cat.
We get home whenever we get home, sometimes the journey takes ten minutes sometimes 20, there’s no hurry.
Once we’re in the door it’s coat off and school clothes changed and then he gets down to the serious business of unwinding and playing. And I get down to the serious business of sitting. Maybe blogging. Maybe tweeting. Maybe reading. Maybe nothing.
He’s content to play with his toys, telling them all about school, picking up where he left off from a game he started that morning. Sometimes he’ll ask for something on Netflix and will curl up on the couch to watch silently. He doesn’t need me. Not for that hour. He wants some space, some down time.
Everything is quiet. Everything is still. Just for that hour. More often just for that 45 minutes. But however long it lasts, it is peaceful and content.
I have a rule that I do no housework during that time. No work at all. No phonecalls, no appointments. I spend the morning that he’s in preschool doing all of that so for that precious hour, I just sit.
Sometimes we’ll play board games together. No TV, no radio, just Hungry Hungry Hippos and Crocodile Dentist on the sitting room floor, enjoying the company, enjoying the peacefulness.
Mostly though we just relax and take a breath. As much as any mother is able to, I get to switch off. Briefly.
Before it all starts up again.
He’s hungry so it’s time for lunch and our afternoon revs to life again, full colour, surround sound. Playgrounds and parks and libraries and feeding the ducks and baking and arts and crafts and playdates and flu-jab appointments and shopping and chopping and cooking and cleaning and answering questions about Iron Man. Always the questions about Iron Man.
And the sweet spot is over.
Until the next day.
WHEN I was 23 and working in my first job I woke up one morning to realise my period was late.
Just by a day, but since they had started ten years earlier I had been as regular as clockwork, every 26 days without fail.
I confided in a friend who advised waiting a few days, maybe a week, as periods aren’t set in stone. It will be fine, she comforted, squeezing my hand tightly.
I ran through my options in my head wondering what I’d do if it turned out I was pregnant. I wasn’t in a relationship, I had only been dating the guy casually for a short amount of time, I had a job but it was low paid and I lived in a bedsit that was about the size of an average sized bathroom. I felt entirely unprepared for a baby, I did not want one at that time.
I thought about abortion but as abortion was – and still is – illegal in Ireland I would have to travel to the UK to be able to avail of it. How could I afford that? How would I even know where to go? This was before the explosion of social media, before Facebook and Twitter. It had only been a few years since the ban on UK Magazines advertising abortion clinics in their Irish editions had been lifted. Information was out there but it wasn’t readily accessible. I would have had to go alone, find my way around a large city I had never been in and navigate the health system there, with no help. I felt well and truly stuck, with no options. I remember sitting in a cafe in Rathmines crying behind a magazine, trying not to be noticed by the other customers, thinking over and over ‘you’ve no choice, you’ve no choice, you’re just going to have to have a baby, like it or not.’
I spent that week crying, drinking and running to the toilet every half an hour desperately looking for any sign of my period arriving.
After the week had passed and there was still nothing, I called another friend and told her what was happening and she told me to get on a bus and come to her and she’d be with me while I did the pregnancy test.
When I arrived at her house I went straight to the bathroom to get it over with . I remember wee-ing all over my hand and the seat as I was shaking so much doing the test.
It was negative.
Blissfully, beautifully negative.
I wasn’t pregnant. It was a blip, a glitch in my cycle, sometimes it happens, my doctor told me later.
I wouldn’t be forced to have a baby that I didn’t want, at that time. I wouldn’t have to make a lonely, expensive journey to another country, making up stories of a ‘weekend away’ to cover up the real reason for my trip. I wouldn’t have to sit bleeding on a ferry or an airplane. I wouldn’t have to feel like a criminal for making a choice for me and my life.
But other women would have to. On the day I was sobbing with relief in my friend’s bathroom, ten women were sitting in clinic waiting rooms in the UK, waiting to have an abortion, unable to access this healthcare at home.
And ten women have travelled EVERY day since then. In fact ten women have travelled every day since 1983 when the clause outlawing abortion was inserted into our Constitution. Ten women are traveling as you’re reading this.
I still don’t know, 15 years later, what I would have done if the pregnancy test had turned out to be positive. I think about it now and again. I don’t have an answer. I just remember that overwhelming feeling that I really had no choice in the matter at all.
And that’s one of the reasons why I am pro-choice now. I believe in women and pregnant people having autonomy over their own bodies. I believe in women and pregnant people having choice in whether or not they become parents. And being allowed to access that choice, at home.
If our laws change and abortion becomes available in Ireland there will still be crisis pregnancies. Women will still hide behind magazines crying their eyes out in anonymous cafes. They will still call their friends looking for help and guidance. They will still lie awake at night thinking and worrying and wondering what they’re going to do. But, crucially, they will have two very clear and legal choices. Some will choose to continue the pregnancy and some will choose to end the pregnancy. Whatever they choose to do, they will be able to do so in their own country, safely and legally. This is the bottom line.
This Saturday, September 30, 2017, the Abortion Rights Campaign will hold its annual March for Choice in Dublin City Centre calling for a full repeal of the clause in our Constitution that prohibits abortion here (the Eighth Amendment) and for legislation to be passed allowing free, safe and legal abortion access for Irish citizens, in Ireland. They need boots on the ground to really highlight this issue to the general public and to Government. This is why I’m telling my story of why I’m marching and why I’m pro-choice. Please come and join us on Saturday. Please come up for the March. We need you. Details here.
NOTE: Yesterday the Irish Government announced that a referendum in relation to repealing the Eighth will be held in the middle of next year. We still don’t know the exact date, the wording of that Referendum or how exactly it will work or what legislation is being proposed but for now it is to be cautiously welcomed. The March for Choice is even more vital now as we work towards the Referendum.
I LOVE the internet and social media.
I like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram – though I’m bewildered by SnapChat and Pinterest – I love blogging and commenting and chatting, the whole shebang.
For someone who is at home all day with often only a small boy to talk to, social media has been and is a lifeline for me. A way to connect with other people, other Mams a lot of the time, to bounce ideas off, to ask questions, to have some fun.
Sometimes though social media can be too much. The Internet as a whole can be too much – I don’t know lads if it’s just me but I don’t think human beings are built to absorb this much information all the time and all in the one go.
And that’s not to say we should be ignorant of the world, of the news, of what’s going on around us, of course not. We have a duty as members of the human race to pick up a newspaper, to watch the news, to acknowledge the suffering of others and to bear witness to that and to do something about that, if we can. But that doesn’t mean we have to take the entire wealth of human suffering onto our shoulders all the time. Which is hard not to do, when you carry the entire wealth of human suffering in your pockets or handbags in the shape of your phones, all the livelong day.
Sometimes it gets too much and lately I’ve been trying to find ways to counter that, to take a break.
And that’s where the Shite Christmas Fillums come in. Endless shite fillums filled with 90s actors and actresses where everyone is young and beautiful and where there’s always a happy ending.
I love them. I DEVOUR them. Chewing gum for the mind, candyfloss for the mind, I don’t CARE, they are brilliant and they make me happy. I know it’s only September, believe me, I know, but on the Hallmark channel it’s all Christmas, all the time.
I think it might be the simple grind of motherhood that has me feeling a bit jittery, the endless routine, just the fact that you are entirely responsible for another human being – it’s been making me feel a bit anxious lately. For the last year if the truth be told. Nothing huge, nothing I can even really identify or put my finger on, just an anxiety that truthfully I think all parents suffer from. But the Shite Fillums help.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the cast of Saved by the Bell? Sabrina the Teenage Witch? Party of Five? The original 90210? Sister Sister? Lois and Clarke? Mariah Carey?
Shite Christmas Fillums, that’s what happened to them. Made for TV, Hallmark or Lifetime Shite Christmas Fillums. (There are also Shite Wedding Fillums, Shite Romance Fillums and Shite Drama Fillums, but the Christmas ones are my favourite.)
Do you know how many Shite Christmas Fillums Lacey Chabert is in, do you?
Five hundred and eighty seven.
Followed closely by Dean Cain (458), Melissa Joan Hart and Tori Spelling (398) and Mark Paul Gosselaar (267). All your teenage fantasies, right there, all grown up and ready for the taking.
Nothing bad ever happens in Shite Christmas Fillums. The guy always gets the girl. The family always reunites. The executive always eschews the promotion in favour of realising that family is what counts. Santy always brings the puppy. And my particular favourites are the remakes of A Christmas Carol – and there are SO many of them – where the main character realises it’s not too late, they’re not going to die bitter and alone, that it’s Christ-a-mas Day and the goose is still in the butcher’s window.
I mean what’s not to like?
Shite Christmas Fillums are my anti-anxiety jam, year round, and I’m not ashamed to say it.
Altogether now – Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too …
I’VE been sitting at the table trying to write this post for the past 30 minutes, only I kept forgetting what it was I wanted to write about.
Then I remembered.
Baby brain. I wanted to write about baby brain and ask if it can still be a thing four and a half years after having a baby? I know science says it doesn’t exist, but I beg to differ.
I’m destroyed with it lads, destroyed. I can barely remember my own name some days and what KILLS me is that I actually used to have a brilliant memory.
In a former life I was a journalist for a local paper and part of my job was to attend meetings and write them up for the paper afterwards. I always took decent notes but I also had an almost photographic memory for quotes, remembering even the intonation in someone’s voice when they said a certain word or sentence. I was a ten in the aul memory department.
Then I got pregnant and it was all downhill from there.
People would add me on Facebook claiming to have worked with me years ago and I wouldn’t have a breeze. I was added to a school reunion group and honestly, I’ve never laid eyes on these people in my life, but they seem to know me.
I went to my friend’s house for dinner about 18 months ago and she invited another friend of hers who, it turns out, went to school with me. As soon as this new friend came into the kitchen she knew me. She knew what year I left school, who my friends were, the works. I didn’t know her from Adam.
Thankfully she forgave me and is still my friend and I remember her name now (hi Anne!) but I have zero recollection of her at school.
I rang the credit card company in an absolute fouler after there was an item on the bill that I didn’t recognise. I’d never even BEEN in that shop, I ranted, I’d never even been on that street, there is no way I spent money there, this is ridiculous, oh hang on wait. I remembered. Actually I had been in that shop and I had spent the money. I faked my own death on the line and hung up.
It happened again this morning.
I was on my way home after the preschool drop off when another parent greeted me and started walking down the road with me.
‘I know you!’ she exclaimed, delighted with yourself, ‘you used to go to the play centre about six or seven years ago. You used to have a little girl with you that you were minding, I think she was your niece.’
‘Oh yeah!’ sez I grinning wildly ‘of course, how are you?’
Reader, I was lying.
I hadn’t a clue. Not one. She was right, I DID used to go to the play centre and I did bring my niece who I was minding and it was six or seven years ago but I had never seen this woman in my life before this moment. Never.
Only it appears we were Playzone BFFs.
I was crucified with mortification. Crucified. She asked after my niece, calling up little details of the art class and dance class we used to do up there.
I couldn’t remember if she had a boy or a girl. Or what her name was. Or what my name was. Or what planet this is.
I faked it, but I’m sure she knew. Or if she didn’t she’ll find out tomorrow when she talks to me again and I can’t remember her name. Which she told me today, and spelled for me. And I’ve already forgotten. *bites fist in mortified agony*
There’s just so much to remember when you’re a parent (and Jesus, I’ve only the one child!) that it pushes everything else out. Your day is so focused on your child that it doesn’t leave room for much else, you really have to try to carve out some time for yourself. And it’s not always an easy thing to do, no matter how vital.
Well that’s my theory anyway.
I’m starting to have a newfound respect for Mammy Dunne, particularly when she calls me all my siblings’ names before she gets to mine, we wrecked her so we did! The poor divil.
Anyway, I’m assuming it gets better as they get older and are more able to look after themselves, right? Lie to me in the comments, PLEASE!
I’m so chuffed to announce that Beating Myself Into a Dress has been shortlisted in this year’s V by Very Blog Awards Ireland in the Parenting Category. It’s a great list of fabulous blogs and I’m so honoured to be included. Thankfully there’s no public vote this year so I won’t be hounding you for votes, but thank you to all you readers who encourage me to keep rambling here, even if it’s not as regularly as it should be. Cheers!
WE have worms.
I’m sorry. I’m very very sorry.
I won’t go into the details because some of you may be reading this while eating but suffice to say they’re not pleasant.
Thankfully the treatment is a dose of some truly unpleasant medicine for the whole family – pardon the pun – and washing every bit of laundry in the house, so in that regard it’s not so bad. But did I mention the laundry?
Oh Jesus the fucking laundry.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the worms hadn’t come on the back of a double dose of Norovirus in the house. Both myself and The Beast were struck down with it within 24 hours of each other and it was the most violent bug I’ve ever encountered.
The poor child was hospitalised for it (surely 11 vomits in seven hours has to be a record?) and then within hours of us arriving home, I was on my knees in the bathroom praying for the sweet release of death.
So, without going into detail, dealing with Norovirus meant a lot of washing, all the bedclothes were destroyed, all the PJs, everything had to be washed and dried.
And not washed at a nice speedy 40 degrees either. No, we had to do the hot wash, the boil wash to make sure the fucking bug was dead.
Do you know how long a hot wash takes in my machine? Well do you? Eight and a half hours.
Eight and a half hours, that’s how long.
That’s how it felt anyway. Standing, hopeless, in my kitchen; shaky kneed and half dead from dehydration. Railing at the machine to just fucking finish. JUST SPIN ALREADY! YOU ALREADY RINSED THAT! Much like watching a non-boiling kettle, bellowing at your washing machine doesn’t make it work any faster either.
We had just recovered, barely, BARELY (by about 48 hours) from all the puking when the worms moved in.
Bustling about setting up house. Rearranging their furniture. Making themselves known.
And the Goddamn laundry cycle had to start all over again.
Off came the bed sheets and the towels again. Every wash cloth, every pair of trousers, every single pair of PJs, pants and knickers. There isn’t a knicker left unwashed in this house. Cleanest knickers this side of the Mississippi.
Of course, they also had to be boil washed. I just wanted to cry. Only, you know, I had no tears left what with being so dehydrated from the FUCKING NOROVIRUS!
I have no hands left anymore. Just two raw, bloody stumps from being washed so much. We no longer use soap in this house, we’re washing our hands with pure acid. Just honest to goodness acid to make sure our hands are truly clean, soap is dead to me at this stage.
And all of this was BEFORE the child went back to preschool. BEFORE he started associating with other germinators. I thought we’d at least get a respite from the sickness during the summer holidays, but no. Not us. It’s fine. I SAID IT’S FINE!
The Beast went back for his second year of preschool this morning – I swear when I walked in the door, I physically felt germs leaping on to me – so God knows what we’re in for next.
You laugh now, but trust me, it’s coming.
Still, at least the first day went off smoothly, The Beast was delighted to be back with his little pals and he’s moved up to the ‘Big Kid Room’ as he calls it with a new teacher that he likes very much. He went in happily and crucially came out happily as well, so I think it’s going to be a great year.
Until we get, you know, smallpox.
I REFER to him as The Beast here and I’m sure some of you must be imagining a great hulking Conor McGregor type – but the reality is my little man has always been a small wee chap.
Even when he was in the womb he was teeny – at one stage during a scan the sonographer said ‘Stand up, you’ to my husband while making measurements on the screen. Running her practised eye over Yer Man – who in fairness is on the shorter side – she nodded knowingly and laughed when we said we had an idea our baba wouldn’t ever be a supermodel.
When he was born he was an average 7lb and a half an ounce. Not small by any means, but the 0-3 month babygros we’d bought were swimming on him. Nana came to the rescue with some teeny Newborn sized ones which fitted perfectly and fitted for ages. Well meaning visitors brought clothes aged 6-9 months saying that their own kids were wearing six month old clothes by time they were eight weeks. Not so for us, those clothes didn’t go near him for months and months and months.
He stayed in his Moses basket for months, was in the bassinet part of his pram for ages too. And stayed in his high chair for years as well, he just fit fine and was happy to stay there.
When we did eventually move him up a size in clothes or into the buggy setting of the pram and into his cot from his Moses basket I was always struck at how tiny he seemed in the new setting. So used to seeing him nestled in the close confines of the Moses basket, for example, I thought he looked miniscule in the vast cot.
It’s been like that for his whole life.
Until recently. Until he stopped looking tiny in new settings and started looking just normal. Just as you’d expect a boy to look. I had started to accept that he was growing up – he had moved out of his cot to a junior bed and started preschool after all and I knew my baby was growing up. But he was still my tiny wee chap, I hadn’t noticed the physical differences.
And now it’s all I can see.
It started in April, when he got a bike from his grandparents for his birthday. I couldn’t wait to see him on it. I thought he’d look so cute and tiny. Only he didn’t. He looked like a preschooler. If anything a bit too big for the bike.
Long legs tumbling to the ground. Arms easily able to reach the handlebars. A sturdy broad chest.
We had to adjust the saddle and the handlebars, all the way up.
Then we went on holidays and visited some playgrounds and pet farms that we had gone to last year. And The Beast was able to use all the playground equipment with ease. He was tall enough to climb things, reach things, he didn’t need any help at all.
Clothes bought a few months ago are too small now, his feet are growing at an alarming rate (I’m keeping bloody Clarks in business), very shortly we’ll be getting him a new car seat.
And then last weekend we moved him from his junior bed into a regular adult single bed. He was excited, he had new PJs and brand new Transformer sheets, as well as Batman posters on the walls.
I was excited too. I thought surely, surely, I’d see my tiny little scrap again. Surely he’d look teeny in the big adult bed.
Reader, he didn’t.
He fit. He fit in the big bed. Ok, he’s not filling the bed by any means, but it doesn’t look ridiculously enormous. He’s not my baby in a huge bed. He’s just my boy in his comfy bed.
And last night, almost the last vestige of babyhood disappeared when he left his soothers for the Fairies to take away. His comfort and his joy and his lifelong love, easily left by his Fairy Door. It was his decision, he said big boys in big beds don’t need soo-soos anymore and he’d rather have a present that the Fairies would leave instead.
So the exchange was made. My big brave boy went to sleep, and stayed asleep and that was that. The end of an era.
My tiny man is gone. My little scrap is no more. Some bastardin’ fairies are flying around with his soo-soos in their mouths.
And I’m sobbing over newborn pics.