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

Tag Archives: toddler

sean-playing

I forsee a lot more of this in my future!

I’M no good at playing toys with my kid.

I can do activities all right. Going to the library, feeding the ducks, kitchen discos, baking, reading books together, arts and crafts.

Those things I do often and do well. But actual ‘down on the floor’ playing, not so much.

Particularly imagination games – the ones where I have to be the shopkeeper, or the space ranger, or the cowboy (though I’m not allowed to wear the cowboy hat), or one of the PJ Masks.

I’m particularly bad at being Thomas the Tank Engine, especially when the script is dictated to me and I dare not deviate from it.

More and more I find myself leaving the actual playing to Yer Man and making excuses to The Beast when he asks me to play. Even though I know the benefits of play and of one-on-one time with a parent and I know how important it is for a little person’s development, I find myself running in the opposite direction when the toy box comes out.

That sounds really terrible, I know it does. I just don’t enjoy it, playing bores me. I do it, I do try, but I suffer through it and gratefully escape once any opportunity arises. (On days where I’ve spent a full hour pretending to be Shimmer and Shine complete with genie dancing I’d actual welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses to the door. I’d invite them in. They wouldn’t be able to leave!)

I can’t help feeling though that it shouldn’t be this hard. I enjoyed playing myself when I was a kid. I had Barbie dolls and teddies and cash registers and a Fashion Wheel and all of that and I would play away. And my two best friends and I played elaborate outdoor games where we’d put on singing and dancing shows, or we’d follow innocent neighbours who looked ‘suspicious’ and we’d look for clues like the Secret Seven. We played rounders and kick the can and hide-and-seek and paths and the whole works, the same as most of you reading.

So why do I have such a hard time with it now – why can’t I play with my kid? I don’t know is the answer. I guess I’m not a kid anymore myself so there’s that. And also as a parent I’ve other things to do in the day so playing would be further down the list. Chances are though, that perhaps I’m just out of practice.

Maybe I need to just force myself to do it and eventually it’ll get easier and I’ll start to enjoy it? The way insufferable bores exercise fanatics say it happens for them. At first they don’t want to go out and do it, but before you know it they’re skipping along doing 10ks and push ups and lunges all over the place. Perhaps after all these years I’ve lost the art of playing, it’s a skill I no longer have. But maybe like riding a bike, if you try, it’s something you never forget?

So what I’m going to do is set myself a challenge. For Lent. Instead of giving something up, I’m going to commit to actively playing with my boy for an hour every day. No excuses, no pawning him off on unsuspecting passers-by. Just me and my boy in the sitting room or the garden, playing with his toys together.

And maybe by Easter Sunday I’ll have gotten so used to it that I won’t want to stop doing it. Just like how I no longer take milk in my tea or put sugar on my cornflakes, after giving them up when I was ten. Thirty years later and I’m still going strong on those!

So, we’ll see. Bagsie I the cowboy hat!


pox-mam

Illustration Axel Scheffler, edited by me!

Pox Mam lives in the Family Tree

With her Pox Husband Love and her Pox Beasty, wee.

One day she wakes early, for a bagel and lox.

Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, beware of the Pox.

A Mam! Cried Chicken Pox. A well rested Mam.

Let’s change all that, I don’t give a damn.

I’ll push up the temp and bring out a spot,

Why stop at one, I’ll bring out a LOT.

I’m not just a Mam! Why can’t you see,

I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,

I’M POX MAM, that’s me

And I want to burn down the family tree.

I’m not a Mam who needs sleep at night,

Sleep is for the weak,

I’ll stay up and fight.

I can go on, who needs a rest?

I’ll stay up with Pox Beast, it’s for the best.

He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it and then,

He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it again!

Pox Mam is lonely. Pox Mam is lost.

Pox Mam forgot her slippers, at her own cost.

She sits by the bed, stroking a feverish nose,

Trying to comfort, but dying to doze.

She cuddles the Pox Beast, wanting to cure

Then suddenly remembers, Calpol for sure!

She checks the time and sees it’s ok,

He can have another dose, hip hip hooray!

She squirts and she spoons and she gets it all in,

Another smear of Pox cream, why not, for the win.

The Beast’s breathing slows, he’s sleeping at last

Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, get to bed fast!

Early next morning, after sleeping a while,

She checks on the Pox Beast, there’s more spots, by a mile

She thinks it might be a very long week,

Chicken pox really is not for the meek.

Still, Pox Beast is smiling, he’s really alright,

These pox won’t last for ever, a few more days (and a night!)

Pox Mam will get through, the best she will make

But also, fuck it all, she’s making a cake!

Because it’s her birthday, yes really, today

Chicken Pox bedammed, what do you say?

Chocolate or lemon or vanilla, oh my,

And coffee too, obvs, so she doesn’t just die

I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,

I’M POX MAM, that’s me!

And I’m baking right here, in the family tree.

(This is ripped off from the wonderful Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, ‘Stick Man’ which is available here if you haven’t already got it. It’s one of The Beast’s favourites!)


Bye bye baby 1

THERE was a knock on the door the other week and it was a little lad from across the road looking for The Beast.

‘Is he comin’ out to play?’ the child asked, looking disappointed when I said that The Beast was with his Nana that day but would come out to play the next afternoon.

I barely managed to close the door before I burst into hysterical sobs – imagine, a friend calling for my boy. He has friends now. Kids that greet him on the street when we go to the shops, that run over to our garden when they see us out playing with trains on the driveway.

It’s too much for me, he’s growing up too fast, he’s not my baby any more, he’s a boy. A BOY!

DON’T LEAVE ME SON!

I had barely recovered when we got some post from his new pre-school, which he’ll be starting in September. Forms about allergies and vaccinations, names and addresses, boxes to tick. I can hardly believe the time has come around already but here we are, he’ll be heading off with his bag on his back and his lunchbox in just a couple of weeks.

DON’T LEAVE ME SON!

To send me further over the edge – sure why not – then we went to the shop and got all the stuff we needed to turn his cot into a toddler bed, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, the works. He hops in by himself now, he doesn’t need his little sleeping bag anymore, he has a big boy blanket. He’s delighted with himself while I’m doubled up with grief, sobbing into his pre-school forms trying to remember did I actually get him his 13-month vaccinations or did I forget. It’s all a blur.

Bye bye baby 3

And then today, Yer Man brought him off to get his hair cut in preparation for school, a good tight cut, a man’s cut, to last him until the mid-term break.

DON’T LEAVE ME SON!

Maybe it’s because I’m hepped up on pain pills from a tooth extraction yesterday (fairly brutal it has to be said) or maybe it’s because I’m a sap but I really just want to put a brick on his head and stop him from growing up and freeze him at this age forever.

It’s odd because when he was a newborn, I couldn’t wait for that stage to end. To be fair, it’s a really tough stage, particularly on a first baby as you’re totally flying blind and haven’t a notion what you’re at. But still, I kind of wished it away, I couldn’t wait for him to get a bit more independent, couldn’t wait for the night feeds to end, that sort of thing.

And it did end of course and once he started walking and talking I really found my groove with him and he with me and we’ve muddled along really nicely. And now I look at him and see that the baby stage is well and truly over, I’m sending him out into the world and he is truly a ‘big boy’ now.

It’s too much. My heart is broken. BROKEN! Pass me a few more Nurofen Plus there, go on, they can’t hurt, I AM BUT A SHELL OF A WOMAN!

I suppose I have to let him go, though, don’t I? Keeping him as my baby isn’t really an option. much as I’d like to. And I know that he’ll always be my baby even when he’s 40 and I know that even though he’s a big boy now he’s still only three, he’s still so tiny and still needs me so much. And I know that his having friends and going to school and having his own proper bed are all good things. They bring him joy and make him happy which is the most important thing.

Bye bye baby, baby goodbye …


Lav9

WE took advantage of the break in the rain today and went on a jaunt to the Lavender Farm in Wexford to enjoy the sun.

Situated off the N11 just outside Gorey, it only costs €2 per car which is great value if you’ve a few kids or even a Granny to take with you.

There’s the beautiful field of lavender to stroll in, a gorgeous playground, a friendly goat, donkey and few ducks to chat to as well as a cafe/shop and beautiful woodland walks.

Lav10Lav 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beast made a beeline for the playground and we had a hard time dragging him away. As well as the usual slides and swings there’s also a small obstacle course and a wooden tractor to climb on. (The sign says the playground is suitable from age two upwards, but personally I felt it was geared towards kids slightly older than that. Our three year old needed help with the ladder for the slide for example and there’s no baby swing, so it wouldn’t be great for very young visitors, but perfect for pre-schoolers up, in my opinion.)

Lav11

Lav12

Lav13

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a motorised bull train that runs a few times a day (The Beast got on, but then decided at the last minute that he most certainly was NOT going to stay on) and you pay extra for that, but judging by the squeals of delight coming from the passengers, it’s totally worth it.

We had a stroll around the delicious smelling lavender field and then had our lunch in the cute cafe, which has a fairly extensive menu. My open sandwich was delicious, but Yer Man’s roll was just average, a bit dry and tasteless, though he was hungry so he ate it. The cakes and tarts on display looked fabulous and other diners seemed happy though, so one bad sandwich isn’t the end of the world and was probably just an oversight.

Lav18

Lav20

I picked up some lavender honey made right there on the farm as well as some pouches of dried lavender and a pot of fresh lavender to bring home as gifts which were all reasonably priced.

After our lunch we had intended to go on one of the woodland walks across the property (there are 2km, 4km and 6km walks on offer depending on how energetic you’re feeling) but we only got to have a quick stroll as far as the field of sheep before The Beast yanked us back to the playground where he spent another very happy hour whizzing down the slide and staring suspiciously at any other kid who dared to have a go.

Lav16Lav14Lav15

Overall we spent a couple of very happy hours there, enjoying the sun and the peaceful atmosphere and we’ll definitely go back.

Other things to note: The farm is closed on Mondays; dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead; the lavender field and cafe itself is wheelchair accessible but the woodland walks are not; there are baby changing facilities plus a toddler step and toilet seat available in the accessible toilet. There’s a whole lot more information on what’s on offer here.


I SAW a post on social media recently about someone doing up their CV for a job interview and it got me thinking.

It’s been a long time since I applied for a job or had an interview and I think since I’ve become a mother my skill set has changed.

It used to be all typing and office skills and teaching voluntary adult literacy classes – now it’s getting vomit out of the carpet and ‘Mom hacks’ for entertaining a toddler on a rainy day.

Mom hack number one, stop calling them fucking hacks you gobshites, they’re TIPS. Hacks, me hoop.

Anyway.

I think the number one skill I’ve picked up over the past three years is hostage negotiation.

Being a stay at home parent to a toddler is a bit like being in a hostage situation. With you as the hostage.

You have to ask permission to go to the bathroom and IF it’s granted it’s always conditional – to whit, you may never wee alone and you have to wee fast. I SAID FAST.

You have to prepare meals for a belligerent dictator who may deign to eat it or who equally may refuse to even taste it because you cut it into squares instead of triangles. Even though he said squares. But he can’t be expected to know that you’d follow through on his instructions, he’s under a lot of pressure right now. Jeez!

Leaving the place of capture – or ‘the home’ as some hostages refer to it – takes intense negotiations. You have to give a choice between this jacket or this jacket, these shoes or these shoes. Bribery may even be involved as you desperately beg for your freedom.

Earlier this week I was involved in a seriously delicate piece of negotiation about going out to play in the garden – I was almost feverish with the cabin fever after several days of rain, but The Beast was perfectly fine in his playroom thank you very much and he decided we weren’t going anywhere.

Eventually I had to agree to putting up two toy tents  on the windiest day of the year in order to secure my freedom resulting in at least one neighbourhood child being brained by a flying wigwam. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to type.

Wigwam 1

Wigwam 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradoxically after such a rigmarole to get out of the house, even further negotiations are often required to get back into the house.

Look around any playground and you’ll see dozens of half-washed, hollow eyed, wrecked looking parents desperately pleading with their captors to just get. in. the. fucking. buggy.

‘If you get in the buggy I’ll let you watch ten minutes of Paw Patrol when we get home!’ they’ll wheedle in a high pitched voice, terrified.

‘It’s time to go now! Hold my hand now and you can have these chocolate buttons,’ they’ll beg, eyes darting around, hoping someone, anyone, is about to jump out of the bushes to rescue them.

Bedtime is another flashpoint – no matter how much notice they get there’s always last ditch negotiations about the timing.

Just five more minutes. Just one more drink. Just 873 more stories. No, not THOSE stories. THOSE ones. Read them slower. NOT THAT SLOW.

Beware, if you do bedtime wrong, you’ll wake up at 2am to find them looming over you intoning ‘it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again’.

Still, at least hostage negotiation is a skill for the old CV, right? If I ever get five fucking minutes to myself to apply for a job in the future, it’s SOMETHING to put on there, right? I mean at the moment there could be work for me over in the EU with the whole Brexit thing (See how I stay current? See?) I’m sure I could sort them all out. I negotiated The Great ‘Six Chocolate Buns in Six Minutes Is Quite Enough’ Showdown 2016 with aplomb so I did so I’m sure negotiating the fifth biggest economy’s exit from the European Union would be a doddle.

My other skills include ‘Secret Cheese Eating’ ‘Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians Out Of The Corner Of One Eye While Doing Arts And Crafts At The Same Time’ ‘Faking Knowing The Names Of All The Monster Machines’ and my speciality ‘Pretending To Be Awake While Actually Being In A Coma’.

And I got an A in Home Economics in my Junior Cert. (Actually I didn’t, I got a B, but Lying Through My Teeth is another of my special skills.)

Hey, it’s a competitive market out there, may the best hostage win.


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:

Smush!

Smush!

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.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you’ll need:

Flour

Baking powder

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.

An egg

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.

Let's make muffins Mama!

Let’s make muffins Mama!

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!

Method:

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.

Mix mix mix

Mix mix mix

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.

Mmmm so cheeeeeeesy

Mmmm so cheeeeeeesy

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.

This is what it's like packing up a toddler. Pic Credit: Perezhilton.com

This is what it’s like packing up a toddler. Pic Credit: Perezhilton.com

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.

The Fellas.

The Fellas.

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.

Like butter wouldn't melt. Tiny dictator.

Like butter wouldn’t melt. Tiny dictator.

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.

It's hard work being a dictator.

It’s hard work being a dictator.

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.


Playcentre 3

 

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.

Most deprived child in Ireland. No playcentres for you!

Most deprived child in Ireland. No playcentres for you!

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?

What if?

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.

Playcentre 1

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.


Me and my boy

God Mom, this is like, sooo embarrassing

Dear Seán,

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.)

Shiny! Remember, I'm the good parent. Your Dad gets to live out his old age in the shed.

Shiny! Remember, I’m the good parent. Your Dad gets to live out his old age in the shed.

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.

Super Dad!

Super Dad!

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.”

Soft day. Pic: mirror.co.uk

Soft day. Pic: mirror.co.uk

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’.

If you don't like it, tough. I'm here now.

If you don’t like it, tough. 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.

Yeah. Fuck you.

Yeah. Fuck you.

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.

Love,

Mam xxx


WHEN I was a kid there was no such thing as a foreign holiday. We got a week down the country with Mammy Dunne’s relatives and that was our lot.

We’d all cram into Dad’s Renault 16, my three siblings in the back, me on my mother’s knee in the front, with ne’er a seatbelt between us and set off – Dad chainsmoking and cursing in equal measure.

There’d then be a week of sleeping on sofas, sitting on walls, getting lashed on, hanging around and generally being bored rigid. This was the way it was and we just accepted it. Man, the 80s in Ireland were grim.

Anyway, if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for The Beast so this past week we carted him off down the country for a few days over the Easter holidays, to have a bit of a break.

We’d have some good old fashioned Irish holiday fun, make some memories, have some laughs, soak up the Vitamin D, really bond as a family, you know?

Yeah.

God, it was miserable.

I mean, truly miserable.

It pissed rain for the entire week, temperatures hovering around Baltic, nowhere was open, the child was sick at one stage; if you looked up ‘shit holiday’ in the dictionary there’d be a picture of our family right there, looking miserable.

On the first day it lashed rain, the wind howled until about 7pm when finally, delirious with cabin fever, we decided to go for a walk down on the beach. Delighted the child rushed off to get his sunglasses and his bucket, ready to build sandcastles.Holiday blog S on beach

Holiday blog S in sunglassesHoliday blog S dressed for beach

By the time we bundled him up in a coat, hat, scarf and gloves however, the tide had come in so there was no sand. He gamely settled for collecting stones in his bucket however and we marched up and down for an hour, freezing the holes off ourselves.

Look, here we are. Smiling to hide the tears.

Holiday blog family selfie

No matter though, we consoled ourselves, the next day would be better, we had plans to visit a seal sanctuary and the Beast was beside himself with excitement. It’d be grand. Great.

Yeah.

The website said they were open daily. The gate was open. The sign on the door said they were open until 5pm but alas, even though it was only 1pm when we got there, the seal sanctuary was closed.

For fuck’s SAKE.

But sure look, not to worry, it had turned into a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to go to the playground instead. Squealing, The Beast headed for the swing and swung happily delighted with himself.

Look at him there, with the happy head on him. Note the blue sky in the background?

Holiday blog S on swing

Yeah.

Approximately 49 seconds after we sat him in that swing, it clouded over, like fucking Judgement Day, and started to hailstone. No, hail boulder. No, no, wait, hail SLAB. We were forced to run for cover and ended up cowering in a bush – I am honestly not making this up –  in an attempt not to get soaked.

We did not succeed.

Towelling ourselves off we decided we’d treat ourselves to a pizza that evening, to warm us up after two solid days of freezing our bollixes off.

Yeah.

We got out of the car and strode up to the door of the pizza place. It was closed. We pulled ourselves together and walked down a little further to another pizza place. Also closed.

Panicking now, we went further down the street to a third place that while, not a pizzeria, had pizzas on the menu. And it was open! Result!

Yeah.

They were out of pizzas that night. Sorry about that! Nothing they could do. Before I could slash my wrists, Yer Man took the shiv off me and ordered sausages for the child and pressed the bread basket into my hand.

Ok, I was ok. It was all good. We were out, the child was happily playing with his toys while waiting for his sausages (another huge treat), there was food on the way, what could possibly go wrong? I even took a snap of Dad and Son together, to celebrate. Look!

Holiday blog D and S in restaurant

Yeah.

Towards the end of his meal, The Beast gagged on a piece of food and threw up into my hand. At the table. Again, I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. I have witnesses! Covered in puke, we left, heads held high, holding onto our sanity by a gossamer thread.

Wednesday was a new day. We had plans to go to the local pet farm. Amazingly it wasn’t raining and even more amazingly, the place was open. So in we went to frolic with the llamas and the lambs and the goats and the iddy biddy baby bunnies …

Yeah.

The Beast had no interest whatsoever. He barely glanced at the animals before legging it towards the sand pit and sitting there filling the same bucket over and over for a full 90 minutes.

We spent €21 to get into a pet farm, to sit on a freezing wall watching him dig in a sandpit. When we couldn’t feel the tips of our fingers anymore we went into the cafe for lunch and then miserably trailed off home.

Yeah, lambs, whatever, can I go to the sandpit now?

Yeah, lambs, whatever, can I go to the sandpit now?

I did get to hug a baby lamb though, so I suppose it wasn’t all bad.

On our final day we didn’t bother planning anything or attempting any of that happy family shite, we just went to a shopping centre, had lunch and bought some new books and clothes, to cheer ourselves up. When in doubt, throw money at the problem, that’s my motto. It was by FAR the best day of the holiday.

So all in all I gave The Beast a holiday exactly like my childhood holidays of yore. Ah nostalgia, it make-a the world go round. Still though, as Yer Man said as drove off out of Dodge, at least it’s a holiday we’ll never forget.