Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Valid Question

Listening to music in the car, an inquiring Rory voice pipes up,
'Mummy, What's rehab and why doesn't that lady want to go there?

Son, I only wish she had.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Reluctant Reader

We really try and encourage reading in our house- we've got shelves heaving with books for all ages and stages, and I've read aloud to the children since they were no age at all. That said, I've usually found that a child usually only chooses  to read after checking first that the iPad, the DS, Minecraft and the TV are all off limits.

Why? Because they're the easier, lazier option, requiring no real effort at all.  I have to confess that they can also be really really useful, and I'm as guilty as anyone in relying on them when it suits me, but deep down I know they're no substitute at all for reading.

As a child, I loved to escape into books (and my Granny's Women's Own magazine) but then again, I didn't have all those other distractions vying for my attention. In recent years, I've read less than I should- less time to sit down is the official reason, but zoning out on the iPad  may be the more truthful one. In regard to the former, I finally discovered audiobooks, so now I download them on my iPhone and it's such a luxury to be read to while walking, cleaning or driving. But is it multitasking at its very best, or the absolute height of laziness? I can't decide.

Of the children, some are naturally drawn to the books on their bookshelves, while others (well, one in particular) would rather do almost anything else-for iexample, a recent excuse was ' But I can't read now, I have to cut my toenails.' A surprising choice I thought, given his usual complete disregard for personal grooming of any type.
Believe me,  finding books that appeal to this particular boy is a real challenge, and then last week while tidying and rejigging the shelves, I came upon an old favourite that had belonged to his older brother. My Dad- an old pro at choosing age appropriate books had bought it for him a few years back and I'd forgotten all about it.

It's called 'The Rover Adventures' by the inimitable Roddy Doyle- this copy has three books in one. Perfect for boys because it focuses a lot on dog poo, it's a whole lot of fun, and for the first time ever, his response when I ask him to read  isn't a deep groan or a 'Nooooooo!', or a 'Can't we do it tomorrow instead?'

 It's original, funny and clever, the pictures are fabulous and importantly  it has really short chapters -this boy checks the chapter length and initiates negotiations on number of pages he has to read before he even gets started.   Best of all,  when my boy's reading AND smiling, I know I'm on to a winner.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bah Humbug

 I realise this won't win me any popularity contests, and maybe it's because I've been in a caravan (notice how it's been downgraded from  Caravilla) with torrential rain, five kids and a whole LOT of damp washing, but I'm sooooo over the whole Positivity Challenge thing doing the rounds on Facebook.

 And don't even get me started on the Proud Mammy nominations....oh alright, then, I will...Call me an old cynic, but is this not just a clever, (slightly cheesy) chain letter/photo opp showcase for  the blissful mammy/cute baby pics?

Which I'm not saying is a bad thing in itself- God knows, we all do it- and maybe I'm missing the whole point here, but isn't that what Facebook's for, all the time anyway?

Personally, I prefer to post pictures and show off a bit when I'm actually feeling the love for my five little darlings (usually when they're fast asleep), and not because I'm prompted.
Not that I mind being prompted by the way, but at this point in August (Rolllllll on September), stuck in a 400 square foot box (downgraded again) with the rain bouncing off the roof and the whiff of damp pants and old farts in the air, I'd  happily sell  all five offspring on Gumtree....and I'm pretty sure the feeling's mutual.

And honestly? It's the crappy icing on my wonky looking cake when I then see so many other Mammy nominations with words like 'blessed' and 'angels' and 'gifts from heaven' in them. I mean, I'm trying to be happy for y'all, but depending on my mood, I'm usually either cackling 'Pass me the bucket right now!' or wailing  'What the hell am I doing wrong???"

And before you rush forward with my 'Mother of the Year' Award, let me just say that I DO feel blessed and grateful for my five healthy children....and no, despite what it looks like, not only when they're sleeping/ visiting Nana/back at school.

But at this moment, with seven weeks of back to back 'quality time' in confined spaces under my belt, when the opportunity arises for me to publicly express how utterly blessed I feel to have brought each of my five treasures into the world... thanks, but I'm gonna pass.

And the Positivity Challenge thing? Well,  I really like it in theory - hey, I even kept a gratitude journal for a while- but turned out it didn't mix too well with raging PMT. I DID try, but the best I could come up with was 'I'm grateful for only eating my own weight in chocolate last night and not the combined weight of the children as well.'

So in the spirit of this optimistic mindset, I came up with the anti positivity challenge instead, which was actually surprisingly therapeutic and I highly recommend it. (Of course, I also secretly hope it'll go viral and earn me millions.)
Here's my much watered down Facebook version-believe you me, I could have put much worse on there.

'Thank you BM and TD for nominating me for a Positivity Challenge....but unfortunately, I'm just not feeling it today so I decided an anti positivity challenge would be much more satisfying and appropriate given my thran mood. Here goes-
1. Trying to dry three loads of washing in a caravan when it's pissing down outside. Throw in five bickering children and you're living the dream.
2. Wasps- I've personally killed dozens and been stung only once. It's a gift.
3. Loom bands. So over them.'

Oh my, I feel better already. And breathe.......

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Captain, My Captain.

I just can't believe he's dead. It was Facebook that first whispered the news to me this morning, and I felt shock, but now what feels like genuine grief. But that can't be true surely? I never even met the man..and yet, I can honestly say that he's been a part my life for years.

I remember watching 'Mork and Mindy' on our big, old TV with the wooden sides and the giant knobs and the funny looking ariel on top.  Repeating, 'Mork calling Orsen, come in Orsen!'  and meeting friends in the playground with the alien greeting 'Nanu, Nanu.'

In 1987, I saw the fabulous 'Good Morning Vietnam' in the cinema and was later amazed to hear that he had ad libbed most of the hilarious DJ patter. (Unfortunately, it wasn't long before a much less funny local DJ began to open his show with 'Gooooooooood Afternoon Bel-faaaaaast.' No....just no).

 The truly inspiring 'Dead Poet Society' in 1989 showed that he wasn't only a wonderful comedian, obut a gifted actor too -even now, the 'Captain, my Captain' scene, still gives me goosebumps.

I recall taking my little sisters as a treat to see Aladdin in 1992 with my new 'boyfriend' -I didn't realise how much I'd love it myself, especially the music. I also, strangely enough,  remember surreptiously doling out the sweets  from the bag we'd sneaked in to keep the popcorn costs down.

In 1994, I laughed till I peed and fell  in love with Mrs Doubtfire and San Francisco, and then all over again in the Caravilla one recent rainy Sunday  with the kids.

And they just kept on coming. Good Will Hunting-he won his first Oscar for that,  One Hour Photo, Patch Adams, Robots, Happy Feet and the brilliant Night at the Museum movies- - I saw and loved them all.

We all have our favourite Robin Williams movies-he was truly a talent like no other, and yet like so many of the highly gifted, he was tortured with life long depression and fierce addictions. A man with more success and money than any of us could even dream of, and yet he decided to check out prematurely at the age of sixty three.

How desperately sad it is, that he saw no way out except to take his own life, but the truth is he'd tried very hard to fight his demons. Apparently he'd been working on four different films at the time of his death and had recently returned to rehab 'to fine tune his sobriety', but in the end, the overwhelming anguish and despair he endured for so long was just too much. Please God, he's found his peace at last.

 'O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.
 The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won.'
Walt Whitman.

Farewell and Godspeed Mr Williams-thank you for everything.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Late Bloomer

Sometimes I sit down to write, and I've an idea about what I'm going to say...and then something totally different emerges instead. That's what happened today- I had planned to chat about last week's fabulous John Hewitt Summer School experience, and then, quite unexpectedly, this came out instead.


For as long as I can remember, I yearned to be 'a slip of a thing', a fragile wil o' the wisp, a delicate fairy sort of girl. The sort of girl who swoons elegantly when appropriate, can be easily carried by strong men when the occasion arises, and who can wear those silky slip type dresses that look like a bit like a nightie, but with no control pants underneath obvs. (Cinderella much?)

 It was not to be, for I turned out to be the exact polar opposite- I was 'big boned', 'solid', 'a healthy girl'...'fat'. I watched enviously from the sidelines as my friends morphed from awkward twelve year olds into long limbed, pretty teenagers with great hair, ducklings into swans almost overnight, while I just became a much larger duckling with a very bad perm.

Looking back, it probably didn't help that my Mum was, and still is, a slip of a thing. She'd been called 'skinny malink' in school and I'm quite sure that when she looked at me, she couldn't work out where this great strapping, greedy child had come from.

 I saw it reflected in the stifled surprise of people who saw us together for the first time.
“She must take after the other side”, they'd say, “she looks nothing like you!” and I'd smile tightly, knowing full well what was left unsaid.

It  was always said, and not in a good way, that I was 'far too sensitive,' - this was absolutely true- and yet at a very young age I got the message loud and clear that the way I looked was unacceptable, and the only way to fix it was to diet.

I carried this picture in my purse for the longest time!
And so began twenty five years of yo yo dieting, a fair bit of binging thrown in for good measure, all topped off  with a shed load of body hatred. A vicious circle, that was ultimately futile because even when I was 'less fat' (I was never slim), I couldn't see past my multitude of flaws anyway. And no matter how hard I tried, and boy did I try, I would never, ever achieve that easy, natural slimness my mum, and later my sisters, possessed.

I just wasn't wired that way,  in mind or body.  I'd never simply 'forget to eat' and weight didn't just 'fall off me,' and I always assumed that it was all my fault and weakness. What I didn't understand until much later, was that our shapes and and builds were completely different, and no matter how many Hail Marys I said, or how much cottage cheese I ate, those chunky thighs were here to stay.

And in the end, there was to be no quick fix for me. I've no before and after photos to show off, no light bulb moment of clarity to recall, no misty eyed slimmer's redemption story to tell, just a meandering, circuitous journey to self acceptance.

The catalyst to change-which incidentally started in my head, not my body- was, as it almost always is, being loved unconditionally. Or more importantly perhaps, knowing that to be the case. And gradually, as my twenties and half my thirties slipped away, I began to believe that I was okay to be the way I was, and then one fine day I threw away the scale, and chose another path.

It's not always easy, and like everyone I have good days and bad, but I've learned that walking, mindful eating and the 5:2 plan are my friends, and finally my weight stays fairly steady, and hell, there's always spanx.

Maybe it's largely an age thing, and yet I know many women who become more obsessed with losing weight and looking younger as they grow older and see their looks begin to fade. That isn't me. At this stage in my life, it's all a bit of a Brucie's bonus, because I never had beauty and style  in my twenties and thirties to lose! And who'd have thought that I'd finally, FINALLY peak in my forties?

Does that sound big headed? I don't mean it to, because I know that I'm no stunner, and I'm still very far from slim (a size 14-16 depending on the day) but it's a long way from where I once was- now I buy my clothes in 'normal' shops and sit on Himself's knee without worrying about cutting off the circulation to his feet. But not everything changes and mostly I still like the lights dimmed when I'm naked, and tiny little birds of women in fitted dresses still make me feel like Godzilla to their Godzooky.  (Remember that cartoon?)

Like all girls, I care what I look like, I always did,  it just took me longer than most to find my groove. I love clothes too but now I know what suits me, so I stand up straight and wear fabulous shoes and statement necklaces and leopard print, and no longer wish I wasn't a ginger.

Of course, the other catalyst to change that I haven't mentioned, was having a daughter. A daughter that I assumed from the start would inherit the 'weight problem' of her Mama and would likely need my attentive guidance to avoid years in diet wilderness.

I wanted her to have a mother who was comfortable in her own skin even if this meant hiding my own hang ups, and never, ever asking the question 'Do I look fat in this?'

But ironically, at fifteen, it would seem that she's naturally slim- she eats when she's hungry and she stops when she's full, and the topic of my weight or hers rarely comes up.

 She also happens to be beautiful (all mammies think that, I know) so I tell her, because I know from bitter experience how important it is to hear it....even if it isn't true.

But I also tell her that I love her and that she's smart and funny with great taste in music, and a lovely singing voice, and a beautiful smile and the world is her oyster because that's so much more important in the long run anyway, isn't it?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse...

Preparing dinner, my mind on other things, I gradually become aware of an insistent little voice following me around the kitchen,
'Mummy!' It said and then again, more irritated, 'Mummy!'

'Yes?' I answered distractedly, turning around to see from whence the voice came.
Now, I've seen and been asked many things in the last fifteen years as a parent (I SO wish I'd written them all down) but never, until now,  a bare bum reversing its way around the kitchen island behind me.

Then Luke's face appeared, peering around his own full moon,
"Mummy, he reproached me, "I've been trying to tell you! My bottom's itchy! I need you to scratch both sides of it for me! "

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cartoon Moment #15

Looking back, my Ma must have had Vandar on the pay roll. Sizzlers from Primark anyone?