Tuesday 29 December 2015

Why I Won't Be Participating in Dry January

The short answer is because I don’t want to.  But I have other reasons.

Until very recently, as in the last 24 hours I did not know such a thing existed.  I was all, “what?   It’s not Lent, is it?  Already?”

See I have kids and as I said to the nice chap in the off licence on Christmas eve, red wine and whiskey and sherry are exactly what makes Christmas day with small children tolerable.   
Ok that’s a slight exaggeration.  Wine helps.  It helps a lot.  But what really works for me is sleep, lots of sleep, a quiet house (never going to happen) and then a little bit of wine.

Also I spent three, count them, three consecutive Christmases either pregnant and/or breastfeeding.  I was practically teetotal for a decade.  

All decisions made my very good (sober) self, granted.  I accept that and I was happy (Mostly.  Sometimes.  Maybe for about an hour in 2009) to remain teetotal.  But now that all of my boys are long weaned and the baby shop is closed, I enjoy a glass bottle of wine most weekend nights.   I do not have a problem with it.  At all.   If I went out to the pub each Friday and Saturday I would drink a lot more than a bottle of wine, I can tell you. 

I enjoy wine.  It’s nice.  I like it and I have no intentions of stopping drinking it any time soon.

I understand a lot of people are full of Christmas and all of the excesses but I’m grand.  I do not feel the need to give up anything nice at a time of year when we should be kind to ourselves.   It’s winter, lads.   We wake up in the dark and go to bed in the dark.  The weather is poxy. Our bodies and minds are crying out for a bit of comfort.  Anthropologically speaking we should be curled up in a cave wrapped in a bear skin with an extra layer of body fat keeping us alive until the spring when food is more plentiful. 

To embark on Dry January, I feel is to deny ourselves a basic human need.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. 

And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a glass of wine in front of me at the time of writing. 

I like wine and I’m proud. 

On a more sober and poignant note, Dry January is a fundraiser for the charity Alcohol Concern.  A truly worthy cause and I am in awe of those who complete 31 days alcohol free.  Please check out the above links even if it is just to have a read of the statistics and maybe even donate something. 

Sunday 27 December 2015

Was Christmas Really Two Days Ago?

Christmas day was approximately two days ago.  I have been dodging Nerf gun bullets for about 24 hours.  They hurt!   The hills are alive with the sound of PSVita’s (whatever the Christmas they are!) Maiming myself on Lego has come to an end; now it’s those annoying little PAW Patrol toys.  Lovely Liam still doesn’t believe Santa brought The Velveteen Rabbit.  (He so did.  I may or may not have almost cried when I read it Christmas day.  Approximately 48 hours ago.)

What did we decide to do today?   On a day where our kids are literally falling over their Christmas presents and books and Xbox games?  Because, you know, cabin fever is a thing. 

We went to the cinema.  Not everyone wanted to see Star Wars and not everyone was impressed with The Good Dinosaur so each parent shape took two boy shapes and went separate ways.

Until we got to the cinema and one boy shape decided he didn’t fancy Star Wars after all and wanted to see the dinosaur movie instead. 

But this is what happened first.

The sales were on.   The car park was almost full at 11.30am on this Sunday morning.   But we wedged our half a train car into a space and out we got.

The weather was grand today.  Gone was that horrible, almost warm rain and in its place was biting cold.  My kind of weather.

But there’s a boy in the house whose chest does not like cold, biting weather and it seizes up, gets tight and he morphs into a seal.

“Did you bring my inhaler?”  Bark.  Bark.  Wheeze.  Bark.  Wheeze. 

No I did not bring the inhaler. 

Ok, so he is only 8 (almost) and really cannot be trusted/expected to remember such important issues like his own health so I bit down a frisson of rage so strong it alarmed me.  


We joined the queue in Sam McCauley’s and I prepared to beg the pharmacist to please give my child an inhaler.

And then I remembered the awesome thing I have come to call My Magic Handbag.  In it are toy cars.  Two or three extra things that Smallest Boy likes to snuffle when he sucks his thumb.  Sucky sweets for tickly throats.  An epipen.  Items of make-up.  Tissues.  Biro’s galore.  Some pencils.     A couple of notebooks.  Three pairs of gloves.   Seven wallets.  Yep, I said seven.  Four empty boy wallets.  One empty wallet (mine).  My regular wallet (containing a little money). My birthday wallet (containing a little money).  Some cables for recharging boy things.  A PSVita yoke.  And, holy sweet mother of divine Christmas, not one but two unopened inhalers.  For safe keeping.

We got to the cinema on time and I went through the rigmarole of changing prebooked seats. 

The lovely girl behind the counter sorted it all out for us.  It was brilliant.   She even told me they serve wine when she saw how stressed I was. 

I told her not to be tempting me.  But when I saw it was only a small bottle I told her it would be no good to me anyway.   Sure, that’s only a mouthful, I told her.

We had a bit of a laugh about someone (ahem) being heard snoring in Screen 8 and I paid for four kids trays of popcorn and we went in.    

And because that wasn’t enough we followed it all up with a trip to Eddie Rockets.

Thoughts for the day:  people is mental.   It seems a SALE sign ignites a dormant feral instinct and you’d be killed for reaching across to touch a scarf.

I keep asking, “What day is it?”  I now promise not to get annoyed with my six-and-a-half-year-old when he asks this several times a day.  That’s what it feels like!

You don’t really need a sixth pair of black boots.  Even if they are half price.  You just don’t.  

There’s an awful lot of shite in the sales, isn’t there?

And finally.  Was Christmas day really two days ago?

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Torture by Chocolate

It all started off innocently enough.  I was upstairs GHD’ing my hair and Oldest Boy followed me.  He sat on the floor and proceeded to go through the Christmas Stash Box.  Every house should have one.  It contains boxes of chocolates, tins of sweets, bottles of wine, candy canes, crisps and in general Christmassy goodness. 

We discussed which box of chocolates would go best with the hot chocolates (hocklates) on Christmas Eve and it was decided Milk Tray would be the one.

“What would you like for Christmas, Mammy?”  he asked as I fiddled with that tricky bit of hair behind my ear.  The piece that, if I’m not careful, could see me clamp my earlobe in between the heating iron.  It has been done.

“I’d love an item of jewellery.”  I told him.  Confident in the knowledge there is a little pair of gold studs wrapped and waiting for me to open in two day’s time.  “I’d also love some makeup.” 

Bronzing pearls if you’re asking.  And some primer. 

“And maybe some make-up brushes.”  Thanks Real Techniques.  “A book is also an excellent thing to receive.”  I continued, thinking of the new Anna McPartlin on my bedside, tormenting me, but I refuse to touch it until Christmas Day.  “Chocolates.  Wine. Anything really.”

“I think you’re really going to like what we got you.”  His smile was a hundred watts.

“You got me something?”  So was mine.  “Oh, lovely.  Now begins the nagging until I make you tell me what it is.”

“Stop, Mammy.”  There was a tinge of panic.

“Hmm.  Let me see.  Can I eat it?”

“Stop guessing!”  It was a shriek.

“Ok, so that’s a no.  I can’t eat it.”

Nervous laughter and a burst to leave the room.

“I can do chocolate torture, you know.”  I shouted after him.  “it’s where I make you sit in a chair and I take that box of Milk Tray, open it and force you to watch as I eat them.  I’ll be like, “tell me, Conor.  Tell me or I swear to God I’ll eat this chocolate.  I will, so help me.”

“There’s loads more.  And anyway you’ll only make yourself sick.”  He was halfway down the stairs, terrified he’d give the game away on himself.

I let him go.   Not fair to put extra pressure on someone who is already fizzing at the gills for Christmas Day.

A quick rub of some John Frieda Frizz Ease. 

Hair was grand. 

Thanks for asking.

Monday 21 December 2015

It's Almost Christmas. Good and Bad Signs

I don’t know about your calendar but ours announces there are just four more sleeps to the big day.  You know the one.  Christmas Day.  That one.  There is simply no getting away from it - Christmas day is around four corners.   The signs have been there since Halloween but now they are totally utterly and absolutely in your face. 

Similar to the lists Santa likes to make, there are both good and bad signs that Chrimbo is almost here.  I thought I’d start with the bad signs.

I know it’s Christmas when:

I approach the till in Eason’s sideways with a suspicious lump under my coat.   Upon opening it, the contents spill all over the counter and I hiss at the startled shop assistant, “Quickkkkkkkk! Fire them into a bag before the kids appear!”

I become quite good at commando sign language where I jab two fingers at Mister Husband, then at my own face, wave them towards the kids and finish by denying that I did not just give him the finger in the book shop.  I was just signing at him to “keep the kids away.”

I’m sick.  Or the kids are. Or the dog is.  The humans have a tummy bug.  The dog ate some chocolate coins – including the wrappers and then savaged the advent calendars.    

I can’t see the counter top for the lists.  Lists.  Lists everywhere. 

I am fed up receiving phone calls from couriers looking for directions to my house. 

I never thought I’d say it but……………...is that bloody Fairy Tale of New York again????  and could someone please tell George Michael, it’s gave and not “geve you my heart?”

Home and Way is over until January.

I have the fear.  The fear that I will forget someone.  Or something. 

And then there are the good signs.  The very good signs.

There’s mountains of chocolate in the house and rivers of wine.

The stairs are strangled under fairy lights.

There are two thousand three hundred and twelve batteries in the bowl on the counter.

Brussel sprouts are the Veg de Jour

There’s 4 sleeps left on the advent calendar

I’ve got Vienetta in the fridge!

The boys get their Christmas holidays tomorrow!  Two whole weeks of rest time. 

I’ve got premixed gin and tonics in the fridge!

All of my shopping is complete. 

Most of my presents have been distributed.

It really is almost here.  It really is.  Happy Christmas everyone!

Monday 14 December 2015

Have Yourself A Mindful Little Christmas

 How come, when Christmas falls on the same day every year, it always seems to creep up and take me by surprise?  There’s how many days left till Christmas?

And how come I always get tired in December?  Like, really, really tired.  I just want to crawl under a duvet and sleep for 48 hours.  It’s a mental tiredness too, not just physical.  

Anyway, it occurred to me there are only a few short weeks left in 2015.  I think everyone has cottoned on to that judging by the general thrum of activity that is taking place.   Have you been to a shopping centre lately?  Even a local supermarket?  ‘Nuff said.

It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  And on the back of that, whilst things are busy but still generally quiet, before they get totally manic, I thought I’d write down a few things to keep in mind.  To keep us sane and focused. 

They don’t call it the silly season for nothing.   

So, whether or not you set fire to your hair as well as the pudding, even if you forget the crackers and indulge way too much, it’s still only one day.   It might be a long day, granted, but even the worst day is only 24 hours long.  I saw something I really liked recently; it’s not the presents around the Christmas tree that count, but the people around it. 

Remember folks, it’s nice to be nice.  No pushing or shoving.  It’s just a coffee machine, the last half price designer bag or parking space.  Use your indicators.  Stop at pedestrian crossings.  Be mindful of little kids wanting to do their own Christmas shopping.  Say please and thank you, please.  Thank you.  

Remember those people behind the tills or in customer services don’t want to be there any more than you do.  They’re just doing their job.

Buy a suspended coffee.  Give someone your trolley coin.  Smile at people.  Even if they don’t smile back.

Drink responsibly.  Do not drink and drive.  Please put down the blasted mobile phone.  When you’re in the car, at the dinner table, in the pub or paying for something.       

Say merry Christmas like you mean it.

Go for a walk.   Buy headphones and use them.  Listen to the local radio station or some music.  Avoid bright and cheery Christmas television if sound and bright lights are your trigger.

There are lots of things you can do to help you over the festive period.  It’s ok to say no for starters.  If you just cannot face into yet another gathering or room full of people, make your excuse and take some time out for yourself. 

We are constantly surrounded by noise, mental and visual stimulation and this can chip away at our tolerance levels.  Try not to get too stressed over the whole thing.  It will come and it will go and life will return to normal.  Live in the moment.  The next one is just around the corner.

2015 is mere weeks away from being history.   I am going to try and let mine go out with a small pop rather than a big bang. 

Because that suits me.  You do you.  And be safe. 

May your days, all of them, be merry and bright.    

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Tips for Grinch Free Last Minute Shopping

If you’re anything like me, the run up to Christmas can be a little stressful.  I like to be organised.  I dislike last minute surprises.  I am a huge fan of lists.  Although I still manage to forget one child, a different one, each year.  I am not one of those last minute shoppers.  

Today is the second day in December and I still have a few bits and pieces to collect. 

This is the stuff that can ruin the whole thing for me.  When I am finished having everything wrapped and labelled with nice, thick, black lines drawn through my list of lists, I literally feel my lungs open up and air filling them.  Relief, the release of tension, all of it leaving my body to make room for some Christmas anticipation and dare I say it, excitement?

This morning I forfeited my precious child free three hours to do just that – make a deliberate effort to slough off the Christmas tension. 

Here are my 5 tips to, hopefully, make the last minute Christmas shopping easier.

Make a list.  It works for a reason. Make one and most importantly stick to it!  I would even go as far as listing shops in order of preference or convenience.  For example, I enjoy a cappuccino on the way home so I put the place where I like to buy it, last on my list.  Another idea is to write the name of each shop you intend to visit on that list and underneath, outline all you need there.  If someone is lucky enough to be on the receiving end of your purchasing, include their name and the gift you intend to buy. 

Go early.  Possibly the best move you can make.  You will beat the crowds and also avail of easy parking.  It’s a joy to enter a store and find you have it practically to yourself.  Another upside to an earlier visit is merchandise being on the shelves and not all over the floors which can be the case as the day moves along.  Is there anything nicer than moving quickly through the aisles and the sheer luxury of your car parked closed to the building and not half a mile across the parking lot?

Go alone.  Leave the kids firmly and positively at home.  At the risk of offending them, I might also suggest that partners are left there too.  Trying to shop with small children in tow is a nightmare at the best of times.  Never mind when you are trying to pick up last minute bits and pieces that you don’t want them to see.   Shopping alone is actually fun.  No-one complains about being tired, bored, hungry or worst of all, needing the bathroom ten minutes before the next one does.  I suppose this is where your partner comes in handy.  If he hasn’t wandered off that is.

Give yourself a time limit.  I knew I had exactly two hours this morning and I made the most of them.  I found myself picking up things that caught my eye but were not on the list so I was ruthless and put them back.  On my way to the ATM I passed the Wet n’ Wild make-up stand and I was irresistibly drawn towards it.  But I clamped down hard and walked around the other way on the way out.  It can be done.  Reach for your inner strength.  It also meant I hadn’t eaten into my finances with make-up items I did not need.

Bring cash.  Leave the credit card at home, in the drawer, in the car.  Taking cash means you are forced to stick to your list and budget.  You can’t be tempted by that “unbeatable” completely unnecessary offer if the drastic plastic isn’t with you.

When you’re done, you’re done.    Know when to quit.  Don’t keep going back for more.  Even if you have a half hour to spare.  And a few bob.  And if you do happen to have some cash left over, will you please contact me and tell me how you managed that part?  Please and thank you.

Enjoy the last minute panic and be careful with that trolley!