Friday 13 May 2016

219 Colouring Pencils
This blog post is about colouring pencils.   I’ll speak briefly about pencil sharpeners also but it’s primarily a post about the colouring pencils.

At the beginning of each school year I buy approximately 219 colouring pencils.    My first mistake might be refusing to buy a well-known brand due to how much it would cost.  Also enough of them end up in my boys' pencil cases to know these things go missing on the first day of school so I’m not wasting my money that way.  Instead I  pick up the pound shop pencils, supermarket own brand ones, that kind of thing.  Some might say, wasting my money another way.  Some might be right.

And at the almost end of each school year, round about now, those colouring pencils are whittled down to approximately three and a half.  

With both ends sharpened into a dangerous little point.   They get binned.

This evening I found a rogue pencil case absolutely filled to stuffing point with colouring pencils. 

They were all blunt.


I now have a blister on the third finger of my right hand from sharpening 73 of them.   The other 43 were binned as the nib fell out of them all on the sixth sharpen.

I am a broken woman.

So if anyone can recommend decent colouring pencils for the school year 2016/17 that won’t see me having to take out a second mortgage, I’d be mighty grateful.

Oh and also one of those fancy dancy electric pencil sharpener things that does all of the work for you.     

Please and thanks!

Thursday 12 May 2016

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Or in my case one thousand pictures speaks just one word: No! 
Swiftly followed by, “Don’t want to” and possibly – very definitely maybe – “Would she ever just fek off with herself.”

Trying to capture a moment on camera with four kids is not easy.  I dread it every time.  Fortunately for us, we are rarely in a situation formal enough to warrant such a traumatic event.  

We generally have a much better success rate when we employ a stealth tactic; creeping up on them when they are not paying attention, press the shutter button (is there a shutter button on a phone camera?  Probably not) and shoot for your life.

They’re not even aware you are capturing their spirit thus endangering their lives (that’s what they make you feel like sometimes) and chances are there will be one picture in there, somewhere, with three out of four of them looking in the one direction.


I didn’t say anything about looking at the camera, however.  Just, you know, in one direction.   A random one. Any one will do.

We consider ourselves having done very well if one of them is not scowling or covering his face with his hands.   It’s only wonderful if none of them are doing the bunny ears stunt.

So why put ourselves through this torture?   Why indeed.   I needed to take some photos of them to accompany an article I am writing.    In fairness, we were offered a photographer.  Someone who would come out to the house to take care of the gory details.  (In hindsight that sounds great.)

But I’m allergic to professional people visiting my house and even more allergic to the clean-up that would have to be done beforehand.

(But we’d have a lovely photograph of the boys.  We don’t have many.)

Too late.  I politely turned down the offer.

Instead I issued promises.  I told the boys that if they co-operated and smiled their heads off at the correct times, resisted the bunny ears temptation they would be duly rewarded with a hot chocolate.

The fact they get one most evenings wasn’t mentioned.

I swore blind this most dastardly of photo events would only take ten minutes, fifteen tops and with one of their parents taking the pictures, it would mean they wouldn’t even have to change their clothes.   

Threats came next.    They were told that if they didn’t comply there would be no hot chocolates (hah!) and a photographer would come out to the house the next day and it would take all afternoon.  

They would be smiling for hours on end.   They’d have to shower.  Change their clothes.  I might even insist they get a haircut.

The screams of terror.

It was still a disaster. 

And they got their hot chocolates.   Looking through the photos later that evening there were one or two with bunny ears.  


It was the only way I could release some of the tension and frustration I was feeling.  How hard is it to smile anyway?   

If I could post out-takes/bloopers I would.  Or maybe not.  Here instead are a few quotes.

“Do you have to look so bored?”
“I’ll give you fifty euro’s if you smile.”
“Let’s all pretend we’re a happy family.  Just for this photo.   Ah, go on, please!”
“You can’t use those photos.  They look so forced.” (They kind of did!)
“Do I have a double chin if I look this way?”  (May or may not have been me.)
“Yes, Mammy.  You kind of do. In fact, it makes you look a bit like a frog.”  (Thanks!)
“Are we nearly finished yet.”
“I don’t want to smile.  I’m sick of smiling.  I hate smiling.  You can’t make me anymore.”

None of them were really suitable so it looks like I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.   right now, photo shopping sounds great!

Saturday 7 May 2016

Less Talk More Action

This weekend saw the fruition of two major events come to pass.    For the tenth year, Pieta House celebrated their annual walk, Darkness into Light, where more than 150,000 people took part in over 90 different Irish locations.   It was marked internationally in cities like Toronto, Sydney and Abu Dhabi.   Pieta House provides free counselling to those who have been affected by suicide or who are having suicidal thoughts.  90% of their income comes from fundraising events such as this morning’s walk. 

In a week where the government thought it best to move €12 million allocated to the mental health services to other areas of the executive.

The other event is perhaps a little less known.  Businessman David McGowan succeeded in his quest to bring a decommissioned Boeing 767 from Shannon airport to its final destination of Enniscrone, Co. Sligo where it will assume pride of place in the alternative transport themed glamping village.  He encountered many obstacles along the way but did not allow this to dampen his spirit or enthusiasm and with the help of several interested, unaffiliated parties, today is the day his dream has been realised. 

Both of these events have taken place without the help, aid or assistance from a government who spent the last 70 days deciding who our next Taoiseach would be.

The irony surely, can’t be lost here.

It seems to me, as I looked around this morning at the 1700+ strong crowd at my hometowns first Darkness into Light and at the Facebook pictures that are still uploading, all it takes is strength, determination, kindness, interest and sheer grit to get the job done.
Both undertakings were organised and completed by ordinary people.  People who live in this country.  People who do not have huge resources behind them.  Today our true spirit and worth was shown.    A little less talking and a little more action I think.

Our government could take note. 

Friday 6 May 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I reckon Andy Williams got it wrong.  Christmas isn’t TMWTOTY at all.   Mid-term break is.  Kind of.  It’s a mini taster of what’s to come when there is an 8 week break from school at the end of June.  Mid-term is only long enough for everyone to adjust to a new routine.  As soon as everyone gets down with the lazy, casual mornings, it’s time to switch back to the loud and crazy ones when we have to get up, ready and out for school.   This week was no exception.

There were lots of rows.   Tonnes of “what are we doing next?” questions.    Squillions of fights.   Doors were slammed.  Bad language was used.   By everyone.  Sometimes not even quietly.    One of the boys has the start of what will be a glorious bruise on the side of his face, just in time for Monday morning.      

C’est la vie.  

It’s still the most wonderful time of the year. I love a mid-term break; it always seems to arrive in the knick of time.   The kids are mentally tired of the daily routine so it’s a very welcome reprieve.  

We had a miserable April and at the time of writing, the sun was streaming in through the open back door, the floor warm under my feet and the smell of ginger snaps cooling in the kitchen.

I also rolled my eyes so hard and fast a moment ago, one eyeball might still be up under my eyebrow.    If I hear, “Mammy, he……………….” one more time I don’t know what I’ll do.   I have already tried to explain to them that I feel a little like a bottle of well shaken pop at the moment.   And asked for a little time to myself so I can clear my head of noise and thoughts and recharge my batteries.

It’s still the most wonderful time of the year.     My bathroom may have gone to hell this week.   I operate on a “clean as I go” basis.    I don’t allocate any one day for a job but I do like to keep an eye on one of the mankiest rooms in the house; the latrine.   With four boy humans using it hourly, it gets pretty disgusting pretty fast if I don’t keep up.   Mondays are my exception where I do get in there and clean it.    This Monday that didn’t happen.   It was a bank holiday which was excuse number one.    The second reason was we were out pretty much all day.   Third, mid-term.   This morning the results of my neglect could not be ignored any longer.    I live with disgusting boys!

It’s still the most wonderful time of the year.   We went swimming.  We had a picnic at “the small forest.”   There was loads of baking.  We went to the playground and Smallest Boy was delighted to see one of his buddies there.  Usually it’s the other way around and he was thrilled when his older brothers wanted to know who his friend was.   They pitched a tent in the back garden.   Cheaper by the Dozen held them rapt one evening and I joined them with a glass of wine. Hay fever has hit.   Not so good.   Arm pits are raw – if anyone knows why this happens, they might let me know.   His eyes are itchy and there are lots of sneezes first thing in the morning.   It always gets much worse before it improves before disappearing altogether.  The fact that we are surrounded by rapeseed oil fields only compounds the issue. 

It’s still the most wonderful time of the year.   It always is when you’re young and your whole life is ahead of you.   We don’t have major plans for the summer – there will be no aeroplane holidays or long weekends away.  We won’t be taking any full day trips anywhere.     Instead it will be two months of what we did this week.  It has been my experience that these are the memories that stay with them for ever over the bigger more expensive ones. I plan to stick to that as long as I can!

Wednesday 4 May 2016

The Power Cut

Power cut essential!
My letter box is an amazing thing; a myriad of items can arrive through it.    There was the time it gave birth to a load of books.  Once I received make-up.   Competition loot has also been known to “drop.”  Those are the best ones.  Money off coupons from the supermarket are always welcome.   I’ve gotten cards of every variety known to man; Christmas, birthday and voting cards.   

Then there’s the not so nice stuff.    The eye-watering bills, bank statements, the report cards of my youth and now those of my kids.   Sometimes dentist appointments arrive.   Audiology reminders, book lists from school.  This list could go on and on.  

Recently the mother of them all arrived.  Full of dates, times and reasons why we will be experiencing a power cut for an entire day.

During the week when the boys have a mid-term break from school.


Seriously?    Seriously?

I experienced a moment of terror before getting a grip.  My brain began to filter through the ramifications.   We’d have to eat cold food.   There will be no coffee.

There will be no coffee!   There will be no coffee!

What’ll the troops say when I tell them about Xbox?  They will have to make sure their PS 
Vita’s and DS’s are fully charged.

There will be no coffee!  There will be no coffee!

We won’t be able to watch TV.  I will not have access to the internet.    I will have to ensure my own computer is fully charged.

There will be no coffee!   There will be no coffee!


What on god’s green earth are we going to do?

I went to the google machine and typed in how to avoid killing your children when the electricity is gone “Ways to survive with children when there is a power cut.”

I knew it wasn’t the end of the world.  I could use it to my advantage and kick start the hand held device detox programme.   Great things can arise from boredom.

Also, I wouldn’t be able to cook.

The lack of coffee was bothersome though.

We just might have to go for a swim.  I did promise them a trip to the shops to pick out some shorts and t-shirts for the summer.   We could do that.   I’d be able to buy coffee if we did.   Hot, frothy coffee with chocolate dusted on top.  My favourite kind.

It wasn’t a question of trying to get on board with this.  The power cut was happening whether I liked it or not.


The day started out easy enough.   Breakfast was eaten, I made sure there we had plenty of water and as we were on the way for a swim everything went silent.   Well timed.   Very well timed.  We came back to the house for a short while, had a quick slice of Mister Husband’s birthday cake and without any prompt or suggestion, the boys went out to play on the trampoline.    I allowed myself a moment of warmth.

Gobshite that I am.

Four o’clock rolled round faster than I was able for and the energy levels had to be used up somehow.  What better way to do it than squabble, fight, argue and land the odd sneaky punch?

I was reduced to drinking coffee made from off the boil water out of a thermos.   My tolerance levels were low and the noise was high.

Tears, mine, were not too far away.

Then, as in the way in all the best movies, I had leapt to my feet, ready with a barrage of threats, each one more horrible and gruesome than the last when the radio came on

No-one noticed for a moment and then they scattered.   I ran for the kettle.   Smallest Boy bolted to secure the best seat in front of Netflix.  Two others dived onto hand held devices and the remaining one was left spinning in our wake!