And the ‘Most Absent Blogger’ Award Goes To….

I’d be a shoo-in for this if it were a thing.  Really.

I’ve been off the grid lately.  No excuses really – life just got really really busy, things started piling in on top of me, and other things had take a back seat… Like writing.  And once I’d left it for a while, it got pretty hard to pick it up and get going again!  But here I am…

So.  What’s the craic, I hear you say? (or not) Well, here’s the crib notes…

  • About 6 months ago I discovered some amazing products that have been nothing short of life changing around here.  It was a game changer for Naomi, and brought her from being 95% tube fed to sitting down and eating a Happy Meal with her sisters, within 48 hours.
  • I’ve also discovered just how much vitriol people have towards network marketing companies, even when they have amazing products that change a family’s life, almost overnight.
  • We had a death in the extended family, which was a huge blow and blindsided the whole family. R.I.P. Uncle Raymond. 🙁
  • We got to go on another Haven Holiday, this time to one of the parks in Scotland.  The girls fought constantly but had a great time.  And we managed to bring our laundry home this time. 🙂
  • We had a whole bunch of drama coming and going that I guess may be part and parcel of having 5 girls – nothing particularly blogworthy, but exhausting nonetheless.
  • Health has taken a bit of a battering, especially in relation to anxiety and mood.  For some reason this came as a bit of a surprise to me, even though, with everything else that was going on, it really shouldn’t have.  I seem to be getting on more of an even keel now, though.
  • Naomi got her surgery date for a gastrostomy, and, rather than a PEG, will be having a button device placed next Monday.  She’s come on leaps and bounds with eating, is probably about 50-50 with solids-tube feeds, but does still need help with getting enough fluids and calories into her, and this will be a massive help.  It will have its own challenges but at the same time it will remove a lot of obstacles that the NG brings at this stage.
  • The lease on our house is not being renewed in December (change in circumstances for the landlord as opposed to anything we’ve done) so we’re on the move again.

On the up side, we’re all still together and we’re all still talking to each other, and these ladies are still wonderful (even if a little bit crazy).

 

 

Absent Blogger image from Let Me Cross Over
Girls image… shamelessly stolen from my own Facebook page.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Overheard in Our House: First Blog Edition

Over on Facebook, every so often, I post something that one of our girls has said.  Such gems as #1 informing #2 that she had to be gentle with Daddy because he’s just a man…  Or when she said quite loudly that I was having lots and lots of vodka today, followed by “CAFFEINE!!!  I MEANT CAFFEINE!!”  Not forgetting the infamous “Doin’ lick a walls, Daddy” incident…

Well, today’s little gem came courtesy of #4.

This little lady stayed in bed a bit longer this morning as she doesn’t start nursery school until the afternoon.  She got up, came into the living room, and grinned at me.

“Good morning, Mummy. You look really cute when you’re in your clothes.”

Uhhhh…. thanks.  I think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tubie or Not Tubie… Any Questions??

Naomi has had a feeding tube since she was 13 months old.  Reactions have been mixed…  Some people are too afraid to ask questions but are itching to know more, and some people have meant well but come across as rude and unhelpful.

When it comes to our girl and her tube, I am always happy to answer questions that people may have, and don’t really tend to get offended easily.  People are curious, especially young kids, when they see her.  I can’t blame them, she’s a wee cutie with a gorgeous cheeky smile!

A recent shopping trip illustrated this perfectly.  As we navigated the aisles, Naomi flipping through a book I was buying for her and pointing out Peppa and all the gang, I heard a little boy (probably not much older than her) asking who I’m assuming was his granny, “What happened to that baby??”  I glanced round to see the woman shhh-ing him and ushering him away, as if she was contagious.  We passed her at least another 5 times as we worked our way around Asda, each time the little boy and Naomi smiled at each other and there might have been a little wave here and there, while the grandmother studiously avoided eye contact and was deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing.  On the flip side, another lady stopped us while we were simultaneously looking at yogurts and pointing at Madame Gazelle and Susie Sheep, and commented on the cute poncho that Naomi was wearing.  We struck up a brief conversation and it was all very pleasant.

I DON’T MIND when you ask questions!  I DO MIND when you act like an idiot.

I understand that you’re trying not to offend or be insensitive, but really, we’ve been through so much with this little lady to be getting our knickers in a twist about someone asking about the obvious.  And I put my big girl pants on this morning and everything!  So rather than making a song and dance about avoiding it, please just ask.  Please.

In saying that, here are some of the questions that people have asked us, for those of you who are curious…

This is probably a stupid question, but…

No.  It’s not.  You can’t be expected to automatically know about stuff like this and you won’t know unless you ask.

What’s wrong with her?

Nothing.  Except maybe a severe case of having everyone wrapped around her little finger. 😉

OK, so why does she have the tube?

She needs a bit of extra help with feeding and nutrition. It can be a common thing with preemies, especially micro preemies (born before 26 weeks or under 2lb) or those who had a rocky start.  Naomi was ventilated several times, plus spent 130 days in hospital, with all the sensory overload that comes with that.  Along with silent reflux, she has always had a tough time keeping up with the volume needed to keep her at a healthy weight.  This was fine when she was tube fed in hospital, but it became a daily struggle to keep her fed once we got her home.  Attempts at weaning were unsuccessful and only added to her oral aversion.  It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly — she had 8 months, 3 hospital stays, and at least 6 health professionals involved in the decision.  Recent conversations with her consultant have flagged the fact that it could be linked to cerebral palsy — something that we’re keeping an eye on because of the brain bleeds she had when she was born.

How long will she have it?

How long is a piece of string?  How long do we want her to stay alive?  Currently, it is providing about 90% of her daily intake of food and drink.  She has come on in leaps and bounds, especially over the last month or two, and is willing to try all sorts of things, but not in sufficient quantities to indicate that the tube can be ditched any time soon.  In fact, given that she’s had it for about 16 months now and it’s only meant to be a short term thing, she’s currently on the waiting list for a gastrostomy, where they will insert a PEG tube directly into her tummy.

Why are you letting them cut her? She doesn’t need that PEG thing, she’ll be fine!

Agreeing to PEG surgery is not something we’re just jumping into.  As I said, the NG tube is only meant to be short term and she’s already had it for well over a year.  By the time surgery comes around, it could be another year anyway (by which stage she might not even need it anymore – but better to be on the list than not).  The benefits of having a PEG certainly outweigh any risks of surgery.  When she doesn’t need it anymore, it can be removed, so it’s not a permanent thing by any means.  But it’s becoming more and more evident that these issues, while they are improving, are going to take a lot more time than we’d have liked, so a medium term solution is certainly preferable to a short term one.  While the NG tube has been a positive game changer for our family, it is not without its downsides.

Like what?

We have tried several types of tape and it reacts to her skin after a while.  As a result, we have to switch sides regularly to ensure that her poor cheeks don’t get too sore.  While passing the tube is a skill that I’m glad to have acquired (as it saves so many hospital visits), it is something that I will never enjoy doing and it breaks my heart a little more each time.  The mental/emotional trauma for our girl, having to be pinned down, is awful to watch.  Some days she is so brave and doesn’t cry or complain, which makes life easier for me as the job is done quickly, but that look of resignation on her face makes those times harder than when she is kicking and screaming.  Sometimes we have to have one of her big sisters hold her hands and talk/sing to her while we do the necessary.  No child should ever have to help hold their baby sister down while they have something shoved down their nose.

Can you not just give her <insert food or drink here>?

Believe me, we have tried.  She will have tastes of just about anything you put in front of her, but not in sufficient quantities as to warrant us ditching the tube.

Did you try <insert further suggestion here>?

Yes.  Yes we did.  And that too.  And the other thing you were about to suggest.

But she ate that banana…

Yes, and she’ll eat another one next week.  She cannot manage the volume of food and drink needed to give her sufficient calories to maintain her weight and keep her hydrated.

Oh look!  She doesn’t have the tube in!  Does that mean…?

No, it doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.  It simply means she has pulled it out, it came out when she vomited or I took it out to give her skin a break, and I haven’t re-passed it yet.  Believe me, if she had picked up enough with the food and drink that I could remove it for good, you would have heard me shouting it from the rooftops already.

Can’t you just take it out and see how she gets on without it?

Sure.  And then the nurse can put it back in when she is hospitalised for dehydration and malnutrition and we’ve got Social Services knocking on our door.

What happens if she pulls it out?

We put it back in again.

Oh I could never do that….

When the alternative is bringing her to the hospital and waiting for a nurse to do it for you, it’s amazing what you can do.  I know it’s not for everyone, but I am definitely glad we are able to do it ourselves, however unpleasant it is.

So, tube feeding is all really easy and straightforward then.

Well, yes and no.  It certainly makes our lives easier, knowing that our girl isn’t going to starve!  But it makes things immeasurably more difficult in other ways too.

You just have to connect the tube to a pump and press a button, no?

No.  First you have to check that the tube is still where it is meant to be by checking her aspirate (fastening a syringe to the end of the tube and drawing out some of what’s in her tummy, then testing the PH).  If it’s still in her tummy, this will be acidic – stomach acid and all that.  If it’s not, then it could be water left sitting in the tube.  You have to be 100% sure that the tube hasn’t moved because if it isn’t still in her tummy and you start pumping milk into her lungs or something, it could be disastrous.

After checking the aspirate, the tube has to be flushed with water to clean it out.  Then it is hooked up to the feeding pump by something called a giving set.  We use a fresh one of these with every feed, so you can imagine the amount of boxes we have around the house at any given moment!  The volume of feed is set and the rate at which it is delivered, then the milk is fed through the giving set until it reaches the end.  At this point it is fastened onto the NG tube (otherwise you’d be pumping air into her stomach) and set to run.

When Naomi is getting a feed, we need to watch her closely for signs of distress or discomfort.  If the rate is too high, it might mean the feed is finished sooner but it is also more likely to upset her stomach and cause her to vomit.  Not so much now, but for the first few months we also had to be ready to jump in and stop her from pulling it out mid-feed!  If that happens, mission aborted, you have to leave it for a half hour minimum before putting it down again.  Great fun.

There are so many things that can (and sometimes do) go wrong which make things more work than what’s involved in a non-tubie child.  Nipping out for a quick shopping trip has to be carefully timed.  We are perpetually late for EVERYTHING because no matter what time we plan to leave, she will inevitably throw up half of her bottle as we’re about to walk out the door.  An overnight/weekend trip involves so much extra packing and lots of anxiety about forgetting the charger for the pump!  But overall the benefits outweigh the negatives, as our crazy kiddo has come on in leaps and bounds since the NG became a part of the furniture.

The tube spoils her beautiful face.

No.  No, it does not.  Her face is beautiful and nothing spoils it, ever.  End of.

Someday she’ll just decide to eat and that will be that.

This is all a load of nonsense.  Just put the food in front of her and let her eat it.

I may have my big girl panties on and am not easily offended, but honestly, what a way to completely discount everything our girl has been through in the last couple of years!  Like with everything else, Naomi is marching to the beat of her own drum and is doing things in her own time.  She may not tick the typical toddler boxes or meet your expectations but nor would we want her to.  She is an amazing wee girl who has worked hard to overcome everything that’s been thrown at her.  She’s not just a fussy eater or stubborn or…. well, okay, maybe she is, lol!  But there are very real issues that she’s been working through and she has taken massive strides to overcome.  Let’s not let the best be the enemy of the good, and let’s look at what she has achieved rather than where she’s “failing”.

Hopefully that has given a few answers to some of your burning questions!  Anything else you’d like to know?  Leave a comment or shoot me a message and I’ll do my best to answer.

 

All images are either mine or public domain.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Surprised by Joy

It has been a busy few months around here — mind you, when is it not busy for us?  I have had several posts maturing in my head, getting married and settling down to have baby and grandbaby posts, yet not actually getting to the point of being written…  The net result being a sadly neglected blog.  Oh well.  It’s 3rd January.  Or January 3rd, if you prefer.  New year, new start?!  (I’ll not mention the fact that my new start involved having to change 1st to 2nd  and then to 3rd because procrastination.  AHEM.)

At this time of year, a lot of people tend to post a review of their year and new year’s resolutions, that kind of thing.  In a lot of ways, our year, quite frankly, was hell on wheels and I don’t see the benefit in rehashing all that.  Though there was that one time that God bought us a car!  Now, THAT was pretty cool!  And I’m not even joking!!  And our first family trip outside of Ireland!  And then the millions of other times that we found ourselves on the receiving end of some unexpected grace which helped keep us focused on what really matters.

One of the highlights of 2018 for me was the opportunity to attend the first ever international Blessed Is She Wild retreat in Dublin back in November.  I booked the ticket several months earlier before I could talk myself out of it, and I’m so very glad that I did.  In addition to catching up with a lot of old, dear friends, I made a bunch of new ones, plus got to actually meet some online ones.  It was a Friday evening and all day Saturday where I didn’t have to be Mummy for a little while, didn’t need to change nappies or brush hairs or line up NG feeds and test aspirates… and while I felt a bit lost without my little sidekick (and perhaps a little guilty for abandoning The Old Progenitor to fly solo with all 5 of the crazies), it was certainly a well needed break from the craziness of everyday life.

On the Saturday, Beth Davis, who was one of our wonderful speakers and a part of the BIS team, mentioned the concept of choosing a word for the year.  I’ve heard of people doing this before but never really felt the desire to do so — it’d just be another thing to decide to do, then forget and fail miserably at before the end of the first month.

Anyway.  I was mulling this over and thinking of examples of words that would work as a word for the year.  Like: Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience…  Right, now we’re starting to sound like we’re 11 years old again and listing off the 7 Gifts and 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit in preparation for our Confirmation…. or is it 9 Gifts and 7 Fruits?  And aren’t they all really cheesy options anyway??  But sure, this whole word of the year thing is really cheesy and I don’t think I’ll bother with it.  But if I diiiid…. I guess I could go for something like Joy…

 

Of course, you know how it goes.  Once I decided not to go for it and absolutely positively not to pick the word JOY, I started seeing JOY everywhere.

Like, it started to get a bit ridiculous.

We still had a couple of weeks of December left and that word started following me around.

So, I guess I’ve got my word for the year then.  And y’know what?  I’m happy enough with that.

Even if it is a bit cheesy.

Pics are either mine or fair game.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Girl Who Will

I’ve posted before about our youngest daughter, Naomi.  Born prematurely at 26 weeks, she had a very rough start.  Between underdeveloped lungs and a massive bleed on both sides of her brain, we were told to expect the worst.  On day one, we were told it was unlikely she would make it to day two.  If she did, she would be the Girl Who Wouldn’t.  She wouldn’t be able to walk or talk, wouldn’t live a “normal” life (whatever that is), wouldn’t even make eye contact.  The brain bleeds were so devastating that we were looking at permanent brain damage and profound disabilities.

Naomi didn’t get that memo.

First of all, she became the Girl Who Lived.  Granted, it took 3 doses of surfactant, some scary machinery, lots of oxygen, steroids and some very hairy moments, but she lived.  Her lungs grew stronger and she moved (eventually, after several false starts) from the horrible oscillator to regular ventilation to CPAP to high flow to low flow to…. home.

Then it became clear that the Girl Who Wouldn’t was rapidly becoming the Girl Who Would.  Or rather, Would, Could and most definitely Will!

She has taken her time with some of her milestones, but has made steady progress and has proven time and time again that she will only work on her own schedule, not anyone else’s.

Last week, we celebrated Naomi’s second birthday.  For someone who wasn’t going to live, she’s certainly done very well on that front.  The day after her birthday, two years to the day when we were told that she would never do it, she decided to take her first unaided steps.  She will only walk when she feels like it, and won’t perform unless she wants to, because…. of course she will.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blowing The Whistle

It’s impossible to ignore the stories that have come out over the last while; and nor should we.  Sweeping the problem of abuse under the Church’s great big carpet has done nothing except allow it to fester, and this particular boil is one that should have been lanced a long time ago.  In recent weeks, the extent of the corruption has started to see the light of day.  There’s been a lot of commentary and discussion, and I don’t have the time or the energy to get caught up in it all (or dragged down by it all, as the case would probably be).

These are dark and difficult days for those of us who consider ourselves faithful Catholics but, as a Lay Dominican, I hold on to one of our mottos – Veritas.  Truth.  That is what we seek, and the Truth shall set us free.

I’d like to share my friend’s thoughts on the matter.  She posted this on Facebook a couple of days ago and I thought it gave a good insight.  So here is her post, shared with permission.

I was a whistle blower once.

It was concerning a very vicious bullying ring. The situation ended going to the very top. Though I wasn’t one of the main victims of this bullying (though they did try), it was a matter of justice for me because I was in a supervisory position and knew I was resigning immediately after my upcoming maternity leave. I could not leave the place in the state I found it where numerous adults could not go on holiday because their entire annual leave was being used up on days they were afraid to come to work. The bullies were in a position to dictate who got promoted and who didn’t. It wasn’t top down bullying, it was a ‘team’ spreading across positions suffocating anyone who wasn’t in favour.

It was just before laws and guidelines started to be put in place regarding bullying so I had no protections over and above that what I was saying was truth.

I thought I had convinced the victims to write their testimonies but as soon as I opened the case every single one backed out for fear I’d be unsuccessful and their lives would be even worse. So I did it alone. I can say it was the single most unpleasant experience of my life. Driving to work each day my hands could barely hold the wheel because of the sweat that would break out on approaching my workplace which was adjacent to the headquarters of the organisation branch. Nobody bar one guy would talk to me for months: the bullying cohort out of rage and everybody else out of fear. Even the union representative, whose job it was to protect these victims, who didn’t even work anywhere near me told me to only speak to him at home on his phone because he was afraid to be seen talking to or meeting with me. So I worked alone, ate alone and spoke to nobody.

The investigation spread out across multiple workplaces. I ended up meeting with the head of the entire organisation to give details. Since I had no documents and nobody would confirm or deny because of fear it was exactly my word v silence. My only lucky break was that the 2nd in command who sat in on the meeting knew my parents and family well and could vouch for me as well as my own immediate superior who was humble enough to admit that she had depended on a certain person, chief bully, as advisor regarding important issues.

Looking back I am thankful that social media didn’t exist back then, most people had barely heard of the internet. Because even then, every possible scrap of information about me, my family, my history was hunted down and circulated. Lies about me were commonplace and several times I had to go to high places to put those lies right. Had social media been there at the time I have little doubt what would have happened.

Anyway, to cut a (very) long story short the situation ended up being resolved, a result of which I am very proud. However, my memory of my work is so unpleasant it is the reason I NEVER identify as what my job was.

The reason I’m writing this is because of the current situation. Don’t believe character assassinations, don’t jump to take any sides. The only thing matters is TRUTH. Truth must out. Only TRUTH will set us free.

Being a whistleblower is a horrible horrible lonely road and I don’t wish it on anyone. Pray for all involved, someone is lying because it is impossible for all the versions to be true. Pray especially for whoever that is. Lies are a sticky web which ends up entrapping the web spinner. And on top of that, these ‘men of God’ will have to answer to God. Better to answer in this life.

 

Photo credits:
Whistleblower image.
Hard Conversation image.
Loneliness image.
Lies image.
Set Free image.
Veritas image is mine.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We don’t like to air our dirty laundry in public…

 

(… We prefer to leave it in a different country instead.)

A.K.A. What we learned on holiday.

Not long ago we returned from our first family holiday; 4 nights in Hafan y Mor holiday park followed by a couple of nights visiting my saintly mother in law in Dublin. It was certainly an experience! Mostly good, thank God, but there were a few hairy moments thrown in there as well. Only to be expected when travelling with a bunch of small kids, I guess. (Or only to be expected when travelling with me and the Old Progenitor, truth be told…)

In the lead up to our trip, everything seemed to be going wrong. Our car was sounding like a tractor and we didn’t have the chance to have it looked at before we left. Pretty sure cars aren’t supposed to sound like tractors… But we had to resign ourselves to making sure we had decent breakdown cover instead and taking our chances that in the absence of flashing red lights on the dashboard, it could wait until we got back. Then the brake lights stopped working the day before we left. Both of them. At 4:30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Because OF COURSE THEY DID. We managed to find a Halfords that was open and they were able to sort it out — thank goodness it wasn’t anything more serious than just needing a couple of bulbs. (This may or may not have been caused by our car maybe bumping into a certain neighbour’s car, causing a big dent and a broken wing mirror that is costing a stupid amount of money to fix… Maybe. But I couldn’t possibly comment.)

On top of all this, the washing machine stopped working. My wonderful mother helped us out of a great big hole by washing, drying and folding several billion loads of laundry for us so that we’d actually have clean clothes for going away (and my wonderful mother-in-law did likewise when we were at her house), while we learned that it was beyond economical repair, that the landlord had no intention of replacing said machine, and that, due to the country practically shutting down for The Twelfth, we had no hope of getting a new one sorted before we left. The icing on this particular cake was that the landlord wanted to come over and paint the deck while we were gone, and had said that he intended in performing an inspection of the house while he was there…. So we had to leave the place inspection ready.

So, off we went, safe in the knowledge that broken washing machines, piles of dirty laundry, car insurance companies and dodgy sounding cars would all be here when we got back. And they were…. Well, mostly.

Here’s what we learned from the experience:

1. Checklists are brilliant. I was freaking out a little (okay, a lot) about forgetting something – particularly something that couldn’t be easily replaced (like the charger for the feeding pump)… So I had a great big checklist to help with the packing. Still forgot stuff, of course, but at least I had the charger, so Naomi didn’t starve.

2. Checklists only get you so far. You have to remember to put your packed stuff into the car. This ties in with my next point…

3. Always, ALWAYS check behind the door. You never know what you’ve left behind it until you look. On the way over, we almost forgot the formula and giving sets (basically the wherewithal to feed our youngest for the entire time we were away) but thankfully we looked behind the door and spotted them, just before we locked up the house behind us.

4. You really do not want to be feeding a family of seven on the ferry. Overpriced much?! I’m still in shock at having spent £60 on teeny portions of food that didn’t actually taste that great. And that’s without spending £2.40 per soft drink (I figured we wouldn’t die of thirst in the time it took to go back to the car).

5. The Mini Markets in the Haven Holiday Parks are surprisingly reasonably priced, though. But you probably still want to swing by Tesco or somewhere on your way and grab some supplies.

6. Don’t get too many supplies though. You may be full of good intentions of cooking x, y and z but you’re more likely to be throwing it out or bringing it home at the end of the week. Because life is too short and you’ll be too tired.

7. Don’t try to squeeze in too many activities. At the end of the week you will barely have scratched the surface of what’s there, and by the end of day one you’ll be planning next year’s trip anyway. The kids will be just as happy playing on the swings while the 3 year old takes a nap (napping the 3 year old is a crucial part of any trip).

8. It’s amazing how much (time and money) you can spend in the amusement arcades, even in 2ps. And it’s amazing how much sand will get everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.

9. Nobody is staring at you in that swimsuit and thinking how terrible you look. Put it on, get in the pool, have a good time.

10. 4 nights is not anywhere near long enough to take in that gorgeous part of the world. You’re just going to have to go back. And you’ll probably still forget something, get sticker shock on the boat, buy too much food for the apartment and eat out all the time. But you’ll create more great memories with your family and all will be well.

 

And one last thing:

11. Remember #3, about checking behind the door? Yeah. Recheck. Otherwise your laundry may be having an extra long stay in Wales and may need to be collected by a friend and shipped back to you.  Ahem.

 

It’s one way of dealing with the broken washing machine, I guess.

 

 

 

Photo credit: JULZTphotography on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Other pics belong to me. Please don’t use without permission.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Raising girls with a healthy self-image

Like a gazillion other people in the world, I have low self esteem. There. I said it. It’s not just for teenage girls, apparently. I posted before about legacies, but this is a “legacy” that I do NOT wish to pass on to my children…. And I’m having to puzzle out how to avoid doing just that.

A little while ago, our gorgeous, talented, intelligent niece graduated from university. Omi and I tagged along for the day, had the nicest strawberries ever (would have been strawberries, shortbread and a cup of tea, but it was way too hot for tea, I dropped my shortbread on the ground while negotiating a narrow space with a buggy, bunch of flowers and the aforementioned food items, and the staff didn’t seem too interested in replenishing my plate), avoided getting sunburnt, and in general had a really lovely day.

Then came the pictures. I didn’t want to be in any of them. Not because I don’t love my niece to little pieces and wasn’t bursting with pride about sharing her big day with her, but the internal record player/cassette player/CD player/MP3 player/audio streaming service (take your pick) was playing the usual broken record/scratched CD/corrupt file/you get the point. I don’t have a colour in my hair and it’s really grey at the moment, I am stressed and have broken out in cold sores, I’m tired and bloated and not feeling great, I haven’t been eating properly and have put on weight, etc etc etc. I did take a selfie with her at one stage, with the intention of it being just for me, yet it ended up on Facebook (cheers, Lauren) to a chorus of mumbling and grumbling from me.

Fast forward a few days later, we decided to take the kids out for a bite to eat. Unanimous decision, we ended up in Pizza Express. Lovely meal, great company, though a little bit embarrassing when Naomi reduced a busy restaurant to complete silence by pulling her sister’s dinner onto the floor and breaking the plate in the process. The Old Progenitor whipped out his phone and took a few pics from around the table. Again, the broken record started playing in my head — don’t take a picture of me, I’m looking terrible, etc etc. He did, and he shared it, I cringed, he took it down again. He asked me if he could take another one that I’d be happier with, so I put my game face on and smiled… He posted that and it got a whole bunch of likes and positive comments. The only person seeing the cold sores and grey hairs and was me. One individual commented “Supermom” (I was wearing a Superman t-shirt) which, given how amazing that particular lady is, I took as a huge compliment. However, never letting a nice word pass without a disparaging comment to go along with it, I replied with “Super tired!”, which elicited the response “Which just goes to show how great you are at pulling it all together!”

This whole exchange got me thinking about how we are our own worst critics. The lens in which we view ourselves can be like one of those warped mirrors, giving a distorted picture of who we are. Certainly the reflection that we see does not match up with what others see in us.

When #2 was learning to talk, she came over to me one day, climbed up on my lap and said “Mama boopiloo!” She didn’t see the bags under the eyes from lack of sleep, didn’t think I was fat and needed to hide under a baggy t-shirt, she just saw her Mummy and thought her Mummy was beautiful.

A very wise friend taught me that we cannot always depend on our feelings to indicate how things really are. “Just because you feel it doesn’t make it fact” has become a well uttered phrase around here. Feelings come and go, and how I felt last week isn’t the same as how I feel today. How I felt this morning before I had coffee is certainly not how I feel now! So, at times I might feel really fat and ugly, but it doesn’t mean it’s a fact. In all honesty, I do need to lose weight in order to be fit and healthy (and I’m working on it), I owe it to my family to look after myself, but a number on a scale or a size on an item of clothing do not determine who I am or my self worth.

I guess half the battle is recognising the lies we tell ourselves and acknowledging them for what they are. It’s hard to change something if we don’t know what it is we’re trying to change. So, that’s step one. I’ll let you know if I figure out the rest.

One of my favourite pics of my aunt was a #nomakeup #nofilter not-looking-her-best picture, taken maybe a year before she died. It’s one of the few pics I have of her when she was battling cancer, and I don’t care that she wasn’t all dolled up and worried that “people will talk”. I’m too busy looking at her smile and how kind she looked, the fun we had the day it was taken and how, 12 years after her passing, these beautiful photos and beautiful memories are what we treasure.

Maybe someday after I’m gone, our girls will look at those pics from Pizza Express and think “Mama boopiloo”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We’re all going on a summer holiday

 

So, it’s summer time. The girls have been off school for two weeks now (45 days to go, not that I’m counting or anything…) so we’ve already had two weeks of fun, frolics and…. f….ighting. Okay, they haven’t been that bad! (sometimes)  We’ve been in the middle of a heatwave (by Irish standards — I can hear the collective bless-your-hearts from here) and nobody has been sleeping well which never helps. But we’ve got a bucket list to complete and 45 more days to complete it, so we better get a move on. I’m a mama on a mission.

The main item on our list is our first family break since February 2016’s little stay in a cottage on the Causeway Coast. It rained and rained, and then rained some more, but we had a blast all the same, and the girls are still talking about it.  The last few years have been a total washout, sometimes literally. Summer 2015, the weather was absolutely pants! It just rained incessantly (bit of a running theme here, no?) and we couldn’t really go anywhere or do anything worth talking about. I bought new swimsuits for the three bigger girls that year and never got to use them — in fact, I just took them out of their packaging yesterday, happy to see they are the right size for numbers 2, 3 and 4 for this summer.  (Side note… Does anyone know if you can use sun cream that expired 3 years ago? Asking for a friend, needless to say.)

By 2016, I had returned to work after maternity leave for #4. And was pregnant with #5. (Yip. They just loooooooved me.) I had umpteen health issues going on, massive stress at work just to top it off, and by the middle of the summer I was on sick leave then hospital bed rest. We got a couple of little day trips that year — our girls were easy pleased, when a drive followed by a quick jaunt on the Strangford Ferry (which two of them slept through) constitutes a grand day out.

Then 2017 brought the anxiety of not wanting to go anywhere with a little one with a compromised immune system, a gazillion health issues (her and other family members), feeding and weight problems, hospital stays and an NG tube… Plus lots of grief over a bunch of trees and facing eviction (Ugh. Long story.) Oh, and no money to do anything anyway, lol!

So. 2018 brings nicer weather, by the looks of it. For now, anyway. We’ll probably get rain at some point or another but hey, it’s Ireland, rain is what we do best. Some things have changed — I’ve left work and we’ve moved house, for starters — and others haven’t changed — we’ve still got Little Miss Complex Needs (though I might be a lot less anxious about her now), we still have the NG tube, we’re still skint, and our girls still think the Strangford Ferry is the best thing since sliced bread.

One thing’s for sure, our family has been through the ringer over the last couple of years, and it’s taken its toll on all of us. Kids included. So when Naomi qualified for a grant from the Family Fund, we jumped at the chance to have a family break. After a lot of back and forth on what options were out there, we booked a few nights in North Wales in a Haven Holiday Park. And then thanks to a bit of jiggery pokery with search engines and Tesco Clubcard vouchers, we booked the ferry to Holyhead. Can you imagine what the reaction will be on that trip, for girls who think a teeny tiny car ferry is the bees knees?! There’s lots to do at the Park itself, both indoors and outdoors (so the rain shouldn’t bother us too much — though this is Wales, not Ireland… Do they do rain in Wales?!) and the girls are getting really excited about going swimming and doing all sorts. We’re tired just thinking about it. But overall I think the chance to regroup and hang out together is what we’re looking forward to most. That, and giving the girls some good memories of summer holidays to carry with them.

Of course we’ll still have all those other weeks too, with working on toilet training #4 (oh JOY!!!!) in anticipation of starting Nursery and all sorts on the agenda.

I’m sure we’ll be able to squeeze in a quick trip on the Strangford Ferry too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Family Legacy

On this, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, I am finding myself reflecting on one of the most influential women in my life and the legacy that she left behind.

My Granny Marie was a wonderful woman. With a gazillion children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was a matriarch in so many ways. I remember I used to be fascinated that she could list off all of the family members in order of age, often with their birthdays as well, up until some of the younger great-grandchildren started arriving and the list got too long to keep up.

The whole extended family was centered around her home, a little 3 bedroom bungalow in the countryside, where you went in through the back door, straight into the kitchen, and you might be treated to some culinary delights. There was “gleen glanny gloop” (with or without a spud thrown in for good measure), the best apple tart in the country (yes, apple TART, not apple pie), banana sandwiches, sugar pieces, the best toast (I don’t know why but toast made in Granny’s house was just…. different, somehow), all washed down with “two sups” of tea. At the right time of year, you might find yourself going home with one of her infamous cakes (with or without “curns”) — underappreciated and now, in her absence, sorely missed.

I have memories of the stools she had in her kitchen, round foamy seats covered in leather and metal legs. I’d turn them upside down and sit on them, navigating the stormy seas of the kitchen floor in this makeshift boat. The kind of activity that I’d probably give out to my own daughters for doing, yet making such fond memories that I still think about now. In later years, I remember sitting in the same kitchen, listening to Granny as she shared stories of her childhood, the Blitz, meeting Granda, and lots more. Some of these tales were harrowing, like the death of her little brother as they played on the streets of Belfast, hiding under the stairs with her family as the bombs fell; yet these were told in a very matter-of-fact way. She was a strong lady, they were different times, and you just got on with things. Other memories were funny; hearing the origin of some of the sayings that had found their way into family folklore (like “DO NOT. LET HIM. GET THE MILK!”), all delivered with that wonderful laugh of hers, as she threw her head back in amusement.

As well as a host of stories and interesting food, another thing that you couldn’t miss about Granny was her faith. She was utterly devoted to her family but was equally devoted to God. Walk from the kitchen into the living room and you could see that. Among the various family photos around the walls, you would see the Sacred Heart, pride of place, with the names of her children written underneath. This same image is now displayed in my own home, as it was passed on to me, partly because I asked for it, and partly because I was the one in the family who was “into all that stuff”. 😉

One of my funniest memories of Granny was when I called in to visit her on my way home from uni one day, and noticed something lumpy sitting in her front garden as I drove my scooter down the driveway and parked up in the yard. When I asked her about it, she said not to worry, that was just the Child of Prague. She had put Him outside in the garden to get good weather for such-and-such’s granddaughter’s First Holy Communion the next day. Only, in true practical fashion, she had put Him in a plastic bag so He wouldn’t get wet!

As she shared her memories with me, the faith was brought into things at every turn — instead of dates, important memories were anchored to feast days and holy days, Churches were used as landmarks to set the scene, her seven children each had saints names that held meaning for her.  She told me she prayed for everyone daily, by name, and at one point she would have said all 15 decades of the Rosary (occasionally 20) every day.  In her final days, there were times when family members noticed that her lips were moving in a rhythmic fashion — praying for her family and friends, even then.

Granny passed away on 7 January 2013 (the feast day of St Raymond of Peñafort OP, as I’m sure she would like to have noted) and life simply hasn’t been the same since. Not that it has been all bad, just that it’s not what it was. There are some people whose passing leaves too big a hole to get over, and, like many others, our family has had more than our fair share of grief over the years. But, like Granny herself, we just get on with things. And she has stayed with us over the last 5 years — an unsettled baby calming down upon hearing “Sweet Heart of Jesus”, seeing my own mother pull a particular facial expression or come out with something that Granny would have said, hearing the words “Ask your Mummy does she forget where I live…” 😉

And sure enough, as time goes on I see myself turning into my mother, just as she is turning into hers. But unlike when I was a teenager and the thoughts of that would have horrified me, I’ve come to learn that this is no bad thing.  Anything but. It’s a legacy, I guess. Whether that takes the form of passing on the baton of faith to the next generation, rocking a child on your knee as you sing “Shush Wee Toady” (to the tune of Stabat Mater, no less) or knowing how to make a lovely pot of “gleen glanny gloop” in the depths of winter, it’s a legacy that I’m happy to be party to. And hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll do as good a job at passing on that legacy of faith, family and love to my own girls as my mother and grandmother did.

 

Pics are all mine.  Please don’t use without permission.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment