Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

September 30, 2011

Playdates - The Rules

Play dates are funny things - they sort of creep up on you as you stumble and wobble your way through motherhood and I, for one, have never quite been sure of the rules. So, for what it's worth, here's what I've learnt over the years.

When your child is invited to a play date
1. Don't stay for a cup of tea when you drop your child off. The other parent doesn't really want you to stay anyway - even though they will ask - and you both know that you're planning a quick trip to the shops to take back that top you bought at the weekend, so make a run for it while the going's good.

2. Don't expect your child to eat anything sensible, speak or generally interact with the other parent in any way. They will simply make a beeline for the toy box/play room and won't emerge until it is time to go home.

3. Stay for a cup of tea when you go to collect your child. You won't be able to get them to come home with you anyway, so you might as well stay and have a chat to the other parent while you shout the occasional 'ten-minute-warning' up the stairs. This can take up to an hour.

4. Be prepared for tears and much prising of toys out of clenched fists when it is actually time to leave. Laugh it all off - you can be cross in the privacy of the car on the way home.

5. Enjoy the compliments the other parent gives you about how polite/kind/pleasant your child is, because within five seconds of getting into the car they will unleash a tirade of fury and exhaustion on you.

6. Expect your child to announce a list of all the amazing, cool toys their friend has and to complain relentlessly about the rubbish and 'lack of' toys they have themselves.

When hosting a play date
1. Plan a fun activity you can all do together like baking cookies, making rice krispie buns or decorating fairy cakes. You will enjoy doing it anyway, even if the children show absolutely no interest whatsoever until the eating part.

2. Keep the TV on standby for emergencies only i.e. when the 'play' part of the date seems to be causing more arguments and disagreements than anything else. This is when you calmly put a Scooby Doo DVD on and get everyone to sit quietly on the floor with a drink and a piece of fruit and retreat to the kitchen to make a nice cup of tea and congratulate yourself on how well the play date is going.

3. Don't expect the DVD/drink/fruit calmness to last for longer than five minutes. At this stage, one or another of the children will be bored of the DVD and will want you to help them finish their Lego spaceship or read them the entire encyclopedia of dinosaurs they have discovered.

4. Don't expect your children to necessarily entertain/play with their guests. They won't. You will.

5. Beware of the 'Last Few Minutes of Mayhem Syndrome' - even if the play date has been a great success and everyone has played brilliantly and the TV wasn't even needed and there were no arguments, you can guarantee that two minutes before the parent arrives to collect their child, all hell will break loose - someone will need a poo, the cat will puke on the carpet, your own children will start fighting, the guests will spill a drink all over themselves and the smoke alarm will go off. Smile and offer a cup of tea anyway and ruffle your child's hair affectionately as you fondly wave goodbye from the doorstep.

7. Be prepared to have serious words with your children as soon as everyone has left about how disappointed you were with their behaviour and that if they can't learn to share their toys they won't be able to have any more friends over. Most play dates will, inevitably, end in tears.

8. Spend the rest of the afternoon tidying up and eating the rest of the rice krispie buns.

So, now you know!


September 28, 2011

The one where I encounter a children's party entertainer

It started innocently enough. A general enquiry left on a mobile phone - 'I'm vaguely interested in hiring a children's entertainer for my son's party' - that sort of thing. Little did I know what dark and strange things I was meddling with.

The 'children's entertainer' in question - who shall remain nameless (in a Voldemort kind of way) returned my call. I should have suspected trouble the moment I answered the phone.

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii," she trilled into my ear. "It's blah blah, from blah blah blah. You left a message about our party planning service." Did I? "I'm just leaving an event - can you hear me on the speakerphone?" Unfortunately, yes. "So, how are you today?"

My hackles are already rising - she is WAY to happy to tolerate for more than five seconds. "Well, erm, I was just making a general enquiry about the costs really."

"Oh, well that's grrreeeeat. Fantastic. Isn't it a beautiful day?"

I now notice the time and realise I need to leave the house to collect my son. "I was really just wondering that the costs are," I say, as I start walking to pre-school.

"Well, we have several packages with several different pricing options, depending on the day, time, location, the specific entertainer, the age of your child, whether it is for a boy or a girl and whether you would like the full entertainment package or not. For boys our most popular packages are the Magician and Pirate."

"Well, we kind of wanted a Harry Potter theme and I really just wanted to....."

"Our full package is absolutely fantastic. The children absolutely love it. We can offer a full hour and a half of face painting, parachute games, disco dancing, balloon animals - in absolutely any shape, size or colour the children would like - what colour would your child prefer? And the best part of all - a MAGIC SHOW - because we truly believe that all children have extra special magic in their hands on their birthday." Her voice is now so enthusiastically high, I am surrounded by bats and dogs. "Isn't that wonderful!"

Just tell me the f***ing price lady.

"So, because you're outside Dublin it will be ten euros more than if you were in Dublin. If you choose the Friday it will be ten euros less than the Saturday and if you choose a time slot of 10am-12pm that will be ten euros less than at other times, which will be ten euros more if you;re in Dublin, but it will still be ten euros less if you choose the Friday rather than the Saturday and it will also be ten euros less on either day if you choose our newest entertainer, unless you live in Dublin in which case it will be ten euros more than you would be paying for an entertainer outside Dublin."

I failed my O'Level maths. All I am hearing is white noise. I turn my phone off.

All, ALL I wanted to know was how much it would cost for some fella to come to my house dressed up like Dumbledore, do a few magic tricks and disappear - as if by magic. Instead, I just spent possibly the most annoying, unnecessary, unhelpful fifteen minutes of my life.

Suffice to say, the hired entertainer idea has been ditched. It's far too complicated. Instead, I think Daddy will have to put on a wig, hide a few coins behind his ear and burst some balloon snakes. What more could a six year old possibly want anyway?

I think there is a moral in this tale - but the screeching lady has me so bloody confused, I'm not quite sure what it is.


September 22, 2011

I blog, therefore I am.



  • a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.
So, now you know what the official Oxford English Dictionary definition of a blog actually is.

But the what isn't usually the most asked question. It's the why. 'Why do you blog?' is what people really want to know when they look at you goggle-eyed over the bowl of kettle chips at someone's house party.

It's not an easy one to answer and sometimes I'm not even sure myself (as can frequently be seen in the ever-increasing gaps in my blog posts *slaps self on wrist and promises to do better*). But, even though my poor, long-suffering blog should probably be taken off to some sort of a Shelter for Neglected Blogs at this stage, I could never abandon it, walk away, switch off completely, because it's my little bit of space to write, rant, pontificate, practice using words like pontificate and generally 'connect' with other people who like to write, rant and all of the above.

This is by no means the first blog to question the why of blogging. Far from it - there is continual debate out there in the blogosphere about the 'why'? Funny that - how the act of blogging itself often becomes a reason to blog. And it isn't just the doubters and the nay-sayers and the blog conspiracy theorists (I don't actually think there are any of them, I just made that bit up) who ask why - it's the bloggers themselves. People like me. Bloggers.

Is it all a bit pompous, we ask? Are we bloggers just the annoying kid at school who strains their arm ever skywards in a desperate attempt to be picked to answer the question; the kid who revels in the 'show and tell' days - 'Look at me, Look at me!' we shout, 'I have something very important and astute to say.' Are we bloggers all just lying in the gutter, looking at the words of agreement and support in our comments boxes?

I don't think so.

In fact, I think blogging is just the same as anything else we choose to do in life. We do it because we enjoy it. We get a sense of satisfaction from it. We may do it to hone our skills as a writer (you wouldn't find Usain Bolt heading off to the Olymipcs without putting in a bit of practice somewhere first would you now). We may do it to build a profile, to 'showcase' our portfolio, to promote a book (oh yes, one day, it will be mine), or to simply have a space to say what's on our mind when a spiral-bound notebook and a distracted pre-schooler don't seem to be giving us quite the attention we feel we deserve.

Why blog? Why not.

This post was inspired by two other very interesting posts I've read this week about the point of blogging. They are written by Caren Kennedy here and Derek Flynn here.


September 6, 2011

Re-thinking the lunch box

So, we're 'Back to School' and the usual morning chaos/routine is in full swing. For the first hour of the morning, I rush around the house looking for clean pants and socks and bark random orders at my children. It's not the most relaxing way to start the day.

And every morning, despite my devout promises the previous night that I'll do something different for the boy's lunches the next day, standing there in the kitchen, half-dressed and half-asleep, all I seem to be able to manage is the same old boring cheese sandwich, something yoghurty, some form of dried fruit and some shrivelled-up grapes (just so the teacher thinks I'm at least aware of the need to provide your kids with '5-a-day').

So, when the Innocent people asked me if I'd like to be on their lunchbox panel, I gladly said 'Yes'. My lunchbox attitude is very much in need of an overhaul, and this seemed like a great way to start. So, armed with a new lunchbox to decorate, a set of the new Innocent magnet letters, some Innocent products and a large helping of enthusiasm, we set to work. Our lunchbox creation is pictured below. I kind of like him. According to my youngest, he is called 'Strawberry Bert'. Fair enough!

Inside our lunchbox we have: a wholemeal bread organic peanut butter 'heart' sandwich (ahhh), the obligatory grapes (un-shrivelled preferably), a pizza muffin (recipe below), a small pot of organic yoghurt and an Innocent smoothie. Yum. Other things we came up with for alternative lunchbox fillers were: unsalted cashew nuts, dried mango (looks awful but tastes delicious), wholemeal pitta bread as the basis for a sandwich and homemade museli bars (there's a great recipe for these in the Annabel Karmel 'You Can Cook' recipe book.

Pizza Muffins (recipe from Rozanne Stevens writing in Irish Independent)
Makes 12-16
300g self raising flour
80g melted butter
1 egg
250g natural yoghurt
50ml milk
1 cup grated mature cheddar
1tsp oregano
4 rindless bacon rashers - grilled and diced
4 spring onions finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers

Preheat oven to 200c. Line 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.
Mix the butter, yoghurt, milk, egg and oregano.
Sieve in the flour and barely mix.
Stir in cheese, spring onions, tomatoes/peppers and bacon. Don't overmix - leave lumpy.
Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 mins.

These can be frozen in freezer bags for up to 2 months.

So, with a little help from Innocent, I've made a great start on my new approach to the lunchbox. Whether I can maintain my lust for lunchbox life remains to be seen. To help all our lunchbox resolutions, Innocent will be hosting a Twitter party on Tuesday 13th September between 1 and 2pm. During this time, parents and Innocent will be discussing healthy eating tips for kids, focusing on lunchboxes and sharing ideas for getting fruit into packed lunches and discovering new ideas and recipes to give your lunchboxes a fresh start! Why not join in and add your own ideas @innocentdrinks

Innocent make a range of healthy, tasty (and fun) products for kids and their Smoothies for Kids, Fruit Tubes, as well as the newest addition to the family, Juicy Drinks(a blend pure fruit juice and spring water) make the perfect addition to school lunchboxes.

This is a sponsored post. Thank you to Innocent for the lovely lunchbox and yummy Innocent products.

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