The End of One Chapter leads on to a New One

I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.

These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…

They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.

Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.

They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.

Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.

It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.

And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.

Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.

Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.

And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.

M XXX

Calling Covid Out

Last week was a bumpy one.

Not only was it the girls’ first week back at school and my first week back at work, but it was also the week where we were stopped in our tracks… by a cough. 

On Tuesday morning, one of the girls woke having developed a stuffy head-cold and nasty cough.  It was quite a sudden onset and so, because there’s this global pandemic happening and we’re all now conditioned to panic at snuffles and splutters (that would once upon a time not even have raised an eyebrow), I rang the doctor. 

Long story short, Doc referred her for a test. We all started to self isolate at home. I rang work.  I rang school to let them know.  We waited for the appointment.  We went to have her tested. We went home.  She went to bed, still dosed with what I knew was a typical headcold… and we waited for the result on Wednesday, which, thank the powers above, was NEGATIVE. 

But try as we did to remain calm until we HAD to panic…the panic and “what’ ifs” did set in.  

What if it’s positive?

What if she gets more sick?

What about her sister?

What about her school friends?

What about my work?

What about my colleagues?

What about our business?

What will people say?

IF she had it, who was to blame? 

Where did she get it?

What did we do wrong?

And that was when I stopped myself in my own spiralling train of destructive thoughts and slapped myself out of the panic. 

We did nothing wrong and no one was to blame.

This virus is dreadful.  It’s frightening and it’s impacted us all in ways that will take years for us to fathom. 

But it is a virus that we have to learn to live with. To live beside. 

The vast majority of us are being cautious.  We’re being careful.  We’re aware of the constant danger. And yet we’re trying to go about our lives as normally as we can.  

So whose fault is it if one of us contracts the virus?

Why do we automatically start to attribute blame?  Why is needing a test or testing positive automatically equated to irresponsibility?

Unfortunately, picking up this virus is as easy as catching a flu, or chicken pox, or head lice.  The difference is, when we catch one of the viruses that we’re USED to, we deal with it, look after ourselves and try to get better.  I’m not comparing or demeaning the virus by the way.  Covid is deadly. No one wants it. I’m simply leading to my next point.  

Along with the threat of or the diagnosis of covid, comes a strange guilt; a worry about what people will say? A stigma.

Because the person diagnosed is deemed responsible for any ripple effect diagnosis around them. 

And none of us wants to be the person who starts a covid ripple.

So I’m calling Covid Out… because we all have enough to be dealing with right now, without piling on another level of shame or guilt or whatever you want to call it. 

  If you need a test, get a test.  If you need to self isolate, don’t be embarrassed or worried.  Just be responsible and do it. 

We need to talk about it, because with schools reopened and typical back-to-school snuffles and colds coming at us fast, there’s a good chance that most houses are going to have to use the phrases “Covid test” or “self isolating” in the next few weeks.

  There will be days missed from school.  There will be days missed from work.  The ripple effect of one person in a household needing a test is something that until it hit OUR house last week, I honestly hadn’t thought about. 

But for those 36 hours I had nothing to do BUT think about it.  I didn’t sleep a wink, until we had the results.  And most of my worry was about other people; my parents, his parents, my Granny, my colleagues, her friends… it didn’t bear thinking about, and yet we had no choice BUT to think about it.

 Covid19 and the shitstorm we have been through this past 6 month, has exacerbated our anxieties and worry.  But as parents, we need to know that people getting tested and indeed testing positive is NOT something to criticise or gossip about.  And none of us know if and when we’ll be in that situation ourselves. 

So be kind.  Stay out of the whispered conversations about who has been tested, or who is off work, or who has left school suddenly.  Don’t get involved in hushed speculations about where JacintaNancy down the road picked it up, or where John Joe was last week that he might have gotten it.   Being judgemental is another virus in itself. 

If you or your kid need tested, don’t worry.  It’s a quick process and while it’s uncomfortable, it’s over in 5 seconds.  Here is the cartoon that another friend (who was going through the exact same thing with his kid) sent me.  It really helped and is worth saving.

hse.ie

I also have all of the stories saved in a highlight on my Instagram if anyone wants to watch.

And if you do find yourself going for the test, I hope it all comes back negative and that you are all OK. 

Call Covid out…

 Because it’s stressful enough being a parent in the current climate and we need to support each other through it all. 

M x

Mammy Vs Múinteoir…Back to School.

Maria the Mammy…

Nope. 

Not a hope. 

Not sending them ANYWHERE NEAR schools. 

Need to keep them safe.

Can’t control things when they’re away from me.

Fuck the government and their ineptitude.

I don’t want them to be away from me.

I don’t want them to be frightened or worried or scared by anything.

I don’t want to think about how they can’t hug their friends or play with other kids who aren’t in their pod or whatever.

I don’t want them to go on a bus, mixing with kids from 6 different schools.

I don’t want to have to send them to Afterschool

I’ve had 6 months of keeping them close and knowing they’re safe.

BUT… 

They miss school 

They need school

They miss their friends

They need more social interaction

They need more than Myself and their Daddy

They need normality. 

They need education…because Homeschooling DID NOT happen here. (Kind of difficult when both of us were working full time from home.)

They need other adult voices.

They need routine.

They’re in a wonderful school and have wonderful teachers who I know will do everything to keep them safe and secure.

Maria the Múinteoir…

I don’t want to put myself or anyone of my colleagues or students in harm’s way.

What if I get it?

What if I’m an Asymptomatic carrier?

What if one of my kids gets sick and it’s my fault?

What is it going to be like going into work?

Am I going to be able to do my job properly?

Am I going to be able to make the kids feel safe and secure?

How can I support the students who need support?

How can I teach in my usual groupwork and collaborative style when they have to be socially distanced and I can’t sit beside them?

What about my students with extra needs?

How can I not meet more than 5 friends for dinner, but I can stand in a room with up to 30 young adults for up to 80 minutes?

How is under Jesus is this going to work?

BUT

I can’t wait to get back to work.

I miss my colleagues.

I miss my babies.

I miss teaching.

I need routine.

I need adult conversation.

I need some sort of normality.

My students need school.

I know it’ll be OK

I trust my management to keep us safe.

I will absolutely do MY best to keep my students feeling safe.

Teachers are a resilient bunch. 

We’ll do our best.

And it WILL all be OK.  

We are not in control and we can only deal with things as they come. 

Our front line workers back in March had to navigate their way through terrifying times with little or no guidelines, and they got it done.

They did such an incredible job in the “unprecedented” waters they had to wade into, and they adapted as they went.  They are heroes and while we as teachers are nervous and worried, and our fears should not be dismissed, we too will navigate and learn as we go. 

So many of us are experiencing all sorts of emotions this week, especially those of us who are parents also.  We are genuinely torn.

I need the Mammies and Daddies who are feeling the exact same way as I am as a Mammy, to trust me in the same way that I have to put MY trust in my daughters’ teachers. 

I need the parents who are sending their kids into me, to trust that I will do my absolute best to make sure that their children are able to learn in the new environment, and that they feel safe and secure in my presence. 

I need the parents to understand that I understand THEIR worries, because I too am a Mammy who is nervous (terrified) about releasing my little girls into the big scary world right now too.

I ask the parents of my school babbies to remember that none of us have worked in the current environment before, and that all of the newness in schools is new to us too. 

We are frightened.  We are worried.  We are anxious.  And our fears are real.  

But we are determined and we are professional and we are fully qualified to educate.  And as teachers, we care about your kids. 

The emotional chaos of the sudden closure of schools in March was huge… but that’s a whole other article. 

So while Maria the Mammy might fall apart in the utility room a few times this week at the thought of MY precious babies leaving me every day to go to a whole new world, Maria the teacher will pull myself together, take a deep breath, hang up my tracksuit and go back through the doors of my much missed school, to teach and to support your precious babies. 

And it will all be absolutely grand. 

Get Set, Back to School

So it’s time to finally get back into our grooves, however wobbly they may be this year, and return to normality and reality with everyone back to School, Childcare, activities and work.

I don’t know how you other Mammies are feeling this morning, but I for one am exhaustipated even thinking about beginning the balancing of all the plates. It’s been a long 5 months.

Even though the girls have been up at Stupid O’Clock most mornings over the past 5 months, suddenly having to have everyone out the door, fully dressed and even partially fed, is giving me the heebyjeebies. I may have to set their alarms for 5am to get out of the house by 8am.

It will take a few weeks to get back into the swing of it, but here are a few things that I do each year which do help, if only a little bit.

Meal plan: I do out a plan for the week of what meals we’ll be eating and then base the shopping list on what I needed for these.  I’ll get back into the habit of making extra dinner for me to have as lunch the next day too. Especially now as space and time will be limited in the staffroom. Ready to eat lunch boxes are going to be essential for me.

Planning the week’s meals might seem a bit boring, but it saves a fortune and allows me to plan meals around how much time I have each evening too.  Less waste and an empty fridge by the weekend.

Also, chop fruit (Melon etc) before you put it into the fridge as you unpack the shopping to allow for faster lunch making! Oh. And I have a keep the stuff they like in sandwiches in one container in the fridge so I just have to lift it out when making lunches.

2. All hail the Slowcooker: Unfortunately, with The Him and myself working 482 hours per week, family dinners are only a weekend thing here, so yes I usually end up cooking twice a day as the girls are often in bed before he’s home. When I’m off, this is not a problem, but now back at work, where you have to condense your whole day into 2 hours, it becomes one. And so my trusty slowcooker will be returned to regular use.  Also, big pots of curry/chilli etc can last a few days and freezing random portions allows for the evenings where my plan fails! 

3. Get up early: Yeah yeah, cliched I know, but it is so true. I’m an early bird; not because I like getting out of bed. No. I LOVE my bed. But I also love having an uninterrupted shower and a full hot cup of coffee. If I’m not up at least 45 minutes before the girls, morning melts into mayhem. But if I can be up, washed, caffeinated, dressed and have the lunches packed BEFORE the noise in the hall begins, things are a whole lot more peaceful. If all I have to do is to focus on getting THEM ready, we can do it with a LOT less stress than if we all fall out of bed at the same time.  

4. Daily Drawers: I introduced this little trick when Mini-Me was in Naionra and it’s worked a treat for the past 5 years. It’s now in my youngest’s room as she starts school. I bought this stack of drawers and labeled the front. Every Sunday, I put clean pants and socks into the drawers.

Year 6 of using these drawers. Tried and tested.

Her PE gear/swimming stuff goes into the day she has PE and her shoes go into the bottom drawer every evening when she takes them off and the uniform hangs beside it. She loves it and it means we don’t have the “Wherethefeckareyourshoesforgodssakewewillbelate” debachle every morning! It’s also great for encouraging them to dress themselves.

Begone Messy dumping of schoolbags on kitchen floor!

I have also invested in these shelves for the utility. So now, each of us has a place to keep school/gym bags, coats and shoes. I’m hoping it’s going to stop the kitchen floor or back hall being crammed with bags etc. Every little helps eh?

5. Clean on a Thursday night: Since I have been working, even before I had the girls, I have always tried to be in the habit of cleaning on a Thursday. I do whatever washing needs done, clean the bathrooms, hoover and mop, and give the kitchen a once over. It means that when we get home on a Friday evening, the house is more pleasant than usual. And while the breakfast dishes and mess from Friday morning might be waiting for us, the house itself is generally clean and so apart from throwing uniforms and work clothes in the machine on Friday night, Mammy can focus on important things when they go to bed on Friday night… like what I’m going to watch and whether I want red or white!

Now, do NOT get me wrong. Mary Poppins I am not, but these are 5 things that are GENERALLY easy to turn into habits. Apart from the odd week, I’ll manage to maintain most of these goals and therefore, most of my sanity!

If you have any other tricks of #parentingwin hacks, please share them in the comments.

‘Hack’ to School… (Yes. I punned.)

Back to School Hacks

Now that we finally know that our little darlings will be going back to school, we can start to think about getting ready.

Maybe you are already organised. Maybe you have been putting it off. Maybe you spread it out over a few months.
Maybe, like me, you refuse to acknowledge it until the very last minute and every year, berate yourself on August 29th as you trawl through the leftovers on the shelves.

Let’s be honest, whichever you are, we all get there and they all get back to school fully clothed and stocked up. Eventually.

But for many this year, there was a genuine concern that it was too early to start getting ready for fear that they would be off longer, was real.
Thankfully, we have had it confirmed by the powers that be, that yes indeed, our precious schools will reopen next month.

And I don’t know about you, but my two daughters are DELIGHTED.

As am I.

So here are some tips for getting organised (if you aren’t already!)
1. Make a list – What do you already have? What do you need to get? Do you REALLY need it all?
Try on uniforms and check what you need to replace. Is there really anything wrong with the trousers from last year? Will the jumper last another few months? School clothes are now available all year round. They don’t magically disappear from the shelves in October.
Check what you have already – Go through what is in the house – At a guess, there are 7 of those lunch box bags in my kitchen if I looked. So again, they’re going to be reused. Do invest in sturdy lunchboxes however. I love the boxes with compartments for the food. Again, check what you already have. The good ones last for years.. There is no Sanctimammy at the school gate checking that every item your child has is new.

2. Accept help if you’re lucky enough to be offered it.
Lists also help you know what to ask for if a family member asks what they can buy little Archibald or Susanella for going back to school. PE tee-shirts? Socks? Colours? Hat? If/When Aunty Jacinta asks, don’t be afraid to say what you need. Otherwise you’ll end up with 4 lunchbags or pencil cases.

3. Stock-Box If you do end up with loads of extra stationery sets or twistables, it’s a good thing. Children LOSE EVERYTHING! That lovely full pencil case won’t be full by midterm. I have a “stockbox” with all the extra sharpeners and rulers and crayons that they get and as the school year goes on, trust me, it’s a life saver. And only put what they need into the pencil case in September. Add to it then as they need.

4. New school bag? Considering that our kids were only in school until March, you might find that the school bag is still in good nick. Again, if it’s not done, why buy a new one. My eldest’s bag is as good as new from last year. (A few new Harry Potter badges on it and woohoo!) She’ll get a few more months out of it. There really is nothing wrong with the bag she has. And if and when it IS done, then I’ll get her a new one. Again, schoolbags are in shops all year round.

5. Leave shoes til last – If your kids are anything like mine, they like to jump two shoe sizes in the space of a week. Shoes will be measured and bought the week before school opens.

6. Labels – This is something I do buy happily. The sticky labels are brilliant. There are LOADS of different companies and they go on everything and STAY on everything. And as they get older, you have to label fewer things, so you’ll find that you won’t need to buy them every year. In Junior infants, label everything. I stopped short of putting one on her forehead. You can now get the labels that have little symbols for allergies or medical conditions on them too.

7. Jumpers/crests – If your kids go to a school with a crested uniform, remember that you can buy a jumper anywhere and have the label embroidered. My girls prefer lighter jumpers than the ones available, so I buy them and get the crest put on. It’s half the price and they’re perfect.
For many, the idea of not buying everything new is weird. As with everything, it’s YOUR call.

If you couldn’t imagine sending them back with the same schoolbag or lunchbag or whatever, that’s your call. But it’s not always a possibility for everyone.

For me, I don’t see the harm in teaching them that they get new when it’s needed. I’ve had the same “schoolbag” for almost 20 years.(OK it’s sentimental at this point, but still. It’s still doing the job!) And while of course it’s lovely to get new things, who says that everything has to be new in September each year?

Back to school costs a fortune. But it can cost less if we remove ourselves from the notion that they need new everything.

We all love a good hack! Especially when it helps save a few pennies.
If you have any tips to add, please share in the comments.
Mammy