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.

You Drive you, I’ll Drive Me…

“Drive for yourself and let other drivers worry about themselves…” 

Words of wisdom from my much missed Granda Pops.  

He said these words to my Mum many times and he said them to me when I drove my first car up to his sitting room window many years ago. 

He looked out from his throne, cast his eyes over it, nodded that it was a “good big safe car” and then added these words. 

 I’d heard them before of course. It was one of his lines that my Mum had taken with her when she left home, repeating it at many opportunities, much like the one or two clangers that I constantly repeat from my Dad.

And like Daddy’s “Remember who has the problem” line, this one has stood the test of time and lingered on in our memories, not just because of who used to say it, but because it’s so so true. 

Mum still likes to remind us of, especially when one of us comes home giving out about someone who pulled out in front of us, or didn’t use an indicator, or almost caused a three car pile up at the roundabout. 

But this past week I’ve thought about it and said it more than once…and yet, I haven’t even been driving. I haven’t left the house.

In a few different conversations and phonecalls, and in the current climate of the JudgyMcJudgerson and AngryMcAngryson, I have found myself comforting people by using Granda’s line.  

Let’s get metaphorical, shall we? Buckle up… (see what I did there?)

Car, Pink Car, Thunderbird, Drive

We all drive our own car. ( We all live our own lives). 

We’re all responsible for our own vehicle. (You worry about you, I’ll worry about me.)

We all have our own passengers. (My family is my responsibility.)

We shouldn’t drive too fast. (Calm yourself woman!)

We can’t drive with an empty tank. (Fuel that body up!)

The car needs regular services. (Self care is important… Let your imagination go where it will there Jacinta!)

If you’re on the wrong route, you can always turn around or change lanes.  (You’re NOT stuck in that job/rut/relationship. Do what you need to make yourself happy.)

Make sure the tyres are fit for purpose. (Shoes are also important…)

We should all stay in our own lane (Mind your business Polly…)

Actually, this one is pretty important.  Drive to get yourself where you need to go, but try not to bump into anyone else on your journey eh? Don’t be a roadhog and remember you’re not the only car on the road.

Traffic, Highway, Lights, Night, Speed

But joking aside, there’s a reason cars and driving are so frequently used for analyses of life.  It makes sense.  Life is a journey and we are all travelling through, trying to navigate potholes and flat tyres and other cars.

You can’t control how other drivers drive their cars or react on the road.  And you can’t control how other people live their lives or react to things. 

You can disapprove of a person’s driving style or behaviour on the road, but there’s very little you can DO about it. Same goes for life and other people’s decisions/business/choices.

You can watch in horror as someone overtakes on a corner, aghast at what might happen, but there is nothing you can do about their decision. People have to make their own decisions.

You can disagree on the style or colour or size of someone else’s car choice.  Guess what, it’s not YOUR car and really, what they drive is nothing to do with you.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  You’re not them.

If people are reacting or behaving a certain way towards you.  If people are commenting and disapproving of what you do.  If people are unhappy with how you are driving YOUR car… whatever.   

Are they your passengers?  

Are they in danger because of how “drive your car”?  

Do they pay for your car?

Well if not, does it really matter what they think?

No. 

And if someone decided to flash their lights at you, or give you the one fingered salute as they pass, or shout out the window at you…or even if they sit in their car bitching about yours, once again, you can’t control that. 

And actually now that I think of it, my Granda’s words of wisdom AND my Daddy’s words of wisdom go quite well together. 

“You drive for yourself and let other drivers drive for themselves”.  Oh and if someone doesn’t like your “driving”, “remember who has the problem”.

Vintage 1950S, Pretty Woman, Vintage Car

Grill? Aye, Grill…

The Golden Grill.

Bella’s Club. Millionaire Club, Club 2000, Rouge… However you remember it and whatever name your generation used, one word said it all.

You going the Grill? Aye.

I am saddened to see the news today that the famous building that housed Letterkenny’s legendary Golden Grill, is being demolished.

Well, saddened might be the wrong word. It’s been lying unopened for years, and it is approximately 14 years since I was last in it, so really, I have nothing to be sad about. But for so so many of us who grew up in and around Letterkenny, the Grill, for a huge chunk of our youths, was Life.

The queues. The bouncers, The joy of finally getting through the door with that ID… (I NEVER did this Mammy I promise…) The big hallway where immediately, we read the atmosphere and decided which direction in which to strut (sorry walk) first. Into the strobe lit, smokey deep and cavernous mayhem of Millionaires, later to become the uber cool and very funkified Club 2000? Or into the deep and dulcetly dim dens of Bella’s.

Millionaires. Oh the podiums…The steps… The raised levels… We all had our moment on those podiums, didn’t we? I’m pretty sure I spent FAR too much time strutting my not-quite-as-funky-but-slightly-so-drunky stuff on those podiums. We knew the spots. We knew where to stand, to see and be seen. We knew the corners certain people would surely be in. We knew the tricks of heading out to get coats before the final songs. We knew which bar to head towards.

Or maybe we shuffled towards Bella’s…to the cooler and less “Ooooooonce-oooooncey” music, the lesser jammed dance floor, the dare I say, older and “cooler” crowd, who preferred a drink, a boogie and shock horror, even a conversation to the full blown rave happening across the hall.

And then, the supper. Oh the SUPPER!

The free supper that you held your ticket tight all night to ensure that you got. How many supper tickets were produced from sweaty bras in those days eh? And the crush at the counter, calling for “curry chups and coleshlaaaaw” or “battered sausages”.

The joy.

We knew that the craic. We were cool. Everyone in the grill was cool, even those of us who really weren’t.

The Grill Letterkenny - Home | Facebook
Image from The Grill’s Facebook page

The music. The crowds. The chaos. The squashed bodies. The shared sweat. The swapped saliva. Jesus lads, how did we survive? The glares and stares. The flirty glances and coy looks. The full on shift right there in the middle of a few thousand people. The dancing. The freedom. The buzz. The giddy energy. The drunkenness. The invincibility… Christ I could write a million more words and I still wouldn’t explain it all.

Even as I type this, the memories are making me smile.

The style. The heels. The nakedness. The slaps when a hand wandered too far. The protective brothers stepping in. The square-ups. The puffed chests. The bouncers. The scuffles. How a crowd of sardines could split instantaneously as bouncers removed whoever dared ruin the mood.

Friendships started and ended in the Grill. The problems of the world were solved in bathrooms and on sofas. You went in to the loo for a pee but came out with wisdom, advice and possibly a new best friend. Oh, and remember when we shared lipsticks and hairbrushes with strangers? Jaysus wept!

Relationship started (and ended!) in the Grill. Some of us old fogeys, now long past the joys of a packed nightclub, can attribute first kisses with the current partner to The Grill. Oh indeed, The Grill has a lot to answer for in some cases.

And yet, I sit here now, having heard that it’s going to cease to exist and I find myself reminiscing.

It was a huge part of life for us in the 90s and noughties. And it most certainly was a huge part of life for those who frequented it in the 70s and 80s. (I’ve heard the aunts and uncles telling stories!) I’m sure younger people have fond memories of events there in the past 10 years too, but of course EVERY generation thinks that THEY have the monopoly on the memories, don’t they?

I have fond memories (mostly) of my many many nights in it. Some are a bit blurry. Some have possibly been edited a bit in my mind. Some have been blotted from my memory accidentally on purpose. But in general, they are fond.

Memories of friendships, of dancing, of flirting, of laughing, of boogying, of eating, of dancing. Did I mention the dancing? Oh, the dancing!

The strobe lights. the smoke and even sometimes, fireworks for dramatic effect. The Grill was an icon. It will never be replicated. And I’m a little sad that my own daughters won’t get to experience it for themselves.

For now however, it moves into the history books, joining The Fiesta in the stuff of Letterkenny Legends. In the same way that I grew up listening to stories of The Fiesta from my parents, our kids will listen to stories of the Grill.

And they’ll roll their eyes and never understand how absolutely fecking EPIC it was to be us.

And if walls could talk, the walls of that building, while it still stands, could tell some stories. And when those walls do fall, the stories will stay with us. You can’t demolish memories.

Here We Go Again…

What a week it’s been eh?

We’re all feeling a bit incredulous really. This past few days, it’s felt like we are slowly sliding into chaos once again.

  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids. 

 And with the indecisiveness, “we will , we won’t, we might-iness” of our Government, we can be forgiven for wondering what the actual feck is going on.

Once again, we’re back to working, whether at work or online, all while minding and homeschooling our kids, trying to keep them occupied and fed and generally trying to do eleventy billion jobs from our kitchen tables. 

And this time, we don’t have the long sunny evenings or unusually warm weather to soften the blow.  

And as I try to get my own head around this new situation in my own house, I’m trying to remember the things that worked (and that did NOT work) for me last time we were in this type of lockdown. 

One thing that became VERY clear to us last March, was that Homeschooling was NOT something that we were successful at.  Trying to pivot your business online and trying to teach online for the first time ever, after almost 20 years of standing in an actual classroom, meant that finding time to sit with our girls to “homeschool” was impossible.  

 I felt like crap about it to start.  How is it that a teacher, for God’s sake, couldn’t manage to educate her own children?  Disgraceful… 

And then I copped myself on.  I couldn’t do it.  I was trying to make up a whole new version of my job AND we were trying to keep our family business alive.  And it’s going to be the same this time to be honest. (Also, I could teach Shakespeare to a duck, but 3rd class maths? Nope!)

I will get them to do some of the work their angels of teachers send, but it’ll be done within the realms of OUR ability and only as long as it isn’t adding more stress to our lives. 

Here we go again I suppose. 

One of the biggest mistakes that loads of us made last time, was to think that we had to do it all.  Think about it…

There aren’t enough hours to combine the 6/7 hours your kids spend at school, with the 8/10 hours you work, the few hours you need for cooking, cleaning etc… never mind homework, exercise and trying to stay on top of things.  You’re trying to fit about 30 hours of “stuff” into a 24 hour day.  When do you sleep Mammy?

It’s not physically possible to do it all. 

SO choose what you NEED to do and do that. 

Give yourself a break.  We’re in a global pandemic.  

Here are some things that work for me. 

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I tend to get up at 6am as usual to do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more in the afternoon.  I’ll allocate a time for the kids to do some school work.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  1. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly. 
  1. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  1. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  1. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few months.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile. Please learn to use the unfollow/mute button on accounts that make you doubt what a Queen you are. 
  1. Keep active:   We’ll train together every morning with our Rushe Fitness members and most days, I’ll try to get out for a run/walk. Sometimes, just getting OUT is amazing.  While it’s cold and slippy, it’s still gorgeous out there. Go for a walk or jog.  Fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  If you’re used to training but can’t do it alone, join us for our online programme which you can follow from your home at a time that suits you.
We run Opti-Mum, Ireland’s leading at home training system for Mums
  1. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  1. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  1. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  1. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do. We all have good days and bad days. But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is bleak. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of hope and finally, an end is in sight. 

Mind yourselves.  Go easy on yourselves.  You are not in competition with anyone.  Do what you need to do, for you. 

Toodles 2020. Off You Feck!

I’m a big bungled bag of mixed thoughts and emotions as I sit to write this. 

Usually, my last blog of the year flows easily; full of nostalgia and positivity and hope and excitement… and actually, I’m feeling all of those things right now too.  I just can’t seem to write them down in a way that will be meaningful to everyone. Because now, more than ever, none of us can fully understand how anyone else is feeling.

We’ve just come through the weirdest year of our lives.

  I could start to talk about how “while it was bad, it was actually good”, or “In the midst of the chaos, was joy”, or “the lessons I’ve learned this year”.  God I could write 20 pages on each of those titles if I’m honest. 

It was good, in its own way. 

I did learn loads about myself and about life in general.  (80 pages coming on that…next year!)

In the midst of the chaos, there was joy.  

We did make loads of memories. 

Yes, 2020 was good for lots of reasons. 2

The main lessons I learned were that actually, life did NOT need to be as busy and chaotic as it was and that actually, as long as I have my own wee family safe within my own four walls, then all is right with the world, no matter how frightening the world is.  (I wrote a LOT about our own four walls this year.  I spent a lot of time looking at them I suppose!)

And while I could sit here and wax lyrical about how we must all look at the positives of 2020 and be grateful for this, that and the other, I can not let the year end without acknowledging that it was the hardest, most frightening, confusing, frustrating and heartbreaking fecking year that we have ever faced. 

I am grateful.  I’m so grateful for my family and for health and for work.  And personally, I know so many people who have had too much sadness and hardship to bear this year. I’ve cried with lots of friends (virtually) and like everyone, I’ve had moments of WTF?

 But as always, perspective is key.  I can, and will, only ever speak for ME.

I’ve been afraid.  I’ve been stressed.  I’ve struggled.  I’ve freaked out.  (I’ve had panic attacks about going to do the fricken shopping for God’s sake.)  I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember, looking at my children, terrified that they’re not OK.  I’ve spent hours and hours stressing with my husband about our family business and wondering how many more slaps it can take,  I’ve cried onto my laptop as I tried to figure out a whole new way of trying to do my job, while trying and failing to homeschool my own children. I’ve missed family.  I’ve missed my friends.  I’ve seen my best friend once since March… I’ve been angry.  I’ve been frustrated.  I’ve been sad.  I’ve even been judgemental. Show me someone who at this stage, has NOT given out about someone else’s actions this year (and then send me whatever magic potion they’re using please.)

And yet, tonight as I sit watching the clock tick towards 2021, I can’t help but feel proud.  I’m proud of myself.  I’m proud of my kids. (Kids are amazing!) I’m proud of my husband. I’m proud of every one of my family and friends who have clawed their way through the shitshow that was 2020. 

We made so many memories this year.  We found joy we’d never realised we could find within our four walls and indeed on our own doorsteps.  We’ve been surprised by the things that we’ve missed and the things that we found that, actually, we didn’t miss at all. 

We’ve been torn apart by the ferocity of missing people and being apart from people we love. And yet, we’ve also realised quite abruptly who is important to us and who is, maybe, not.

On top of Muckish Mountain on a rare day out with some of our Rushe Fitness crew last summer.

I can look back through my camera roll tonight and share my “highlights”.  It is filled with photographs of 2020, each one telling a story to anyone who looks at it, and yet each one holds so many memories that no one but us could ever understand. Behind lots of those smiles are a million other emotions. Some of the smiles are real. Some of them are hilarious. And yet, some are frantic and frightened. Some don’t reach the eyes. 

I have looked at some today. They’ve made me smile and laugh. But I won’t be sharing them anywhere. I’m not looking back. I’m too tired to be honest! And so I’m looking forward. I can’t wait for it to be tomorrow so I can close the metaphorical door on a year that I’ve been wishing away since March.

I’m ready for it to be over.  And while I know full well that at midnight tonight, absolutely NOTHING but the date is going to actually change, I am excited for the new year.  Every day will bring us one step closer to getting back to some sort of normality, where 2020 is a distant memory that we talk about and reminisce about. 

So whether you’ve come through 2020 enlightened and empowered and energised, or you’ve skid towards the end, glass in hand, roots to your armpits and a bit delirious, I raise a glass to you tonight and wish you a better and more fablis 2021. 

Give yourself a round of applause.  You made it!

 And no matter what 2021 brings with it, it’s a brand new year that we are at least a bit more ready for than last year. 

From Emmet and the girls and myself, I wish you every best wish for 2021.  May it be filled with brighter days, good health and hugs and smiles that reach your eyes. Love to all. 

Until next year!

Me x

To-Do and Ta-Dah!

It’s Christmas… I keep reminding myself of that.

Personally, it’s been a crappy week. I can’t pretend it hasn’t. I can’t sit here and write upbeat Christmassy inspiration, when I’m a wee bit broken to be honest.💔

Grief and sadness and disbelief engulfed a community that I’m part of, that has always and will always be my other family.

I’ve missed hugs since March, but never more so than this week.

And yet compared to others and what they’re going through this week, I have no right to be sad. No right at all.

As I write this, my list of things I need “to do and get” sits glaring at me. It’s mocking me I think.

It’s like it’s laughing at me, screaming “Hey Ria. Here’s that list of all the things you thought were important and urgent on Monday. Haha! Not so fecking important now are they?”

I feel a bit stupid now that THAT was the list that just a few days ago, I deemed vital.

OK. Maybe not vital, but important. And in fact, the list IS important. It’s mostly food in fairness, but still.

It’s indulgent. It’s mostly superfluous and it’s far from necessary, and yet, this week, I still need to drag myself to the shops to get it.

Because while I might not feel very Christmassy at this moment, it’s still coming and it’s still going to happen. And it’s my job to make it happen in my house.

And so while I KNOW that in the grand scheme of things, the list is nonsense, I’m going to start to tick it off.

I like lists. They make me feel in control. A good list can make me feel organised and accomplished. The strike of a pen through words can grant the illusion of competency.

A list can make me feel like I’ve actually got my shit together, especially in times where I actually, certainly, definitely, do not.

And so this weekend, I’m making my lists, checking them twice, thrice and then a few more times.

And then day by day and step by step, I’m going to tick things off. And maybe, by pretending I’ve got my shit together, it might magically happen.

My very wise friend Mr Porter, posted last week about his “Tah-Dah!” list and I absolutely LOVE it.


I’m going to look at my To-Do list from last week, strike off the stuff that REALLY doesn’t matter and create a new list of the stuff that I DO want/need to do.

My TahDah list!

And every time I strike something off it, I may sing TahDah! In my most Mary-of-the-Poppins voice. Sure why not?

But seriously, Take a look at YOUR list. How many of the things on that list are absolutely necessary and essential? How many of the things on that list could be deleted? How many of the things on that list are adding unnecessary stress to you?

Start ‘tahdahing!’

Whether you’re easing and relaxing into the Christmas festivities calm and full of the joys of the season, or sliding in sideways, a complete train wreck and filled to the brim with worry and chaos, I wish you the best that you can have.

My best and your best don’t need to be the same. And realising that the only person who needs to be happy with YOUR choices this Christmas, is YOU, is honestly and truly the key to contentment.

Hugs to all, especially to all who need one x