You Hold Your Own Key

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.

It just so happened that I didn’t get to take Leaving Cert exams in singing, dancing, shopping or eating.

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.

Of COURSE, as a teacher, I value the Leaving Cert.

I love teaching the course and I try my best to encourage my Babbies to give it their best shot.

But I also know that they are young adults. That they have a LOT going on. That some of them have things going on in their lives that are a WHOLE lot more important that exams. 😢

That while some of them will have given it their ALL for 2 years, on the day of the exam, it might just not happen. That some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.  That some of them just haven’t yet realised their strengths or abilities in certain areas.

And sometimes, that at 18, they’re just not quite ready for the ridiculous pressure of the state exam.

For a whole load of reasons, Tuesday is a huge day for our young adults. But that little brown envelope is only that.

An envelope.

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.

The Leaving Cert does NOT know our children. It doesn’t see the kindness. 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 as parents, yes, some of us might be disappointed for our kids on Tuesday.

But mostly we should be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, they are OUR children and they have done their best and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

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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 before they know it, they won’t even remember what was printed on the page!

It might be over 20 years since I opened my little brown envelope and had my heart broken in a million pieces, but trust me, everything happens for a reason. 😇

Todayt, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents whose minions face the brown envelope this Tuesday.

And remember, that little brown envelope does NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper can change that.

Mammy  XXX

The Unspoken Reality of (most) Hotel Stays with Kids.

‘Let’s stay in a hotel’ they said.

‘Let us pack up our minions and go on an adventure and stay in a lovely family room in a hotel.  It shall be fun!’ they said.

Forgetting momentarily that

  1. Most “Family rooms” are simply big rooms with two beds.

  2. Children do not automatically behave themselves when in hotels.

  3. Scolding and voices must be conrolled by Mammy and Daddy as whatever frowning might be done at the chaos caused by minions, more frowning will be done if Mammy or Daddy use their usual shouty voice.

  4. Children, regardless of being up since 5am and walking the entirity of Dublin zoo after a 3 hour drive, shall NOT be “so knackered that they’ll conk out straight away” (Me. This was MY fuckwittery. Not Him’s in fairness.)

  5. Children who are used to their own rooms, will either complain incessently about the sibling being “on their side” or cackle incessently together, or both at the same time, for no apparent reason other than to drive Mammy and Daddy up the bathroom wall…

  6. Because the bathroom is where Mammy and Daddy invariably end up EVERY SODDING TIME WE STAY IN A HOTEL with the kids.  Daddy lies in his clothes, in the empty bath, with his phone, Mammy on a cushion of towels with a glass of grapes and, quite often, a book.  Professionals I tell you!      *We learned after the first time to treat ourselves to a nice, full, cold drink at the bar before going up to do the bedtime dance, because there’s not much to do in a bathroom while awaiting your feral one’s to concede to the long overdue sleep in the bedroom, is there?

  7. After 45 minutes of complaining and cackling simultaneously, with random hisses of “Go to sleep!” and “If I have to come into that room” from OUR side of the bathroom door, children will eventually have to be placed by Daddy into separate beds.  After a few minutes, they will go to sleep, usually lying horizontally across the pillows, leaving Mammy and Daddy to wonder where the hell they are going to sleep, not that they can finally remove themselves from the bathroom.

  8. Parents will debate whether to poke the bear…as in try to replace small child into the bed beside her sister, risking said child wakening again… or to simply climb into a bed each, beside the horizontal sleeping feckin cherubs.

  9. Parents will not poke the bear…figuratively, physically, metaphorically or other.

  10. All members of the family shall be asleep by 8.45pm, with both parents sporadically wakening throughout the night to check that miniest minion has not fallen out of the 8 foot high bed, or indeed wet it, just for the craic.

 

Don’t forget to follow me on all my Social Media Platforms.

Mammy

I am Some Packy Hackies Mum

It’s almost Holibop Season!

Hurrah!

Packing is something that I am good at.  I enjoy it and generally once I have my lists done, it doesn’t take long.  I’m a light packer.  I can pack myself and Himself into one case for a week away.  If we’re doing a weekend trip, one small bag is plenty.  And I can do a trip alone with tiny carry on.  I have been known to arrive in London with my toothbrush, clean knickers and a tee-shirt tucked into my handbag.

Packing for the four of us to go on holidays has never been hard either.  Simply because we’ve never ventured beyond Ireland, and so we’ve had the luxury of the boot of the car and as much space as we need.

hols

 

So last year, going on our first sun holiday as a family,  presented Mammy with a new challenge.  And I must say that thanks to the Mammies on my blog, I  gathered some super tips to add to my own packy-hacks:  Each of these worked a charm, and I’ll be doing the exact same this year.

  • Lists: Plan ahead.  I write down what will be worn/needed by everyone for the number of nights we’re away.  Then I add a spare outfit for the girls, just incase.
  • Mix up the bags: I had planned on a case for us and a case for the girls. We have one each, but I’m not lugging 4 cases through the airports.  Loads of Mums told me to mix all of the clothes between the cases, and if one gets lost or delayed, at least everyone still has clothes when we arrive.
  • Check-in? If you arrive at your resort early, your room/apartment might not be ready. Pack swimming gear and sun cream in one of the carry on bags so that you can go straight to the pool while you wait for your check-in.
  • Ziplock bags: THIS has changed my life Ladybelles.  Thanks to Davina from Jim for this one. She advised me to pack the kids clothes into these.  So for each evening, I have their dresses, underwear, socks etc that they’ll need for going out for dinner in little bags. It will avoid the suitcases turning into chaotic pits of “I can’t find it!”  I have their shorts and Tees and Swimmers and PJs labeled in their bags too, so The Him will be able to easily find things too.  (I’ve since been directed to little sets of case organisers that can be bought in different colours and have it on good authority that they are super.  I never did get around to buying them however!)
  • Pop-up tent:  My mate is a serial beach goer.  This is her tip. Bring a little pop up tent. We have a little wigwam in the hall. It cost a tenner. It folds down to nothing and if it fits, it’s going into one of the cases. It’ll provide shade for the girls, means they can play in it if it gets too hot on the beach and it was perfect last year for changing nappies!  Genius.
  •  Backpacks:  Now, my girls have flown a few times, but only short flights.  I’ve always packed little colouring books and some snacks into their bags to keep them occupied.  This time, I’ve packed a few more and have a few wee surprises for them for emergency distractions! (Euroshops are Wicked for this kind of stuff.)
  • Downloads:  Did you know that you can download from your Netflix account? I have my tablet stocked up with episodes of Paw Patrol and a few movies.
  • Snack packs:  Now this one I initially scoffed at, but let’s face it, children eat ALL DAY and snacks are expensive.  So, I have done up a snack pack for each day; popcorn, raisins, pops, Haribo, Biscuits; their favourites.  And while of course we’ll be able to get this stuff there, to know that I have the bags ready to pop into the buggy each morning is great.  And the whole lot cost me €7.  So we’ll save our money for drinks and ice-creams.
  • Lollipops and chewy sweets:  Life saver for the ears of the Minions on take-off and landing.
  • Travel sized stuff:  Who doesn’t love mini-stuff?  Over the past few weeks, I’ve picked up my moisturiser and some of my makeup bits simply by asking for samples at the counters. There’s enough suncream to carry without jars and pots.  I even got a lovely face mask from one lovely lady.   I tend to leave the makeup at home on hols, opting instead for basic concealer, bronzer and mascara. And I decant my shampoo and conditioner into the little plastic bottles too.
  • Keep hand luggage minimal. The girls have their little bags, I have my handbag, and Him will have a small carry on with a change of clothes for both girls, calpol and more snacks… and ALWAYS, the Babywipes!
  • Midnight Flit?  If you are lifting your minions out of bed to travel, either put them to bed in their tracksuits or comfies. (If you can!)
  • Pillow Cases:  Pack 2 pillowcases.  Use them as laundry bags; one for lights, one for darks/colours.  Easier to carry the washing home and easier to unpack. (I swear by this one. Works a treat.)
  • Beds:  Before we go, I’ll change the beds. Pain in the posterier as you try to get out the door, but just think of how lovely it is to get back into your own nice, clean bed after a week away. I’ll be glad of it when we return.

 

These are only a few of the many, many I got sent.  I’m sure there are many more you would add.   Some might tut at my over preparation, but I’m one of those people who needs my shit to be together, for my mind to stay together.

I’ll relax more knowing that I have the essentials sorted. And anything that we forgot can be bought there.  Mammies tend to do all the sorting don’t we? But this Mammy believes that preparation is key and I know that when we get there, I WILL relax, because I’ve put in the work at home!

All I need to do now is to make sure there’s a few beers in the fridge for the Big Wee Brother who’s moving in to babysit the Furbaby. And get there!

Happy Holidays to you if you’re going away. Share away at your own packing-hacks!

 

Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
stumble
 
Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

The Ball of Balls – Let’s Talk About The Boyos

Last night, we attended The Ball of Balls in the beautiful Harvey’s Point in Donegal Town.

This innovative and brave event was created by a group of friends, born from a conversation where they all agreed that Men need to talk about cancer.  The committee who brought The Ball of Balls to life was made up of Joan Gallagher, Peter Barry, Deborah Cunningham, Moya O’Leary and assisted by Adrian Pollard.

ballofballspic

We enjoyed a champagne reception to beautiful Jazz music, before moving into the ballroom for a divine meal.

Noel Cunningham was host for the evening and spoke passionately about the importance of cancer services in the North West.

Gabriel McCole entertained the audience with his honest and no nonsense account of his own journey with cancer and powerful speech delivered by Deborah Cunningham as we sat to dinner, repeated the line “Men need to talk about cancer”.

And last night, we did.  We spoke openly about the importance of checking and going for checks.  And I truly hope that every man left the ball with the thought that maybe he should check himself!

mencancer

It was a wonderful uplifting evening, and the dancing continued long after we had left.  We were further entertained by The Bluestack Chorale Choir and the band who kept the floor full all night were The Lock Ins.  (If you have an event coming up, check these guys out!  Superb!)

Two things shocked me last night:

  1. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15 to 34.  I wonder how many 15 and 16 year olds would even consider themselves at risk…

      2. There is NO screening programme in place in Ireland. 

And so, alongside the money raised for Cancer Care West last night, the most important success of the night, was the raising of awareness that not only to men need to look after themselves more and talk about cancer, but the women in their lives ALSO need to up our game.

We need to talk to our dads, our brothers, our partners and our sons, whatever their ages, about the importance of paying attention to themselves.  We need to normalise talking about men’s cancer issues, just as much as how freely we talk about women’s.

I hope that this event will become an annual one.  Bravo to all involved!  Job well done.

InfographicPoster-2

There is great information on testicularcancer.org  and on the Marie Keating Foundation website.

What to look out for

Cancers which are found early are the most easily treated. It makes sense to know how your body normally looks and feels and this includes your testicles. This will make it easier for you to notice any changes. A swelling or lump in one of your testicles which is not usually painful is the most common sign of testicular cancer, however there are other signs to look out for:

• Small lumps or hardness on the front or side of a testis.

• Swelling or enlargement of the testis.

• An increase in firmness of the testicle.

• A sensation of dragging or heaviness in the scrotum.

• A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.

It is important to note that most lumps are benign (harmless) but others may be cancerous and should be treated as quickly as possible. It is unusual to develop cancer in both testicles at the same time, so if you are wondering whether a testis is normal or not, you can compare it with the other.