Summer Fun in Donegal

 

Summer!

It’s finally here and in fairness, apart from the odd dodgy day, it’s already shaping up to be a cracker.

And now that Mammy and Daddy are done with rehearsals and the mayhem that Spring brings each year, our weekly Sunday Fundays must commence! Up in the morning, dress for whatever the weather is doing (layers layers layers so it can change its mind 32 times in 4 hours as usual eh?!), into the car and go!

Adventures and fun cost money, and while there are of course hundreds of things you can do with your minions, here are 10 of my favourite things to do right here at home. They range from absolutely free to the not so free but no matter how often we do these things or go to these places, the girls always enjoy them and feel like they’ve been somewhere special.

In no particular order:

Glenveagh – Now those of you who follow my blog, know that Glenveagh National Park is a firm favourite in our little family. 

We go there 2 or 3 times a month and myself and The Him love it just as much as the girls do.  It’s only a short drive from Letterkenny, has absolutely NO phone coverage and has THE most stunning landscape in the country.  NOWHERE beats Glenveagh for beauty.

The best thing is that entry to the park is absolutely FREE. You can bring a picnic or try some of the insanely good cakes and food in the tearooms there.  We walk the 4k to the castle every and usually take the bus back up as Princess’s legs aren’t quite able for 8K just yet!

Bikes are available to hire from Grassroutes in the carpark too and you can get one of the little buggy-trailers for the minions.  The castle grounds are beautiful and while ours are too young to do the full bridal path, there is lots to occupy them (and their imaginations) in the gardens.  

(Tell your minions that the gates with the stag heads are the Gates to Santa’s summer house.  Never gets old!)

The Beach – We are so blessed to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps. Lisfannon Beach in Fahan is possibly my favourite place in the world.  It’s not only where I often escape for some sneaky Mam-me time, (seriously, some life changing decisions have been made on this beach), it’s also where I take the girls if we want to have some good old fashioned free fun. 

It’s only 15 minutes from my house, but the girls feel like they’ve had such a treat, even if we only stop for a 20 minute run-about.  Over the summer, I keep a blanket and buckets in the car, so if we find ourselves nearby, it’s easy to stop here.  I also keep a bag with a change of clothes and a towel in the boot, just incase it’s warm enough for a paddle.  There’s loads of parking and in the summertime, there’s usually an ice-cream van in the carpark.

We’ve recently found Tank & Skinny’s on the pier in Buncrana too and it’s amazing for a coffee or brunch after wandering on the beach. So worth a visit.

Nature Walks – The girls love these.  They spend a lot of time outside in the garden, but the excitement of getting to go beyond the gate is immense! We live in the back-end of beyond, so in fairness, even a play in the garden can be a learning curve, but if I really want to occupy them for an hour, we just go walkies! 

Mini-Me can point out some of the tree types (reminding me  of things that I used to know!) and there’s a gate at the end of our farm where I once told her the fairy kingdom begins, so she loves to visit there.  She stands on the side of the road talking to the gate, but in her head, she’s on a serious adventure! Fun fun fun and FREE FREE FREE!

Parks – Letterkenny has two fab parks. The town park is great but it’s lacking parking, so if it’s too busy, we often opt for Ballymacool Park.  Just outside the town, it’s peaceful and quiet, even when busy.  It’s easy to park, has lovely trails for walking and beautiful views. The little playpark is wonderful; clean and full of playthings for kids of all ages.  The best thing about this little area is that it’s fully fenced off, and so no matter what direction Princess runs in, she’s safe (and enclosed!).  

Ards Forest Park  –  Simply pay €5 to park and go get lost in the woods before strolling back along the most beautiful beach. The play park is gorgeous, there’s a coffee shop and there’s even a stretch of boardwalk. Very beautiful and lots of scope for stories and imagination in the forest.  The Fairies live there you know.  And the Grufallo comes on holidays sometimes so keep your eyes peeled for footprints. 🙂

Soft Play – Some days, Soft play is the only answer isn’t it? Especially with the summer weather we get here! The most exciting thing about going to soft play, is going to soft play with OTHER minions.  It’s win:win; A catch up for the mums, excitement (and a guaranteed successful bedtime) for the kids.  Arena 7 has recently had an overhaul and looks amazing! Century Play has everything you need for a fun few hours too. Both are wonderful and have different features that the kids love, AND they all serve good coffee.  Keep an eye on their pages for deals and rates.

 

Oakfield Park  –  As you all know, we LOVE Oakfield Park and have done for many, many years. (It used to be our roseymantic strolling spot before it got huge and before we had kids!0

It’s only 10 minutes from where we live and great for family Sunday-fundays, but also for random afternoons over the holidays. There is a charge to get in of course, but what I love about this place is that every year when they reopen, something new and wonderful has been added to the park. They add to the facility constantly. 

The Buffers Tea rooms/restaurant is lovely, but you can also bring a picnic along with you. We always bought the annual pass as it’s great value if you use the park often. I’m delighted to be a Park Ambassador for Oakfield now. The park truly is stunning, so well kept and beautifully presented.  There’s a play park and the Fairy tree is a favourite of Mini-Me’s.  The steam train never gets old.

Oakfield Park also hosts events and celebrations throughout the season, so keep an eye on their pages for details.  

Lurgy Brack Farm has expanded so much and is really a world of fun!  We visited last month for the first time in many years and I couldn’t believe how big it was and how much they have added since our last trip.  There’s a charge to get it, and when we go back, we’ll aim to spend the whole day.  (We were meeting mates for a coffee and quick play so paying full price for the three of us for two hours seemed pricey, but when I saw exactly what is there, it was worth every penny.)  I would definitely pack a picnic and a change of clothes and go for the full day next time!  They have put so much thought and energy into creating a lovely escape on the outskirts of Letterkenny and it’s definitely somewhere we’ll be spending more time this summer.

We have a to-do list for summer 2019 started and I’ll add anywhere that we discover to this list as we go through.

So there you go.  These are just our top go-to days out and activities in and around Letterkenny, all year round. I’m sure you could all add your own to this list.

Here’s to a fun Sunday Fundays and some sort of Springtime weather!

I am Some Really Virtual Friends Mum

After the initial business of arriving home with a new Baby, comes a quiet and calm, that can be lovely and much needed.

However, a few weeks or months, or even years in, and many Mums find themselves isolated. Being a Mum generally means that “you will never be lonely again”, but in reality, it is often the loneliest place in the world.

I’ve spoken before about how social media can help with the isolation of new parents.  But boy is it a double-edged sword?  The same platforms and pages that offer modern Mammas conversation, support and company, very often also encourage feelings of loneliness, despair and isolation.

I like social media.
I like how it allows me to stay in touch with people.
I like how it helps me to connect with old friends.
I love how it allows my family members who are scattered like glitter across the planet, to see what’s happening at home.
I love how one comment or image can spark conversations that are both heated and entertaining; sometimes even intelligent!
I like to see photographs of the people I like, smiling and happy.
I enjoy it and I get it I suppose.

As a Mummy, it provides some escapism. When the kids are asleep or you find yourself with 5 minutes to sit with a cuppa, there’s something nice about hitting the little blue F and seeing what’s happening in the real world.

You know? That place where exciting things happen? Where Peppa Pig isn’t in charge and where people live wonderful lives?

Where everyone has terrifyingly precise, painted eyebrows and sparkly white teeth and where people look naturally happy, all of the time?

You get to look into the lives of your “friends”: see their exciting nights out, admire their fabulous clothes, wonder where they get the time or money to visit that salon again.

We see happy families, smiling for the selfie.
We see who’s at the gym, who’s out for dinner and who’s heading away on holiday.

And while there is no harm in this really,  the key is to know that what you’re looking at is not reality.
It’s virtual.
It’s fabricated.
It’s lies.

No one’s life is perfect all of the time.  We know that, but let’s face it…who is going to voluntarily put a shitty photograph of themselves up for the world to see?

The natural selfies are probably one of 23 shots.

There are magical filters that apparently beautify! (Note to self…find out more about these.)

The reality is that regardless of how careful you are, if you look through your list of friends, you’ll possibly come across at least 2 people about whom you have to ask yourself “who is this?”

And while it keeps us connected, a huge issue for many new mums, is the isolation caused by social media.

Yes, we can see what’s happening and stay up to date with our friends.  We post photographs and status updates about our children and about our lives, to let our friends and families see how cute they are and how entertaining life is with kids.

But when this means that our friends feel that they don’t need to visit, or meet for coffee, or pick up the phone, then… we have a problem.

When seeing everyone else having fun, makes you feel boring and frumpy in your busy, unglamorous world of feeds and nappy changes, then…we have a problem.

When you know the story before someone tells you it, then…we have a problem.

When someone you haven’t spoken to in 2 years only realises that you’re no longer friends when you finally unfriend them on social media, then…we have a problem.

When every conversation you have includes the line “Yeah, I saw that,” then…we have a problem.

And it’s our own fault.  We see it all on social media so we no longer feel the same need to ring someone up to ask how they’re doing.
After all, we know they’ve been to dinner this week, had the dog to the beach and that the baby has been puking. We read it on Facebook.

We no longer consider a coffee date important as we know what’s going on with them.
We read it on Facebook.

But of course, Facebook doesn’t give you the same satisfaction that you get from good conversation over a cuppa.
Facebook doesn’t give you a hug before you go back to the whirlwind of your life.
Facebook might help you feel connected to the world outside your home, but only for a second, and only until it doesn’t.

Recently, I met a good friend for coffee.

She’s not on Facebook.

It was refreshing. She was interested in my stories, in how I was, in how the girls were doing… she hasn’t seen it on Facebook. I was delighted to hear about what she’s been up to. It was real conversation and it was lovely. We actually had so much to catch up on.  There were no lies about how perfect life is.  It’s difficult to lie to someone’s face.

We were able to talk about the difficulties we have with our respective Mini-Mes. We laughed at things we remembered from our nights out BC. Stories were interesting because they hadn’t already been told or seen. It was good, old-fashioned catch-up and it made me feel fuzzy and loved and ridiculously real again.

So while this isolation I speak of obviously doesn’t just apply to mums, that’s the angle I’m seeing it from.  I’m lucky that I have a wonderful family and some very good friends, but sometimes, just sometimes, being a mummy in the presence of two fabulously fun princesses 24 hours a day, can be a lonely place.

And while social media is fantastic and helps us stay in touch, it isn’t real.

So if you know someone; a mummy or daddy, or friend or cousin, who you have to really think about the last time you actually spoke to them, do you and them a favour.

Pick up the phone and say hi.
Or call to visit and actually hold the baby, while she makes you a coffee.

Rather than sharing sentimental quotations or memories on our friends’ pages, we really need to try to make more of our reality… not our virtual reality.

So there you go.
Social media is fabulous.  I get it.  I enjoy it.
But sometimes, it just isn’t enough.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to speaking at a Mammy Meet Up which has been organised by my good friend Sarah Barr of New Beginnings.  See details here.

We did indeed meet online and our friendship blossomed online, but a few months ago, we took the plunge and went on a DATE! We met in an actual bar, had actual food and actual conversation. And now, we’re not just virtual friends, we’re ACTUAL friends… in real life like! We’ve been getting up to all sorts of projects together and I have to say, she’s a Doll.

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So if ANY of the things I’ve mentioned in this article have you nodding in agreement, please come along to SONDER tomorrow at 7pm for a coffee and a chat with us.  You never know who you might meet or what new friendship is around the corner.