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. 

I am State Examinations Mum

exam2

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.) exam4
  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. exam
  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. exam1
  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 colour 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. exam3
  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!)
  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.

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.

I am Someone’s Lowered the Loo Mum

I missed 2 sessions with Jim last week while Princess was indulging in Pukefest #38 of 2017.

I returned yesterday.
Today, I am thoroughly convinced that some gobshite has been sneaking around my house lowering the toilets while I was at work. I swear to God, they’re at least 6 inches lower than normal.

I was incredibly grateful that there are no stairs between my classroom and the coffee room… sorry, staff room… at work today. I might have made it UP the stairs, albeit it with accompanying soundtrack of “ow, ow, ow, ow…” but I may have had to slide or roll down them. It amuses me no end however when my colleagues hobble past me and hiss “I hate your Husband”. We’re all in this together… 😅😅

I am also glad we built a BUNGALOW. Otherwise, I would indeed be sleeping on the sofa tonight. 😅

There is pain, but it’s good pain.
It’s ridiculous how missing just a few sessions can affect my mood so much. I’m a whole lot less hormental when I get my few hours in.

What was it that Elle Woods said?
👜💞👡”Endorphins make you happy.”👜💞👡
Well this is true. And battering the bejayzuz out of things in The Him’s Jim, definitely releases my inner Elle Woods.

I’m not sure how impressed The Him was at my analogy of how to do one of the exercises properly however. He calls it a “squat thrust”, which sounds altogether inappropriate and sordid and difficult.
I prefer “the bend and snap!” 😍😆

In other news, did you know that if someone in your child’s school tells her that they are cousins, then no matter HOW much you tell her they’re NOT, you are WRONG?
Also, if you correct one of her Irish words, you are WRONG because “our Iwish is different than yours”? AND if you tell her that it’s bedtime, apparently you’re the spawn of Satan and need to be screamed at and stomped at for precisely 17 minutes?

And so begin the Teenage years.
How was your day?
😥😥😥

I am Stop Body Shaming -Part 2

If you think that the public ownership of your bump disappears after pregnancy, you’re wrong!

Your post-baby belly and bootay may seem to remain public property LONG after your uterus has finally stopped SCREAMING at you and your ladybits have decided to no longer HATE YOU.

HOW and WHEN you get back to your pre-baby shape, is everybody’s business apparently.
In both of my pregnancies, I put on quite a bit of weight (not bump!).
My post Mini-Me BOOTAY in Pregnancy 1 was mostly a result of very hard work… (eating cream buns and hot chocolate, with cream of course, was hard work alright!)
I’d had a tough pregnancy and was put off work very early. Looking back, I was probably struggling a bit and food made me feel better.

It took me 18 months to get back to my pre-bump self.
Pregnancy no 2 was different. I was in better health, eating well, exercised up to 6 months and crammed in pregnancy pilates and reflexology. It was much more enjoyable and much less depressing than first time round, but I still managed to gain a fablis amount of weight.
And both times, it was worth every ounce and I enjoyed every bite!

The LAST thing ANY pregnant lady needs to be worrying about is their weight.
But when Baby is here and you’re getting back into routine, may it be after a few weeks or a few months, or a few years…at some point, we all strive to get back to being US.

For some people, that means getting back to work. For some, it means starting back at a hobby. For some, it means getting back in shape.
Even the fact that as I write this, I am hoping that other Mummies don’t read it and get annoyed because I’m talking about weight, is the perfect example of how bloody sensitive the subject is.

I am writing about me.

Just Me… not you.
It’s all personal.

It’s all about perspective.

Like Mammy, like Mini… stretching with me in Jim

I love to train. I like to hit things with hammers and lift heavy things. I feel good when I’m a certain shape. I keep my mental health in check when I get to train. I find that it falters if I don’t get to train. I’m not particularly vain…I’ll happily go out and about looking like a badger’s nether-regions, (I often do!), but I like to look a certain way so I do my best to do so.

That’s not a reflection on anyone else. It’s just me.

So what has this got to do with Bodyshaming?
Some of the lines I heard after I started training again last May, when Princess was 6 months old.

“What are you doing back at the gym already?” (Look of disapproval.)

I’m sorry, does this offend you? Not that it’s any of your business, but this is my second attempt at starting back because The Him sent me home on my first attempt 2 months earlier, telling me I wasn’t ready yet. ( He was right.)

“Cop yourself on, you’ve just had a BABY!”

Well actually, my Baby is 6 months old and now I feel like I need to get out of the house a few hours a week.

“You’re grand the way you are.”

Thank you. I know you mean well and that is very sweet, but it’s ME who has to feel good about me. Not you.

“You shouldn’t even be THINKING about exercise yet.”

Why exactly? I enjoy it. I miss it. I’m not asking you to do it for me, am I?

“For God’s sake, stop worrying about your weight!”

Maybe, just MAYBE, my weight is NOT the main reason I want to train. People train for exercise, for me-time, for their sanity, for (shock horror) ENJOYMENT!

And WHY the hell does ANYONE think that it’s OK to tell ANYONE to stop worrying about THEIR weight anyway?
You NEVER know who has their own demons to deal with. You have no idea what the person you are talking to sees when they look in the mirror; what they’ve struggled with in the past; what THEY feel is THEIR beautiful. Telling someone to stop worrying about their weight, is akin to telling someone who’s sad to cheer up.

But my favourite one… “Wise up. You should be ENJOYING your Baby.”

Where do I even start with this one? If you dare to leave the baby for an hour to go to the doctor or do the shopping, that’s fine…but the GYM? Well you must not “Enjoy” your Baby…put it back in there why don’t you?

Seriously.

When you’re expecting your baby, you have NO CONTROL over your body. NONE!
AFTER you’ve had your baby, you have even LESS control over your body!
Things are different. Things don’t work. (Other things work WAY too enthusiastically.) Even stepping out of the car too quickly can make you feel like your insides are going to fall out!

It takes time to feel like you’re in charge of YOU again.
So if and when, you decide that you FINALLY feel ready to take a little bit of control back, take it.
Like the Bumps, most of those who comment mean NO HARM WHATSOEVER. In fact, they’re usually trying to make you feel better.

Some comment because they’re uncomfortable that you are training again after a baby and it annoys them for some reason.
But like with the Bumps, the opinion of others is simply that. An opinion and other people’s opinions shouldn’t affect your confidence. They shouldn’t make you doubt yourself. They certainly shouldn’t make you feel the need to explain yourself.
So don’t.

Instead, Love yourself.
Love how you look in all your squishee-belly-ness as your body recovers from cooking that perfect little cupcake.
And if and when you feel like getting back into those jeans, or into that dress, GO FOR IT!

Surround yourself with positive Ladybelles and let the negativity roll off your amazing stretchy skin. (Warwounds, not stretchmarks!)

May it be walking, Slimming World, Exercise classes, Personal Training, pilates… DO WHATEVER YOU ENJOY AND WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU. (Except the Weight loss…sorry “lifestyle” pills, shakes, teas, diets etc. They are BAD no matter HOW they are pitched or advertised.)

And if you DON’T feel like thinking about exercise yet, or ever, good for you too. That’s no one else’s beeswax but your own.

The S-Mum xxx

 

(Updated post. Always relevant!)

First published 2016.

Last published on http://www.donegalwoman.ie Sept 2017