Some Back to School Hacks…

So it’s time to get back in our groove and return 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. Even though the girls have been up around 7am most mornings over the summer, suddenly having to have everyone out the door, fully dressed and even partially fed, has been a challenge.

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.

  1. 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.  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. (I also chop up/peel etc the food in Mini-Me’s lunch.  Not because I like to spoil, but because she’s a slow eater and it means she’ll eat more in the few minutes they have to eat at lunch time.)

2. All hail the Slowcooker: Unfortunately, with The Him and Jim working 482 hours per week, family dinners are only a weekend thing here, so yes I usually end up cooking twice a day. 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, muck-uped 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 working a treat again already. I bought this stack of drawers and labeled the front. Every Sunday, I put clean pants and socks into the drawers. 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.

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 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

Stop Asking Questions Mammy

“Did you have a nice day at school?” yeah
“Any news for me?”  No
“What did you learn today?” Nuthin
“Did you learn anything new today?” Nope.  
“How are your friends?” Grand…
Bad Mammy, asking Lazy-Mammy questions. 
Don’t you know there are lists of Perfect Parenting question hacks, and higher-order clever-Mammy questions, that we can ask in order to engage our minions on the journey home or when they get in?
Yeah, whatever Jacinta. 
Trust me, even if I were to ask “Can you tell me one new thing you learned today?” I’d still get “Nuthin”.
Or
“Tell me one thing you found out at school today?”  “Nuthin”
Or
“Did Teacher tell you anything interesting today?”  “Nope!”
Or
“Is there anything exciting that you’d like to share with me today?”  “Yeah… silence”.    
Ok, maybe she wouldn’t SAY this, but I’ll bet she’s thinking it. If she could articulate properly, she’d probably tell me she wants a big fat cup of shut the feck up Mammy… 
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She MIGHT say “I’ve just spent the whole day answering questions and concentrating and listening and translating in my head. I’ve been Good-Me since 8.30am. I’m now in the car, safe and back with you.  I want to NOT think.  I want to sleep.  I want to watch TV.  I want to cry.  I want to throw a tantrum so that I can eventually spill that I had a fight with my BFF or that I got hit by a ball again… But right now, I need to adjust.  I need to go from being my public-at-school little self, to my actual self.  Much like you take off your makeup and stick your hair in a bun and throw on your PJ bottoms and one of Daddy’s teeshirts to switch off from YOUR job-job, I need to transition too. So, a mummy Dearest,  if you’d keep your prattling, repetative questions to yourself until my brain has a chance to catch up, we MIGHT have a chat then.”
The wobbler one?  
I try.
I try I do. 
I waste my time there too.
“Did you have a good day?”… Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
“What did you do today?” … “Paw Patrol”
“Did you miss Mammy?”…  “Pawpatrol”
“What do you want for dinner?”… “I don’t WANT dinner. I haved dinner alweady!”
“Did you do anything nice today?”… “No!”
She thinks    “Mammy’s home.  I am sooooo done keeping my little shit together.  I must now scream and huff and growl and eyebrow-furrow and stomp, and howl “Paw Patrol” enough times to make Mammy either turn ON Paw Patrol or huggle me and squeeze me and…oh look, my big sister is huffing  and staring out the window.  I shall do that too.  Oh look, my big sister is crying.  Not sure what she is crying about, but hey, it looks like it might feel good and possibly punish Mammy a little, so I shall CRY TOO.  Why am I crying?  Feck knows, but hey!
Mammy is sighing and muttering letters under her breath. Me not know letters.  
Mammy should stop annoying me and Big Sis wif silly questions on our way home.
Does her not know by now, that we will both keep ALL of our stories and excitingful information until 5 minutes after bedtime?
…Or until 3.15am, when I shall stick a finger up her nose to wake her to tell her dat Johnny bumped hims head on hims croissant. 
Sssssssh Mammy…”
#fml

So Hands Up Who’s Done Their Homework?

Homework…

As a teacher, I can never discredit the importance of homework. It compliments learning and encourages independent study and learning.

I do however have a strange attitude to homework, it seems.

The teacher in me says that it is necessary…essential even. It allows students to check that they understand what was covered in class. It promotes responsibility for learning and pride in their own work, and it allows the teacher to evaluate who, and how well, their students have been learning. It also lets parents see what their kids are doing and how they are getting on.

But all of these advantages ONLY work when children do their homework for themselves. And it seems to becoming more and more ‘normal’ that the homework being sent home is becoming the homework of the parents.

When we were at school 359 years ago, we did our homework and went to school, where the teacher commented on it. If it was incorrect or insufficient, she or he told us; marked where we went wrong and showed how to fix it. If we made mistakes, we realised them.

If we couldn’t do it, we asked our parents to help and show us. They didn’t have Google, so if they couldn’t help us, they told us to ‘ask your teacher’. We learned to ask for help if we needed. And we learned that needing something explained again was normal.

IF a child doesn’t get the little x or the comment or the example of how to improve from the teacher, how are they ever supposed to learn?

Homework can be viewed as an essential part of learning, but with the increase in pace of life and the massive timetables and routines in most homes nowadays, it can also be seen as a torture.

Me? Now, as a Mum to a dizzy seven year old, I am absolutely aware of the royal pain in the bum that homework is.

I would like to see less written work some evenings, especially for little ones. I like the idea of set homework days. So many of us spend evenings taking them to other classes or activities, all of which are important for their development and confidence too.

And in some houses, there is very limited time between home-time and bedtime, and family time is limited because it’s spent trying to get through hills of homework, never mind cooking and feeding them and trying to fit your whole day into a few hours.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine is knackered after a full day at school. She wants to play with her toys, or read her books, or go bounce on the trampoline, or sometimes just watch TV … and by Thursday, she’s as done in as I am.

I see more and more parents online and in groups stressing about their kids’ homework. I had this conversation with a few friends recently. One stated that she feels like the homework is testing HER, rather than her daughter. Another commented that he feels useless as he’s unable to understand the homework his 8 year old gets.

And another said that the homework was taking nearly 90 minutes in the evening. Her children are 4 and 5. I stood pretty quietly if I’m honest, the Mammy guilt creeping in, because I am one of those BAD parents it seems. Because Mini-Me’s homework is HER homework, not mine.

You see, in our house, SHE does the homework.

I check it and I sign the diary. If I see letters back to front or a very silly mistake, I’ll point it out in a question. ‘Do you think that’s long enough?’ ‘Is that 3 written right?’ and ‘Will teacher be happy with that?’ work.

If she thinks it’s fine, I won’t correct her, even if I know that it’s not good enough. I’m very aware of how she is getting on and what she is struggling with, but I don’t fight with her. Because to be honest, she won’t listen to me anyway. Me telling her something is wrong goes over her head. Teacher telling her something is wrong however, is GOSPEL. And I won’t have my children growing up thinking that their school work is my problem. It’s theirs.

Why? Am I cruel? Am I lazy? Should I not be sitting down and guiding her through the work every night so she can present perfect homework to Teacher every day? Because that is what many parents do. And the kids go to school with perfect work and get no red marks and every one is happy… until they do a test and it becomes apparent that actually, Nancy doesn’t get long division, or Jimmy doesn’t know his vowel sounds.

How she learns and grows is not going to be dependent on how well I understand her multiplication or Irish verbs. And when she gets to secondary school, she needs to be able to manage her time and to take criticism. (And trust me here, that is a skill that our kids need. Because the number of teenagers who are genuinely unable to take criticism of ANY kind is unbelievable.)

The New Junior Cycle is so full of home-based projects and self-evaluation, that if we don’t allow our young children to do their own work, take the comments on it, apply them and understand, we are simply setting OURSELVES up for a lot of work when they get to secondary school.

I asked my followers what they thought about homework during the week. Here are some of the replies:

71% feel that their kids get too much homework.

“I feel I am putting more pressure on my child after school is over.”

“Yes. My son is 7 and his concentration is gone by the time he gets home”

“Yes. It’s a struggle everyday, especially if they have activities or classes to go to too.”

“I stopped checking their homework in senior infants. 100% result not true. They need to see the x marks.”

“Not every night, but my 9 year old is overwhelmed sometimes.”

“Life is too precious for homework, get out and explore!”

Then I had a few primary teachers reply:

One said that as a Mum, she hates it, but that as a teacher, she has to give it.

Two said that they hate to think they are putting pressure on parents but that it is a necessity for learning.

Another said “Under pressure to give it!”

One said that if she didn’t give homework “there are so many kids who would spend the whole evening in front of a screen,” and this of course is also true.

And a few reminded me that there are time guidelines that should be adhered to.

So it’s very much a double edged sword and I am the perfect example of the sword bearer.

The teacher in me gives it (although I limit it. I feel that if they’re engaged and attentive in my classroom, they don’t need daily home activities from me.) The parent in me hates it, but agrees that it is important too…

But ONLY if they are doing it themselves and it is functional and meaningful.

It’s her homework not mine. She needs to be able to take comments and criticism if necessary. She needs to learn the process of what she’s doing. If I do it for her, she’s learning that I’ll do it for her and that she can opt out.

But am I going to stand up in her exams and give a talk on how I created something? Am I going to sit her exams for her? Am I going to be there to explain to the teacher how I got an answer that she couldn’t do?

No.

But I will be there to smile at her when SHE gets 8/10 or to let her rant about being scolded. I will be there to cheer her on when SHE gets the best mark SHE can get. And I will be there to praise her when she finally figures out that maths thingy that she couldn’t do.

Because I’ve been to school. (I’m still there!) I’ve done my homework. I learned what I learned and I failed if I didn’t work. But NEVER, did my parents do any of it for me. And NEVER did they make excuses for me if I didn’t do it right or didn’t do it at all. And as much as I grumbled and complained about that as a teenager, I am now grateful for it.

There is no right or wrong here. Each house is different and every child has different strengths and abilities, and every parent knows what works for their kids.

But I’d love to know your general thoughts on homework.

I am Some FriYay Reminders Mum

Rejoice! Rejoice!

It is Friyay…the FIRST Friyay after a FULL week of school and work and routine. And we have all survived. (albeit just about, but survive we have.)

We may be frazzled and fooked Mammies, but still we must find the energy to REJOICE in the Fact that we have made it to the most wonderful evening of the week.

This week, after a long and sunniful summer,I am back to being a Full-time Mammy with a Full-time Job-job. What have I learned? Nothing. But I have remembered many things; Things that I had suffocated and locked in a tattered old box at the back of the memory part of my subconscious, but which now bounce back to the forefront of my ridiculously tired little mind.

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Tired Children:

  1. Tired children are cranky.  
  2. Tired children like to find a reason, ANY reason, to cry.
  3. Tired children do not KNOW that they are tired.  
  4. Tired children refuse to admit that they are tired.
  5. Tired children will bite one another.
  6. Tired children do not like to go to their beds, regardless of how tired they are.
  7. Tired children like to wake up at 2am and play with their toys, with the light on, noisily enough to waken everyone so that they have someone to tell that they are NOT tired.
  8. Tired children do NOT like to get dressed in the morning.
  9. Tired children do NOT like it when you bounce into their bedrooms at 7am singing “Good Morning, Good Moooooooorning!,  opening curtains and declaring that it is time for school. (Especially the not tired children who have been up half the night playing with their fecking toys.)
  10. Tired children like to say “No” and “No” and sometimes, “Noooooo!” to absolutely EVERYTHING that Tired Mammy asks or suggests.

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And along with tired children, comes the Tired Mammy.  But as well as being a tired Mammy, Mammy ALSO has to be SUPER-ORGANISED Mammy.

  1.  Mammy needs to keep on top of the fridge situation.  
  2. Mammy needs to pack lunchboxes and school bags and afterschool bags.
  3. Mammy needs to remember the fecking HORROR that is HOMEWORK.  
  4. Mammy needs to think about dinners sooner than when she opens the fridge at 6pm.  
  5. Mammy needs to set her alarm to make sure she gets out of bed 30 minutes before everyone else if Mammy wants to pee, shower and have a coffee all by herself.
  6.  Mammy needs to be an intelligent and functioning adult.  
  7. Mammy needs to rid her brain of references to Peppa Pig and Andy and Bing because they are not relevant to Macbeth and teenagers do NOT respond well to them.
  8. Mammy needs to try to keep the washing basket from puking and Mammy needs to arrange everyone’s clothes before bedtime.
  9. Mammy needs to remain relatively Wifely and interesting enough to hold a brief conversation with Tired Daddy when he comes home from Jim.
  10. And Mammy needs to get used to wearing stupid heels and muckup every single day.  (I’ll last until the end of September…)
  11. Mammy needs to cram all of the Mammying and playing and cuddling and scolding and fun into 3 hours in the evening, while being JUST as tired as her beloved Tired Children who are determined to PUNISH her tired ass for abandoning them in school and creche. (Even though they both LOVE where they go and actually CRY when they are collected.)
  12. Mammy struggles with balancing the Mammy guilt when she’s away from them, and the urge to sell them on ETSY when she’s spent an hour being screamed at and cried at by her Tired Minions.
  13. Mammy can’t win.

In conclusion.  Mammy does indeed need to rejoice that she has made it to Friday night, has the tired minions in bed, her feet up and the grapes poured.  And now Mammy needs all of her Lovely Supermums to say Hello and remind her of what I have been missing while abandoning you all this week while trying to keep 286 plates spinning without falling off her heels and onto her poor,  muck-uped, Mammy-guilty face.

Because as Tired as the two Dollies are, and despite the fact that I had to WAKE them every morning this week, I guarantee that the little farts shall be up at 6.30am tomorrow…

Why?

Because it’s Saturday of course.  

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Cheers Bitcheepoos. xxx