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.

I am Some Packing Hacking Mum

Packing for holidays is something I’ve always been good at; enjoyed even.  I am the Queen of packing light, usually packing for both of us in one case.  I’ve been known to arrive in my brother’s in London with just a handbag. Essentials only.  I’m low maintenance when it comes to packing.  As long as I have my lenses, bank card and passport, I’m a “good to go” kind of gal.

case

But that in the days BC; Before Children.  If we’re going away even for a night, more effort goes into packing for the girls to have a sleepover in Granny’s than into our own packing. Going on Staycations over the past few years, even minimal packing has filled the car to the brim.

holidaypacking.png

So going abroad for the first time with the two minions and limited luggage posed its own problems.  And yet, with some great tips from the Mammies on my blog, I managed to make our 4 x suitcase, 80Kg allowance into two suitcases of 39Kg. so rather than 4 big cases and carry-on bags, we had only 2 bags to lug around airports and a small handbag or backpack each.

So here are my top tips for packing for a family holibop.

  1. Plan and List: Yes I am a Listy McListerson. I made a list of everything we’d need; clothes, nappies, chargers, suncream etc.  I planned the outfits to bring for each of us for each day.  I then added 2 extra outfits for the girls because let’s face it, at some point there will be a spillage or a poonami or something.   I set the cases out and as I set things into the room where I was packing, I ticked them off the list. Anything that wasn’t on the list, didn’t go in the bags.

2. Ziplock bags: BEST IDEA EVER from a fellow JimMum. She told me to put everything in clear bags; swimwear, pjs, vests, undrewear etc.  I put each outfit for the girls into wee bags and wrote their initial on the front. I popped underwear/nappy into each bag too, so in the evening  when they were being showered, I simply reached for the bags and their full outfits were ready to go. No searching for things in cases. Easy.

3.Spread the love:  Pack a change of clothes and swimwear for everyone in one of the carryone bags. This way, if your room isn’t ready, you can still go to the pool without having to start rummaging through cases. Another tip I got, which made perfect sense was to spread everyone’s clothes between the cases so that if a case got lost or delayed, everyone still had clothes with them.

4. Snack packs: I don’t know about your Minions, but my two eat every 5 minutes. My sister advised me to do up little snack bags for the flights and also for the pool bag and while I initially laughed it off, I am so glad that I did.  For  less than €6, I filled 9 bags with their favourites; popcorn, haribo, raisins, breadsticks etc. And each day, they munched through these and we saved a fortune, only having to buy ice-creams and drinks.

5. Puzzlebooks and mermaid poo:  For a few euro in a Euro shop, I stocked up on colouring books and puzzlebooks, crayons and “Mermaid poo”  These went into my bag every evening and were produced after dinner, proving a great distraction when needed.

6. Downloads: Now, we don’t usually resort to screens outside of home unless we’re desperate for just 10 more minutes to finish a meal. But downloading episodes from Netflix is a must.  Firstly, for the last hour of the flight, where the colouring books are exhausted and secondly, after their shower in the evening to give Mammy and Daddy 20 minutes to get ready. A few episodes of Ben & Holly came in handy.

7. One big carry-on bag: While I had my handbag, and the girls had their backpacks, Him carried a small case.  On the way over, it was pretty empty apart from swimwear, but on the way home, we used it for all of the towels and checked it into the hold. It also meant that we had room for bits and pieces the girls had gathered up while away.

deckchairs

8. Microfibre towels: This was my greatest hack ever. I picked these up half price in Mountain Warehouse and I’ll be going in to buy some more soon. I brought 2 big ones and one handsized one, and they dried us all for the full week. These things dry instantly and are light and fold up tiny.  So handy and so much lighter than packing loads of beach-towels.

9. Pillow cases: Pack two or three and use them for dirty washing throughout the holiday. Easy packing the night before you return home and easy unpacking when you get back. One of lights, one for colours etc.

10. Swim nappies: While you can get pretty much EVERYTHING you need where ever you are going, swim nappies cost a fortune abroad. I bought packs of 12 at £3 each in Strabane.  They were almost €8 for 3 nappies in the supermarket there.

11. An “incase” bag:  I took a wee bag with Calpol and Nurofen sachets, sachets of diaralyte and a blister of motilium and Imodium etc.  Apart from the plasters and one or two calpol, thankfully we didn’t need these, but if we had, they were in the apartment and we’d have been glad of not having to go searching for a pharmacy.

20180701_130650

12. A sound Splitter:  Probably not the correct name, but this wee thing was a Godsend on the flight. It allows 2 sets of headphones to be  used at once so the girls were able to watch a show together. It was €3 in Penneys.

20180629_192532

If you are packing or yet to pack for your holidays, I hope this helps and I’m not at all jealous…

It goes so quickly. Enjoy every second!  If you have any other hints or hacks, share them below.

And don’t forget to follow me on Bookface .

​I am Survival List Mum


“Surviving Christmas,” “Christmas Survival Tips for the Working Mum”, “How to Survive Christmas”…

I googled this last night.

Some of the “advice” online is nothing short of HILARIOUS.  I fear most of it may have been written by one of the following:

🎄Mary of the Poppins herself

🎄Someone without kids

🎄A Man… 😂😂😂
Here are some of the best pieces I gleaned, followed by my honest and polite response: Buckle up Bitcheepoos…😙😉
1.  “Be Prepared.”

No shit Sherlock.  As opposed to waking on Christmas Eve and remembering to buy a turkey and gifts? Seriously…
2. “Buy gifts throughout the year and wrap them as you go.”

Now this one I can partially agree with, except S-Mum’s would read “Buy gifts throughout the year, put them somewhere safe and then forget all about them until the week before Christmas, when you have all the gifts bought and then open a box or bag or suitcase and find all the PawPatrol jigsaws you bought in July.  Or even better, find them when you’re putting the decorations away in January!”
3. “Choose a theme for your gifts to add that personal magic”.

Here’s a theme.  Shut the fuck up.  Most of us just about manage to buy for everyone we have to buy for.  And if you’re anything like me, you’ll remember someone on Christmas Day and freak out with guilt and embarrassment and mumble some crap about it not being delivered on time before popping to the loo to order on Amazon with next day delivery. (But if you doooooo want to add a personal touch and be remembered fondly by your loved ones, put glitter🦄 into all of the cards and gifts so that their floors get clattered and you are applauded for spreading the magic of Christmas. Go ahead, I dare you! 😂😂)
4. “Place delicate or expensive ornaments on higher branches.”

Ok this one, I can empathise with.  Especially if you have toddlers or dogs. 🐶But in reality, put delicate or expensive decorations in the ATTIC and leave them there until 2023.
5. “Ice the Christmas Cake 2 weeks before Christmas”

Or in real life, remember on the 23rd that for some reason you need a Christmas cake and either pop to M&Spensive or decide not to bother with cake this year. Either way, it doesn’t really matter does it?
6. “Decorating the home should be a family occasion followed by a family meal.”

Oh really? Should it really? If by “family meal” you mean a bottle of wine after the kids have all gone to bed, then yes…yes this is true. 😅 Decorating the home is, for most, a painful and highly stressful process which generally takes more than one afternoon and involves tears, mess and even declarations of divorcing children and husbands.  If you can get the actua tree up in one go, save yourself the stress and put everything else up by yourself, on your own, without the rest of the family annoying your head.  After bedtime is ideal.😘😉
7. “Keep alcohol locked away.”

Out of the reach of children yes, but keep the key in your frilly fecking apron.
8. “Stock up on essentials:  batteries, bread, milk and cream.”

Why there is no gin or wine on this list, is beyond me.
9. “Go Christmas Shopping without children. Bring a drink and a snack with you.”

Who the hell wrote this?  If you can get someone to mind the minions for an hour, OF COURSE, go Christmas shopping without them. Have a gin and eat chocolate.
10. “Create a cleaning schedule for your home to keep on top of things this Christmas”.

There aren’t enough swear words for this one. A Cleaning Schedule? Who the hell has time to write a cleaning schedule? In the time it would take me to write a cleaning schedule, I would probably have half the cleaning done.  If you can keep floors lego free and counters salmonella free, you’re doing great! You deserve a treat. 💚
There were a few little nuggets in fairness.  Some of the better advice included “Scale down your expectations”, “Invent your own traditions”, and “Give yourself a break.”

Another gem that I completely agree with is “Buy disposable baking trays”: I stock up on aluminium turkey trays every year and everything is cooked in them.  It’s a life saver!


The lists and articles largely did what they always do however; put undue pressure on already busy parents to stress themselves to create a picture perfect Christmas card-esque scene that in reality, is nonsense.

Do what YOU want to do.  Buy what YOU can afford.  Cook what YOU like to eat. If you don’t like mince pies, don’t fricken buy them. If you want to let your kids open all of the presents on Christmas morning, do it!  If you like to wrap all the everything, do so.  If you don’t, DON’T!

It’s that simple.  We don’t need a survival list to survive Christmas, we need to give ourselves a break and enjoy it, because if you take a second to stop and look around you, often in the midst of lost presents and superfluous food shopping, you can see a little bit of magic without having to buy it.
What is your favourite “Survival tip” and why?