10 Jul

Self Acceptance

For years I sat on the beach and watched as the boys splashed in the surf with my husband. On holidays we’d go to waterparks and I’d brave a slide or two but mainly sit by the pool and keep a watchful eye on them.

It’s not that I wasn’t willing to go and join in but I was wary of myself. Of how I looked in swimming togs and being conscious of other people looking at me.

Recently it’s not that I had an epiphany, far from it!

We were on the beach with the kids during the lockdown and they wanted to go sea swimming, something we normally reserve for very warm Summer days. We are going to be spending an awful lot of the year based from home and are privileged to live by the beach so I got wetsuits for the lads (boys and their Dad). My husband suggested I find one for myself and I decided not to.

The wetsuits arrived and the 3 lads got into the surf together and had an absolute ball. I stood on the beach watching them splash together and had a yearning to join in. I realised that I would have to get one for myself.

At that moment I decided that I wasn’t going to stress about how I looked. I was going to stress about not being part of the fun.

Reader. I bought a plus sized wetsuit. It wasn’t as horrendously expensive as I thought it would be.

Self Acceptance

I am wearing it to sea swim. Something I did a LONG time ago and stopped doing because of my self doubt.

I feel more confident in myself. I’m more body confident. I have borne 2 children. I’ve run a marathon. I am who I am and more comfortable in my own skin.

No longer will I stand to one side because of my own inhibitions. The boys will remember I’m there and part of their lives.

Just one of the wonderful changes that happened in our house during lockdown.

21 Mar

Surviving Job Loss

All of a sudden in the past 10 days 100’s of thousands of people lost their jobs. That’s people with mortgages, rent, children, responsibilities, and in a literal night and day shift they go from having money to pay for all these things to not.

That movement from having a job to having none was brutal and life changing and terrifying. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. There’s a gut wrenching worry and the unrelenting terror that keeps you awake at night and makes you think of nothing else. Then you see people outside going about their regular business and you feel like shouting at them because they shouldn’t be when your entire world is falling apart.

It’s looking likely that my husband will also lose his job in the next week or so and I find that familiar anxiety rising in me. This time though I have the benefit of having been through extreme financial difficulty before and I know how to manage.

Step One: Prioritise

The most important thing right now is to try and stay well and socially distanced (and wash your hands). You do this by figuring out what is important and MUST be paid for as opposed to should be paid for.

What are at the top of the list? Simply food, light, and heat. You need all these three to stay well. If you have a mortgage or rent there are systems set in place now to ask for a break from the banks etc. Use these if you have to. There is no shame in doing this.

Step Two: Solidarity

We are not in this on our own. During the recession everybody was treated individually and at times when it was difficult I found that I felt we were being picked on by the bank. The difference now is that people have been laid off all at once. So you have others to speak to that are in the same situation; reach out, text your coworkers and friends, us social media. Don’t feel on your own. This will help.

Step Three: Focus On What You Can Control

The Covid-19 crisis, not having a job, being cooped up in the house? All of these you can’t control.

You can control the small things. You can make a cup of tea, sort out the bottom of the fridge for once, organise the laundry, hug your kids. These things you can focus on. If you focus on the small stuff and allow the bigger things to take care of themselves you will begin to feel better.

Step Four: Reduce and ReUse

Take a look at your finances, figure out what you can let go. Ring your service providers and negotiate a reduced repayment arrangement. Cut out those crappy monthly subscriptions that you don’t need anymore.

Get a large sheet of paper, write down all the food you have in the house. See how many meals you can get out of that. Plan your meals. Wash your hands.

Step Five: Endure

Know that you are not on your own. You will get through this.

Decide something nice that you will do when you get through the other side. You will get through the other side. It could be a trip to the hairdressers or a pint in the local pub. Whatever. Promise yourself you will do that and work towards it.

Me?

I’m just working towards the day we have free hugs for everyone!

Seriously though this is so blooming difficult and I wish we didn’t have to go down this road again. I’m grateful that I have the skills to survive though.

We will endure.

11 Mar

Online Resources For Isolation

Here we have it. My free ‘what the heck do I do with my kids while they are at home in isolation’ guide to online resources. Bookmark this; in all likelihood we are all going to need it.

Just to mention; don’t unleash your kids at all of this in the first day or even days. There is loads for them to work their way through. If you let them do everything all at once they will become overwhelmed and disinterested.

Learning to Code

Suitable for all ages, Coding is something that we have been doing for a few years. Code.org is a free resource which starts your kids from scratch (sorry folks I couldn’t resist) with familiar characters to make the lessons feel more like playtime.

If you’re interested in moving a bit further than code.org then install Scratch on your pc. We’ve had some good fun with this free application.

Free Books & Magazines

I’m a huge fan of our library card opening a whole new world of reading and enjoyment. If you’re in isolation you’re not going to be able to visit the library but your card gives you free access to BorrowBox which includes free audiobooks and ebooks, you can also read magazines on RBDigital using that same card.

Learning to Type For Free

Libraries in Ireland have recently rolled out TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell) membership for members but this has to be activated in person. If you’re not in isolation get to the library and set up your account. TTRS is brilliant for children who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning disabilities. Think about it though, your child being able to type from a young age will be hugely beneficial later on in life. While you’re at it you might like to sign yourself up too. I know how to type but I still got myself an account.

Other Free Library Benefits

Use your library app (mine is Fingal Libraries) to access free language courses online using Mango, online courses for adults in subjects such as psychology, accounting, free homeschooling resources etc using Universal Class, you can also access an Irish Language database plus oodles more. For Free.

Safer Browsing

I learned this one from the kids’ school actually. It’s a browser called KIDDLE. It’s a ‘safe’ visual search engine for kids. It is safer than letting your children loose on Google.

Free Colouring Sheets can be found here https://www.dltk-kids.com/coloring.htm

Origami is great for fine motor skills. You’ll find free folding directions here https://www.origami-resource-center.com/free-origami-instructions.html

Keeping Active

You know that if you are in isolation your kids can still play in the garden? So long as you ensure that you all keep your distance from others it’s fine to let them out to run amuck. You might not have a garden though or the weather might be dire (I do live in Ireland after all). GoNoodle is a free app and YouTube channel which is designed to engage kids in the classroom (so in tight spaces). Clear a small area of obstacles and get active in bursts.

Speaking of which if you do manage to get out and about this Irish website about Biology might get you started on taking part in a biodiversity study or taking a look at your surroundings.

Keeping Up With Irish

TG4 have their own microsite for children based around their popular Cúla4 kids content. You can of course catch up with their favourite cartoons etc in Irish but they also have a Games and Crafting section on the website which is very helpful. Not forgetting their apps which are second to none.

Looking for similar in English? RTéjr is just as good.

History

What older kid doesn’t love Horrible Histories? Once again there’s games around a historical theme on this website by Scholastic.

Is Maths your thing? Math is fun is free and has oodles of stuff to keep everybody occcupied.

I remember learning to play chess many years ago and it’s a great way to keep a small brain occupied and working on strategy.

Does your child have a healthy interest in Science? The American Museum of Natural History has a wonderful child-friendly website which will keep them engaged as they work their way through the ‘ology’s’.

We also like to find out how stuff works. A must for curious children.

History

The BEST Irish website for history is Dúchas and if your kids (or even you) would like to contribute to Irish history and help the archives then consider helping transcribe the community archives. There are tens of thousands of pages left to transcribe.

It’s also worth guiding your children through the Census archives, looking up your family tree and finding out what their ancestors were doing/living many years ago.

Co-Op Games

I realise this might not be popular but you will want to consider allowing your children to play cooperative games online using headphones with their friends. I’m not going to suggest any ones in particular but you need to bear in mind that the longer their isolation goes on the worse they will feel. This feeling of being connected with their friends can be partially helped by using online games.

Obviously organsing facetime/video calling with friends and family will also help but nothing compares with theme catching up with their pals for a short while every day.

If you have any ideas that I’ve not thought of feel free to comment below!

Note: This is specifically for free online resources. I’m aware that there are loads of paid websites that offer free trials etc. I just want to sign up for stuff for free. Goodness knows we all might be feeling the pinch in the weeks ahead.

Are you worrying about what food supplies you should have in the house? I have you covered.

02 Mar

The Parenting Path Less Travelled

I’m more conscious about what I post online in the past few years. I’ve always included the boys in the conversation surrounding the blog. I have a blog and they understand that what I do is online. However, they are getting older and they are starting to make their own individual footprints in the online world so I’m trying to share what is going on without too much identifying information.

When you parent a neurotypical child your path through life is fairly predictable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its twists/turns/bumps/surprises, but society and the educational system is geared towards the normal child progressing to be a normal adult. Whatever normal is.

Neurotypical. That’s a word that’s part of a brand new lexicon that I’m rapidly becoming accustomed to.

Like every other parent who has found themselves on a slightly different path than they envisioned the last while has been difficult.

My child is still the same they have always been. Nothing has changed about them. Life will be similar but better for them now that we know what their differences are. I, however, carry around worries that they will come up against so many more obstacles than their peers and that life will be even more challenging for them because they are marked differently to everybody else.

Now we have to channel our efforts in this direction and steel ourselves for a prolonged journey into the land of dealing with various state and semi-state institutions. To plead, not for what he needs, but for what he’s entitled to. There’s a big line down the middle of his needs and entitlements. At times the chasm that the line has become is taking my breath away.

Life goes on; we are resilient and will adapt. It’s time to get used to the new normal.

I’ve had this post in my drafts for quite some time. A long time as it happens. For months when I went to post on the blog it became an obstacle to posting something new. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve when it comes to parenting. I’ve edited and posted this a million times in my mind. This is not a ‘poor me’ or a ‘poor them’ blog post. It is what it is; we are where we are.

28 Aug

Lunchbox Tips

I can safely say that I’ve literally made hundreds of school lunches over the years and I’ve hundreds more to make.

If you’ve got a child starting school this year or if you are looking to freshen up your lunchboxes, here are my top, tried and tested, tips for packing a lunchbox: Read More

23 Mar

The Brexit Kitchen Stores

Did I get your attention there? Or maybe, like me, you rolled your eyes a little bit at the thoughts of stockpiling certain food items in advance of Brexit (in whatever form it eventually takes). Bear with me here though, because a fully stocked store cupboard is a thing of beauty and regardless of the UK imminently leaving the EU it’s a good idea.

What’s in my pre-Brexit store cupboards? It’s probably easier to list it out according to category:

Dry Stores

  • Beans – Black eyed, pinto, chickpeas (garbanzo), and butterbeans
  • Lentils
  • Seeds – Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower, Poppy, Nigella (onion seed)
  • Sugar – Caster, Granulated, Soft Brown, Dark Brown, Demerara (did you know it’s not produced in Ireland anymore?)
  • Flour – Plain, Self Raising, Strong, Type 00 (for pasta making), Wholemeal, Brown
  • Oats
  • Tinned Beans (blackbeans, pinto, chickpeas, butterbeans, and baked beans)
  • Passata
  • Tomato Puree
  • Oils – olive, sunflower, rapeseed, peanut
  • Dried Fruit – Raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, figs
  • Pasta – spaghetti, lasagne sheets, and several different pasta shapes
  • Rice – White, brown, basmati, pudding
  • Bulghar Wheat
  • Couscous
  • Stock Cubes
  • Tea
  • Coffee

Freezer

  • Loaves of bread
  • Meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb
  • Fish
  • Pizzas (emergency use only)
  • Yoghurt
  • Vegetables – peas, sweetcorn, butternut squash
  • Fruit – gooseberries, raspberries, bananas (skin off), strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, apple purée (perfect for baking)

How do I build up my stores? I simply buy a little bit extra every week and factor it into my shopping budget, the maximum I spend each week is €5 on the extra items but store items like beans are extremely good value and I can get plenty for that amount of money.

The idea is, Brexit aside, that I should be able to feed the family from the freezer and cupboards for up to a month or more in the event of me running out of cash. I’d really only need to buy milk (which I know I can also freeze but I don’t have space) and eggs.

I have to emphasise here, I’m not a hoarder! I rotate my stocks and we will eat absolutely everything in the presses in rotation. Once I reach a set limit on my store levels I restock. I also keep an eye out for special offers and deals to stock back up.

Do you only buy what you need? Do you keep large stores like I do or do you just top up 1 item as and when it runs out? Might you change your shopping habits in the coming weeks and months?

PS

It’s likely that there are some foodstuffs that are going to be more expensive in the next few months. However, buying locally produced seasonal food is always going to be more affordable. Think fruits and vegetables for example. The first of the Irish tomatoes left a farm local to me over the St Patrick’s Day weekend, and strawberries won’t be far behind, so keep an eye out in the supermarkets this week as choosing to buy Irish has a long-term impact on our local communities and economy.

17 Dec

The Big Christmas Food Shop

If, like me, you’ve got that slightly rising panicked feeling about Christmas Dinner and what the last shop before Christmas Day will cost, stop now and have a little read of Day 17 of my Christmas With Caitríona series.

Read More

12 Dec

Simple Handscrub & Lotion Bars

Simple-Homemade-Cosmetics-2.jpgSimple Handscrub

This is the kind of gift that a small child can make, and actually they’d probably love the feeling of squishing the oil and other ingredients together. We used organic ingredients because we’d rather use them where we have the option. Read More

01 Dec

December 2018

With the Toy Show being on last night Christmas season has officially kicked off in Ireland; in fact I have a Christmas party to go to tonight. The kids are obsessed with Christmas and their pure joy and delight in decorations in the shops and music playing on the radio is brilliant. As usual for the start of December though I don’t have the decorations up and I’ve no Christmas Tree in the sitting room quite yet.

I know I’m not the only one. I suppose it’s a hangover from the days of being so stressed out about money that we tried not to put the decorations up early or the presents under the tree until we had them bought. It felt like we were making promises to the kids (and to ourselves) that we just couldn’t keep.

The memories of tossing in turning in bed at night wondering how to borrow from Peter and pay Paul will never go away. I hope that they never do because I understand now that they have (a) brought me to where I am today and (b) know exactly what it’s like for those who are struggling at the moment.

Over the next month I’ll have something new each day for you to read or watch. I’ll share my tips on how to prepare for Christmas on a budget; how to not to be a Mammy-martyr in the lead up to the big day, how to ask for help gracefully, and some budget present ideas for all ages.

For today, the first day of December, I’d like to ask you to add 1 small extra item to your grocery shopping this week to donate to your local food appeal. It needn’t be something expensive, even if it’s an extra tin of beans or a bag of rice. If you’d rather not add an extra item in, why not see if you have something in your cupboards already that you’d like to share. Here’s the list from the St Vincent de Paul for their food appeal (this is also suitable for the Lions Club food appeals). Click here for the St Vincent de Paul list.

I’ve got some bags of pasta and some tins of beans which will be brought to our local collection point this week.

Chat tomorrow. Cxxx

13 Sep

45 Days To Go – Dublin City Marathon

The photograph? That’s me completing the Great Ireland Run 10K race in the Phoenix Park in the Spring this year. I hate running photographs with a passion. They are never flattering.

I’m embracing the running photographs though. I started running in December 2017 when I previously wouldn’t have even run after an ice cream van. Each photograph tells a story that is far much more than a race.

You know all those photos you see tagged on Instagram with #FitFam? The vast, vast majority of those photos are posed and edited by people who want to appear their best ‘for the insta’. My running photos however can’t be edited, they’re a snapshot of me completing a difficult task and making a step towards being fitter. So even if I don’t seem to be as perfect as the posed gym photographs, I know that I am holding my own.

In the meantime I’m trying to ignore a long list of questions, 45 days out from Dublin City Marathon 2018.

  • What the actual heck have I signed myself up for?
  • Why did I think that running a marathon in 2018 would be a good idea?
  • What if I don’t finish it in under the cut-off time of 7 hours?
  • Am I going to injure myself by exercising for 6+ hours non-stop?
  • Will there still be somebody at the finish line to meet me?

Just some of the questions going through my mind at the moment.

I feel like I’m walking a tightrope; trying to juggle home, work, and slot in training. I knew that undertaking a marathon and all the training that it entailed would be difficult. I didn’t realise that I would be followed around by so many questions.

This week I had to go away for work for a few days. Everything was going swimmingly until I found out that J (my husband) had an accident which has resulted in him having to pull out of training and of course the marathon for this year. He’s torn the muscles in his back pretty badly and is devastated. Yet I still had to pull on my gear and go for a long slow run that day with all the doubts rattling around inside of my head.

J has been my running buddy from last December. We started off on this mission to run a marathon together and it’s shattering to accept that we won’t be crossing the finish line side-by-side. I know that seeing me continue to train and work towards the goal that we held together is very difficult for him and I am just praying that he will be there to meet me once I cross the finish line.

I’ve called in the big guns. My regular training with the club will finally resume this week (I’ve been away a good bit so training on my own), I’ve also booked a Chi Running workshop. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

Training for a marathon I’m learning is about training yourself internally to cope with the doubts, questions, and niggles. It is as much about mental resilience as it is about physical resilience.

29 May

May Update 2018

Oh look I found the blog again under a pile of laundry and paperwork in my so-called-office (aka the laundry area). I didn’t stop blogging for a spell on purpose, I just had so much stuff on that I struggled to find the time. Anyway sure look-it. I’m back and I’ve got loads of interesting things coming up and good news that I thought I’d share it here!

The recipes are back; I have a shed-load of recipes in drafts which I’m going to drip-feed to you over the next couple of weeks including some beautiful main courses for family meals, along with some simple sweet treats. If you’ve been following me on Instagram (click here if you don’t already and would like to), you’ll have seen some sneak peeks. Writing recipes is something I love to do because it’s a chance for me to get creative in the kitchen.

Bloom In The Park is this week! Jeepers how the heck did it come around that quickly? I’m a massive fan of the festival anyway but this year I’ll be demonstrating some of my favourite recipes at the Fun In The Farm area. If you will be at Bloom please come and say hello. I’m also joining a GIY discussion panel at their area on the Saturday so it’ll be a jam-packed festival with food and growing food top of the agenda. If, like me, you like gardens and food then expect me to fill your timeline full of gorgeous pictures from tomorrow until Monday. Bloom, created by Bord Bia, opens to the general public from Thursday morning. Read More

08 Mar

Nearly Never Ran The…

Last Sunday was my second ‘competitive’ running race of the year.

I run at least once a week with the Balbriggan Road Runners group. There are not enough superlatives to describe how great and supportive they all are. Normally on a run day I chart my progress using my FitBit to time how long it takes me to run the distance we’ve set ourselves that night, it’s always over 5km though. Which makes it easy to see how I’m doing from one day to the next, one route to the next.

Competitive running (so to speak) is a bit different because we have a chip in a bib number that records how long it takes us to run a distance. These races bring out the serious runners, the ones who lap you before you’ve even completed your first lap. They’re a BIG DEAL. The first race I did this year it snowed, alot, and I basically walked it all. Hilariously this second race was nearly called off because of the Big Snow, or as it will be come to known in the future, SNMarch2018. Read More

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