Answers for myself this time last year

fortune

This old thing? A fiver in Penneys. Now, down to business…

1. Yes. Everyone is alive and well.

2. Yes. You will get a job. In March. A year’s contract. You’re not enamoured by it, but it’ll do till you move.

3. No. You don’t move. Sorry. You still have plenty of those intense late-night discussions about it. You both vow to make 2015 the now or never moment. Future happiness depends on it. You both learn it the hard way.

4. She is thriving. You still can never quite believe she is yours, and frequently wonder aloud if you’ll still be following her around in her 20’s telling her how much you love her.

5. A million miles an hour.

6. A cross between Herman Monster and Dora the Explorer. She wouldn’t sit still.

7. He is the same calm self. Healthier, and running like Forrest Gump through the town every other day. He’s in a new job with more variety. It’s back in the city so he’s less isolated.

8. No.

9. Yes.

10. No. It doesn’t happen for you both. C’mon…you know the odds are low. But you do make peace with it.

11. You are both fine. He will prove his love many times as you encounter a few rogue horizons before finally hitting the seabed you’ve been hovering above. You’re rising with a wave of hope on the cusp of January 2015. Can’t you feel it? Make it last.

12. They are well. The situation with your brother took its toll on them but they have come out the other side intact.

13. He is steadier on his feet. He meets someone who is also on the rebound. It’s over by Christmas but he has learned a new definition of affection, and everyone is relieved the children seem happier and settled. There is talk of them getting back together but a seat remains empty at the Christmas dinner table.

14. No. The fridge-light remained your enemy but you’re back in respect with your body and relying on looking after it to ensure number 4 is realised. See number 11.

15. Treatment is successful. You meet in September and it will feel like only yesterday. Reconstructive surgery is scheduled for Spring 2015. She will articulate her trauma and reconciliation with a new future in a way that leaves you stunned and full of admiration in equal measure.

16. Yes. You begin to write again. On a blog. You agonise over what to call it and regret it shortly after. You blog about this and that. Waffle mostly. Family life. The North. Whatever annoys or moves you. Sometimes both simultaneously. Many more hours are given over to reading the blogs of others. Some know you’re writing it, but only a few are given the link.

17. Yes! You’ve managed to keep it going after 9 months. Take a bow.

18. Do you really have to ask? Of course you’re a ridiculous procrastinator. The number of books on your bedside locker has doubled. Consistent with the number of those gathering dust.

19. No Electric Picnic this year I’m afraid. And before you get excited at the prospect of the following year – a family member has only gone and announced their wedding plans for the same weekend. You console yourself with some fist chewing. On the plus side you get a ticket to Body & Soul for 2015. It comes like a golden ticket tucked inside of a bar of Green & Black’s on Christmas morning.

20. You only manage a handful. John Grant. John Murry. Neil Young. Joan As Policewoman. John Fullbright.

21. No contest. John Grant doing a cover of Abba’s Angel Eye’s at The Olympia with yer man from Villagers. You pray to God Sinead excuses herself from that one. Then listen to it 14 times in a row when it’s uploaded on youtube.

Musical moment of the year

22. Yes. He comes out. You both hear about it via text driving to Dundalk on a Saturday afternoon. You cry a little with relief and curse that he has to do it at all. Everyone loves him as before. His Dad momentarily wonders if he could’ve done something different before his daughters tell him to cop on.

23. Hardly. What do you think? *arches brow*

24. A wee baby boy!

25. It sadly ended in miscarriage.

26. Not enough. You miss your friends more than ever.

27. Just one. A kindred soul in work you click with immediately. She is hastily pushed out of her agency contract but you stay in touch.

28. A little.

29. Does a new second-hand car count?

30. No. Not even London. A staycation by the sea. Get your passport renewed – it’s due to expire next April. You’ll finally be able to replace the photo of you grossly hung over. You’ll probably look exactly the same when you add on the ten intervening years.

31. Three penalty points. For texting on the straight from Belfast. Numpty.

32. Well, you agree to be a witness at the wedding of a couple you’ve never met before in January. The other witness is a fellow poster on the same forum who turns out to be just as funny and sound as she was while entertaining you on the message board. You both agree it’s surreal. But a laugh. Oh and you eventually abandon the message-board. You haven’t time what with the blogging and the box-sets and making lists of things to do that rarely get done.

33. Mild suspicion of your uncharacteristic optimism.

34. Paralysis. Rogue horizons. Therapeutic outlets. Determination. In that order.

34. Hmmm. Be Brave & Believe by Declan O’Rourke, or Glacier by John Grant.

35. For the love of Christ. I can’t see that far ahead. Now bugger off.

Review: Best Parenting books of 2014

1. What to Suspect When You’re Expecting by Heidi E. Fuckoff & Sharon Nasalhair

My pregnancy bible and top of the best-seller list for another year. It’s broken into seven fairly substantial parts including:

First things first:
This contains all things pre-conceptual and preparation for both mums and dads. For example, did you know how close you were to getting knocked up for all those months before intentionally applying yourself to the task? Back when you were winging it with counting backwards from your last period and using the fingers on one hand to estimate your next before concluding “ah shure I’m grand for another few days yet”. Wrong. You had an eighty per cent chance of getting pregnant 45 days before ovulation, with or without dangling your legs in the air. As suspected, the dangling legs advice is designed to take the bad look off knocking back the Brazil nuts with gusto and leaving Fair City to watch on RTE +1 in order to maximise your chances this month with a sprint upstairs for a quickie. ‘Sprint’ might be an exaggeration. It’s also OK to have a pee two minutes after doing the deed. That’s ten minutes less leg dangling. There’s nothing in it about whether blokes notice your cellulite as much as you suspect but your first hunch is probably right.

Nine months and counting:
This is a riveting section containing month by month and week by week descriptions of the baby’s growth and progress. It charts what type and size of dessert it is each week starting with a hundredth and thousandth, and culminating with an entire vienetta. A comforting insight for those of us who are no strangers to what it feels like to be carrying around one of those in our tummies. It contains details on labour and childbirth with an advisory warning to read after giving birth when the reader will enjoy it more. Particularly the paragraph about being offered a paracetamol.

For Dads:
Who? Sometimes they get forgotten about but thankfully this book acknowledges the important role played by the dad, which is to remain in blissful ignorance about the continued downplaying and denial of his input in child-rearing in all ensuing discussions after the baby arrives. Unless he is a Stay-At-Home-Dad. This entitles him to the delusion that his opinion is on a par with those of mothers. And some of them might even fancy him, if he is one of those who interacts with his kids at the playground as opposed to hiding in the corner behind a paper. Or better still – the car.

2. No Lego by Naomi Clown

Why can’t we just leave our children alone?

If you’ve ever wondered why so many of today’s children are unhappy, stressed and selfish, under-achievers striving to over-achieve, then the answers and the remedy are to be found in this searing read. A tour de force for the modern parent.

Naomi Clown wants us to leave our kids be, to give them the space and time to grow into self-reliant, confident, inquisitive, happy and free people. Full of practical tips of what to do and (more importantly) what not to do, Naomi will not only help your kids be happier, but also help you, their parents, live happier and stress-free lives. By simply removing all the toys, gimmicks and gadgets from your home, and replacing them with an empty box of Cornflakes and a stick. Puts the imagination back into childhood.

What the critics said:

“The sort of book that will start a craze among parents not quite convinced they’re doing the right thing but everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t they?”  –  Jonathan Wiseman, author of ‘Parenting: A Manufacturer’s Paradise’

“A McGyver manual for the under 5s” – Mr. T

“A world of pure imagination” – Willy Wonka

2. Harry’s Potty and the Chamber of Secretions by J.K. Rolling In It

Parenting is not wholly reliant on the straight-up manual format for guidance. Fiction has proven to be effective in portraying the trials and tribulations of family life revealing as it does some keenly felt insights for the adult reader of “young adult fiction”.

J K Rolling In It’s sequel to Harry’s Potty and the Philosopher’s Stone carries on where the original left off. Harry is returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after the summer holidays and, right from the start, things are not straightforward.

Unable to board the Hogwarts express, Harry and his friends break all the rules and make their way to the school in his magical flying potty. From this point on, incredible events happen to Harry and his friends. Harry hears evil voices and someone, or something is attacking the pupils. Can Harry get to the bottom of the mystery before it’s too late or will he have to change first after wetting the bed yet again?

As with its predecessor, Harry’s Potty And the Chamber of Secretions is a highly readable and imaginative adventure story with real, fallible, characters, plenty of humour and, of course, loads of magic and bed-wetting.

“This is a triumph in bridging the gap between the classes. Toffs bed wet just like skanger children” The Daily Mail

“I have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t pretended to enjoy it” – Editor, Parenting Monthly

“Full of useful insights on the dangers and impact of prematurely introducing magic and supernatural powers to a child’s life”, David Coalman, Child & Family Psychologist

harry potter

How not to react to a child wetting the bed

4.  Watermelons by Marian Keen

“Why is she crying again?”

“I dunno. Stephen Fry came on the television and she just started bawling”

Amy Hooverman is fresh home from hospital with her newborn baby . All she wants to do is stay in bed, eat pot noodles and watch The Real Housewives of Killiney Hill, but her husband Ryan O’Bisto has to leave shortly to make an advert for a national financial institution. Ryan wants to become a member of a select group of media elite after retiring from professional sport. To make matters worse, Amy, herself a model/actress/author/scientist/astrophysicist/aeronautical engineer, is booked to record an advert for an iconic jewellery brand in half an hour. She practices walking in dreamy slow motion like she’s just eaten an entire vienetta and smiling inanely in the mirror but her breasts are killing her. With no-one to mind the baby, she erupts into tears. Suddenly, the door-bell rings. Like a vision of amazonian greatness and platinum haired wonder, in steps her Fairy God Mother… Marian O’Callaghan.

This hilarious new novel is a must-read for the first-time mother condemned to the sofa and labouring under the misapprehension that she is alone. Even the rich and famous face the same classic new parent dilemmas: Should I answer the door or pretend not to be in? Who can I get to bring me more cheese? What will I watch till Frasier starts?

Author’s Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

5. A Tale of Two Titties by Charles Chickens

“I decided to talk to women about their breasts, to do breast interviews, to finally let them tell their own story … At first the women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their breasts. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them if they could interview their breasts before.” Charles Chickens

A poignant and hilarious tour of the final frontier, the ultimate judged zones, A Tale of Two Titties is a celebration of female mammary glands in all their complexity and simplicity. Hailed as the bible for a new generation of  breastfeeding women, it has been performed in cities and colleges throughout the world, and has inspired a dynamic grassroots movement – Double D Day – to stop prejudice and prudishness when it comes to breasts. Witty and irreverent, compassionate and wise, Charles Chickens award-winning masterpiece gives voice to real women’s deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman’s breasts, or think of breastfeeding, in quite the same way again.

Extract:

“If your breasts could speak, what would they say?”

“I hate it she sleeps on her front” – Breasts of a breastfeeding mother

“I need some scaffolding. Quick” – Breasts of a 42 year-old mother of one (ahem)

“I’ve been estranged from the other one for years. There’s no going back. Unless she wears a bra” – An anonymous left breast

Customers who bought this also bought The Anal Monologues

Take it to the bridge

We’ve hit the instrumental section of the season here at my folks’. The middle eight of Christmas when my Father’s daily quest to get us out for a walk revs up the morning with all the subtlety of an Animal drum solo. It’s less an attempt at a family bonding manoeuvre than a central heating cost saving exercise. He has already started to feel up the radiators while exclaiming the house has exceeded tropical temperatures as another icicle falls from his nose, crash landing on an empty Pringles tube.  He could put someone’s eye out with that. It’s traditional.

untitled

Hey! Would you like to go for a walk?

No Christmas would be complete either without his progeny reverting to their teenage default settings. This year, we’ve applied some efficiency of our own to the random insults. Gone are the unwarranted dead arms, and any valid reasons for accusing each other of being annoying. ‘You’re so annoying’ is a perfectly workable stand alone English sentence. Like a Christmas induced tourette’s outburst. Gone too is any appetite for resurrecting twenty year old gripes for shoehorning into an already ridiculous argument. I haven’t once heard anyone remark “what exactly do you mean by that remark?”, and the only response I got to my bleating at Bono’s exchange with Michael D was a Mexican eye-roll and the offer of a Celebration. I’m not sure middle age agrees with us.

Thankfully, this outrageous display of civility is compensated by the impressive juvenile pursuits of our respective children. The bickering baton has been enthusiastically grabbed by sticky hands, which they use to cheerfully beat each other up. Oh no wait, that’s a breadstick. Was a breadstick.

I don’t remember either of our parents calmly meeting us at eye-level to theorise on the origin of the other’s mickey fits and appeal to our inner rational adult. Plausible reasons offered for having a melt-down include: tiredness, playfulness, “their age”, or, to quote my own toddler, “an intensifying sense of injustice over perceived uneven turn-taking”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Here, have a milky bar, kid, and eat it gloatingly right in front of your cousins’ faces. Their Dad administered the worst Chinese burns to me as a child, and wouldn’t take me to see The Smiths when they played our home town in 1985. Not that I harbour festering grudges. The fucker.

Frankly, and I never say frankly, so I mean it forcefully, the endless polite intervening and over-rationalising gets fucking exhausting so I knocked on the doors of bathrooms and bedrooms where their parents were hiding out from their own off-spring and suggested I take them to the cinema. And, if they spared me excruciating levels of social shame, if they were really good, I might throw in a trip to the other Michael D’s.

I interpreted the time delay in their answers as horror at the suggestion of going to McDonald’s, and fully expected exaggerated disgust and nauseatingly emphatic pronouncements about their children’s nutritional habits. Not really. These are my people. So, right on cue, doors enthusiastically swung open, and we cranked our newly fledged maturity up a gear with a potentially violent argument over who would pay for the privilege.

“No, I insist”.

“No, it’s MY treat”.

“Take that back” *flings €50 note*

Etc.

Etc.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Many occasionally happy returns

Hit by the whiff of a half-cooked feast as I bound through the back door on the eve of it.

Back from childhood border crossings with my Da to pick a last minute gift for my Ma in exotic High St. shops; in a city without a high street. Stopping off for chips doused in silence in the Strand Road Cafe before navigating friendly torch-lit interrogations on the way back through. “Drivers license please, Sir”. “Any goods to declare?”. Back from the yearly sore arse cultivated from sitting on bottles of Black Tower and Blue Nun. The height of sophistication for the discerning diner’s table. A table always cleared before dessert and the occasional arm-wrestling tournament. We lived in a developing county; the concentration distracted us from the central heating my Dad was is fond of rationing.

Back after swearing blind I’d never go back. From the Dublin bus after the first semester on the brink of dropping out. Dropping down for a drink to the pub to re-unite with old classmates to commandeer our corner of it. Spotting yer man out of the corner of my eye; the later lighting-up together as good as being told to get your coat.

Back in the small hours and being woken up not long after by Bart Simpson ordering me to “Get up and get outta bed”; my Mother pissing herself laughing at the effect her present of a talking alarm clock was having on me. Inadvertently getting her back by accidentally leaving the sacred sprouts I’d been sent out for behind in the pub.

The Bart Simpson Alarm Clock. Hilarious.

Back all grown up but reverting to our bickering ways in the year 19…20..oh take your pick. Back to slammed doors and exploited windows of opportunity our parents threatened to put us out for even if we were in our 30s 20s. Maintaining a ceasefire for the duration of Top of the Pops before scrambling for the remote to prevent Mrs. Windsor from addressing the room.

Back-to-back films and phone-calls from far away relatives my parents hoped each other would answer. Reading back over wish lists of goals composed for the year ahead with cross-legged concentration alongside my best mate in my bedroom. Listing the qualities of our respective future partners through wild guesses of the other. Paring those down to a bare-boned gender preference by the age of 30

Back to the website booking page after being struck by a gnawing feeling as I smiled my way down Waterloo en route to the airport. The airport I had mistakenly booked to fly into instead of out from. Back eventually with relief to a livelier looking tree replacing the vague question mark the old single set of lights used to aptly resemble.

Putting back the cards my Parents gave one another on the mantlepiece after reading. Hand-writing getting smaller, much like their frames. Closing over another card written to a Wife, unable to reconcile herself to her new title.

Back for fewer days with each passing year, if at all. Escaping the resurrection of barren shelves and the unbearably empty nest feeling pervading the house on the day the decorations come down. Avoiding the total recall of all those quiet tears my Mother struggled to hide after waving her boys back to college with a foiled turkey leg tucked in each bag. Reminding her to hang in till January 6th and the night we’ll have. On Women’s Christmas. Little Christmas. Nollaig na Mban. When she and I would traditionally leave the remaining fir to fend for themselves and trot out for dinner in smug satisfaction.

We’ll raise a glass of diluted orange juice again this Women’s Christmas. To celebrate our wee one’s birthday. A new memory on the horizon.

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Prompted by the Christmas Memories linky posted by the lovely Naomi at Science Wows Blog. I’m sure she’d welcome your contribution! Click here..

The end of year mothering quiz

1. It’s another Wednesday morning. Yet again you notice your child has been wearing the same gear to her childminders for the last two days running. Do you:

a) Coordinate a new, clean outfit from scratch

b) Dampen a towel and attempt to wash off the stains to take the bad look off it

c) Ignore the stains and your shame, and bundle her into the car. You’re too late for this shit.

2. A visiting friend thrusts a box of chocolate into your toddler’s hands on arrival. Do you:

a) Stage a Mary Poppins show (full costume, if possible) to help distract her from the drugs and prise them off her while she’s singing her lungs out to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

b) Initiate some plea bargaining and shuttle diplomacy between you and her Dad to negotiate a compromise with the promise of one OK, two sweets once she eats her dinner

c) Clobber your visitor with a cucumber. Lock yourself in the bedroom with the child, remaining there until you’ve both calmed down, emerging to a burnt dinner with chocolate stains around both your mouths

3. Your neighbour is having a birthday party for her child at one of those play centres and invites your little one along. You don’t know a soul but half an hour in, you find yourself getting comfortable with one parent you’ve been chatting to. Do you:

a) Look around and, with an over-weaning smile, declare how wonderful an event it is, and how brilliant it is to spend time with other parents

b) Stay in the background hovering around the requisite level of small-talk with courtesy and civility assured at all times

c) Get a little too relaxed on the child’s chair that can accommodate only one of your arse-cheeks and wonder aloud if the other mother thinks this is ‘hell’ also. Before a tumbleweed rolls idly by you both and you casually shuffle away to go and hang out with the small ones.

4. Your toddler occasionally catches you having sneaky drinks of Coke (zero) from the fridge. She demands to know what it is. Do you:

a) Tell her it’s a drink for grown-ups only, that if taken at her age will result in her becoming morbidly obese by the time she’s six and/or on the front page of the Irish Daily Mail.

b) Smile, and exclaim “what are you talking about?” as you wipe the Coke ronnie from your lip.

c) Tell her it’s your medicine. She knows Coke is a bad word and will only grass on you.

5. You meet an experienced Mother weaning her second child onto solids at four months. Do you:

a) Say “I’m not racist but” “Each to their own, it’s totally your choice. Fair play to you. You have to do what’s right for you”. Then give out about her on an anonymous parenting website.

b) Smile and ask her to remind you how old the child is again. Then let it hang in the air for a second before asking if she’s planning on eating that last biscuit.

c) Tell her you got off to an over-eager start at six months but fell back into lazy ways and that your one is still taking a bottle and only eats ReadyBrek at three years. Then say you made that up, and hope she half laughs. Then hope she stops looking at you funny.

6. You get talking to a grandparent you know in the GP waiting room. She proudly announces her daughter recently gave birth to her second child. Her first is younger that your toddler. She asks you outright if you ever planned on having a second child. Do you:

a) Smile and say, “With God’s blessing, we will have another so our poor child is spared the worst fate of all – having no siblings.” Then don’t move your hand as she places hers on top it a la a woman with 30 years  quality Vincent de Paul volunteering under her belt.

b) Shrug it off with an “Ah sure you never know” before asking her the time.

c) Tell her you weren’t prepared to take the risk in case the child turned out like the last one. Then laugh. Inanely, if necessary.

7. It’s Sunday morning. You’re on the early parenting shift. Do you:

a) Cheerfully clear up the breakfast table to make way for some ‘craft time’

b) Decide on a little TV time before getting dressed and going for a walk

c) Haul the gigantic sheep fur-lined blanket down stairs and give a half-running commentary to the items on the re-run of the best bits of TV3 AM from under it

8. You gradually get chatting to the mother of one of the children that attends the same childminders. Do you:

a) Respond enthusiastically to her suggestion of a coffee and fix a time there and then

b) Invite them round to your house knowing this is the only possible way you’re going to get around to cleaning it

c) Scurry back to the car after hearing yourself voluntarily utter the term “play date” and wonder aloud what you have become

9. You read about all these play dates these mothers and children go on. Do you:

a) Nod, knowing it is a great way to meet other mothers and start stalking every mother in the childminder’s car-park

b) Wonder if it’s mandatory to stay at the play date, or if it’s possible to drop your child off while you go and have a proper coffee

c) Wonder if you will ever be able to say ‘play date’ again with a straight face

10. Your child wants you to paint with them. Do you:

a) Beat her to it. The table is already cleared, the paints are in transit from the top shelf.

b) Promise to do so after you’ve read the very important paper you refer to as “work”

c) Ask her to ask her Da

11. Butternut squash is:

a) A healthy and nutritious vegetable

b) The first stage in the production of peanut butter

c) An extreme sport

12. Your toddler is staying over in her grandparents’ (your in-laws) house for the night. She’ll be there for dinner. Do you:

a) Pack some roasted butternut squash and fruit into her overnight bag for later

b) Tell her grandmother she’ll have whatever they’re having

c) Hope that whatever they’re having includes a tin of spaghetti

13. Your two year old frees herself from the straps of the car-seat while you’re driving. Do you:

a) Calmly pull over and hop in to re-adjust them

b) Not notice until you’ve pulled in to wherever you were going and shudder

c) Have a melt-down and pull into the nearest bus-stop holding up the traffic for a few minutes to re-arrange the straps

14. You and your partner are having a disagreement. Your child is present. Do you:

a) Agree to talk about it later when your child is in bed

b) Continue talking calmly until it’s resolved or ignore each other

c) Passively aggressively direct the communication through your child. “What will we do about Mum. The silly billy” .

15. If you had to…you know..

a) Justin/Mr. Tumble

b) The tall curly-haired presenter on Cbeebies that occasionally goes on safari

c) Mr. Bloom(ing gorgeous)

Results

Mostly As

With all your excessive care and consideration, you’re headed for a break-down and a referral to social services for creating a land of make-believe so inconsistent with the adult world you’re in danger of permanently messing up your kids cognitive development. There’s no point worrying about breaking the news about the fiction of Santa when they will attempt to “take their turn” in real grown-up life with devastating consequences. And not every hurt can be sung away with the theme tune from Frozen or a lollipop piece of fruit. Cut down on the *grimaces* play dates, and aim for more *grimaces* me time. It’ll serve you and your child far better. Take the day off cooking, and bring them to MacDonald’s. They’ll get a free balloon so it won’t be a totally wasted visit. No-one will see you because it’s conveniently located out of town, but not too far. Besides, all your Mummy friends WOULDN’T DREAM of going there.They’ll probably be just leaving as you’re arriving.

Mostly Bs

They say parents try to do their best. Doing the minimum is the best some of them can do, including you. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re managing to navigate the assault course of parenting doing 60 MPH in third gear but you’ll get there eventually, even if the vehicle will be clapped out on arrival. Keep an eye on the wine consumption. If you’re reading articles about the rise of alcohol as a coping mechanism for parenting, then it probably is you they’re talking about. It doesn’t matter that your partner is on 10 cans of Dutch Gold and 40 Benson & Hedges a day. You’re the mother, right? So it all falls on you remember. You might’ve read about it. On a blog somewhere.

Mostly Cs

The model parent. Other mothers can only strive to reach your levels of rearing perfection. Would you like to go on a play date with me?