Monday, 14 May 2012

PPT – Post-Potty Trauma

It’s been almost two weeks since Conor’s May Day declaration – “It’s ok Mam, you no say ‘Oh Jesus’.  I did wee-wee in the toilet!” and so far he has kept to his ceasefire.
Life is returning to ‘chaotic-normal’ but post-potty trauma runs deep. Coping strategies vary. The kids are like attentive waiters in a gold-chip restaurant, pre-empting his every need, even putting the light on in the bathroom for him - just in case. I hesitate when putting on my runners - that cold squelch still haunts me. And my husband? Well, he has emerged from the study with a ‘poem’ for the children having made his own imaginative recovery:

Bladder Attack

When Conor pees
People scatter,
Barely escaping
The arc of his wee.

He pees on the floor
He pees out the door
Pees in the toybox
Pees on goldilocks

He pees down the slide
When playing outside
He pees on the plants
He pees after ants.

Instead of the loos
He pees in our shoes,
His aim’s so sharp
He’s the new Wyatt Earp.

We must watch our backs
From bladder attacks:
His crawling warm sting
Sticks clothes to our skin.

Yes, when Conor pees
People scatter,
Barely escaping
The arc of his wee.

This - I hope - is the last instalment of the ‘Wee-wee Trilogy!’

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May-Day! May-Day!

April has been a busy month.
To date my toddler has pee’d …
- in the topsy turtle box
- behind the couch
- on the couch
- in the sit-on Thomas the tank
- in my runners  (good aim!)
- into the flower vase
- in the garden
- under the slide
- on the slide
- behind the bush
- in front of the bush
- on his brother’s back  (while his brother was innocently playing lego on the floor – we had to rush him to the shower)…
He has also…
- poured a full tub of Vanish down the sink
- attacked a box of party bags
- thrown the house phone in the bin on collection day…
That was April.
Very early this morning he arrived at the foot of the bed.
- Mam?
- Yes?
- I did a wee wee.
- Where?  I say - immediately awake.
- It’s ok Mam. You no say ‘Oh Jesus’.  I did it in the toilet.
Yippee! The terrible two’s are OVER!

Friday, 30 March 2012

I’m a little teapot

It’s toilet-training time. My baby has grown up.
Well, almost!
I'm in the kitchen. The almost 3-year-old is in the family room practically naked and just out of sight. He’s playing with Topsy Turtle – the game with the green and yellow talking musical turtle. I’m reassured by the recurrent dum di dum di dum di dum di dum dum di dum di dum di dum dum di… and lulled into a false sense of security.
My mantra - where there’s noise, there’s no trouble.
dum di dum di dum … I’m really up high …di dum di dum dum di…
The coloured pile of counters fall. He starts again.
dum di dum di dum di dum di dum dum di…
 ‘Mam’, he shouts.
‘Yes’, I reply!
‘Look’ he exclaims.
I look, automatically at first, then with that ‘oh no, what next’ feeling.
‘Wee wee’, he cries excitedly holding the Topsy turtle box.
‘Where?’ I ask.
‘Here’, he answers wide-eyed, pointing in the box.
He puts the box on the ground, one hand on his bum, the other hand on his “wee wee” and starts singing
 I’m a little tea pot
short and stout,
Here’s my handle and
here’s my spout.
The teapot box is duly filled!
The turtle is upturned, left to crawl the air.
dum di dum di dum di dum di dum dum di…

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Merc Rat

My brother has a merc.

He now has a rat, who also likes mercs.
He opened the boot and saw that his coat was gnawed through. He searched the car but found nothing. Then the groceries he had bought for his son at university were selectively munched. It liked noodles. Again no sign of the rat, no indication of how it got in or how it got out.
The next incident happened on the road. He switched on the indicator and all the lights came on. Off to the mechanic. The car was stripped down. No rat.
We cannot afford a merc, and probably never will. But my husband reckons that this rat is a metaphor for post Celtic Tiger Ireland. We all have a merc rat, he says, something never seen or caught but gnawing away elusively and dangerously from the inside… a health scare, a massive mortgage, a strained relationship, a dead-end job, or  no job.  
Well… definitely not one of his more humorous insights.  And certainly not the time to mention a new couch!
By the way, the mechanic found the internal wires eaten away – hanging by a thread.
The material damage: 1000 euros.  The mechanic told him that it only a matter of time before the car stopped dead on the motorway.
Fingers crossed for the rest of us…

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Holy Smoke!

It’s Lent. A time for penitence and reflection. And I have a confession to make.  
I set the altar on fire. It wasn’t my fault. Honestly. I was only nine.
You see, it was some feast day or other and our teacher – a nun – was marking the day. In the corner of our classroom stood an elevated altar with a statue of Our Lady adorned with a holy communion veil. On this particular day, the statue was surrounded by colourful tissue flowers which we were making in the classroom. We discovered that the more we made, the less school work we did. So the production line kept going.
With the 4-ply multi-coloured tissue boxes on the classroom tables almost empty, nightlights were added to the altar. And they were lit!
I went over to add the final few flowers. And being short of stature, even then, I stretched up to reach over the candles. The inevitable happened. I dropped the yellow and pink tissue flowers and,  ... well,  holy smoke!
So, while everyone else walks around on Ash Wednesday with the ashes of burned palms on their forehead, I am reminded of how every year I guiltily and secretly wear ashes from tissue flowers and an old nun’s altar!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentine’s Day

It’s the 13th of February and I am under pressure: under pressure to have a plan (a card, a meal, a bottle of wine, anything) for tomorrow.
Perhaps it’s just that I don’t want to be forced into it - forced to share a cramped restaurant or to see my husband pay ridiculous prices for roses (a lover maybe, but a husband never). Give me a box of chocolates or a simple bunch of tulips on any OTHER day and I’d be thrilled.
You see, it’s complicated.
The cynical side of me wants to step back from the whole syrupy wave of advertising. Who wants to be reminded that they are so gullible? The romantic side of me wants to enjoy an occasion when I am made to feel special. Who doesn’t? Then my superstitious side (can I have three sides?) doesn’t want to tempt fate, or the gods, or cupid by self-consciously ignoring February 14th. Would you?
As a couple we have developed a curiously Irish solution.  We celebrate the valentine sentiment but not always on the day. We come at it obliquely, furtively, from the side so-to-speak.
So, we didn’t get engaged on Valentine’s Day but settled on a few days before. That took everyone by surprise. And not during a romantic dinner, but rather during Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ in the Savoy cinema.  That certainly took me by surprise. The ring was in a carton of popcorn. Risky, yes, but a ring in a velvet box would have been too simple!
But the problem with coming at something sideways is that out of all the Valentine’s Days my husband and I have shared, and there have been quite a few, neither of us can remember any one in particular- a bit like New Year’s Eves.  In fact, the most memorable Valentine’s Day was when I went into premature labour with child number four, and my other three – then aged 5, 4 and 2 each brought a smiling giant daisy to the hospital to me.
Maybe tomorrow we will try and celebrate it on the day. So, I am under pressure: under pressure to have a plan (a card, a meal, a bottle of wine, anything) …

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Three of the four kids have been floored since Saturday. Fever and vomiting. I calpol and nurofen them; we survive till Monday. Then a rash.
Three hunched dopeys and the youngest - a ball of fizz - wait in the doctor’s surgery.
A virus.
We plod home, get back into Pjs and watch Alvin and the Chipmunks …. Again.
It’s now Tuesday. By 5pm I’m sick. I text my husband - “I’ve been virussed”.
I suddenly worry that he might think it’s the computer but the mobile bleeps with a message almost immediately. “Me too!”
I don’t believe it. Who the hell put the “us” into virussed?
But no time to think about that now. My mother-in-law is due to arrive to mind the kids while I work for a few days. Plan of action? Oscar-winning performances required all round in case she sees the adults sick and heads straight home again.
She arrives ….  It doesn’t work. …  But she doesn’t leave.
We get sick.
The fever rises and with it comes a simple delirious clarity: everything in the house bleeps…  the microwave, the TV, the oven, the door-bell, the washing machine, the dryer, the fridge door, the dishwasher, the thermometer, the mobile… like kids, each telling me to do something:
- open me!
-  close me!
 -press me!
- empty me!
-  fill me!
-  eat me!
-  read me!
...  over and over and over.
Five days later the fever breaks. No more bleeping. I notice the thermometer needs a battery.

Monday, 30 January 2012

A Taxi Ride!

As I push the buggy back home after the school drop-off at 9am, I often envy those heading to work in buses, darts and taxis. I imagine it must be great to have the time to think and compose one’s thoughts before heading into the day. 

One day it happens to me. A few wonderful hours of work outside the home on a Monday morning or so I think.

It’s 8.30am as I wait for a taxi on the main road. …None to be seen… It should only take 15 minutes to get there. 8.45am – the kids wave to me on their way to school. I’m getting slightly anxious.
Finally a taxi stops. It’s now 8.50. I get in. ‘Milltown, please’.
He moves off.
‘…Where did you say again? he asks.
‘Milltown. … Dartry Road….’.
‘…And we are where now…?
‘B o o t e r s t o w n…’
No recognition.
‘…Blackrock?’ I suggest.
‘…oh yes.’
I look at him quizzically. He isn’t foreign… Irish accent.
‘And where is Millstreet?’ he questions through the rear view mirror.
‘Mill-T O W N’.  I say it slowly and deliberately. ‘We need to get to the N11.’…
‘…Oh yes, and the N11 is over….’
      ‘Yes, parallel to this road’. I finish what I hope is a statement.
He thinks aloud. ‘Oh yes… have to turn left. Maybe it’s this one.’
‘NO! That’s a nursing home! It’s the next one.’ I consider candid camera. I wouldn’t be that lucky!

I can hear myself think.
In fact, no radio blares in the taxi at all. Something’s not quite right with a taxi driver who doesn’t listen to the radio I think. I look at the time. I might just make it. We stop at the lights beside RTE.
‘So I go straight here?’ he asks.
‘NO!  That’s a dead end’. Could he not see the cul de sac sign? ‘Turn right… Do you have a map?’
‘No’. His right hand pretends to flick for one in the side of the door.

I consider hopping out and getting another taxi. The lights change. I don’t move.
Neither does he.
‘GREEN!’ I snap.
‘Oh.  Thanks.’
‘Look, I really need to get there in 10 minutes.’ 
‘I know where I am now I think.’
Oh God…. I suggest he contact someone at taxi control.
No radio communication.
‘Forgot to charge it this morning’, he says.
I check the taxi photo ID. … It’s really him.
He reaches in to the front compartment and takes out a Sat nav - wires and all. ‘You know how to work these things?’
Oh Jesus!
‘N O! …. Look, my colleague who has come from another COUNTY is actually waiting for me for the last 30 minutes. She knows this area. I’ll ring her’.

I ring and she becomes our live sat nav. After a few wrong turns we are almost there…or so I’m told. I hang up. But my destination is still not in sight. I ask him to stop so we can ask a pedestrian. He drives past the first one saying ‘She looks foreign, she probably wouldn’t know’.
‘JUST STOP so I can ask’.
He stops.
The entrance is a half mile back in the other direction.
He turns and we join the procession of cars. It is 9.26am. As we snail along, he explains,
-          you see I usually do the  
‘STOP’, I yell. ‘We’ve passed it’.
‘I’ll reverse!’ he says.
‘NO, I’ll jump out.’
‘I won’t charge you the full amount – 10 euro is fine’, he says. ‘You see, I usually do the North side. It’s just I got a fare this morning to the hair clinic in Blackrock and…’.
I hand him some money. ‘Here, buy yourself a f****** map', and I’m off.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Friday the 13th

I’ve just checked for play-dates etc. for tomorrow. I­t’s Friday the 13th. One of three this year. I consider rearranging plans.

In our house there seems to be a relationship between this date and children’s hospitals. Last year it was the 2-year-old eating washing machine liquid tabs.  He burped bubbles for hours but was fine. The previous one was painfully memorable - a stitch between the toes for our 4-year-old. Her foot slipped when cycling in bare feet (in the house). Ouch.
Growing up I was never ultra superstitious. Now I’m respectfully so. This is why...
We had found our first flat in a house near Ballsbridge, one of those old, large four-storey ones. It was the garden flat. After hours and hours of cleaning, we fell into bed on the first night. This was also to be our last.
Sometime during that night I woke up. I don’t know why.  It was still dark. But there, facing me where the wardrobe had been earlier, against the wall, was a little boy, maybe about five or six, dressed in Dickensian-type clothes with cap and short trousers, holding a package of books tied up with string. He was smiling. His eyes were watching me and I knew he wasn’t trying to scare me.  But he was.
I screamed and screamed - ‘Get the little boy away from me. Get the little boy away from me’.
I screamed for the third time and the little boy began to dissolve back into the wall.
And then he was gone.
And so were we.
We rang our landlord the next day and said we had to leave. No reasons asked for or given.  Our deposit was returned. The date on the cheque was Friday the 13th.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Rice Krispie Buns

I finally found someone who has confessed. We hug each other, buddies for life!
Our sin? – Rice krispie buns – we can’t make them!
What? I hear you say. But it’s so easy to make them: just melt the chocolate in the bowl and add the krispies! – Sure they’re 90% air! – so I’m told.
Ah! That’s what I’ve been missing.
Oh what a gulf between theory and practice.

There is nothing so disheartening as watching kids taste my krispie buns. I watch in hope, but they pull a face and slowly place them back.
A whole plate left at the end of a mother and toddler coffee morning is a real sign of failure. If I'm lucky, the kids are too young to be able to talk. But there’s always one who has a clear word that hangs you.
So, I just don’t make them any more – officially, that is. I admit that I have tried it again (and again – even with the Avoca recipe with the mars bar) all in the hope that it might - rather than will - work one day.