Friday, April 27, 2012

The World Of Ice-Cream, Love-Notes & Gangly Legs

7 Quick Takes is back being hosted by Jennifer over at Conversion Diary so when your'e finished here pop on over and have a look at some of the other great blogs linked up there this week. If you're wondering where to start, check out Kelly over at her blog  This Ain't The Lyceum, I think it must be one of the funniest blogs on the internet.  My husband laughed so much at the post just linked and if any of you have ever been puked on you just might relate. My own dear husband recognised himself in the husband who bewilderedly strolls in offering help after the said puke has been cleaned up.

Well anyway, this week I have been appreciating the pleasures of middle-childhood.  You know in any family, big or small, a lot of the focus tends to go on the older ones who are hewing the furrow because everything is new and scary for them and for you...or the youngest one...because nothing is new or scary and they are there to be delighted in. When our second youngest was about three or four and looked like he was destined to forever remain the youngest I remember telling him one day

 "You know, Peter, God made you the youngest, so that means your job is to be cuddled"

He was very cuddly, and still is, though sometimes (like that moment) he probably was thinking more along the lines of playing lego.

Now a new little girl has been given the God-appointed task of being the cuddlee, and it's now her who doesn't get too many moments where she can escape the barrage of kisses and cuddles from her older siblings and her no longer scared parents.

So this week I am going to give a few reasons why Middle Childhood is a treasure which passes in a moment that seems like the lifespan of a May-fly.

 Here's To The Perfect Years Of Middle-Childhood

--- 1 ---

You know those years after toddler-hood and before teenage where you live in another plane of existence from adults.  Where parents and their friends are to be pitied because their lives are so boring because they have no toys and watch the News.  Where the Den in the trees is more important than the HHS Mandate, where the speed of your roller blades is more important than the financial crisis and  where the world is safe because Mum and Dad know everything.

I love those years.

They are the foundation.

--- 2 ---

I love when the tinkling melody of the ice-cream van brings them running full of hope and confidence that this time they'll be handed a crisp 'blue paper 20' to treat their friends. Because the last four times they've been shown the empty purse and because they saw you take that 20 out of the ATM just this morning and they know they've been good and that you have promised them a treat

And I really love the happiness that only ice-cream can bring...

--- 3 ---

I love when the promise of 'I'll count' can convince them to do any job.

--- 4 ---

I love that there's still room on my knee for gangly legs and pointy boned bottoms even though at times my lungs feel like they're being crushed and my blood supply feels like it's about to be cut off with 11 year old weight but that the discomfort is diminished by the delight of knowing that they still want to be there

--- 5 ---

I love that they are reading The Little House on The Prairie and Malory Towers which I know to be safe and wholesome and that I don't have to spend the same time researching and studying them as I do with The Hunger Games and whatever other literature the culture throws at the teen market.

--- 6 ---

I love going to bed at night more often than not to find sweet home-made cards and love notes...

I never throw them out  ♥

--- 7 ---

And I love creeping in to tuck them in at night and when I lean over to kiss their sleeping foreheads, I get the soft warm smell that reminds me that even if their ankles keep becoming visible a week after I have purchased new jeans, even if they are happy to spend endless hours out of my sight playing with their friends among the trees and even if before I blink they will be grown...they are still my babies.

And I remind myself

"These are the halcyon days." 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Heaven Is BETTER Than The Anchor Beach

You know the way the ocean triggers profound thoughts?  Well this weekend just past we went to the ocean to spend some time together just as a family, just us, no phones, no computer, no doorbell ringing a thousand times a day, just us. All eight of us. As usual the weather forecasters promised us misery, wind and a wash-out so we packed rain gear, books, pencils and I brought along my new knitting project...a sweet custard coloured cardigan for little sis.  As usual the micro-climate along the west coast defied all forecasts of doom and we had amazing weather, if typically nippy for April. So we wrapped up and spent lots of time on the beaches of The West Of Ireland...stunning.

This beach is Aughrus Beg in Connemara looking out to Inisboffin and I took this photograph just with my phone, no filters or settings, just as it looks.  I literally could sit here forever  and just think things.  So I took the rare chance to sit in the car for a little while and let the children have some 'Daddy' time (my generosity had nothing to do with the wind-chill) before joining them.

As I sat and admired the amazing colours of navy and turquoise and the breaking waves a bit off shore where the water hit the granite rocks I started thinking of the majesty of The Creator.  Just look at those many artists, poets, photographers and writers have tried to capture their beauty over the years, some getting pretty close but none quite reaching the mark.  Who could ever manage to mix the correct combinations of azurite, malachite and lazurite to match those of the Divine Artist?

 Nobody...that's who.

I peered out to sea, partly hoping to see a dolphin leap out of the water, even though I've never heard of dolphins in that bay but you never know, and partly trying to strain my eyes to see the islands off the coast, wishing, as I always do, that we hadn't forgotten the binoculars. If I could see far enough I could maybe see my friend, who lives not 6,000 miles but rather €1,000 away.  And all the while my train of thought continued.  The Divine Artist.  God the Creator...God the Artist.  My eyes stung a little as I tried to discern whether that white feature in the distance was a boat or a lighthouse.  God the Artist painting the ultimate masterpiece.  I can't see whether that is a boat or a lighthouse...what else can I not see?

Then I remembered watching a documentary a while back about hummingbirds. I've never seen one of those insect-like iridescent birds and maybe I never will but it really was a very interesting documentary.  It was about how flowers use iridescence and ultra violet to attract insects, and in this case, hummingbirds.   It seems that the colour of the flower isn't really what differentiates the's something else...that the simple lens of the human eye cannot make out, it is completely invisible to us.  I'm not a naturalist and can't explain it so well as one so have a look at this short clip, it really is worth watching:

All those beautiful and stunning sights we'll never see.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we could have a glimpse of what else the Divine Artist has conjured up.  Do we think His imagination is limited to the range of colours the rods and cones in our eyes can distinguish?  What colours are we missing not only in the flowers, what about the sea? What about the sunset? What about the eyes of our babies???  What has he made for us that we won't see till the last day?

What about Heaven? What's that going to be like??!! Oh My Goodness, if there are stunning sights lined up for us here on Earth, do you think that God is going to sell us a pig in a poke when we die?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him
1 Corinthians 2:9

But we have seen the invisible iridescence and the invisible ultra-violet flower patterns, we've seen them with the help of technology.  So just what is it God has prepared for those who love him?  We can't even imagine, so it says.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to imagine.

The Christmas after my mother died I saw a review of a book that looked like it might give my father a bit of a lift.

 It was endorsed by lots of people I trusted such as Fr Benedict Groeschel  & someday I might tell you how he unbeknownst to him broke through a post miscarriage prison of grief. (I said might, not will), Quincy Jones, Raymond Arroyo, Mrs Bob (Dolores) Hope and lots of others. It was only about three or four days before Christmas but I was impressed enough by the reviews to pay the high courier charge to get it delivered in time.  I'm glad I did.

It puts paid to the boring, un-enticing idea of Heaven many of us have built up.  Rest In Peace? Peaceful rest forever??? thanks!! If any of you know somebody who is bereaved, or who is facing bereavement, or facing their own death, this book will give them, or you, such a great idea of Heaven we'll be just dying to get there!! (ho ho ho, the old jokes are the best eh?)

Well anyway, back to the beach...what profound thoughts the ocean stirs in the soul.  Rest in peace? I've had enough peace, time to join my family and the very, very visible and audible manifestations of joy, except for one small girl in Daddy's arms, her face bleary and covered in nasal slime and tears, none too impressed with the!! 

Addendum:  Do you see that sea in the background?  In the summer when it's a bit warmer you'd better bring your swimming suit along because you'll have no choice but to jump right in!! So don't be found wanting or improvisations will be made...Be Warned ;-D

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Laugh Now...But You'll Thank Me Someday!

'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'

Confucius...he was a Chinese philosopher around 500 BC and his wisdom has stood the test of time don't y'think?  Everything we do has to start with the first step.  Depending on our size and ability that step may be pretty small, insignificant even.  Part of my philosophy behind this blog is to pass on tiny things you can do to make your life easier, smoother and to help you (and me) to glean moments which can be spent in better ways than the 'drudgery' of life maintenance, or housework as we more typically call it.

Call me sad over getting a kick out of discovering a tip that actually works, but I'm not sad at all...I'm delighted actually, because over my lifetime I am going to add hours to my fun-time allocation by cutting out a job that has always caused me some minor irritation.

Last weekend we had some cousins over. I was faced with a load of hungry children and adults after a day of enjoying ourselves.  It was getting on in the day and I didn't want to have to go to the shops for food so I made the recipe which always goes down well, it's quick, yummy, the ingredients are all store-cupboard things and (mostly) everyone likes it .  
Spaghetti Carbonara.  

For that many tummies I tripled up the recipe-thus needing my biggest pot.  Everyone fed, I took one look at the scrambled egg caked at the bottom of the pot and stuffed it out of the way to face later.  I think we all know scrambled egg is a curse to try and clean off .  As expected, it was no easier later after the soak in cold water.  I thought to myself there has to be an easier way, so I whipped out Wiki Answers, click, click, click...magic internet...tell me the answer...

Some (obviously wealthy) respondents suggested throwing out the pots and buying new non-stick ones.  That was a non-runner, so reading on down I spotted a suggestion which was novel, if unlikely. Fill the pot with water and throw in a tumble dryer sheet, let it soak overnight.  Well, worth a try except I don't use tumble dryer sheets, but I guess maybe I've bought a pack one time.  I rummaged in the back of the cupboard till I found the forgotten pack with two completely dried out sheets left in it.  So nothing to lose, I duly filled up the pot, threw in the old dry cloths and shoved it out of sight again.

Next day I threw out the water and to be perfectly honest the scrambled egg mess looked exactly the same as it had the day before.  Aah, I'll just have to remove it the usual way, elbow grease...picked up the dish brush and was amazed...ok...maybe not amazed, but certainly pleased, that the egg just slid off, leaving a sparkling clean saucepan with no effort at all.

So there you have it.  Some day you'll be glad I told you this...mark my words!

Oh...and now my #1 daughter has just told me that you can also use dryer sheets to smooth down your frizzy hair after a day at the beach!! Hey, maybe I'll throw a pack in my trolley next time!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Date Night

It must be almost six months since I said my next post was 'Date Night' and the fact that it's only now I'm actually writing it is kind of indicative that date night is not something that magically happens by itself.

You see I needed to prepare for Christmas, then there posts about spring cleaning, decluttering, miscarriagechivalrous knights and quick takes...everything that pushed 'Date Night' down the priority list.  And that is exactly the way date night was treated for a long time in my offline life too.

Another time I might post about getting into the 'mood', setting the romantic scene and so on but in this post I want to get across that date night is not something that should be neglected in any marriage, no matter what the material means, no matter how limited our time or no matter how tired we think we are.

As usual I can only illustrate with things from my own life though this isn't a blog about my life per se. Mainly it's what I know so I'm pretty sure of the facts.  Secondly, I don't think I'm that unusual, so I figure that if something applies to me there's a good chance it will apply to lots of other 'usual' people too.

Here's our little history of how we learned that we had been missing 'it'.

You may know by now that when we married my young husband was a student and had several years of lectures, exams, long hours in hospitals, rotations and more exams ahead of him.  Study was pretty much the priority.  As hoped, babies came hot and heavy and we were delighted with them all, little dollies to dress up and cuddle and nurture.  I worked full time with some 'unsocial' hours up until baby #2 arrived.  As well as that there were both families to spend time with and my own mother wasn't that well. Every waking minute was busy busy busy.

Now looking back I never once remember the thought crossing my mind that there was anything we were missing.  Now and again we would be invited to friends homes or attend a party together and after J qualified there were a few medical lectures and dinners to which wives were invited (not any more).  The common denominator of all these 'dates' was that we were always with other people and we would spend the evening small talking with other people with barely a sentence or glance shared with us as spouses.  
They were all things we more or less had to attend. They weren't dates.

From time to time one of us would say we should go out together...just us.  But when it came to actually arrange something we'd think of all the excuses and reasons we couldn't go out.  I don't even have to write them, you could rattle them off babysitter, babysitters are (very) expensive...

(Gone are the days when teenagers were willing to sit in a house long after TV shut-down listening to a ticking clock and trying to stay awake lest you should be caught asleep on the job when the couple decided to lurch home at 4am having sworn blind they'd be home by 11pm and throw you £2...a pittance even then!) 

(sorry that was a rant, but I enjoyed it-nothing like the high horse of the memory of past injustices to get the blood pumping)

Anyway....our excuses...we were too tired, lets just watch this movie, ah we'll go out next week...

It was just too much effort and we didn't really mind as we'd just gotten into that pattern.

Jump forward about 14 years and five babies later,  in a darkened ultrasound room our perspective took a u-turn.  Over the next few months we were told to prepare ourselves for life with a very sick and probably disabled child.  Now amongst all the spiritual and godly and altruistic reactions to this change in our lives, we are all still human and it would be a lie to say it didn't strike me that our freedom of movement was about to be curtailed dramatically. However difficult it had been to organise a night out before this, there was no chance now.  
Around the same time this happened, a young mother I knew was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Her advice to everyone she met: 

'Appreciate your husband while you can and DO things together

She had the same regrets we were now feeling: you don't appreciate what you have until you see it slipping away.

Busyness is no excuse.

So we had a few last months before our sick little baby was going to arrive so what did we do?

Made up for lost time!!!

We literally tried to cram a lifetime of date-nights into those few months.  Every evening we were both free we went for an early-bird, a movie, a drink, a the autumn frenzy of ants gathering their winter supply.  But y'know was GREAT!!! I loved every minute of those evenings.  We had even more to talk about those months and a dim restaurant and soft music helped put everything in perspective.  We talked and talked and talked like we hadn't done in years of nappies and runny noses.  

And only then did we see the absolute reality that most important relationship in any family is not the parents and the children, is not the father and his workplace, is not the mother and the baby, it's not even the mother and the sick baby.  The most important relationship in the family was ours...husband and wife...the marriage which is the sun around which the satellites, the children, orbit and function best.  

So you know matter what difficulties this new little person was going to have, the marriage was still the most important thing and date night was going to be something that needed to be factored in come hell or high water.  Just because something is difficult is not good enough reason not to do it. (In fact that's another post I'm planning one of these days).  So date night is here to stay.

Sometimes we go once a week, sometimes once a fortnight but when I know it's coming up I feel a spring in my step, I'm thinking what will I wear..make a little extra effort with my hair, with my make up...a spray of perfume.  And maybe some nice candles by the way find their way into the boudoir...

And far from the children pining for our return, they're delighted to get rid of us for the evening...usually with the instruction...

"Don't Hurry Home!!"

So what are your thoughts on dating your spouse?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Diamond Painted In Nail Lacquer

There was a good and true lover who cared for his beloved very, very much.

To show her how much he loved her he gave her a beautiful diamond ring.

It was pure and clear and dazzling white.

The beloved took the ring and she admired it's sparkle.


The next time the Lover met his beloved he looked at her hand to see the beautiful ring and it's perfect clear diamond. and he was horrified to see that the diamond was no longer pure and clear...the beloved had painted over the diamond with nail lacquer!

With tears in his eyes he asked why she had covered over his clear diamond with something so valueless.

"Well...WHY did you give me that thing anyway??

It was too bright, it hurt my eyes to look at it...

...and it was too boring!!

I didn't LIKE the colour... had no colour...

...I like THIS colour better!

THIS colour is FUN"


This really happened you know.

It is a true story.

You see, this:

is now this:



To this:


Has become



And the Lover:

Oh Him?   

He has as been replaced....

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Something New...11 Things.

Do you remember playing Tag in school and on the street when you were a child? We called it Tig but it was the same wherever you went.  You're 'ON' until you manage to tag someone else.  Here's the weblog version...I've been tagged by Leanne over at Life Happens When in the game. When you're tagged you're 'it' and have to follow a few steps and then pass it on to someone else.  It's a fun idea for a blog post so here goes....

(1) The first rule is to post these rules.

(2) Post a photo of yourself then write 11 things about yourself or your life.

(3) Answer the questions set for you by the person who tagged you.

(4) Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.

(5) Go to their blog/Twitter to tell them they've been tagged.

11 Things About Me (Oh Dear..)

(1)    I come from a family of five girls and one boy. 

I have five girls and one boy!

This photo is from two years ago, it's terrible how few photos we have of all of us.  
I suppose everyone falls into that trap. (and me in the mirror!)

(2)  When I was working, my application for a career break was accepted.  I had secured a job with a family in Palermo, Sicily and was learning Italian every day after work.  My plan was to meet a handsome Italian man...

Next thing my mother was diagnosed with cancer and also the Supreme Court in Ireland made a constitutional judgement which had huge implications for the unborn.  I put my career break on hold as I figured I was more needed in my own country just then.  Within four months I had met and was secretly engaged to my future husband.  God works in strange ways.  Who knows...I could have been married to a Godfather by now...:-)

(3)  It took us all of six weeks to decide to get married.  J had six years of Medical school ahead of him as well as several years of hospital rotations.  We didn't bat an eye but looking back it must have been difficult enough.  Best thing we ever did though, we grew up together through all that.

(4)  At the end of our honeymoon we had 20p between us, we bought a packet of crisps and asked the barman for a glass of diluted orange to share.

(5)  When I was growing up I always thought I'd like five children (one less than my mother).  Years later when I was working with inner city children, a gorgeous little boy who was in constant danger of being kidnapped by me changed my mind.  He was the youngest of 8.  His entire family were literally the salt of the earth.  His parents were so good and happy though they had nothing.  The thought passed through my 19 year old mind 

"what if his parents had decided 7 was enough for anyone?"

There and then, much to the hilarity of my workmates I raised my ideal number to 8.  I don't have 8 here on earth but on the last day I will have a great reunion with my 13 children.

His name was A'urrr  Fa'eee
( that is...Arthur Fahey.  I wonder where he is now?)

(6)  I once got a paper cut on my eye-ball-Eeek!!

(7)  Murray Wiggle smiled at me....

Addendum Here :-)

(8)  It's because of The Wiggles I learned how to play the piano.  The day our piano was delivered I was gutted that all I could do was look at it.  I couldn't even play chopsticks.  I had to wait for someone to come home from school or work to hear this beautiful instrument.  

Then one day this song came on the radio:

I rushed to the computer and looked it up, it just reminded me of my older children being babies and with The Wiggles being a backdrop to their childhood, along with Sharon, Lois & Bram, it tugged my heartstrings.  

I found THIS:  

And I learned it in just a few days.  I was so proud of myself.  Then I learned a few more songs thanks to this guy.  When baby girl came along my piano career was put on the shelf but I'm going to get back to it.

(9)   My first driving lesson was in a Ambulance!

(10)   Did I mention Murray Wiggle smiled at me?  Oh yes..I did mention that!!

 Ok, number 10...let me see...Oh yes, I once did a job interview in which the course of conversation resulted in me reciting Hamlet's Soliloquy...'To be, or not to be...'  It had absolutely nothing to do with the job but luckily I knew it in it's entirety (then, not now).  The three interviewers started laughing  and I got the job.

(11)   Part of my heart lives in Scotland.  So I guess you can say I have a heart divided.

Answers to Leanne's Questions.

(1)   What is your favourite vacation spot and why?

Claddaghduff, Connemara, West of Ireland.  Why?? Just visit there and you will never need to even ask that question.  It's also my paternal ancestral home so lots of history and emotions live there. 

(2)  Who is your favourite saint?

St Josemaria Escriva.  Because Pope JP II called him The Saint of The Ordinary.  That rocks because most of us are ordinary let's face it.

(3)  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

If I could choose it would be Ireland 8 months a year, Scottish Borders, specifically Hawick, 3 months, then somewhere hot, preferably France 1 month.  After one month I'd probably be glad to get cool rain-moistened air into my lungs again.

(4)  What is your favourite song?

Music Box Dancer haha, ah no, mmm...that's hard to say.  I have loads of 'Louise' songs for when I want a good 'oul cry but I think the song I never listen to without repeating a few times is this:

It's so summery and gentle and happy.

(5)  Who is someone you admire?

John.  Because of this.

(6)  What was your favourite subject in school?

English.  Hands down.

(7)  When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Mammy.

(8)  Favourite Book?

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  I finished reading it in the leafy landscaped car park of Avoca Shopping Experience (where there is nothing in the entire shop that anybody needs.)  It was a lovely sunny day and I had only about 20 pages left so I decided to read them before I went into the shop.  After closing the book I sat there for 20 minutes.  I don't even remember going into the shop and I avoided all unnecessary conversation for several days. I had to ponder.  No book has had that affect on me before or since.

(9)  Favourite movie or TV show?

Brideshead Revisited.  The 80s series was exactly like the book, unlike the more recent version which was influenced by ideological agenda and so changed the focus and meaning of the book.  The only thing was the Sebastian of my mind was more beautiful than the ITV Sebastian.

(10)  What do you like most about yourself?

Hmmm....Good at talking I guess. 

(11)  What's your biggest accomplishment?

My children is the obvious answer there, but God had a good hand in that too.  I think I was most proud when I was able to do a little piano recital for my family one New Years (it's my mother's anniversary and we always have the entire family over).  My sisters told me my father's eyes were brimming.  That made me proud. (I like making people cry lol)

Phew!! That was long!!

So Here are my 11 questions for you.

  1. What makes you most happy?
  2. Which housekeeping task do you most hate?
  3. Which task do you enjoy?
  4. What do you do to chill out?
  5. Is there an ordinary incident that you still ponder?
  6. What is something you still hope to achieve some day?
  7. What is your favourite memory?
  8. What would be an ideal date with your husband?
  9. Favourite movie?
  10. Favourite book?
  11. Something you love doing with the children whether small or grown?

OK...I tag Mary at Hope Echoes because she has a lovely blog and I love her headers. Kee at Little Hare , Melinda at Blue Jeans And Cotton Tees and Bia at La Dolce Vita. And anyone else who would like to join in.   Have fun girls. Make sure you send me your links so I can pass them on.