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Green things

I seem to have entered a phase in my life where I give a shit about plants. I guess this means I’m old.

We got our new windows – they’re amazing, I’m so happy with them – and before the fitters arrived we had to clear everything off the windowsills. And when I was putting things back I decided to line the bay window in the sitting room with a few succulents that my mother had given me (because they’re hard to kill and she knows I’m neglectful), and it just looked so GOOD, you know? Very together. Grown up. And now I want more.

MORE GREEN THINGS. INSIDE THE HOUSE. GREEN THINGS THAT BELONG TO ME AND DO NOT DIE SLOW, DRY DEATHS. THIS IS FUTURE SUZY.

They make me happy. Who’d have thought? So now I want to get into them, whatever that means. I’ve ordered some more online (did you know that you could order plants online? I didn’t), including an airplant which, Pinterest tells me, is a plant that doesn’t need soil to grow. Revolutionary! So you can stick it to a rock or a wall or into a terrarium (cue my next obsession), and it’ll look all sculptural and amazing. Living art. So that’s exciting. Or not, depending on your age.

Oh! Oh! And the console table actually arrived. I say “actually” because I did a dodgy thing and ordered from a French site that doesn’t deliver to Ireland, using a UK Parcel Motel address. It was a bit of a gamble seeing as Parcel Motel usually deals with items that fit into small lockers loitering outside of Tesco. I was taking the piss a chance ordering a table. But a month later, it arrived, and it cost less than €30 for delivery and it came fully assembled! And massive! And the delivery driver was not at all amused. And I grinned at him and flirted shamelessly, or as well as one can when one hasn’t washed one’s hair and is covered in bits of baby food, and I said, “Oh, you mean it didn’t fit into a locker?”, and he glared at me and grumbled something offensive and then hauled the giant box into my hallway and I just wanted to laugh maniacally.

Mwahahaha.

And it’s perfect. I love it. I LOVE IT. It looks like it’s always been here, hovering behind the couch on its spindly legs which echo the legs of the yellow lamp and the spikes of the cactus. THE CACTUS!

And Brendan has been told that he’s not allowed to touch it or put anything on it or allow it to have any function at all, because it’s a DISPLAY TABLE, BRENDAN, DON’T TOUCH THOSE BOOKS. THEY’RE FOR LOOKING AT. BOOKS ARE NOT FOR READING, THEY’RE FOR SHOWING PEOPLE HOW SMART YOU COULD BE IF YOU READ THEM.

STOP READING.

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Good morning, not.

I got so angry last night. Angry at everyone and everything and at the same time knowing it was nobody’s fault and maybe my own. But not.

Term time has started and just like that, we’ve got illness. It’s not even our school-goer, it’s me and the boy. He had his last set of vaccinations yesterday and I thought he was having a reaction, but as the day wore on my head started to pound and I realised it wasn’t the injections, it was sickness, and I had it too.

I went to bed with him at 7.30pm, a bit teary and desperate for sleep. I know I’m exhausted when I want to cry. He woke three times before midnight and then the fever which had been held off with nurofen came back. He was wide awake, squirming and hot. He didn’t seem distressed so the usual debate played out in my head of whether to let the fever do its thing vs medicating him to sleep. Guess which won. It took over an hour for it to kick in and in the meantime he was desperate to climb onto me and be Perma-latch Patrick.

At one point I got really angry. Thirteen months. Thirteen fucking months of being woken constantly, never more than a couple of hours in a row, never rested, always broken, and lately, no resolve to eat properly or go out walking because I’m too tired to care and I’d rather curl up and be still. 

I wonder how much more I can take, how much damage has been done to my body and mind being constantly exhausted, and I wonder if it’s because of the breastfeeding or did I just get a non-sleeper and really, does it matter either way because I’d never change it, but still. 

So I’m lying here this morning and B has gotten up with the kids and of course I should be taking advantage of an empty bed, but I can’t sleep because I’m too angry. And it’s the most futile thing, not even directed at anyone, just it, the lack, the circumstance. That’s all.

Beagle + bitter

We got a new dog! He’s a beagle and Charlie is obsessed with him and keeps trying to touch his face. I won’t let him, though, because his face is made of blue velvet and I need to keep those little greasy hands from staining his loveliness. Hang on, what?

Ok, he’s not real, but he’s REAL TO ME. I love him so much, possibly more than one particular child who has started climbing on my face and hitting me at 3 in the morning. Brendan hates him. Not the child, the dog. Brendan is wrong.

I bought him to go on the new cabinet. Behold!

God, the light in that shot is terrible, sorry. This is the problem with being hit with the urge to write – it doesn’t necessarily coincide with bright days and clean living rooms. I had to shove toys behind me and filter the hell out of the photo to make it look ok. I mean, it looks awesome in real life, I’m delighted with how it turned out, but I couldn’t be arsed to wait for the right conditions to photograph it properly. (This is exactly why I shouldn’t start an interiors blog, Lisa.)

Anyway, let’s look at it from another angle!

I need to hang some pictures on the wall and get a nice bushy plant to sit on top, but it’s basically there. You may notice that the cabinet is sitting on bricks. I could tell you that I’m going for the industrial-chic look but that would be a lie. Let’s not talk about load-bearing walls, BRICKS ARE COOL, PEOPLE.

Right, what else? The Blog Awards. Despite many of you voting for me (or at least telling me you did – thank you for the lie or the reality), I didn’t make it through to the finals. Again. And I’m really annoyed with myself, not because I didn’t make the cut, but because I didn’t learn my lesson from last year. I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t get involved because I’m sick of pitting myself against other bloggers. We’re all great lads, aren’t we? Cough. No, really, I’m just annoyed that I always make it to a certain point and then fail to make it through. I have no idea what the judges look for but I consistently don’t give it to them, and so I should really learn to stay out of these things because it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement. And that’s not to shit on other bloggers who’ve made it through – some great ones have – but it leaves me questioning myself. Maybe I don’t write often enough or well enough, maybe it’s too personal, too random, maybe I don’t have a big enough social following, maybe I should stop saying FUCK SHIT BOLLOCKS, maybe I should stop going back to old posts in fits of anxiety and deleting photos (true story). I dunno. It’s not helpful or productive and yeah, never again.

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to vote if you did and hopefully I’ll learn my lesson and stay out of it next year. Bitterness is not attractive and I’d prefer to use this space for crapping on about blue velvet animals in formalwear.

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Long limbs

Sometimes I look at my Instagram account, whizzing back through the past in a matter of seconds, and watch my kids get smaller. I see her hair get blonder and curlier, dungarees aged 1-2 years, short pudgy arms, big eyes on a little round face, walking, wobbling, crawling, rolling, still, staring. And him, in a few rows he goes from baby to newborn to bump to gone.

I wrote about his birthday the other day but I mostly talked about the cake. I didn’t mention the fact that the last year feels as though it’s been hoovered up into the ether. It went by so fast and all I have to do is scroll a thumb or two and I’m back to a time when it was just me and my little girl sitting in cafes, feeding our bulging bellies, days out, playgrounds, one on one and not being confined to the house because of naps or fear of copious sand eating.

I was looking at the photo I took of her on her first day of Montessori, this time last year. I can’t believe how tiny that person was that went in so bravely, no tears. She was so small. She seems much more robust now, able to handle herself, able to say what she wants. She never stops talking. Verbal diarrhoea. People used to say that about me when I was small – it didn’t translate into adulthood. She loves to help. I hurt my back the other day and she was delighted with the role reversal, uttering sympathetic things as I exited the car, groaning and wincing. She insisted on clambering over me so that she could hold my hand and walk me to the front door. Last year, that little girl was barely more than a toddler recently liberated from nappies. Now Charlie is wearing the same size as she did then. She has grown and changed so much, I wonder where I was while she was changing.

I was here. With her. With them both. But was I present? Or was I too busy firefighting, getting through the newborn days, one feed to the next, hastily made meals, waiting for Brendan to get home so that I could offload the weight of a small person onto him. Did I rush back downstairs after my little boy had given in to his nap, or did I sometimes linger, look at my phone, enjoy lying in stillness without any demands for my attention? It was nothing at the time – just a few extra minutes of her watching TV by herself – but how many times have I done that? How many minutes have been lost while her legs grew longer?

People always tell you to enjoy them while they’re young, to relish the baby days and delight in tiny feet, and then there are those who will admit how hard it can be, how lonely, how tiring and difficult to lose yourself while being so occupied with others. I think most of us go back and forth between the two, on one level knowing how precious these years are, how magical, funny, exciting and new, yet we do it all under the veil of snatched sleep, long repetitive days and oftentimes in isolation.

I do my best. Sometimes my best is not particularly great, but in those moments when patience has been worn or stolen, I tell myself that it’s good enough and I’ll be better tomorrow, and maybe I will. I try not to beat myself up for the bad days, but guilt is a skill we mothers spend our lives perfecting.

I worry about things, the world, huge exterior events that have little impact on our everyday lives. I try not to, but I do. Sometimes I get so caught up in it I feel swamped, choked, terrified. I try not to let it show. This, too, is part of the job description.

It seems trite to say it but I’m often astounded at how becoming a parent changes a person so much. The relief you feel when a childless friend says they’re pregnant. Finally, they’ll get it. They’ll understand. They’ll be part of the club and you can shudder and quake at news bulletins together.

My husband and I are happy with two children, that was always the plan. I make jokes about an accidental third while he googles vasectomies. I never understood why people would want a big family, but I’m beginning to get it now that I have two. The love you give and get is intoxicating. It becomes fundamental to your being. You are what you are because of that love. And the joy. Watching them emerge, drinking in their delight. It’s your drug. And the more you have, the more you get. The problem, though, with having more people to love so fiercely is time. It speeds up. Your attention is divided. You’re distracted. You’re tired. You miss things. And somewhere in there she skipped a whole shoe size. But she didn’t, not really. She grew and you weren’t watching.

Try not to let it happen again.

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You can vote for me to become a finalist in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016.

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Fifty shades of grey

I’ve been going through one of those phases that my husband despises where I’m feeling all housey. You know, where I spend hours on Pinterest every night and have this insatiable need to paint everything grey. Because grey.

I think it’s been spurred on by the fact that we’re finally upgrading our windows to double-glazing after nine short years of freezing our arses off in winter and having to wipe condensation off the glass every morning and dealing with the subsequent rotting timber frames and mould everywhere. Aren’t we fancy. So I guess my attention has turned away from babies and life and stuff towards the house.

So I started with the badger den because it’s the one room that hasn’t been painted some shade of grey. There was a feature copper wall and the rest was magnolia. The copper has been annoying me for years – it would scuff at the thought of something touching it. Here’s what it looked like when we first moved Amelie in:

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I decided to do the room in Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth White because I’ve been itching to try it out. And just so we’re clear here, Cornforth White isn’t white, it’s grey. It’s a beautiful light grey with an almost purple undertone. Or do I just see it that way because I’m a wanker? Anyway, I think it looks amazing. And I bought her new curtains while I was at it because the old ones came with the house and were ripped to shreds. Oh, and I painted the radiator, window-sill and curtain pole because that’ll let all her colourful kiddy stuff do the talking. Or the popping. You know, the pop. Pop. And of course it’ll all tie in with the new window frames when we get them. They’ll be grey. Obviously.

So here it is now.

I think it’s lovely. It’s cooler than my bedroom, I’m kind of jealous.

So then, because this was not nearly enough house-ness for me, I focused my attention on the sitting room which, you might remember, I painted a glorious shade of dark grey two years ago. I painted the white radiator to match the dark walls, and it’s had such an amazing effect of elongating the room. Everyone always paints radiators white which makes no sense unless your walls are white, but why would they be white when they could be grey? Anyway, it’s a neat trick and one I’ll be doing in all rooms as and when they get updated in future and subsequent anti-Brendan house phases.


Excuse the mess and the child and her sofa fort and the bad lighting. (The invisible radiator is under the window.)

Since moving the furniture around I’ve had an empty wall which has been bothering me. (I know – get a real problem.) I wanted something that would house some books but nothing too tall or huge. I also need surface space because I don’t have a coffee table and sometimes a person needs to put their coffee down somewhere. True story.

I had half a plan to get a mid-century sideboard and even got as far as to contact a dealer with my specifications, but then Pinterest got in the way again and despite the fact that I’d vowed to get something I love, something that will last forever, something not from IKEA, I saw this image below and was horrendously inspired.

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So off I trotted to IKEA and got two Ivar cabinets for the ridiculously reasonable sum of €53 each. Which is nothing, like. And that left me with plenty of money to spend on overpriced paint. Cough.

So anyway, I’m halfway through painting the two cabinets in F&B Down Pipe to match the wall. That’s dark grey, obviously. And I guess I should’ve waited till they were finished to blog about it, but by the time I’ve finished them, mounted them (in a non-sexual way) and dressed them, months may have passed. Possibly years. So I guess I’ll leave you with this pointless photo of them just after we’d put them together but before I started painting them. Because yeah.

Spot the scowling child who got called a girl for wearing a RED-NOT-PINK top. You’re welcome.

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And that’s all I have to say about that, for now.

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Right, I guess I better whore it out while I get the chance. So I’ve made it to the shortlist in the Littlewoods Blog Awards, and so I am required to beg and plead for votes from the public. So this is me asking you not that nicely to send a vote my way if you are at all arsed and have a minute to do it. If not, no bother, I never win these things anyway, so it’s all cool. There won’t be any ugly crying when I fail to make it to the finals. I won’t even make you feel bad. Or maybe I will, but probably not. Because my expectations = zero.

Thank you. Or not, as the case may be.

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He’s one!

My little boy turned one today. ONE! Already! I know!

This means three significant things for me. Firstly, I have officially earned my golden (and sadly metaphorical) boobies. That’s a whole year of breastfeeding. He will never need to taste formula or have a bottle. And soon he’ll be heading into the weirdy toddler-feeding stage which upsets people so much. I can’t wait! I wonder what he’s going to call them? Will he start trying to yank up my top in public or motorboat me in the queue at Butlers? And what’s he going to call them? Should I stop saying things like “mmm boobies” when I present them to him or “go on, it’s fresh, num num num” lest I hear that repeated back to me at some inopportune moment? It’s SO EXCITING.

The second thing is that it’s 367 days since I broke my wrist. Remember that? Not so funny.

The third thing is that it’s 368 days since I had a full night’s sleep. I won’t bang on about it (again) but sweet jesus this child is trying to kill me. Slowly. Every two hours. Every night.

I suppose we should talk about him? We had a party on Saturday. I made cake. Of course I did. Everyone kept bloody asking me about it so I had to. After much Pinteresting and consulting with the resident four year old, we settled on the idea of unicorns. Because obviously. This is the image that inspired me.

Fucking WHIMSICAL, yeah!

It was going to be so easy. No bother. We’ll throw in a rainbow theme while we’re at it. Unicorns and rainbows seem to be inexplicably linked. And that will make sense because it harks back to Amelie’s first birthday cake and everyone will think I’m terribly clever for giving these things so much thought. Even though I don’t. If I’m honest my first plan was to bake a giant set of boobs but I wasn’t sure how well that would go down with my guests.

So I baked one of Nigella’s buttermilk sponges, spread on some blackberry jam, and asked Amelie to choose a food colouring to go into the buttercream. She chose blue. This was fortuitous because rainbows are often found in the sky, which is blue. Now we had a theme. We got some Smarties to make a rainbow and added mini marshmallows to look like clouds. Then Amelie went to bed and I got drunk and tried to mould the unicorn.

Terrible idea.

It was awful. It was like a dog. Actually no, it was like a cow. A cow with a penis on its head. A slumped cow with a penis on its head that looked like it was shitting out a rainbow.

Jesus, like, what IS that?

But it looked ok from the front.

Kind of.

Someone asked me if I was going for a Moomin and I was like, yeah?

So anyway, that was the cake. Here’s the official shot that I won’t be submitting to Pinterest.

And that’s it really. Happy birthday to my beautiful boy. I’ll try harder next year, I promise. Maybe we’ll do the boobs. Mmmm, boobies.

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Education conundrum

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So homeschooling. Remember I mentioned it? Since then, Brendan and I have read a few books and we’re both convinced that conventional school is not the right place for kids to learn things. Then we found out that a Sudbury school is going to open up near us. It’s kind of amazing. Like, what were the chances? It’s like it was dropped from the sky into our gleeful and just-a-bit-sweaty palms. To put it crudely (because I can’t be arsed going into detail), the Sudbury model is a form of communal unschooling. This means that you avoid that pesky argument about homeschooled kids not getting enough socialisation. They all go and learn nothing together. (I’m joking. Kind of.)

It’s perfect. Problem solved. Job done. All the benefits of unschooling without a) me having to give up my entire life and b) my child becoming a social recluse. Except for one thing. The fees. This school gets no government funding, so the fees are hefty. More than hefty. They are crippling. I’ll spell it out. Twelve grand. I’m spelling it because I can’t bring myself to write out all those zeros. Twelve fucking grand. A year. I am struggling to understand how anyone could afford it.

There is a bit of good news, though. They don’t charge much more for subsequent siblings. So once you’re paying it, you’re paying it – go forth and procreate. They also have a grant system. Hurray, you may say, but hold the phone, upon further inspection we’re not actually poor enough to benefit (much) from it. It would still kill us. Between the mortgage and my penchant for obscure herbal teas, we don’t have that kind of money to spare each month. Which leaves us in the position where I would have to get a job solely to fund my kids (un)education, which I guess is fine, but I won’t be ready to do that until Charlie is school-age. So in the meantime we’d be on the breadline with no savings or holidays or ORGANIC POTATOES FOR GOD’S SAKE, for three years.

So we just can’t. Like, we can’t. So what’s the alternative? I could homeschool. Or unschool. Or whatever. But I’m scared. It’s not that I think it’s the wrong way to teach kids – I don’t. It’s the social issue. There’s no getting around it. As much as it gets pooh-poohed by the homeschooling community, I think it’s a very real problem. Or it is for us. I don’t think our neighbourhood offers a good enough set-up for decent socialisation. Sure, we can do some classes, but it’s not the same. You don’t get enough proper interaction with other kids at ballet or music class. She needs to be able to spend time on her own with her friends without an adult conducting every second of it.

I’ve joined the local homeschooling groups to get a feel for what’s happening, and instead of finding it reassuring, I’m not convinced that there’s enough going on. I can’t tell if that’s because there isn’t much happening, or if people have established connections and meet up behind the scenes. I also feel like the activities which are taking place are focused on older kids. There are meet-ups for teenagers – not much good to us. This makes sense because a lot of homeschooled kids are children who’ve started school and have then been taken out for whatever reason. That’s grand, like, but we’re starting from scratch here. As much as age-diversity is important (and it is, the books all say it), she still needs and wants peers of the same age. Maybe I’m wrong on this (and I really hope I am), and it will transpire that there is a thriving network of local homeschoolers, but at the moment I just don’t see it.

So the next option. Start her in school (assuming she gets into one) and take her out in a few years and either transfer her to the Sudbury school, which will be more established and hopefully have a good age-spread of pupils, and the two of us will work our asses off to fund it, or homeschool her myself. Let’s go back to that thing in brackets up there – “assuming she gets into one”. I’ll be honest, I don’t have much hope for this. I’ve decided that I can’t in good conscience send her to a single sex school. Secondly, I would hate to send her to a faith school. So it’s either an Educate Together or Educate Together. There are two near us. One of them (my first preference) only has one class per year. So that’s twenty-odd kids who will be plucked from a bulging waiting list, who will be taken in in Junior Infants. I don’t fancy our chances on that. The other school has two classes per year but I’ve heard some negative things about it. Plus it has the giant waiting list.

So yeah, conundrum. Maybe it will all become really obvious when she’s offered – or not offered – a place in a school. In a way I wish I hadn’t gone down this path because now I know too much. So if she/they end up in a mainstream school I will be highly conscious of the negatives and critical of the system. That’s not a good place to be. Parents are expected, and need, to support the school. No good will come from us telling our kids that they don’t need to do their homework. We’d have to buy into it. Drink the Kool-Aid. Or pretend to. And therein lies the problem.

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