Saturday, December 21, 2013


A strange thing happened recently which has prompted the overuse of a particular parenting phrase many times a day.

My kids are doing wonderful things that are taking me by surprise and making me realise that they have the potential to do anything they want in life.

Amidst the usual repetitive house-training chorus such as “please pick up xxx from the floor”, “don’t hurt your brother/sister” and “please don’t swing off the curtains”, I’m now finding myself saying something really rather special.

It’s the simplest of words, yet I’m finding them to be very effective: Funnily enough, it’s making my heart glow with oozy, sparkly embers of mummy love.

Those words are: “I’m proud of you” and “You must be very proud of yourself”. 
It’s making me smile now just thinking of all the times I’ve said it recently. 

Because my kids are growing up (finally) into spectacular individuals. I’m really impressed with them. They’re really taking part in life. They’re turning into confident, capable and amazing little people.

Every day they are filling me with wonder. One day I was proud of Jago for reading; Tegan for being able to rollerblade; Lorcan for counting to 20.

Another day I burst with pride when they took part in the school show and shined on stage, compared to last year when they hid behind their friends, petrified.

Ready for their starring roles

I’ve realised one thing. That I can do wonders to boost their self-esteem at this formative, memory-making phase in their life. By telling them how proud I am, and suggesting they might be proud of themselves, it freezes the moment as something special, and hopefully creates a special memory to be lodged in their memory banks.

By simply noticing their actions, it brings full awareness to the moment and lets them know they are seen and it is positive. I hope that it:
  • Improves our relationship
  • Boosts their self-esteem
  • Gives them confidence
  • Makes them proud of themselves

It’s a newish word in my vocabulary, as I don’t think my own parents programmed it into my psyche as a child. But it’s one that I want to keep using, and it’s a sense of satisfaction that I want to foster in my kids as I do everything in my power to show pleasure for their achievements or qualities.


Here’s hoping I can keep it up. And I don’t overdo it.

PS, I'm proud of my hubby too, for he has moved mountains this year to set himself on the path of doing what he really wants to do in life. Well done Tom, 2014 will be your year of consolidating all the foundations you've put in place. Have hope and pride, my love. We're all proud of you. And thanks for being such a great dad.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Embracing the chaos of kid-focussed Christmas

This year I have surrendered to the madness of kid-focussed Christmas.

Last year, I think I was still trying to maintain a sense of control in our house. Over the course of 2013, I lost that, thanks to Lorcan becoming a strong-willed two-year-old and my older two becoming really smart!

Three young, independent-thinking kids is a power beyond my feeble control, sometimes.

Work meant I spent less time around the house, so yes, the lunatics really did take over the asylum this year, as I struggled to keep my energy intact.

But guess what? I’m so much happier this Christmas simply by ignoring some of my usual perfectionist stress. I look at our Christmas tree, which looks like it just survived an earthquake, and think proudly, the kids did that. By lowering my expectations I have come to accept the madness of my three little sprites.

This so far is my script for a happy Christmas in our home:

1) Allowing them to decorate the Christmas tree (with pegs and everything!) –restraining myself from redoing it when they’re not looking.


2) Giving them access to their advent calendars (Lorcan’s record was consuming 25 days in 5 minutes!)

3) Buying new stockings for the fireplace – to remind them that good behaviour means presents.

4) Letting them get dirty making Christmas cards and decorations.

5) Resisting putting a fireguard up around the Christmas tree. It’s our first year of trying this daring tactic and so far so good, only a few near-topples as Lorcan zooms past it.

6) Making sure there are loads of movies recorded and DVDs ready to go; brilliant for those over-excited, climbing up the walls, moments.

7) Reducing the number of events to a bare minimum so the kids aren’t overwhelmed, ungrounded or confused by seeing too many different Santa’s.

8) Slowing down, making lots of fires, cuddling up on the sofa with blankets and watching ‘You’ve Been Framed’ The kids love this show, even if they insist it’s called ‘Ruby and Framed’!

9) Putting them first and thinking of magical moments we can do to create lasting childhood memories and Christmas traditions (like last year's trip to the Winter Wonderland in Cork city).

10) Taking one day at a time, because not every day goes smoothly and remembering they get stressed too, especially when excited/scared about their big Christmas show debut at school tomorrow night (personally, I can’t wait, two of them on stage at the same time!).

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Discovering My Creative Soul

I'm taking part in Week One of the month-long Carnival of Creative Mothers to celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce

Today's topic is Nurturing a Culture of Creativity at Home. Be sure to read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

There's still time to Join the Carnival and be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of The Rainbow Way!
November 27th: Creative Heroines.
December 4th: Creative Inheritance.
December 11th: The Creative Process.


It took until I was pregnant aged 35 to discover that there was a creative bone in my body.

I watched it grow, realising it wasn't so much a bone, but rather a muscle that I had to exercise regularly in order for it to grow. The more I flexed it, the more it grew, and the more my capacity to embark on creative projects expanded.

Before this creative epiphany, creativity wasn't something that I had really given much thought to. 

I'd worked as a journalist yes, taken creative writing courses, written poetry and short stories, but I'd never really MADE anything, and for some reason I didn't think that what I was doing was CREATIVE.

So a sudden inner urge when pregnant with my first to take a pottery class and to learn how to make a patchwork quilt left me oozing with creative flowing juices. 

I assimilated it and allowed it to take me to a beginners' art class, where I truly began my journey into my inner 'artist', my inner creative soul. 

Pregnancy unlocked the key to this creative soul, it allowed me the freedom to surrender to what was inside and let it paint. The blank canvases I painted when pregnant were vibrant and flowing and strangely artistic for someone who believed I didn't have an artistic bone in my body.

I enjoyed the flow of instinct and the unusual sense of confidence growing inside me, alongside the inner growing of my babies. 

My art class never ended. I kept going and going for a few years as I learnt to paint using different techniques, different paints. Until my life got so busy that I couldn't find the time anymore, graduating to simply painting at home when the urge takes me. 

Painting is so meditative that it really grounds me in the moment - I get so absorbed that i forget about whatever small thing is bothering me.

It's something that I believe everyone has in them. But many people don't allow their bodies to release that artistic mechanism. It can be very liberating when you do, as you rid yourself of the notion that "I can't paint" or "It will be rubbish". It's enabled me to finally take a compliment, which I always struggled with thanks to hailing from a family of put-downers, perhaps to the detriment of my self-esteem. This year I sold my first painting, for €50, and I was delighted. Someone believed in me enough to buy something that I'd created. 

I cemented my new sense of creative confidence last year when together with five friends we decided to work through The Artist's Way every Wednesday morning. I started it thinking it would help me get back to creative writing, but little did I know the coursebook would enhance a sense of confidence in myself as a person (knocked asunder after 5 years of babyland). It left me feeling "capable". That I could do anything!

I found myself returning to writing, creating a blog and freelance journalism, painting and crafting. It also led to the accidental applying of an editing job, which miraculously I got, ergo the shaking up of my life for the better. It even lead to me training to be a teacher of antenatal classes - an ongoing work in progress that will take me another two years to finish.

Painting aside, I regularly ground myself by making things now for the kids. My specialty at the moment is cosy, warm blankets from their old clothes. These are labours of love take up quite of lot of my rare spare time, but they are worth it as souvenir treasures that we snuggle under ever day as we watch TV. 

The kids love them. And so does everyone else who sees them. Here's how I make these memory quilts:

And here's the latest one I made for Lorcan:

I hope I inspire you to pick up a paintbrush, cut up your kids' old clothes and dust off your sewing machine, or source yourself a copy of the Artists' Way. 

We are all artists and creative beings - but maybe you just haven't unlocked yours yet?


And grab free extras (first 200 orders only!):

- exclusive access to a private Facebook group for creative mothers

- a vibrant greetings card and book-mark of one of the author's paintings.

Kindle and paperback editions from,, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble
or order it from your local bookshop!
Carnival host and author of The Rainbow Way, Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares an extract from the chapter Nurturing a Family Culture of Creativity.

Lilly Higgins is a passionate food writer. Now a mother of two boys, she's discovered a new calling: to instil in them a love of food and creativity in the kitchen.

DeAnna L'am shares how visioning the New Year with your child is an invitation to be inspired: use creativity and resolutions to create a fun road map for the year ahead.

Molly at Talk Birth on Releasing Our Butterflies - balancing motherhood with creativity.

Laura shares some of the creativity happening at Nestled Under Rainbows and a few thoughts about creativity.

Georgie at Visual Toast celebrates her own unique culture of creativity at home.

Esther at Nurtureworkshop spreads the love of the ordinary, the delights of everyday things that can be an adventure of the imagination.

For Dawn at The Barefoot Home creativity is always a free form expression to be shared by all in a supportive environment where anything can be an art material.

Naomi at Poetic Aperture is a mother, artist and photographer who tries to keep her daughter away from the expensive pens and paints.

Aimee at Creativeflutters writes about keeping your sanity and creativity intact with small kids in the house in her post: Mother + Creativity - They Must Coexist.

Amelia at My Grandest Adventure embarks on a 30 Days of Creativity can too!

Becky at Raising Loveliness explores creating with her smaller family members.

Jennifer at Let Your Soul Shine reveals how children help us connect to our souls, through music and movement.

Mary at The Turquoise Paintbrush shares her experiences of creating with kids.

Brooke at violicious spent too much time worrying and trying to be creative instead of letting it flow.

Joanna at Musings of a Hostage Mother explains why creativity at home is important to her in her post "I nurture a creative culture."

On womansart blog this week - nurturing a creative culture at home.

Creative woman at Creator's Corner loves color and uses it to paint, draw and decorate to inspire herself and her family.

It took until Amy at Mama Dynamite was pregnant aged 35 to discover her dormant creative streak - she has found lovely ways of tuning into it every since.

Anna of ArtBuds is a trained educator and art therapist. She has been creating all her life and nurturing her daughter's creativity at home is a priority.

Deb at Debalicious shares how her family enjoy creativity at home.

Emily at The Nest explores how creativity runs through her family's life together.

Jennifer at OurMuddyBoots sees that encouraging creativity in children is as simple as appreciating them for who they are: it just means overriding everything we know!

Lisa from has discovered that a combination of writing and traditional crafts can provide a creative outlet during those busy early years of new motherhood.

Anna at Biromums shares what nurturing a culture of creativity means to her.

Zoie at TouchstoneZ argues that the less they are interfered with, the more creative children become as they grow up.

Darcel at The Mahogany Way celebrates creating with her kids.

Molly at MollyLollyLoo explores her family's shared creative times.

Liz at Reckless Knitting shares how she celebrates creativity with her family.

Sally (aka The Ginger Ninja) of The Ginger Chronicles is continually inspired by her own mum and grandmother.

Just being creative is enough, says Nicki at Just Like Play, as she ponders her journey of nurturing a creative family.

Allurynn shares her creative family's musings in her post "Creativity... at the Heart of it" on Moonlight Muse.

Laura at Authentic Parenting explores how being creative saves her sanity.

Mama is Inspired talks about how she puts an emphasis on the handmade in her home, especially in the holiday season.

Kirstin at Listen to the Squeak shares with you several easy ways for busy mamas and dads to encourage their children to be creative every day.

Chiswick Mum believes that a healthy dose of chaos is the secret to nurturing creativity at home.

Mila at Art Play Day always lived in her dreams, sleepwalking through life ... now she is finding out what creativity is all about.... her inner child!

Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From describes how picture books can nurture creativity in young children.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Want to make a patchwork memory quilt?

I get a massive buzz when I force myself to finish a creative project rather than slump in front of the TV after the kids have gone to bed.

My latest labour of love was a keepsake blanket for my youngest, Lorcan the Brave, who is two and a half. 

It's all the nicest clothes he has worn since he was a baby that will forever remind me of him during his early years.

Lorcan's blanket, with hood!

It's a great way of decluttering their wardrobes and freezing the memory of them as a baby/small child, rather than giving away their old clothes to other kids or charity shops. 

I've made memory blanket/patchwork quilts, whatever you call them, for all three of mine now, making them up as I go along. If I hit a snag, I watch how it's supposed to be done on Youtube, then I try to work through the solution.

Each time I've thought of more inventive things and been a little bit more ambitious. The blankets have got bigger and bolder every time, with zips and pockets, but the latest one evolved even further, topping them all with a funky hood at the top!

Yes, you can even crop up their favourite hoodie and include that for comedic effect. It took me a little bit of fiddling with the sewing machine to work out how to do the zip/hoodie combo, but I got there in the end. 

Youtube is very handy for patchwork tutorials, but I find they're a little bit too strict and structured, I prefer to do less ironing and less straight edges. The beauty of these old clothes blankets is in their personalities and imperfections. I don't have any of the right cutting or binding gear, just a pair of scissors, some pins and a sewing machine. I don't use wadding, just an old blanket.

It costs nothing. Just blood, sweat and tears! But seriously, it's a lovely gift for kids who like to snuggle under their favourite old clothes. 

Tegan's Blanket

The problem I have now is that my oldest wants a new blanket because his, the first - the most quilted and smallest, has since been overshadowed by the other two's huge, soft blankets. 

Jago's blanket

So for my next creative project I'm saving his old TShirts and I'm going to make one for him as we begin the cycle again! 

Who knows, maybe I'll even make one for myself one day.....

The full instructions to make your own are here:

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I am a relay parent.

I survive the frontline of parenting by taking it in shifts with my husband to put up with look after our kids.

It means my husband and I rarely have quality time together – because there’s always something keeping us apart and, even sometimes when there isn’t, we need a bit of breathing space to stop us cracking up.

It’s a delicate balancing act, involving lots of forward planning and quite a lot of flexibility to sustain these different shift patterns.

Yet this is not usual. This is practiced in most homes across the world. This is modern day parenting. Because how many parents are able to mind their kids as a complete family unit 24/7? Somehow we have to earn some money so we’re we have a house to live in, try to better ourselves so that there are prospects for the future, try to be part of a wider community and enjoy some activities in the evenings.

Sometimes we have to exchange car keys at the door, as one parent comes in the other goes out to a meeting, an exercise class, work or a training course. Sometimes I escape to the quiet room at the top of the house for an hour to lie down, relax, take deep breaths, practice mindfulness, read a book; anything to bring me back from Frazzled mum to Mindful mum. 

Because of our busy lives and the necessary fact that we need to earn money to survive yet can’t afford daily childcare, we have to parent in shifts. This is what I call Relay Parenting, because it’s like we’re in a Relay Race that never ends. We are parents that pass in the hallway as we exhale: “Your turn!”

Now that summer is over, our lives seem to be busy with groups, committees, classes and clients. So when the kids are in bed, we take it in turns to have a bit of a life. But if we don’t get to bed before midnight, we suffer because they are always up at the crack of 7am come rain or shine. If I want a lie-in, I have to book it a week in advance and it has to be on a day where nothing is going on and the other parent is around to take the early shift.

Don’t get me wrong, we do have quality family time altogether. We took a family hotel break to Bantry recently where we all slept in the same room, all weekend. The over-excited kids loved it, but it was a bit intense for us over 40s low-energy adults, more like an endurance test at times, with pockets of beautiful family moments I’m sure the kids will remember forever. Creating happy early memories is really what it’s all about.

But mum and dad get tired. We both seem to be permanently exhausted at the moment. I’m back on the iron tablets trying to rebuild my energy, strength and immune system, plus I take Eltroxin for an underactive thyroid.

Everyone keeps saying that when they’re older we’ll have more energy because they’ll be less draining, but is that that really true? Surely they’ll find ways to drain us in different ways? I think the main thing is to find a way to strengthen myself so that my energy doesn’t drain so quickly and freely…. This is my work in progress at the moment.

Most days I can't believe how much I've acheived. Some days I think my head will explode with the amount of stuff I have to get done. But amazingly, if I write things on a list, then they get done. So long as I've got my other half of the relay race to help with the kids.

Thanks Daddy Evans. 

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Monday, October 7, 2013

A Dozen Discoveries About Breastfeeding

Don't know if you're capable of breastfeeding? Here are a dozen things I discovered about breastfeeding during my days of boobie feeding my babies. I hope it convinces you to try, because every breastfeed matters. This post is part of a National Breastfeeding Week BlogMarch by the Irish Parenting Bloggers group.

1. You will feel self-conscious at first and feel that everyone is watching you and might get a glimpse of your nipple or judge you, but you have to learn to rise above that. This is difficult in a society that has historically bottle-fed and sees this as the norm.

2. You might feel embarrassed that your baby is feeding all the time. Please don’t, they’re doing so much growing that they need to take in loads of milk to grow their tiny brains and bodies.

3. You might question whether you can do this, but once you get into a regular rhythm it becomes so normal that you don’t realise you’re doing it after a while.

4. Your body will change – your boobs will get bigger when full of milk (and sometimes sore and leaky if baby has missed a feed) and your nipples will hurt (and possibly crack) at first but soon go away with a little TLC. Keep repeating the mantra: "This soon will pass".

5. You will want to have time off from the baby, who seems to need you incessantly, so why not? You can express some milk for someone to give in a bottle to give you a few hours away making peace with your soul.

6. You will pine for your baby when you’re not with her/him – and should you hear another baby cry during this time, your boobs will start to leak! The best trick to stop you entering the wet Tshirt competition is by pressing your nipple in (you can do this discreetly if necessary) to stop the flow.

7. You’ll be amazed by how little people notice when you become skilled at feeding you baby. Unless of course, you advertise the fact you’re feeding with a blatent nipple hat like this:
Boobie Beanie

8. You’ll find ways of giving you and the baby privacy when you need to: a changing room in a shop was a particular favourite of mine, because I could feed sitting down and enjoy a quiet private moment in a bubble with my baby, then put baby into pram and start trying on clothes. Doubleplusgood.

9. You can find ways of breastfeeding on the move – I used to walk down the street with my baby in a carrier feeding away while we were shopping or chasing after my other kids.

10. The irony is some people say breastfeeding means a bad night’s sleep, but if you get a co-sleeper and have baby within arm’s reach, you pull baby to you as soon as they cry and feed half asleep, both falling back into slumber and cuddling up in a symphony of dancing through the night, feeding and dreaming. Believe me you get used to this and it’s the only way to get a night’s sleep in the early days.

11. You’ll meet other like-minded mums who quickly become friends as you journey through breastfeeding together.

12. You’ll soon discover you CAN do it – and be very proud of yourself for giving your baby an amazing healthy start in life. Go mummy, you rock!

This post was written as part of a National Breastfeeding Week BlogMarch by the Irish Parenting Bloggers group who are running a competition giving away breast pumps from NUK as part of the celebration. Check out the Irish Parenting Bloggers Facebook page for the giveaway.



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Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Things I have learnt as a mother

During the last six years as a mother I've experienced thousands of ups and downs that have shaken me, battered me, delighted me and filled me with pride and happiness. It's been a gloriously multifarious journey. Here's a few random thoughts on what I've learnt. Please leave your comments at the end to share what motherhood has taught you....

1. I have learnt how to bake a cake and make meals in superquick time involving minimal mess and minimal cleaning up afterwards. I know that the long, fancy meals I cook occasionally, hoping to expand my little ones taste buds, will be rejected in favour of cereal (namely Weetabix) again for dinner.

2. I’ve learnt to relax about what my kids do, say, wear or eat – they are individual people who decided to define themselves far earlier in life than I ever expected (or hoped). I’ve discovered that even if they eat nothing but ice cream for a whole summer, they will still grow and not get sick. 

3. I have learnt that it's okay if I can’t do EVERYTHING because whoever created the 24-hour day didn’t put enough hours in it. No one notices the mess and unclean floors around the house like I do. A messy house is a necessary evil of children – and that bedsheets really only have to be changed once a month unless a child has peed/been sick in them. 

4. I’ve discovered that multivitamins can be part of my 5-a-day.

5. I have been shocked to learn the expression “sleeping like a baby” was coined by a man with a sick sense of humour who has clearly never spent any time with a real baby.  

Screaming like a baby!

6. I have NOT learnt how NOT to feel guilty for spending time away from the kids, doing training courses all weekend, rare treats away, and working to pay the mortgage when they ask me to stay home and be with them. I still feel guilty about this despite knowing how important "me time” is for my sanity.

7. I have learnt that babies are hard work – it's been the hardest and most stressful work I’ve ever done in my life (especially my number 3 super high-need, silent reflux screamy baby!). I have learnt that I hate the baby stage; I love it when they’re older and we can hang out together, go shopping or to the cinema, have interesting and fun conversations and they can show me amazing things they’ve done at school.

8. I have learnt that the best things in life are free: quality time in the outdoors with a healthy and happy family. And that you have to be spontaneous and flexible as a parent or die - because they never do what you ask them.

Larking and loving!

9. I've learnt that it’s ok to make mistakes – so long as I try to learn from them. And that it’s ok to be angry – as long as I don’t channel it at my kids or husband.

10. And I have learnt that no matter how exhausted, frustrated or stressed I am, a cuddle from a child and a spontaneous, unsolicited “I love you mummy” makes it all seem worthwhile.


What did you learn?

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Damage Done by Pregnancy

Nobody tells you about the damage pregnancy can do to your body. 

The physical exhaustion is nothing compared to the number of years it takes off your life.

I reckon I aged about 10 years in my 4 continuous years of 3 pregnancies. Even now, 2 years after my last pregnancy, I’m still recovering. 

I recently signed up for a course of cranial-sacral (CS) therapy, because I feel that my body is out of alignment, my muscles have tightened up (lost their memory, according to the CS guy), and I’m so stiff and sore all over. 

I feel that my body needs a lot of repair; I can trace back the brokenness to my second pregnancy, aged 36, when I really started to notice the wear and tear on my body. 

Granted, my age could have some bearing on it too, but I went from being quite fit to being an exhausted zombie not able to walk or talk properly. 

My hands became weak and numb and I could barely use them in the mornings. I had developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is caused by pinched nerves and swelling, and made worse by pregnancy. This has progressively got worse since then and now I have to wear splints on my wrists every night.

My pelvis collapsed under the extra weight I was carrying and no amount of physio, chiropractic treatment or cranial sacral has managed to return it back to normal since; I’m told I have a sprained pelvis now and every time I lift the kids for too long it hurts again.

My brain turned to mush and I was constantly in a bubble during and after pregnancy - until I convinced my doctor to put me on a daily pill for under-active thyroid. It was a lightbulb moment. Within a week, the fog had lifted and I could think clearly again. It wasn’t just exhaustion, breastfeeding or depression – and I hadn’t lost my brain after all. It came back, clarity resumed. It makes me wonder how many women are diagnosed with post-natal depression when really they have a sluggish thyroid?

My hair fell out. This could have been something to do with the thyroid issue, but generally in pregnancy and breastfeeding your hormones are all over the place, as are your nutrient levels, so your hair thins and loses its lustre. Mine was always very thin to start with, so it thinned to very little on top – and never came back, even though I've tried expensive remedies since then. 

My gums receded and bled causing major gum disease aka pregnancy gingivitis, which cost €700 to fix! Your gums are more likely to become inflamed during pregnancy because of the hormonal changes that make them more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque. In the UK, they offer pregnant women free dental care, not in Ireland.

My belly turned to jelly and has never recovered tone or shape since. One big meal can swell the jellybelly to look 5 months pregnant. 

My nether regions became sore and sensitive because of tearing during birth and having to be stitched afterwards (more painful than giving birth in my experience).

My sinuses exploded during pregnancy as my immune system lowered and my hayfever/allergic rhinitis became unreactive to antihistamine. I tried acupuncture but that only worked temporarily. Then I found a cure

My sanity was stretched to the very brink by colicky babies, sleepless nights, hyperactive screaming kids and the incessant demands of motherhood.

The only thing that seemed to improve was my eyesight, which apparently is due to changes in the hydration of the cornea, so I don’t have to wear my glasses so much anymore.

Oh and I also developed the ability to remain calm in stressful situations and multitask like a demon on speed. That’s a big plus point. 

But even though I’m broken and battered, it’s all definitely worth it. Don’t let this put you off having babies – some people would give their right arm and eyeball to have babies, so I gave up very little of myself in comparison. 

What damage did pregnancy do to your body?

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


One thing that has made my life much easier as a mum has been internet shopping. I don’t know where I’d be without mummy’s little laptop and the ability to order food and other goods after the kids have gone to bed.

How did mums ever cope years ago before the internet and the likes of Amazon, Tesco, Littlewoods and ebay?! I'd be demented!

I’m a big fan of online grocery shopping – it saved my sanity in the early days of brand new babies, especially when number 3 came along and the other two were a handful to chase around the supermarket.

So when Tesco emailed asking me to do a review of their online shopping experience with a €50 discount, I jumped at the chance. I have shopped online with Tesco before but not for at least a year, having been lured away by my local Supervalu’s online service offering free delivery and often usurped in my shopping duties by the husband who prefers Lidl/Aldi.

I took back control of the shopping this week. It felt nice. This way I got to include ingredients and things that I actually need, rather than bulk-buying of boring foods hubby thinks we need (stop buying pasta Tom, we've enough to feed an army!).

Because I’m already registered for Tesco, I didn’t need to bother signing up, but for those who haven’t tried it before, it’s pain-free and totally integrated with the Clubcard for ease of collecting points and keeping a record of all your favourite products. 

If you just want to go in and buy the same shop every time, you just click on your favourites and add what you need, plus a few special offers.

I'm a special offer junkie - I always start off with all the discounted products, viewing them all at once, then going through the categories such as Half price, buy one get one, etc so that I don’t miss any half-price bargains. Then I go to favourites to make sure I’m not missing all our regular staples. 

Using the Multisearch shopping list

Then I refer to the paper list that’s been knocking around the house for a few days, such as anchovies, dishwasher tabs and nappies, and add those to the shopping list pad on the right hand side, which gives you a really handy way of scrolling through your listed products by clicking ‘next’. If you’ve missed a special promotion, the system will tell you. 

My only issue is with non-intuitive search-spelling, try searching for Tesco own-brand Rice Crispies or Frosties and you'll be all day. There's so many cereals that going through the menu is not the quick option either. The reason: they're all called unusual things, such as Frosted flakes or Rice Snaps which don't turn up in searches for Frosties or Crispies/Krispies. Minor issue I know, but this could be solved by a being able to 'refine your search' by 'Tesco own-brand' - I'd also like to see refine by 'Price' as well please Tesco, given that we're all tighening the purse stings these days. 

I got there in the end with the snaps and frosted flakes

Then just review your list, tell Tesco if you want the picker to substitute if your product isn’t available (I used to say no, but now I say yes, because the pickers generally give you a decent substitute), and click checkout and pay. This is where you add in your e-coupons – one of which you’ll find at the end of this blog post - and ClubCard vouchers.  

Job done. Wait for the delivery driver to come the next day and it's like Christmas - loads of food delivered straight onto your kitchen table. The kids love this bit. "Tesco man! Tesco Man!" they scream, not dissimilar to the way they scream "Santa! Santa!". The only thing left to do is to put it in your fridge and cupboards - before the kids start raiding the biccies and my Ben & Jerry's ice cream (treat-to-self).

It's so much easier than driving to a supermarket, lugging products in and out of the trolley at the checkout, carrying bags in and out the car, not to mention the effort involved in trying to pacify kids every step of the way.

My verdict? Internet grocery shopping is essential for time-poor mummies desperate for every little bit of help they can get. If you buy a big shop online like I just did, you only need to pop to the local Spa shop for a few extra bits towards the end of the week. I find I can stretch out a big shop like this for almost 2 weeks!

You need at least an hour if you're a repeat shopper. Longer if you're new, as it takes a while to build up your list and learn to navigate around the site. 

If I'm pushed for time I'll chuck some favourites in the basket and then check it out. I then go back in later and add/edit products because it's easy to do this until the previous evening of your order. Next time, I'm going to try the iPhone app, which I only just discovered whilst writing up this blog post.

Tesco is always a brilliant shopping experience. The service is so efficient - our friendly driver Dennis arrived very punctually and cheerfully. Drivers work until 11pm on week nights so it really is very convenient. 

And now the good news, Tesco is offer Mama D readers a €20 off new customer code.
Tesco website:
€20 off when you spend €60 or more on your first online grocery shop at
eCoupon code: RXXF4NC
Offer end date: 10th October 2013
Full terms and conditions can be found at


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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Joy of Photobooks

I’d never put together a photobook before so when I found myself suddenly overcome with inspiration to create a bumper book of lifetime photos for my dad’s 70th birthday, it became a new personal challenge.

First, I had to find photos of his childhood. No easy job, given than most old pictures are either lost in in attics or in different countries – not to mention 60 years old.

Second, I had to work out how to scan in all the old photos I’d collected together, which takes a lot longer than you expect.

Third, I spent ages going through every laptop, hard drive, camera used in the past 10 years to find more recent suitable digital images.

Fourth, upload them to a photobooks website. In bulk.

I chose Photobox and I uploaded about 150 photos which took about half an hour. I had to use my brand new laptop for this as the old one couldn’t handle the request.

Lastly, I had to reorganise them into a Life Story with the earliest pics at the beginning; this involved rejigging the set templates to squeeze more pics on to a page; adding a few funny captions; and getting someone to proof read it.

In reality, it’s not really that easy.

It took 3 weeks and most of my available spare woman hours.

The thing that slowed me down was being such a silly perfectionist. I wanted to fill all the gaps in my dad’s life; to find photos of him from all walks of his long and happy life. So I kept going back, checking albums and finding new pics that needed scanning and uploading and more reorganising.

Luckily, Photobox has a quick uploaded where you can effectively upload all pics from a file location on your desktop.

You can add these pics to your existing photobook album with a neat function that lets you see exactly which pics have already been used in the album, so that you’re not using the same pic twice.

I liked that there was an ability to change the size of the pictures and the shapes, as well as the number of pics on each page. I didn’t want just 1 massive A4 pic to a page – I wanted 5 or 6. I figured this was better value for money and because the pics I was using weren’t the best quality (grainy and faded, if old), it didn’t overstretch the quality.

Similarly, if I had a brilliant panoramic picture to use, I could have stretch it across two pages, effectively creating a centre spread.

It took 2 full weeks between buying the album/sending it to print and it being printed and delivered to me in Ireland. I only just made the birthday party, so in future, I must give myself more time so as not to stress about missing the deadline the day before.

I was a bit nervous opening the large cardboard envelope when Mr Postie delivered it just in time, but when I did, I was delighted.

It was a beautiful thing. A rare keepsake in a world of fast digital photos that are viewed online and never printed out.

A beautiful treasure of a lifetime of photos of all the significant people in a person’s life.

My dad was thrilled to bits. And all the family poured over it, taking it in turns to leaf through it and talk about people long-gone and their memories of yesteryear.

It’s a gift that just keeps giving – and has sat on my parents sofa/coffee table ever since. I think it will be one of the first things they might try to save if the house was on fire.

So all in all, my big efforts paid off. It was a big success for my first photobook. 

And hopefully it’s the first of many, particularly now that I know how.

If you want to make your own visit

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Monday, August 5, 2013


We were a little optimistic thinking that two adults could handle three small kids on a boat the size of a village.

The kids were so excited when we travelled on Stena Line from Dublin to Wales last week that they turned into screeching monkeys, racing around and climbing everything they came across. 

When a boat includes climbable barriers onto open seas and lots of little nooks and crannies they could disappear into, it was a little bit exhausting keeping tabs on three high-energy kids who don’t see danger until they need rescuing. 

Kids won't stay still!

If they go in different directions, one is left unmarked. In our case, we still can’t assume that the eldest (who is 5) is the one we can choose not to chase, because he is the biggest dare-devil of them all, often doing daft things that put himself and others at risk. Every time, they run off in three different directions, we must make a split-second decision of who is least in danger and go after the other two. 

So it was a bit of a challenge attempting to travel on a big boat with these children - but I think we met the challenge head-on - and created a memorable, fun experience for our kids.
Our first challenge was that they wanted to climb the outside barriers to look out to sea. One parent had to hold 2 kids back whilst the other held the biggest deathwish kid – until this got too stressful and we relocated inside permanently. 

They wanted to climb these barriers!

Crayons and colouring books were pulled out, but soon they were bored. The kids room on the Stena Nordica is small and hot. It contains a TV that shows Curious George cartoons and a few stools and wall puzzles. My kids soon got bored with that too and began to use the stools as playthings, rolling on top of them on their sides, until I dragged them away, because they were bothering the other kids in there. 

We found the TV lounge where they were showing the latest Madagascar film, but the volume was so low that even if you sat a metre away from the TV you still couldn’t hear the movie. And it’s no fun not being able to hear a movie.

Luckily, we secured a cabin, where we could contain the little monkeys whilst they could satisfy their need to climb and fling themselves around dangerously. We could finally relax – they couldn’t run away from us here, locked in a cabin.

They loved the cabin – played on the two top bunks for ages, making beds, leaping from one to another, climbing up and down the ladder, playing hide and seek, and looking out of the window at passing boats. Daddy and I got to rest for a short while on the bottom bunks and watch this chaos unfold around us, safe in the knowledge that the only risk was them hurting some part of their bodies rather than being lost on a big boat and a potential child-overboard type situation. 

We ate a hearty meal on board: a brilliant deal of 5 meals (2 adults, 3 kids) + 5 any drinks for £25. There was more than enough for everyone and the meals – the standard was typical pub grub, fish and chips, burgers, wraps and pies - got eaten.

Three and a half hours is quite a long time to be out of your comfort zone with over-excited kids, but we found plenty to do onboard and loved our first experience of travelling with kids on Stena Line. 

Contained at last!

Coming back, we took the fast ferry
to Dun Laoghaire, the Stena Explorer, which at just over two hours was a real pleasure. No time to get bored on this ship. Simply enough time to have something to eat. Wander around to explore, watch a live show in the play area and do a bit of colouring.  

Play area for kids on Stena Explorer

The best thing about the Explorer for kids is that there’s not really any outside space. The only open air bit is small and caged in up to about 7 foot, and it’s mainly used by smokers so the kids aren’t really welcome there. 

All in all, our first trip on a ferry with kids was a great experience. My eldest son (5 years) was the most thrilled, telling everyone he met afterwards that he went on “the biggest ship in the world – even bigger than the Titanic” and my smallest (just 2 years old) delighted in being able to says two new words “big boat”. 

Will we do it again? Definitely, especially on the faster, more contained Explorer. It’s not easy travelling with kids but Stena Line made it as smooth a journey as possible for us. I’m not scared of taking them on holiday and being outnumbered any more. 

Stena Explorer

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