What do you mean your one year old hasn’t applied for a secondary school place?

I have lost count of the amount of times my husband and I have been asked if we have thought about what secondary school we are going to send our daughter to. This may seem like a normal question to you, but the thing is, our daughter is not in 6th class, nor is she in 4th or 5th class. She has just started first class!

We are only getting used to the primary education system yet the system is forcing us to think about secondary school!

We are facing the same questions, and looks of horror, when people find out that we have not registered our one year old son for secondary school. You can imagine the reaction when we tell people he is not even down for a primary school yet!

Why is the system designed in such a way that forces us to make decisions about something that we are not ready to even think about, let alone comprehend yet? Instead of focussing on the joy of my son being a newborn or an infant, people are putting on the pressure to sign him up for secondary school! Neither myself or his father are in the frame of mind to think of what is best for our son in 4 years time, let alone 11 years time, we are just trying to get through and enjoy the moment we are in, and see what is best for him (and my daughter) right now.

Why are we constantly forced to look forward? To try and predict the future? Why can’t we  just enjoy the milestones our kids are going through right now? Why do we have to rush ahead to the next moment?

I know the systems don’t help. The fact that when we finally put our daughter’s name down at primary schools (when she had just turned 3) – most schools’ lists were at maximum capacity and then some. Just as some secondary schools are for kids starting in 2025/2026 – that’s just plain mad!

The thing is, we don’t know what our kids are going to love at school; what their passions are going to be; their strengths; their weaknesses. How can we make a decision about the right secondary schools for them when one has only started her primary education, and the other has only started walking?! Shouldn’t they also be consulted about their education?

These constant questions about the future are a reflection of where we are at as a society right now. Always rushing ahead, planning for the next big thing and not appreciating and enjoying the big thing that is in our presence right now!

I am not saying that we should register our children for schools as late as the year before they’re attending (the schools have to be able to plan for the foreseeable future) but years out is crazy. It is not even a realistic gauge for schools, as this system does not allow for change.

This system assumes that life is a constant and we can control what lies ahead. Who knows where we are going to be tomorrow, let alone in 11 years time? Will we be in the same place – physically, emotionally, mentally?

If we are not in the same place, our kids’ needs have changed, how do these rigid systems ensure that our children can get into the school that best meets their needs and gives them every opportunity to excel? After all, isn’t that what education is supposed to  be all about?

The saying goes “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. While it’s great to have a plan, I think we sometimes take this saying too literally and in overpreparing, we lose sight of the amazing possibilities and experiences that are right in front of us!

So, isn’t it time that we start to question who these systems are really for and have them change to suit our children’s needs – not the other way around?

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Interview: Geremy Jasper & Bridget Everett (Patti Cake$)

“Patti Cake$”, the tale of an unlikely rapper, was one of the surprise hits at Sundance.

No-one was expecting this indie film to be the success that it is. Not even the film’s writer/director, Geremy Jasper. This “was a small neighbourhood story that you don’t know if anyone was going to relate to or not. So the fact that people got on the frequency was an incredible thing.”

Geremy has called this a valentine to the women who raised me. “Because I felt there was a type of woman that I hadn’t seen on screen before – the strong Jersey woman. I felt that there was a void”

What do they think of it? “I haven’t asked all of them – all nine mothers of mine, but I think they loved it.”

In casting the film’s lead, Jasper went for a relative unknown talent, Australian, Danielle MacDonald. She had never starred in a film before, and after she read the script, she said to him, ‘I need to be very straight with you. I don’t rap, I can’t do a Jersey accent and it’s so cool and I want to, but there is all this stuff that’s not me.’ Even after that, Geremy still cast her. How did he know that she would be perfect for the role?

“It’s a sixth sense. It’s what I had with Bridgett, it’s what I had with Sid. I knew these characters so well and had been living with them in my head for so long, and you’re kind of searching the world for them, and they’re very hard to find  because they are so specific. So, when you see your imaginary friend in real life, you’re like, whatever it takes, we’re going to get there.

If Danielle was a horrible person (then no). (But she’s not and) she’s so talented – and she likes to downplay her natural musical ability, even though she hadn’t done anything musical, if she had no sense of rhythm, and couldn’t internalise what I was trying to get across then maybe it would be different. But she had the raw essentials so I wasn’t going to give up on that.

And she worked her ass off.  She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever met. And I could tell. There was something about her. She had the right attitude and the right foundation. I felt more comfortable working in the studio with someone and getting the music out of them, than the reverse – turning a musician into an actor, that would scare me.”

Geremy took a chance on Bridget Everett as well, as she is better known for doing comedy (“Inside Amy Schemer”) and for her raunchy cabaret act than she is for drama. So what did she think when Geremy first called her to offer her the part of Patti’s mum Barb, a woman who lived with a lot of anger because of unfulfilled dreams?

“I was like ‘No’. Not because I didn’t want to be in a movie or get the opportunity to act. But it’s just that I read the script and I was like,  ‘somebody that’s really talented should pay this – as a dramatic actor’. But Geremy was like, ‘just come to Sundance and let’s just take the pressure off. We’re all in this together’. And that sort of made it feel like a commune  or something. It felt like it wasn’t as big a deal that I was trying to make it. It was a big deal but you know what I mean? I could just let myself off the hook and see what this is about. I am so happy I did because he gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t think I had the ability or ever have the opportunity to do.

“Patti Cake$” encourages us to not conform, instead, make your differences work for you, in what can be a superficial industry, how did Geremy make his differences work for him?

“Just do yourself!”

“I always thought that if you were going to be a film maker that you had to do a bunch of schooling like almost train to be a doctor or something. You need to know every technical nuance of what  you are doing. It was always very intimidating because there are always so many people you have to collaborate with but then I had friends who were making films themselves. They were finding people off the street and just getting cameras and were making beautiful films. So then I thought, you could approach it like getting a band together. You find like minded people. You get together. You find the chemistry and make something without waiting, obviously you have to knock on a few doors and scare up a few dollars, but once you have that and know what you want to do, you sort of hole up and make it yourself.”

But how do you keep going when it feels like it’s never going to happen? Bridget waited tables for 25 years. How did she keep her dream alive?

“I remember someone said to me, “Just jump off the cliff and take a chance on yourself.” And that was like the first time I heard it.  My mum has always been super supportive and told me I was something special and was going to make it. But when you’re putting on your apron and telling someone ‘here’s the specials’. It’s hard to remember that.”

“But then, at one point in my life I cut everyone out of my life who weren’t lifting me and not part of the push forward. When I did that my life changed  immediately. So, if I had any advice, it would be ‘Trim the fat and get the haters out of the way!’”

With all of the success of “Patti Cake$” can Geremy see a sequel?

“That’s too soon to call.”

So he’s not saying no? “Who knows, anything could happen!”

Patti Cake$ is in Irish Cinemas now.

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First Day of First Class

Today she held my hand as she walked to her first day of first class. She was both excited and nervous. Today, she still needed her mum (and dad, but I was the closest one today). This won’t always be the case and that’s OK.

I will always be there to hold her hand if she needs me but this is not my journey, it is hers. I will also let go of that hand, if that’s what she wants, and stand back as she does her own thing.

She is my daughter but I do not own her. My dreams and aspirations are not hers and nor do I wish them to be. I want her to dream big and go and chase those dreams wherever they may lead her. I will not hold her back.

My fears are not her fears. I am here to empower her not to limit her.

She is not a possession. I am a mere vessel that she used to get into the world. I will always protect her and have her back but she is her own person who is going to leave her own mark on this world.

The possibilities for her are endless.

I am so proud of her but her achievements are not mine. They’re hers.

Shine bright gorgeous girl. The world is yours.

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Six More Life Lessons From My Six Year Old

The summer has flown by and tomorrow my six year old has her first day of 1st class. Who knows what she’ll learn this year, but one thing I do know is that she has taught me a lot this summer. Last month I put out a post called Six Life Lessons From My Six Year Old. Today, before she goes back to school, I want to share six more life lessons from my six year old.

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1.  Dance even if someone is watching 
Whenever my six year old hears a song she loves she’ll burst into dance. It doesn’t matter where she is – whether it be in the privacy of her own home, out at the park or in a supermarket, she will bust some moves. She’s oblivious to anyone else around her and releases the joy.

 

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2. Don’t let anyone silence you
My six year old doesn’t always have the voice of an angel but she doesn’t let this stop her expressing herself. If she feels like singing, even if it’s out of tune, she does. If she wants to make an observation or express her opinion, she doesn’t ask for permission, she tells you how she feels.

 

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3. Be Kind
We’ve spent a lot of time in town over the summer and have seen the hardships that many are going through. There are so many people who are homeless and are having to beg just so they can get their next meal.

My heart burst with pride when my six year old asked me if she could give some of her pocket money to a lady who was “writing in some beautiful colours” on Grafton St. It was only 20cents but to her, that was a big chunk of her pocket money. That 20cents wasn’t going to make a big difference to that lady, it did put a big smile on her face.

While she doesn’t always have pocket money to give away, she does have conversations to give away and that she does often. She acknowledges the person she sees in front of her and will always say hi.

 

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4. What Gender Stereotype?
With Halloween just around the corner, there’s been a lot of talk about costumes in our place. One conversation went like this:

Me: G, can a boy wear an Elsa costume at Halloween if he wants to?
G: No
Me: Why Not?
G: Elsa’s not scary. He has to wear something scary!

I love that in her eyes, the boy wearing an Elsa costume wasn’t the silly thing, the silly thing was it not being scary.

She did follow it up though, (after the question was better phrased) with, “of course a boy can dress up as Elsa if he likes her”.

So don’t conform to gender stereotypes. Be who you want and wear whatever makes you happy – as long as it’s not Halloween – then it has to be scary!

 

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5. Celebrate others’ achievements
“The Great British Bake Off” started on Channel 4 last night. I thought this would make some great family viewing. My six year old didn’t enjoy it as much. She was really upset that, in her eyes, some of the masterpieces were being criticised. She felt that the judges were being really mean because the contestants had tried really hard and what they made looked great.

While this was a great time to talk to her about the fact that we can’t base everything on looks and that it was the judges role to criticise, it was also a great time to acknowledge that complimenting someone’s achievements doesn’t take away from your own.

 

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6. Know When to Quit
The saying is that “a quitter never wins and a winner never quits”. This isn’t always the case.

My six year old has tried lots of new things this summer. Some she has loved, others not so much. She gets frustrated when she can’t do something she wants to do and always threatens to quit. However, if she loves it, e.g. hula hooping, she keeps going until she can get her waist to spin that hoop round and round and she feels so proud when she does. Yet, there are other things that she has started but has decided to walk away from before it’s done.  I admire her for doing that, as sometimes, the winner really is the one who knows when to quit!

 

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10 Tips for Supporting your Breast Feeding Friend

August 1 – 7 is “World Breastfeeding Awareness” week. This week I thought I would look at what we could do to support our breast feeding friends.
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1. Don’t question her decisions
– Why are you feeding so often?
– Why aren’t you feeding more?
– Are you sure the baby is getting enough?
– Why aren’t you giving her/him some formula?
– Why are you giving him/her some formula?
– Are you sure s/he needs another feed?

You may mean well but these questions/suggestions aren’t helping anyone. You’re probably just stressing your friend (and her partner) out. So please stop. Unless she asks you for advice, you don’t need to be sharing your unsolicited advice.

 

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2. Just express
While expressing can be a life line – it can cut loose that ball and chain feeling sometimes felt when breastfeeding – it can also be soul destroying. Expressing is a different experience for every woman out there.

I had a love/hate relationship with expressing. Doing it meant that I could have a break from my child but getting that liquid gold out was hard work!

I would finish feeding my baby but then I had to continue to sit in my chair and pump some milk, so I could get a future break. The problem for me was that I would pump for 40 minutes, and sometimes all I would get was 100mls! It took more than that to keep baby happy.

To this day, the look/sound of the pump gives me the sweats.

 

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3. Feed and water her
It’s said that in order to keep a steady supply of milk, the mum needs to keep herself hydrated and nourished. That can be easier said than done.

The thing is, sometimes, between feeding, everything else that comes with looking after a baby, and lack of sleep, it’s hard to include feeding self into the equation. So, when you drop in to visit, give  your mate (and her partner – because they are just as wrecked and sometimes overwhelmed) a ready made meal that can go straight from the fridge to the tummy or the most work that has to be done is to reheat it before eating.

 

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4. Let her sleep
When you visit your friend and the baby don’t expect to be entertained. Go over and be of some practical help. After she has fed the baby, offer her the gift of sleep. If she is comfortable leaving the baby with you, take the child and send her up to bed for a power nap (or a long shower or just some her time – whatever she wants to do). That was one of my all time favourite gifts!

 

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5. Don’t ask her if she’d feel more comfortable feeding in another room
Sometimes breast feeding can be such an alienating experience because as soon as you go to feed your baby the room may clear or you will be asked if you’d like to feed somewhere more private.

The intentions can be well meaning – let’s assume they don’t want the mum to feel uncomfortable feeding in front of others but the question that should be asked is who will it be more comfortable for – you or the mum?

 

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6. Give Her Space
I know I just said to not vacate the room when your friend is feeding, however if that is what your friend wants, please respect her wishes and give her the space (and time) she needs.

 

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7. Tell her if she’s leaking
More often than not, you can feel the leakage but if your friend is not aware, let her know. Don’t make a scene. Be subtle about it and then get practical. Ask her if she needs some tissues to stuff in her bra, loan her a top or a scarf to cover the leaks if she so wants. However, if she’s happy doing nothing about it, then let her be.

 

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8. Don’t assume
Your friend is not just a mum. She’s still herself. While she may not have been able to meet up as much as she used to, don’t assume she can’t always make it. Don’t make her feel excluded. Include her in all plans but don’t pressure her into going. Let her decide.

If she has agreed to meet up but has to cancel at the last minute, don’t make her feel bad. Don’t tell her, she should have expressed more milk. She should have let the baby have more bottles before this meet up so she could have gone out and left the baby behind. You don’t know what she has done and what decisions she has made, and why, in the lead up to the meet up.

 

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9. Don’t pressure her
Your girlfriend will stop breast feeding when she is ready. If that’s at day one or when the child is walking and talking, that is no-one else’s decision to make but hers. Your constant questions of why don’t you continue or why don’t you stop already aren’t helping anyone – oh, and it’s none of your business!

 

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10. Just be there for her
Everyone’s breast feeding experience is unique and therefore everyone’s needs are going to be different. Take the lead from your friend and be whatever support she needs you to be.

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When Less Is More

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Ever since I got back from my Australian holiday in May, there’s one thing I can’t stop doing. I think it has something to do with the fear I get after watching those hoarding programs and also how good I feel after I do it. I am on a declutter frenzy – most of it has been in my wardrobe. I have become addicted to it because it is amazing how much lighter I feel when the stuff is gone from the house. I have been losing all this weight without shedding a kilo!

I am seeing more of my local charity shop than usual. I seem to be there with bags of unwanted (but still in great condition) clothes/shoes every 2/3 weeks.

As great as it feels to get rid of stuff, I have been thinking over the past couple of months about how wasteful I can be and the impact that this wastefulness (is that even a word) has not only on my wallet, but on the environment.

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When it comes to my wardrobe, I seem to swing one of both ways – I investment buy and so I have stuff that’s been there for years and gets reused to death; or there’s the stuff that is hardly ever worn but was bought to fill a need, was on sale or was cheap. These serve a purpose but I have found that more often than not I wear them 2/3 times and they get replaced with something else before going to the charity shop. This isn’t what I want my sustainable footprint to look like.

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Only yesterday I was telling a friend how after getting rid of clothes I actually feel like I have so many more outfit choices and I seem to mix and match more.

It was great to see this morning that Irish website stiall.com have launched there #stiallchallenge. It wants you to try to dress yourself in August without buying new clothes. Getting 30 outfits from your current wardrobe. For more info visit http://www.stiall.com

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I have decided to take it one step further and try to not buy any new things for the rest of the year. Be it clothes, shoes, stuff for the house, I’m going to try and live with what I already have and try and get rid of more stuff.

Realistically, I think I can make it through August but let’s see what happens when the season changes and when I see sales that are too good to refuse or I realise my winter wardrobe isn’t that well stocked!

I am also going to try and get rid of more stuff in this house. More of it will go to my local charity shop. One question to ask yourself when donating to charity is, is it still in good working condition? Would I use it or would it be better off in the bin? If it’s not in good condition don’t pass it onto the charity shop to bin – do that yourself!

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So thanks, to stiall.com for putting this challenge out there, getting the conversation going, and making us take a good look at our own personal habits/impact on the environment. Who’s in?

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Six Life Lessons From My Six Year Old

Six year olds are smarter than we give them credit for. Hanging out with my own 6 year old has taught me that. This summer she has reminded me of some of the good things in life that we should all be doing more of.

 

 

 

 

1. There’s no such thing as too much sparkle!
When it comes to sparkle, my 6 year old can’t get enough. She likes to sparkle, sparkle and then add some more sparkle!

There’s so much darkness in the world at the moment, we need as much brightness as possible. So whether it be in our clothing, accessories, or personality – we should let that sparkle out! We should never dull our sparkle, instead let’s go out there and shine brightly.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Don’t wait for a special time to wear your fancy clothes
My 6 year wears whatever she feels like wearing on that day. Sometimes it will be leggings and a t-shirt and other days she will emerge from her bedroom wearing her sparkliest skirt, her best top and jewellery. Her clothes are one way of making her feel her best.

We can take a page out of her book when it comes to dressing. Sometimes, as materialistic as it sounds, if you love what you’re wearing and how you look, you can feel great and sometimes that’s half the battle won when going out there to take on the world!

 

 

 

 


3.
 Enjoy your own company
Just the other day I was trying to hang out with my 6 year old and she just turned to me and said, “Go away mum – I just want to play by myself.”

No malice was intended, she just wanted to spend some time with herself and do what made her happy.

I’ve never been good at hanging out by myself – I love being surrounded by people but sometimes it’s good to appreciate your own company. You don’t have to do anything extravagant, you can do whatever you like, whatever makes you happy in that moment.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Sometimes smiling through the pain helps
My 6 year old got her ears pierced recently. I asked her if it hurt her. She said it did a little but do you know what she did when it hurt and she wanted to cry? “I held onto the seat and just smiled, and then I didn’t need to cry.”

I know it’s not always as simple as that, but do you know what, sometimes it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Don’t always be in a rush. Try being in the moment.
Life is so busy. We try to fit so many things in and it sometimes feels like everything is a blur in the rush to get from A to B.

On a walk to the park, I kept yelling at my six year old, “Hurry up. Let’s get there.” I got frustrated everytime she stopped to pick a daisy, or climb a step, or look through a fence to see what was on the other side. But then I saw the contentment (and sometimes wonder) on her face. It made me take stock of what was actually happening and remember that sometimes pure joy comes from the simplest things and being in the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 


6. Laugh hard. Laugh often.
One of my favourite sounds in the world is laughter and one of my favourite things to do is laugh. I do this a lot with my six year old.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills.”

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