Hidden vegetables macaroni and cheese

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Not a bit of veg in sight!

I’m constantly on the look out for new dinner recipes that all four of us can sit down and eat together. The trouble is both Aidan and Sarah are totally and utterly allergic to vegetables. If they see one in a meal, aside from carrots that is, they instantly turn their noses up at it.  Continue reading

Review: Cambrils Park Resort, Spain

Cambrils Park in Spain’s Costa Dorada; a Mecca for families during the summer months. We learned of the resort through a friend after I mentioned wanting to take our first ever holiday abroad this summer. That was in June 2015 and I was warned to book it immediately or otherwise I didn’t stand a chance of getting in to the holy resort. Yes, a full year in advance!  Continue reading

Play centres; the good, the bad and the ugly

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Sarah enjoying herself in a local playcentre recently

Play Centres. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are great for a rainy day when cabin fever strikes and outdoors isn’t an option. They are also a great place to meet fellow parents for a catch up because the adults can have a sit down, a chat and a coffee, while the little ones head off for a play.

However, so many of them leave a lot to be desired. Not all are overly clean, some aren’t even that practical, while the food and beverages served in some, well, is just downright vile.

I’ve been to play centres in Meath, Galway, Dublin and Kildare and all have their own merits.

In Kildare we’ve visited Joey’s, The Fun Factory and Jungle Den in Naas, we’ve been to Tricky Tricksters in Tougher’s Business Park and we’ve been to Playzone in Celbridge. Other establishments we’ve been to close by include Energy in Rathcoole and the Playhouse Cafe, which is in Lucan Sarsfields GAA Club but can’t really be classed as a playcentre.

So, what’s the lowdown, what are the good, the bad and the ugly? Well I’m not in the habit of simply having a go for the sake of it so I’m not going to target any of them individually because at the end of the day they all have good and bad points.

I’m going to start with the good. Top of the Kildare pile, by a mile, is Playzone in Celbridge. I’ve only been once but the place made a lasting impression. My friend Laura, who is mammy to the gorgeous Matthew, lives in Swords so we picked Celbridge as a halfway meeting point. Aside from the fact that there’s toddler events every morning and it’s spotless, Playzone has a lovely cafe and when they say they offer a healthy option for children’s meals, they do. Also their baby soft play area is the best around. Under twos aren’t allowed in, which is the case in a lot of places but the difference here is, they have a proper gate on it that, for the most part, can only be opened by adults.

One of my bugbears with other places is, there are always older and more boisterous kids in the baby area and it’s impossible to relax for fear of Sarah getting hurt. I really wish the staff in these places would enforce this rule because I always feel bad ordering older kids out. They are not mine to discipline at the end of the day.

Getting back to the food served in play centres. There’s a real divide here. Some are okay, some are downright disgusting and some are brilliant. I visited one play centre in Naas for the first time last week, and while the place itself was brilliant for playing, the food was horrendous. I ordered a panini and chips, Aidan had sausages and chips, while Sarah had lasagne and holy cow, the amount of grease on the food had to be seen to be believed. These days all Aidan eats is sausages and chips and even he turned up his nose at this fare.

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting back with a cup of coffee or tea that has been served to you and while some of the local play centres serve up lovely hot beverages, others serve muck. And do you know what annoys the hell out of me? Maybe it’s commonplace but in one local play centre I ordered a herbal tea and they whipped out a packet of green tea bags from Aldi and brewed it up. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with the herbal tea range from Aldi but what is wrong is charging €1.50 for a cup of herbal tea when you could probably buy two whole packs of tea-bags for that price in Aldi.

Now that Sarah is over one, she’s actually knocking a bit of craic out of the soft play areas but when she was younger I loved going to centres that had baby bouncers and sit-in activity centres. Most are fine in this regard but there’s one place that offered dirty, ancient and ripped bouncers and activity centres. Is it too much to ask to keep them clean and replace them when they get a bit battered? Surely not.

It’s not all bad though. Joey’s in Naas is great as it’s much smaller than other places, meaning you can sit down with your coffee and still see the kids at all times. which is a great idea. As I mentioned Playzone, is just super, while most of them have toddler activities such as arts and crafts and music classes mid-week.

But to the not so great ones, please, please sort out the food situation, clean up your act, police the baby areas because I bet if you did you’d have even more heads through your doors.

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Morning madness with kids and a weird eye!

Morning madness with kids

Morning madness with kids: Aidan, just before he fired his breakfast at me!

I pride myself on being organised. I have to because I fluster easily. Very easily. This is particularly true since returning to work in June.

My freezer is full of dinners for Aidan and Sarah and some lunches. I don’t have time to be cooking when I get in from work so it’s handy to whip out a spag bol that has defrosted over the day and fill their bellies before they head off to the leaba for the night.

It’s only after they go to bed that the real work starts. Every evening a load of washing goes on, bottles have to be washed and sterilised and left ready for Sarah for the following day. Myself or Daddy Chambers chop up piles of fruit, make the sandwiches and pack it all into the kid’s bags ready to accompany them to the childminder’s house the next day. Dinner’s accompanying carb, be it pasta or rice, is cooked up, cooled and shoved in the fridge. I even go so far as putting the uncooked porridge into bowls with spoons for the morning (yes I really am that anal!).

With Daddy Chambers up, out and long gone to work before the rest of us arise, all the previous night’s organisation pays off. It makes for calm, stress free mornings.

Who am I kidding?! The morning madness with kids never ends! Stress free my behind. No matter how much organising I do, the proverbial still manages to hit the fan and I leave the house a dishevelled stress head!

Some mornings are worse than others. Take last Tuesday for example. I got up at around 6.30am and hopped into the shower for about 20 seconds. In the middle of trying to lob on a bit of make-up I hear Aidan bellowing ‘mammy’ down the hall so I leg it and get him before he wakes Sarah. Into the room he comes and within seconds he had covered his face with eyeshadow and spilled the glass of water that was on the bedside locker.

Next thing Sarah is awake so I stick on the television for Aidan and head into her. She smells like a sewer so I throw her up on the changing table and whip off the babygro to discover it’s a poonami. A baby wipe would not suffice in this instance.

I leg it into the bathroom with the soiled baby under my arm and put on the shower before taking off the nappy. I hose her down and problem solved. Until I turned around that is.

The television failed to hold Aidan’s attention, instead he was part taking in a dirty protest with his sister’s nappy that I had foolishly left on the floor!

I eventually manage to wrestle the nappy off him, clean up and march him back to the sitting room for a spot of Peppa Pig. I get Sarah dressed and plonk her on the bed drinking a bottle while I get myself dressed.

Next minute I hear one of the neighbours in my kitchen. She had found Aidan wandering outside in his pajamas after I forgot to lock the door when I put the nappy out in the wheelie bin.

At the end of my tether, I give him a bowl of porridge, which he throws at me, while Sarah pukes hers all over the fresh clothes. Time is ticking away at this stage, I need to be on the road. I change herself quickly and scrub the breakfast off the floor. I then herd Aidan out to the car as if he was a cow. There’s tears and lots of them for no apparent reason. He’s still bawling when the minder opens her door but at this stage I don’t care! I’m just glad to be handing the madness over to her.

When I hop back in the car I catch a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror. I have eye shadow and mascara on one eye, the other is as bare as a baby’s bum. There is porridge stuck in my hair; I basically look like a hobo. All my organisation was for nothing. I’m going to have to start getting up at 3am if I’m to get out of the house looking human and avoid the morning madness with kids. I take my hat off to mothers who arrive to work looking glam as hell, as I cower in the corner hoping nobody notices the weird eye! Even with mammy make up tips from my make up artist Pamela, I still look disheveled! 

So, just how do you other mammys and daddies manage the morning madness with kids or is that even possible?

x

R

I feel my kids are missing out …

Sarah meeting her wonderful 'Gaga' Tom for the very first time.

Sarah meeting her wonderful ‘Gaga’ Tom for the very first time.

I’m a green eyed monster. Jealous as hell. There I said it.

My kids have three wonderful grandparents who adore them and spoil them rotten but I can’t help feeling they are missing out.

My own father died five years ago before I was married and long before Aidan and Sarah graced us with their presence. I miss him terribly but to his credit and my mother’s, by the time he left us I was a fully functioning adult, living away from home for years and getting by just fine.

I was insanely close to him. Now we had our moments during my teenage years but that’s par for the course. He was a fantastic friend, my biggest fan and had serious influence in almost everything I did in life. He rarely steered me wrong.

Now sometimes when I think of him I’m really angry. Not angry at him but bloody well pissed off that Aidan and Sarah don’t have him in their lives. And when I see other people’s kids out with their granddads envy engulfs me.

I think when someone close to you dies your opinion of them can be slightly skewed. You put them up on pedestal but when I think of what he might have been like as a grandfather, I genuinely believe he would have been a cracking one.  

I have visions of him parading Aidan round the local pub (the beloved local!) with pride. I am aware taking children into the pub is frowned upon these days but that’s how he rolled. Now he wouldn’t have had him in there at closing time or when the Guinness went to his head and he took a fancy notion to indulge in a brandy and Bailey’s mind you! I hope so anyway!

He worked in the retail business, mostly in clothing and owned a shop or two in his time. Now his fashion sense wouldn’t have been the best, contrary to what he thought himself! He would frequently go to the UK on buying trips and I have no doubt in my mind that he would have returned home laden down with outfits for Aidan and Sarah, outfits that I’d duly accept but never in a month of Sundays put on the kids. Remember what I said about his fashion sense! All the while he’d lecture me on spending anymore than a tenner on any piece of clothing for them, as sure aren’t all clothes made out in the Far East and jaysus the mark up on them is only ridiculous!

I like to think he would have instilled a love of sport in Aidan and Sarah, like he did with me. Sidelines were more of a feature of my childhood than anything else and it was actually soccer he reared me on. We travelled the world together and kept it real at times too with the odd League of Ireland fixture! He never once applied the girl stereotype to me and I would like to think the same would have been applied to Sarah.

Reality might have been a whole lot different though. He might have cursed me if I brought them down too much and would most definitely have told me to ‘put manners on that fella’ (Aidan)! And heaven forbid he’d have to switch the channel and put on a cartoon for the grandson! As for opening a dirty nappy around him, well forget about it.

My dad and I on a family holiday in the '80s.

My dad and I on a family holiday in the ’80s.

In all though I think he would have been the best grandad in the world. The thing is though they already have the best grandad in the world, their Gaga Tom in Galway, but sure you can’t have too much of a good thing, isn’t that the saying.

I think about all the other parents who have lost a parent or even two before their children were born and wonder do they think along the same lines. Are they as angry as me? Perhaps. But that’s life I guess.

To those of you that are blessed to have both parents in your life and in the lives of your child or children, cherish them. Really, really do. Let them teach them, let them spoil them.

I heard a saying recently that a grandchild fills a space in your heart that you never even knew was empty. In Aidan and Sarah’s case there’s a little space in their hearts reserved for him. I’ll make sure of that.