Sunday, October 31, 2010


Earlier this week
Max (2 years old) comes into our bedroom at 1:20 am saying, "I wet, mammy, I wet, mammy, I wet..." I’m so drowsy I don’t know what’s going on. I just say, “What? What?” repeatedly.

Brendan (husband, age undisclosed) finally interprets: "He says HE'S WET."

So, I get up and change Max’s diaper, then try to put him back into his own bed—a futile effort. The diaper change has roused him. I bring him into our bed, stick him in the space between our pillows. This usually works.

Toss, turn, toss, turn. No one sleeps.

Around 2:30 AM, Zach, the almost 5 year-old, shows up from out of nowhere on my side of the bed. I mumble: "Go to daddy's side of the bed." He does.

Still from - Treasure of The Sierrra Madre
Over on that side, I hear Brendan say, "There isn't room for four people!" Zach gets into our bed, and Brendan goes down the hall to Zach's bedroom, to sleep under the Diego comforter and John Deere tractor blanket.

My head sinks deeper into my pillow thinking: ‘I’m sleeping with my children instead of my husband. I don’t care. I just want to sleep.’

Twenty minutes later, Max sits bolt upright, crying: "My bed, my bed!" I lift Max, start leaving the room.

Zach lifts his head, groggy, off Brendan’s pillow: “I’m really tired.” I pat his head, tell him to close his eyes, go to sleep; I’ll be back in a few minutes after I settle Max into his bed.

I take Max down the hall to his bedroom. Now, Zach is in our bed alone; Brendan is in Zach's room; Max is in his bed; and I am on the sofa in Max's room. I’m only around 5’3” tall, and the sofa is too short, even for me. I don’t care, I’m lying down. I close my eyes. Sleep approaches me, gives me the once over, considers enveloping me in its sweet oblivion. It then recedes, rejecting me, because--

--Max won't sleep. Toss and turn, toss and turn. He gets up and joins me on the sofa. The two of us are now scrunched together. I don’t care: I’d sleep in a cage, loaded on the back of a flatbed pickup as it went down the road at 50 miles an hour, kicking up dust, blasting the theme tune to Green Acres repeatedly from its speakers, if that was all I had. I’m a mother of two boys under the age of five; I know about sleep deprivation. I try to drift off despite the discomfort (baby legs in my belly, no pillow under my head).

That’s when Zach gets up. I hear him leave our bedroom and go down the hall to his own room. He evicts Brendan from the Diego bed. Brendan doesn't realise I’m in Max's room with Max--so instead of going back to our bed, he goes down to the living room and crashes on the sofa, with no pillow.

So, now, to recap: Brendan is on the sofa downstairs; Zach in his own bed: Max and I are on the small sofa in Max's room; the marital bed is empty. Our big, lovely, comfy, memory foam and spring combination mattress is empty.

People start falling asleep. Zach sleeps in his own bed. Brendan, downstairs. Max finally falls asleep around 5 AM, in his bed (having decided the sofa wasn’t for him). I tip toe back to my bedroom and fall asleep by 5:30 AM--praying to the gods of baby sleep that these people I gave birth to crash out until 9 AM.

At precisely 6:59 AM, Max comes back over to my side of the bed (where this all started 6 hours ago), asks me to come back to his bedroom. I take him back to his bed. He tosses and turns and can’t sleep.

Zach wakes up around 7:30 AM. The circus starts again with the bed hopping, except now it's time for Brendan to go to work. I give up on sleep and everyone is downstairs in front of cartoons by 7:45, and I’m staring at the kettle, blurry-eyed, nauseous from lack of sleep, willing it to boil.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Script of My Life: Act One

And, no, this is not in proper screenplay format...thanks to blogger


All is still. LORY and BRENDAN, a couple approaching middle age, sleep peacefully in their bed. Only occasional SNORING lets us know that the lumps under the sheets are human. The digital alarm clock reads 5:45.

In between SNORES, tiny, footie-pyjama FOOTSTEPS are heard approaching from the hall. The door is slammed open, reverberating off the wardrobe. MAX, a small, gorgeous toddler of 2 years and some odd months, scrambles into the bedroom and over to Lory’s side of the bed. He slams the side of her face repeatedly with his pudgy little fist.

Wake up, mammy! Wake up, mammy! Wake up, mammy!


Lory leans against the kitchen counter, drinking coffee. She is dishevelled, yawning and puffy eyed. RADIO 1 is on in the background. ZACH, almost 5, enters from the hall. He has just woken. He squints in the bright glare of the kitchen spotlights.

Mom, I’m huuungry. I’m huuungry. Can I have a chocolate biscuit?



It’s 6:30 in the morning. No biscuits in the morning.



Because why?

Because, I want you to be healthy.

Biscuits aren’t healthy?

Not so much.

Then what can I have?


Can I have biscuits for breakfast?

Lory rolls her eyes. Max runs in from the living room, blankie in one hand and half empty Avent bottle of milk in the other.

It’s Dora! It’s Dora! The purple bear chase Dora!

Lory picks him up and plants a kiss on his check.

An hour later, Zach is dressed in a school uniform, clutching a lunchbox. Brendan is by the closet, looking for his coat.

What did you put in my lunchbox?

Cheese cubes and crackers and a fruit smoothie and water.

But I wanted a toasted sandwich.

Toasted sandwich? I’ll make you one tomorrow.

But I wanted one today.

It’s too late. I’m not making another lunch, honey. Just eat that one.

But Carl got a toasted sandwich yesterday.

Who’s Carl?

From downstairs, LOUD YELLING:


I gotta go. I’ll pick you up at the usual time. Tomorrow, I promise, toasted sandwich, just like Carl.

Max lies on the changing mat on the bathroom counter. He smiles, big and wide. Lory undoes his diaper. Her eyes water and she wrinkles her nose.

Jaysus, what have I been feeding you? The stink...

I make the poo.

Yes, you do...and lots of it, too.

Lory is trying to get Max in the car. He is clinging to the frame of the back seat door, ripping the rubber seal off the edge with a firm little grip.


C’mon, Max. We have to go get Zach from school. Let go of the door.

No!!! Outside I go outside!!!

(Struggling to pry his fingers off the door frame and buckle him into his car seat)
Max...please....we’re going to be late to collect Zach from school

(Throwing the blankie onto the driveway)
NO!!!! Blankie!
(He cries, capitulating. Lory straps him into his seat and hands him the blankie)
Oh, no, mami, the blankie is dirty...

That’s because you threw it on the floor!

Max cries. Lory takes the blankie and brushes it off.

Look, it’s OK. Mammy cleaned it.

She hands it back.

Lory is walking Zach across the parking lot and to the car.

What did you do in school today?


You must have done something.

I can’t remember

You just walked out of the classroom.

We coloured

Just colouring? What else? You were there for 4 hours.

I don’t there a snack for me in the car?

You and the food

They arrive at the old hatchback. Lory opens the door, Zach gets in and she buckles him in.

Max is sleeping in his baby seat. Lory gets into the driver's seat, buckles her seatbelt, puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and...nothing.


What did you say??

She purses her lips.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Bullies and Saints

Max attacked a kid on the playground the other day. I was standing there with a mother-friend and the kids were playing. Max was standing near the slide with another toddler, someone we don’t know. Max and the boy were staring at each other in what I now know was some sort of a baby stand-off. A split second later, the boy was screaming, Max holding on to his face with a vice-like grip, digging his fingernails into the boy’s cheeks. The boy’s dad separated them, telling Max, “Get away, you!” The toddler had scratches and torn skin and blood on his face. I hadn’t clipped Max’s nails in over a week, he’d been digging in the soil that morning, and the combination meant ragged uneven, germ filled scratches on the other child’s face. I was humiliated. I apologised profusely, and made Max do the same.
Am I the mother of a bully? I fear this – this lack of control over them. I can discipline them and do my best to curb the baser instincts, help their personalities to express their best selves—but their personalities are their own. I can’t make brand new personalities for these guys... well, actually, I did once, in the womb, but what I mean is now I can’t change them.

My older boy, he’s quiet. Always was. When he was a toddler, if he spied a child on something he wanted to play with in play group, or on something he wanted to climb in the playground, he either waited patiently, or cried. Max, he just pulls the other child off the equipment. I worry, thinking: how will these personality traits be amplified into the future? I have visions of Zach becoming a lawyer, his father and I watching proudly as he accepts his degree from the Dean of Harvard Law. He will pass the bar with flying colours. This is useful, as in my fantasy future he will need to act as Max’s defence attorney, after Max gets embroiled in that wild money laundering scheme at the investment bank. Oh, Max, we told you to accept the scholarship to Yale Med, but you didn’t listen, did you?

OK, I know I’m exaggerating, exhibiting online maternal histrionics. Max will probably be an artist, a non-conformer, someone confident enough to plough his own furrows in life. His work will be shown in MOMA and the Tate. Zach, he’s the quiet and conscious one, so he’ll be a vicar, helping people...maybe a missionary to war torn countries. He’ll be awarded the Nobel...

Back to reality: Max is two. He is not a bully. He is just two. I need to consistently discipline him in a firm but fair manner so that he doesn’t turn into a bully. Zach is not quite five. He’s not a saint, he’s just quiet. They’ll decide what they’re going to be, and I bet they’ll surprise me. I need to just relax and stay supportive, but not intrusive. (Note to self: must sign Max up for art lessons starting this Friday at the community centre. Check on availability of LSAT prep materials for pre-schoolers.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Water: Blog Action Day 2010

On Wednesday, our power was out for the entire afternoon and into the evening. We live rurally, and depend on water being drawn up from our own personal well by an electric pump. When the electricity goes, so does the water. So, when the power went on Wednesday, I knew I had to start rationing water before the tanks in the attic ran out. No toilet flushing; fill the sink to wash hands and face; no dish washing, etc. I thought: what a hassle it would be to have to go fetch your family’s water every day.

“Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on a single day – October 15.” ( Today, many of the world’s bloggers (including me) are blogging about the importance of access to clean, safe drinking water for almost a billion people, worldwide. Drinking unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation provided by water causes 80% of the world’s diseases, and apparently kills more people than violence, including war. Children are the most vulnerable.


“In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick. Time spent walking and resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Along their long walk, they're subjected to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault. Hauling cans of water for long distances takes a toll on the spine and many women experience back pain early in life.” (

When Zach or Max want a drink, I open the tap. In the worst case scenario, as when the power went out the other day, we hop in the car and go to a shop to buy water. We’re not so broke we can’t afford clean water – and it’s accessible.

“With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new opportunities and improve their families’ lives. Kids can earn their education and build the future of their communities.” (

Empower women and children. Visit  to learn more and sign a petition.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's a Love-Hate

THINGS I HATE about being a stay-at-home mom

  1. Being considered the “laundry mistress” of the house. I’m supposed to know everything about laundry: how do you get this coffee stain out? Does the Spiderman suit drip or tumble dry? Can you wash this shirt by tomorrow, I have a meeting? Etc. and so on.  I DID NOT study this stuff in college, people. I will wash your stuff, but I don’t guarantee satisfaction, or that it will emerge from the laundry room the same size it went in.

  1. Preparing all the meals. I used to love cooking, but now that I have to come up with lunch and dinner every day, I’ve got cooker’s block. What to prepare? People won’t eat the same thing two days in a row, and cooking is a must because we live in a rural area. Can you say, ‘scrambled eggs for lunch?'

  1. Cleaning the house. Oh, woe is me. My solution: let the house go. End of story.

  1. Driving. DRIVING. Pick up from school, go to shops, go to Gymboree class, go to playground, go to friend’s house, go to dentist appointment...over and over and over. Green party, don’t get mad at me. There are no footpaths or mass transit for miles around, so it’s either take the car, or me and my kids get run over on the road by the local sight impaired farmer in his 30 year-old tractor.

  1. Which brings me neatly to: shopping. Gotta drive to the shops. I’m in the frickin’ grocery store, like, everyday. If it isn’t milk, it’s bread. If it isn’t bread, it’s cheese. I try to go and do one big shop on a Friday, but by Sunday evening all the bananas are gone, and...oh you know the story. Everybody’s always eating, 3 times a day, blast them, and as the unemployed lady of the house, it’s my job to keep the place in biscuits and square meals. Can’t shirk this responsibility like I shirk the cleaning.

THINGS I LOVE about being a stay-at-home mom

  1. The hugs, the kisses, the laughter (as we roll around, tickling each other on the dirty carpet)

  1. Being with them

  1. Wearing pyjamas well into mid-morning

  1. Listening to talk radio as much as I want (see my previous post Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom for more about the downsides of that pursuit).

Re-reading above, it looks like I hate more than I love, but when things are good, you just don’t write about them as much.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom

To preface this, let me tell you that these confessions will not include: keeping a Vodka bottle at the bottom of my lingerie drawer (I don’t even have a “lingerie drawer”); having an affair with the gardener (the “gardener” around here is my husband, in any case); turning tricks on the side (though, I do need the money...); being addicted to oxycontin; etc.  

Confession 1: I use the TV as a babysitter/narcotic for my children so that I can get 30-60 minutes in the mornings to myself, in order to wash my face, change clothes, check my emails, do a load of laundry, etc.  I use it again in the evenings so I can cook dinner, in peace. I use it after school for about 30 minutes, because Zach comes in exhausted and cranky, and a half hour on the sofa staring at the screen seems to sort him out. I feel guilty about this, but for those 2-3 hours a day, the TV provides respite. This is not the 1950’s and I am not the perfect mother. Am I justifying my behaviour? Yes, and I’m sure some of you will call me on it. Fell free. Maybe I’ll reform.

Confession 2: I stay up too late. I get involved in a stupid TV show and sit on the sofa watching it when I should be in bed getting ready for the next day. I don’t even get to sit down in front of said shows normally until after 9, and I try to get up off my bottom by 10:30 – but really, I’m not getting enough sleep. I must ask myself: Do I REALLY need to watch that particular episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians again?

Confession 3: Which leads me to the next confession: I’m fairly educated, widely read, follow politics, read poetry, and in general try to function and appear like an intellectual. The intellectual life is a veneer. In the little time I have to devote to TV, I watch America’s Next Top Model (Living TV) and Fashion Police (E!), I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant (Discover Home and Health), and I Shouldn’t Be Alive (Discovery). They’re total escapism. They add nothing to my intellectual or moral development. They’re wrong to watch. WRONG-WRONG-WRONG.  They’re so indulgent that I feel like I’m eating a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies when I watch them (but no calories!). Yes, I have a stack of books on my bed side. I read periodicals, online fiction magazines, etc., etc. But...this just doesn’t square with the baby birthing stories I like to watch...over and over again. Which person am I? The John McGahern loving, Ann Enright reading, Theo Dorgan appreciating, Raymond Carver adoring, Cormac McCarthy admiring lady or am I the lady who watches Fashion Police and emits guttural laughs from the sofa?

Confession 4: I leave the radio tuned to Radio 1 all the time. I’m addicted to chat. I turn it on at 7 AM when Morning Ireland is on, and it stays on all day. At noon, when Pat Kenny finishes and Ronan Collins starts his 1 hour music show, I desperately tune in to Newstalk radio. I go back to RTE 1 for the lunchtime news at 1. Sometimes, I’d rather hear what he guy on the radio has to say, instead of my kids. This happens mostly in the car. When Max was around one or so years old, I had him strapped into his car seat, behind me as I drove. I turned Liveline on to hear the opening credits, you know, when the voice goes: “Jooooeeeee Duffffyyyyyyy!”  The guy on the radio said “Jooooeeeee-” and from the back seat I hear, “Duuufffyy!”  It was one of Max’s first words.

Confession 5: I’m running out of confessions, as clearly evidenced by my previous confession. My true confession, my core confession as it were, is that I have the same foibles as any mom. I use the TV as a narcotic/babysitter. I stay up late in order to get an hour to myself, and spend it filling my head with crap. I don’t clean the house as often as I should (not explicitly confessed to, above, but true none-the-less). I am addicted to talk radio. I love my children, but need moments of respite: deep and total respite.

Confession is a key instrument in purging the soul. It is the first step in change, to say it out loud. That first action, and it begets further positive action, that will, in turn, hopefully engender change.
I’d love to hear from other mothers out there – do you confess to the same? Or, would you like to suggest an alternative to any of these?

My guess is, reviewing the above, I’m not going to stop watching Fashion Police or listening to Liveline. I will, however, try not to let it interfere with listening to my boys’ chat or finishing that Zora Neale Hurston collection of stories I started.  It did feel good to get it off my chest, though.

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