Mother's Day in the time of COVID-19

Mutli-cards

This is a weird post. I had intended to write a little piece on Mother’s Day, because that’s the sorta stuff that belongs on this site. But I hadn’t wanted to write about COVID-19 at all. Then Ireland went into this strange quasi-lockdown that we are in and suddenly the article I want to write and the one that I didn’t want to write had a baby.

An awkward little baby that basically meant you cannot write about one without mentioning the other.

So let’s get the boring shit out of the way first. Olivia with her underlying lung condition is susceptible to catching things and when she does it isn’t plain sailing. Whatever meds are required to get rid of the current ailment only work so far, because her lungs are greedy little shits. They hang onto any and all illness and drag it out for weeks. Resulting in the old trip to the hospital. Making COVID-19 a bitch because we definitely want to avoid her getting it at all.

Which sorta messes up the standard Mother’s Day plans.

In the past we’ve gone down to the village and had breakfast in Karen’s favourite coffee spot. Sitting in or out, weather depending, and munching away on some good eats. All that is shut down down while we weather the storm, so what’s a family to do?

Consult the Internet and watch a video on how to make scrambled eggs like Gordon Ramsay. Actually a thing, by the way. I recommend it. It is so simple to do and the results are excellent.

But breakfast is just one part, we need coffee with those meals. Luckily I was a good boy this Christmas and got a cool coffee machine that allows for the making of Lattes. Seventy failed attempts later we have success with a full on frothy beverage of awesome levels.

The meal made, ready to go up to bed, next up is the cards.

I say cards, because we do a lot of cards. I like to get Karen one from myself, a wife specific one, just to throw a little note in there telling her how great she is at this motherhood lark. Then there is the card from the kids. This is an official, Hallmark, creation. Not some slapped together heap of shit they made because they think they are artists. The trick here is that Karen prefers to be called ‘Mummy’ instead of ‘Mammy’, ‘Mam’, ‘Ma’, or ‘Mum’. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find cards with ‘Mummy’. Then along comes the heap of shit the kids slap together (I mean works of emotional art, of course). With a little help from their dad, these are added to the pile. Then we get the present (which, per agreed rules, is one from both kids and nothing insane) and away we go.

So far the day is going the way you’d want all things considered. We go walking up the stairs and that’s when ALL HELL breaks loose.

I mean we are walking up the stairs, one breakfast being carried by me. One present and two cards in Olivia’s tiny hands, with Thomas carrying the least important ones (i.e. the crap cards that can be damaged by his clumsy walking). Except Olivia wanted to carry her hand-made card up, because heaven forbid that Karen mistakenly thought Thomas made two cards while Olivia went out and bought her ones.

I took her one off Thomas and handed it to her. Smiles on her face, immediate tears on his. He dropped down to the step and went into full pout mode.

Turns out that he wanted to carry two cards. Olivia, now, card rich didn’t want to give up any cards. I had to literally bargain with her to get my card so that Thomas could carry it. But by now the boy has figured out that he has two hands and a card in each, but Olivia has two hands and more things than hands.

“Me help,” he moans up at me, pointing at the present.

So as we continue walking up the stairs I have to get Olivia to agree to let Thomas help her carry the present into Karen. Another round of negotiations took place, in which case I reckon I handed over ownership of the house to my daughter. They both marched into the bedroom like joint victors returning from battle, startling their poor mother awake.

Cards and gift were dumped onto Karen before she could even get up in the bed. Kisses, hugs, then both of them ran from the room to cause chaos elsewhere in t he house.

So, basically, COVID-19 just changed the menu options for the day that’s in it. The kids were still pains in the butt, but at least Karen knows they love her.

Podcasting in the time of Coronavirus

Our latest episode of Parenting Pobal is live. Blame Derek on the title.

Does all the negative #coronavirus coverage make you want to curl into a ball?

Switch off that and switch on to the latest of Parenting Pobal which is live: Podcasting in the time of Coronavirus. We talk the positives with tips for working from home and how to talk to littles about what the hell is going on.

Podcasting in the time of Coronavirus

Work From Home, Eileen

The home office – my Fortress of Chaos

I should preface this post by saying that Karen took the majority of the hits during our first day of working from home as an entire family unit. Typically Friday is my ‘most meetings’ day and since Ireland is in semi-lockdown because of COVID-19 (which rhymes with ‘Come on, Eileen’ for those wondering about the title of the post) we both had to work from home with the two terrors in tow. Not all heroes wear capes – some wear children around their neck while still getting some work done.

The day was March 12th, 2020 and everyone was watching the news for the same reason: was there going to be some sort of extreme measures announced to help combat COVID-19 in Ireland. A little before lunch our Caretaker Government finally did something to justify all their inflated salaries, they closed the schools and creches to try and stop the virus spreading. Of course this act brought with it a lot of chaos in the lives of parents. For those lucky few, it meant working from home with the kids in the house.

Something akin to trying to balance on the tip of a needle while reciting old poetry in Latin and writing out pi to a thousand places on a grain of sand. Whilst whistling Bohemian Rhapsody.

Actually that is easier than working from home with the kids.

Kids, particularly the young ones that haven’t gone to school, need entertaining. A lot of entertaining. Plonking them down in front of Netflix or Disney or ‘Popular Streaming Service’ is going to only get you so far. They will get grumpy and grouchy and want to be fed fifteen times a minute despite the fact they normally don’t. Kids don’t adjust well to change in routine, because why would they? Being able to roll with the punches would make parenting so much easier, the little shits don’t want that.

They are organised.

But hilariously I found that working from home with the kids has similarities to working in the office without them. Scarily so.

For example, standups.

In order to get most of my first two hours of call done, Karen had them make masks.

Any of my reports complain about stand-ups in a paradoxical sort of way. They see the need for them, but also say they take too much time. They are a necessary evil, but one they’d rather shoot instead of attend. Basically they don’t take stand-ups seriously. Turns out our kids view stand-ups the same way. Showing up in the middle of the video call with masks and then just muttering nonsense before running away.

It was like they had worked with me their entire lives.

Lunch is another one. I manage a fairly big team, meaning there are a lot of personalities on said team. Not everyone is going to be in the mood for the same lunch suggestions on any given day, which is fine. If we were all the same the world would be boring. But the dreaded question of ‘So, plans for lunch?’ always ends up with a few suggestions, no agreements, and a splintering of the group as people go forth to forage on their own.

WFH with the kids, same result. Karen asked about lunch and they both screamed out two completely different suggestions. Neither of which could be made easily or at the same time, because why would kids suggest the same thing? Ending up with Karen (because I had to run for another poxy video call) making what she wanted and the kids getting that for lunch.

Which was invariable what they actually would have eaten anyway.

Then there is the whole etiquette around being on a conference call. Most people who work in an office will have experienced at least one con-call in their time. It is always audio chaos at first as people shout to be heard or talk over each other. Eventually somebody, generally the call organizer, will start to run the call. They will suggest people shut up (politely, of course) and then start to funnel questions and comments in an organised manner.

WFH with kids while on a con-call is pretty much the same. Except while the person running the call handles the adults, the adults have to handle the kids.
‘WILL YOU SHUT UP FOR A SECOND SO DADDY CAN ASK HIS QUESTION!’ –
‘Derek, sorry, could you go on mute there before you contribute anything further to the call.’

And, of course, there is the impatience. People in an office situation, particularly on a Friday, will watch the clock like a robotic hawk. Laser focused attention on the hands as they mentally try to make time move faster and bring forth the weekend.

WFH with kids, regardless of the day of the week, has the same stuff going on. Except an adult in the office at least starts this around 3pm. The grumbling typically only starts after they do approximately five hours of work and check the time again, distraught to see that it is only 4pm. Kids will start wondering why you are not doing stuff with them that is ‘fun’ from 7am, getting more vocal about this complaint with each passing minute. By the end of the working day shift you would wonder if there is room for original complaining left in your brain.

Desk drop-ins are another commonality between working in the office and WFH with kids. Desk drop-ins are the bane of any worker’s day, because they cause you to get distracted from the task at hand. They are an evil that needs to be killed from the office, but apparently murdering a colleague is illegal in most parts of the world.

Thanks modern society.

WFH with kids, same problem. You can give them crayons, colouring books, food and water. You may eventually buckle and just fire them in front of the telly, in the hope that those thirty minutes can be used to do some work. Then, like cute ninjas, they appear beside your desk. Looking for something.

Always. Looking. For. Something.

I suppose the reality is that WFH with kids is no different to working in the office without them.

But bugger me this was only day one. We’ve two more weeks of this crap to get through.

As one of the folk on my team said ‘This period will see a load of babies made, with a load of divorces happening.’

He probably ain’t wrong on either part.

But, in a rarity for me, let’s finish with some helpful tips on how to WFH with Kids for a long period

  • Try, as best you can, do both muck in. It may not be possible if you have a lot of meetings or calls but if you have even thirty minutes between them try and give your other half those thirty minutes.
  • Grabbing a coffee or tea? Grab two – you can be full sure you other half is burning the candle at three spots.
  • Craft kits are a godsend – stock up on those bad boys. Same with colouring books, crayons, all that arty junk. Kids love to do two things from a young age. Make a mess and destroy your house – craft kits allow both to be done and kept their attention for a few minutes.
  • Break the screen rule – screw it. Yes screen time is bad, we should limit it, blah blah blah. You know what else is bad – losing your job because you had to entertain the kids for eight hours. In times of madness the rules can slide a little. An hour in front of telly isn’t going to kill them, but it will give you sixty minutes to get four hundred minutes of work attempted.
  • Get out there – while socialising is meant to be kept to a minimum you can go for a walk or run or jog. Eat lunch at the desk, get the family all out for some air on your lunch hour. For adults it is good for their mental well-being. For kids it might tire them out just enough that they sit still for a few hours when they get back.
  • Vent on social media – it will help. Trust me there is a country load of people going through the exact same thing, bottling it up isn’t going to do anyone any good. In fact bottling it up to seem like you are a pillar of strength will only lead to an argument with your partner and nobody wants that. A tweet, a post, a picture – tagged with the wfh-covid-19 tag will have you growing a support network in minutes.

But trust me on the sunscreen

Tiny Lies Tall Tales

It’s a little bit on the funny side that, as responsible parents, we tell children lying is bad. There is never an explanation of the different categories of lies there are. Big, horrible, lies that are designed to hurt others and make a situation dreadful for no reason other than a love of chaos. You know the sort, ones spread around by spiteful people with the sole intent of causing misery for their own amusment.

White lies, ones intended to protect a person’s feelings from some minor emotional truth. Which goes a long way to explaining why certain people tried out for The X-Factor when the only notes they could carry were in their wallets.

Surprise lies, which are not ones that happen when you get caught in a situation you shouldn’t be in. Rather you know about a surprise party and when the focus of the event asks you to meet up you spin them a yarn to avoid ruining said surprise.

Then their are parental lies, which we all know about. Santa. The Easter Bunny. The Toothfairy. The Man who will come and take you away to an orphanage if YOU DON’T JUST SIT DOWN AND EAT YOUR FUC….

I digress, only slightly. The parental lies, aside from the last one, are meant to sprinkle a little magic in your children’s lives. More importantly you can tell ones that sprinkle a little imagination into their heads.

Such as what I’ve recently done with Stacey, Nugget’s elephant teddy bear. One day, as I was getting ready to go to work, Nugget came running up to me with her elephant and held the teddy up to me.

“Stacy wants to go to work with you today, daddy,” Nugget said, smiling.

I shrugged and opened my satchel wide enough for Stacy to be dropped inside. Zipping the bag closed again I knelt down and gave Nugget a kiss on the forehead.

“I sure hope she doesn’t cause me any trouble in the office,” I said to her. “Remember the story we read a few nights ago about the elephant in the park.”

Nugget did her cute little mischief laugh she does. Hands up in front of her mouth, chuckling away while her shoulders move up and almost cover both ears. She ran away delighted with life.

Of course I’m a nutter by trade and was already thinking about some of the stuff I’d tell Nugget at dinner that night. But then we live in a golden age of technology. A time when taking a picture and showing it to somebody instantly is as easy as taking our your phone…with a camera on it…and taking the picture.

I’m not sure were I was going with that. I’m tired.

Anyroad, off to work I went. When I got in I did my usual email reading, chats with the lads on my team and my morning cup of coffee. Then I set up picture one.

Stacy is a coffee addict too

Empty mug, teddy head first in it. Snap. The story then behind this picture would be that Stacy drank all my coffee.

Next up, after doing a bit more work (because obviously I can’t be just taking pictures of a stuffed animal all day and get paid) was Stacy helping me do some work.

Despite the simplicity behind the picture, setting it up was hard. They say never work with children or animals when it comes to photography. Well let me tell you stuffed animals are just as hard to work with. I mean you give direction, describe the scene, and still the bloody thing keeps dropping the pen. But, picture secured complete with the story that Stacy had written down some notes on my pad.

Of course, me being me, I wasn’t above taking pictures away from the privacy of my desk.

Moar Cwoffee

Off to the kitchen area I went, Stacy the Elephant in hand. One of my co-workers even asked what I was doing. I told them I had taken a bunch of pics of the elephant doing things around the office. I guess with a more sane person they would have been confused by this statement, while secretly sending HR an email to say that I had finally snapped. But I’m known for being how I am, that is certifiably insane (I’m only not certified because I slept in on the day of the exam), and they just laughed.

That night, shortly after dinner, Stacy was retrieved from my bag and Nugget sat on the sofa beside me. I took out the phone and opened up the gallery to show her the pictures. Using the art of the parental lie, I told her that while I was away Stacy had moved and done all these things. That only when I was looking at her did she become a teddy again. Nugget’s eyes opened wide as she listened, laughing with her mischievous laugh at the pictures, and looking at Stacy every few seconds just in case movement happened and she missed it.

That night Nugget went up to bed with Stacy and we could hear her on the monitor telling Stacy she had been so naughty but so funny at daddy’s office.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, it’s okay to bare-face lie to your kids. As long as your feeding their imagination in a positive way.

You give me (cabin) fever

The latest episode of Parenting Pobal is live!

47 episodes in and sure who knew we’d still have things to waffle on about. In this week’s episode we talk about some stuff you can do with the kids when the weather or illness means you can’t leave the house. Little tricks on how to survive Cabin Fever with two little humans that have the attention span of a gnat and the patience of a … gnat (look, they can’t all be winners).

There is also the story about how Derek thought he was dying after returning home from the pub one night – laughter ensues.

If you have a listen and have a few seconds to spare consider giving us a review on iTunes or Spotify 😁

You give me (cabin) fever

Trust us, the photo makes sense

Paje Vu

Definition of déjà vu

1: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time

2: something overly or unpleasantly familiar. The team’s poor start to the season was déjà vu for its long-suffering fans.

Definition of paje vu

1: the feeling that you’ve definitely said the same thing a number of times to your offspring and yet they still need it said a number of additional times in order to hear it once

2: the sense that you have said something before but feel like you are saying it for the first time because you’ve managed to reach infinity on your internal counter and have gone back to the start of the numbers used for counting

Welcome to the science* post of our little website. I say science* instead of science because science* is the type of observations that has no actual basis or backup in terms of real science. Like Flat Earth Theory, but without the zealots and conventions.

See, recently I’ve noticed that I am repeating myself with the kids. Not just repeating myself but saying the exact same line over and over and over and over and over and over and…

Sorry, got stuck in a loop there.

The point is that as the eldest has hit her fourth year on this mud-ball she has definitely developed selective hearing. Selective being a nice way of putting it, by the way. I genuinely think that she has mastered the art of fully closing off her ear canals to block out all sound and has simply developed a sixth, seventh and eight sense to replace her lack of hearing. It is the only scientifically* sound explanation for how I have to ask her twenty-three times to pick stuff up off the floor in my normal parenting voice (which goes up a decibel level for every ten times the same lines has been said). Yet I can stand at the bottom of a well in another country and ask her in a whisper if she wants a biscuit and she will hear it in our home as if I had screamed it directly into her ear.

Hence, paje vu. I have convinced myself that it is a thing, it has to be a thing. It is the only real reason that makes sense. There is no way that a person cannot hear the same sentence, with the words in the same order, and the volume growing slightly louder with each utterance, forty-five times in a row. There just isn’t. It has to be a parental phenomenon, the feeling that you’ve said something before in the exact same way you are currently saying it. Only you haven’t said it before and you are only saying it once.

Otherwise kids have an amazing ability to control their senses that adults would relish. Can you imagine being in a boring meeting and being able to totally shut down your sense of hearing in order to survive the hour long presentation on why full stops, dots and periods are different things.

It also explains how Littles the world over are able to fart so badly you’d convince yourself they have an entire skunk up their backside, pushing a green mist around them so intense that your eyes water, yet they cannot smell it themselves. The scientific* answer: they can shutdown their sense of smell on command.

But fear not, fellow parents, I know you’ve all experience this sensation. Now you have a name to it. You’re not going crazy, you are repeating yourself almost indefinitely, because kids have mastered the ancient and wise art of Selective Hearing.

And here you all were thinking you were going crazy. No such luck, parenthood will make you insane for many more reasons than just this. Of course it doesn’t help that the younger follows everything the older one does, so he has started not listening a full two years earlier than she did.

But like all good science and science*, you need an example to quantify the experiment. So let me present experiment J below, taken from the field this very morning.

Experiment J

Test Environment Configuration: we’ve been up since about 7am because it is Saturday and the kids only sleep past 9am when it is a workday. The kitchen looks like a Smyths Toystore passed by and vomited on the floor. Both kids want to watch a movie on Netflix.

Parent 1: Pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Clean up the toys and we will watch the movie.

Parent 1: Why haven’t you picked up the toys yet.

Parent 2: Did you pick up that parcel from the collection centre yesterday?

Parent 1: I’m not going to ask again, pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Why aren’t you picking up the toys?

Parent 1: You, pick up those toys. Other you, pick up those ones.

Parent 2: Seriously did you pick it up or not because if you didn’t it will be sent back on us.

Parent 1: Would you for the love of all that is unholy pick up the bloody toys.

Parent 1: I don’t care if you didn’t play with that toy, put it away or no movie.

Parent 1: Would you just, for once, listen to me and put the damn things away before we watch the movie.

Parent 2: Honestly, did you get it or not.

Parent 1: Why do you keep asking the kids if they picked up something from the collection centre? They can’t drive.

Parent 2: I’m not asking them, I’m asking you. Like I have done for the last four days. At least five times a day.

Experiment conclusion: turns out Paje Vu can apply to partners as well as parents.