A secret language for three

Last week, Olivia and I were playing a particular favourite game of hers, where I have to be Olivia and she gets to be me, Mummy. She likes to roll this one out at bedtime to delay the whole going to sleep lark as she gets to put me/Olivia to bed and then she/Mummy reads a bedtime story and carries out the whole bedtime routine.

So there I am lying in her tiny bed, blankie in my hand, foot slightly cramped, being tucked in by her as she huffs and puffs pulling her duvet around me to make sure I am ‘nice and cosy’. Then she tucks her IronMan teddy in beside me, leans in, gives me a kiss and says in her best Mummy voice ‘night, night I love you very much’. And my heart broke.

You see it marked a moment in time when a part of her was gone forever. She was no longer the little toddler who cute as you like told you ‘I lobe you berry much’. She was a little girl who confidently said ‘love’ and ‘very’ and they rolled off her tongue so simply, as if she had always been able to say them. I must have missed it. Somewhere in these last mad few weeks she suddenly started pronouncing her V’s.

Later that evening I pulled out their baby books. A delivery of free prints (free prints my ass, how can they expect me to stay within the free 45 photo limit) had arrived a few days before and I had specifically ordered certain milestone photos to add into each of their books.

Once I had dutifully snipped, glued and placed the photos onto each page, I leafed through Olivias book, stopping at the last page. There were no milestones to be carefully noted down, it was simply a blank page. But I had been jotting words and phrases down on it as she grew. Those words she said in her own way, phrases that were almost a language for just her, her dad and me. Phrases such as ‘hard work is lillia’ and words such as ‘pushion’ and ‘lego’ (not to be confused with actual lego). Phrases few outside us three would understand. Naturally they wouldn’t, no one would come to the conclusion that ‘I too heaby’ with outstretched arms means ‘will you lift me’.

It started with Derek jokingly telling her she was too heavy but he lifted her anyway. In her little mind she came to the conclusion that Olivia is too heavy means Olivia gets carried. And so with her V’s still very much B’s the phrase ‘I too heaby’ was coined.

I recorded the memory by writing it in her book, even though at the time she was still saying it every day and every bedtime as she stood at the bottom of the stairs with those chubby little arms reaching out to one of us. But I was worried in years to come, despite the frequency we heard it, we might forget it. I hope we don’t. But as the day, weeks and months passed, it was said less and less, until it stopped. I can’t tell you the last time she said it. That phrase, once a big part of our conversations, had disappeared.

I am, of course, delighted her speech is coming on in leaps and bounds and I know that toddler talk and misused words shouldn’t last forever. But I still record them, as phonetically as I can so that no matter how many years pass, we can still pick up that book and read aloud the language which belonged to just three people for a little moment in time.


Father’s Day beach clean

The latest episode of Parenting Pobal is live!

Join us as we talk about Father’s Day and what it means to many people and different family make ups these days.

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Father’s Day beach clean

The Dog and The Mask

I’m not sure if it is a colloquialism unique to Europe or not, but I’ve often heard depression described as ‘The Black Dog’. I’ve used this phrase with some of my American friends over the years and they always are puzzled by what I mean. Maybe it is unique to the English speaking countries of Europe, but in a very real way it is a fitting title to bestow on depression.

A black cloud over the happy thoughts.

A black dog always nipping at your heel.

It is powerful imagery when you dig into it. As a person’s depression gets worse, grows in strength and control, they feel powerless beneath it. Just as you would be if a giant dog sat on you and prevented you from moving. Likewise when a person manages to come out the other side of depression the black dog is often described as being ‘under control’ or smaller in stature.

I believe that everyone, every single person, is born with a black dog. But the dog is invisible, utterly and completely, to their mind’s eye. Most people may even go through their entire lives and never realise that the dog is even there. Sure they may have doubts and fears, but never anything strong enough to cause the dog to appear.

Sadly for those few that do end up meeting their black dog in person it is an entity that is around forever more. You may conquer it when it grows to mammoth size, battling your way through so that it shrinks once again, but you will forever be changed. There will always be a black dog in the back of your mind, just waiting for you to let your guard down.

What’s all this waffle about, you may ask. Well recently some folk in work started listening to the podcast and a few of them commented on how they had no idea I’d gone through depression. I slightly corrected them and said that I was not ‘through it’ but was now in a better frame of mind to control the dog.

I’d slapped the yappy shit around the metaphorical nose with a rolled up newspaper of shaddup.

But I know it is there now, no longer an invisible thing trying to get my attention. So I have to watch it and go against everything I know about being a good dog owner: I have to starve my black dog so that it doesn’t grow up big and strong again.

The bit that most people found startling though was that they had not spotted it in me at all. Which got me to thinking about the dog a bit more. Not only do the bloody things hit you in the mental space, they also give people a sucky super power that I call ‘The Mask’.

The Mask is the face we put on when the black dog is wagging its tail and ruining your day, because the Mask hides all of that from the outside world. It is, if anything, the more dangerous aspect of depression. Being able to present yourself to those around you in such a way as to totally convince them nothing is wrong. Putting your best self forward, even though internally you need help.

I’m not completely sure what the point of this post is about, other than to highlight to those who have listened to our podcasts about depression after having kids that it may be a lot more common than you think. With the Mask it is very hard for others, even those who know you very well, to see that standing right beside you is a horse sized dog of misery.

Never beat yourself up over not spotting these things, the Mask is extremely efficient at doing what it does. Some folk may spot it slip or crack for an instant, long enough to see that a person might need a friendly shoulder to chat to, but you need to really be on your A-Game for that stuff.

I guess the closing point I’d like to make is that the Mask falls away as soon as the person figures out how to stop feeding the dog. And while you may not spot the Mask in place, never underestimate just how much a person appreciates being made feel normal when they tell you about the black dog.

A friendly chat can go a long way to starving the rat bastard back to puppy size.

– Derek

Parenting and hobby time; the grudge match

Our latest episode of Parenting Pobal, episode 13 is live! Following on from a question in our AMA around hobbies, we chat about the ultimate grudge match, parenting Vs hobby time.

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Shitting time is gaming time

Campsite craic and travelling tips – part 2

So sitting under a poorly baby who is glued to Little Baby Bum I thought I’d get back to working pulling together some thoughts about our camping experience with Eurocamps in France.

As I mentioned in my previous post we choose a campsite that wasn’t too far from the port. It took around tour hours in the car and was in western Brittany, Domains Des Ormes.

When we arrived it was fairly quiet as the high season had just started so it did mean a lot of trying to track down the right person for check in. As well as this a lot of the eateries were closed when we arrived. Thankfully we had stopped in a Lidl we passed on the way and had picked up a few bits for an impromptu picnic.

Once we managed to check in it was time for a quick tour of the mobile home. I was pleasantly surprised at the layout, it was compact but still spacious, the outdoor decking was large and also covered. We were also provided with a BBQ on the decking, table and chairs, two sun beds and a foldable clothes horse. And there was space at the side to park the car.

Inside we had booked a three bed even though we technically only used two rooms and I am do glad we did as the third doubled as storage for suitcases and laundry. Two rooms were equipped with a single locker style wardrobe and two single beds with a bedside locker in the middle. In one of those rooms one of the single beds was folded away underneath the other and a travel cot was put up for Thomas.

In our room their was a European queen sized bed, a double locker wardrobe, over the bed storage and a little bedside shelf on each side of the bed and a shelf over the head of the bed.

The bathroom had a sink and a shower and there was a separate toilet room. Every room had windows fitted with insect protectors and (amazing) black out blinds and curtains.

The kitchen and living area had a small kitchen that had all the basics you would need, a large fridge, microwave and a table. In the living area there was a corner sofa.

In terms of the campsite it provided a small Eurospar, a bar, a clubhouse, a pizzaria and a restaurant. There was really decent laundry facilities on-site and I made use of these so we didn’t have to come home to the mountain of washing. There were two large heated pools one covered and one outdoor, the outdoor one had water slides and water activities.

We hired bikes (ridiculously) expensive as we needed a touring bike with a bucket for the wee ones so if you can bring kids bikes I would definitely do that. Or even scooters.

The biggest hit with Olivia was the zipline by a long shot. That and the moment her pony took a shit in the middle of the road when she was on him. Kids huh?

We played crazy golf (unmitigated disaster, definitely suited for older kids) and took out the peddalo boats. There were other options for any families with older children such as archery, an overhead adventure course, climbing wall, water skiing etc.

In the evenings there were various activities but as it was the beginning of the season it was quiet enough, such as escape room, bingo, family sports evening, etc. The site also had a beautiful 18 hole golf course.

The kids club run by Eurocamps was AMAZING. The games they had invented and the enthusiasm with which they played them. Olivia still talks about it. The campsite had it’s own kids club but only for ages four and up.

We ate out a few times but we did a shop in the Lidl and a little French bakery and made meals in the house either cooking or BBQing. This way was more relaxing as we could eat when suited us and the wee ones.

All in all a great family holiday and I would definitely recommend. We are looking into going next year but I definitely would be looking to to a bit later, maybe two weeks later so things are really up and running.

Some tips for anyone considering or going on a similar holiday:

  • All the baby items – travel cot, baby bath, high chair, changing mat – are provided FOC by Eurocamps but to make sure you secure the items they have to be booked at least two weeks before the holiday
  • Duvets and pillows are provided. Bed linen is not, you can hire this for an additional cost but I brought our own as I felt it would help the wee ones settle having their own bed clothes
  • The travel cot does not come with a mattress. I didn’t know this and the base is quite hard for a stay longer than one or two nights. I used one of the spare duvets and folded it round the base like a sheet to make it softer
  • You will need to bring your own towels – if you need to free up car space you can hire them
  • You can buy a little mini essentials kit for five quid before you go, saves you bringing or buying tea towels, dish clothes, multi purpose cleaner, washing up liquid etc.
  • Don’t bother bringing food, the likes of Lidl are never too far
  • Actually do a big shop, the heat and all the running around meant our savages were even more hungry than usual. Given the shop was quite small, healthier type snacks were few and far between. Plus it closed for two hours after lunch so it helped that we were caught short
  • If you are going to France don’t forget the car safety kit which is a legal requirement as well as the stickers for your headlights (any Halfords has the stickers for a tenner).
  • Do bring some toys, there is lots to do but sometimes it can be overwhelming for the littles to do so much new stuff and books or quiet toys from home can help ground them
  • Have a good time! It’s so lovely to be able to spend quality screen-free time together as a family, whatever that set up is for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to ‘have the perfect holiday’ the wee ones will still have tantrums, there will still be poonamis and as always there will still be those petty sibling fights for the same toy but you know what, just say fuck it and go with the flow, curse under your breath and remind yourself of the cool glass of wine that awaits you on the deck in the evening sun when they have gone to bed.

Campsite craic and travelling tips – part 1, the ferry

Post holiday blues on Parenting Pobal we talk about our holiday to France

Now we are back into the mundane return to normality I have decided to torture myself and relive it all knowing that we won’t have another holiday until next year. But hopefully there will be some useful tips and hints for others who may be getting ready to go on a similar holiday this summer.

First up – the ferry trip

We traveled with Irish Ferries on the WB Yeates on the over night ferry. I booked us into a cabin with three beds and also hired a cot bed. The fact that the ferry departed from Dublin port was a huge plus for us as it meant we didnt have a long drive when we docked home. We also choose a campsite that wasnt too far from Cherbourg Port in France. We had never done a holiday like this and didnt know how easy it would be to do a long drive after the boat journey with smallies. I had no idea what to expect with the ferry but to say I was really impressed with the facilities on board is an understatement.

The cabins were compact but had everything we needed, – clean comfortable beds, small storage area, a tv, bathroom with a toilet, shower and sink. The lights could be dimmed so that when the kids slept we could read.

When I was packing I packed a small seperate carry on with our clothes, pjs, wash bag, blankies, books, nappies, wipes, calpol etc, basically anything we needed on the boat. That case was the last one to go into the car for ease of access when we parked on the boat.

Food on the ferry was grand, but I would definitely recommend bringing lots of snacks and drinks and for breakfast bringing your own cereal as a small packet of weetabix which only was enough for one smallie, cost three quid. Bottles of water werent cheap either. Next time I would be aiming to buy just dinner on the boat.They had three restaurants – one more formal sit down for a three course kinda thing, one ‘brasserie’ where had lots of options and is where breakfast was served and finally a pizza place coupled with the coffee shop.

In terms of entertainment we brought colouring books and a PJ masks card game and those came in handy. There was a soft play area which was a big hit and Olivia and Derek went to the cinema to watch Dumbo. I could have done with a few more things for Thomas as when older kids were in the soft play he was getting pushed around. On the way back we took his ball on and he loved walking up and down kicking it along. The ferry was really really spacious so even with big numbers you didnt feel like everyone was on top of each other, and with different areas if you didnt like one place you could move around.

The wee ones actually slept both going over and coming back!! Right through. Although on the way over we did have to ask a large group of exchange students to move from outside our room. From 11 I think, it is quiet time and there are porters walking the halls to move along anyone making noise. I wish I had brought earplugs for me because I regularly work to them moving people along.

The big thing I did learn from our ferry experience is that I have no sea legs at all, much to the amusement of Derek and the wee ones. I spent a lot of time loosing my balance on what was a very smooth sailing!! I made the mistake of sleeping on the top bunk on the way over and in the middle of the night while checking on the wee ones I came down the ladder and went head over shite. On the way back then, I had dibs on the bottom bed before we even left Cherbourg!

Wobbly legs aside we can’t wait to sail again next year.