Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wet, Windy and Wonderful...ish

So the final piece of the motherhood jigsaw has fallen into place – the last singleton pleasure usurped by the wishes of two tearaway toddlers. Gone are the lazed holidays by a sun-drenched beach…… now are the crazed holidays by a rain-drenched beach.

We are having a ‘staycation’ as the recession-minded media are calling them. And we’re not just holidaying in Ireland. Oh no… we’re braving the wilds of the most rugged island off the west coast of Ireland… there’s nothing between us and America but a few hostile weather fronts and the Atlantic Ocean. And don’t we know it. “It’ll be an adventure!” we thought. Mmm. We had to abandon the tent on the first night due to ‘adverse’ weather conditions… otherwise known as a bloody big storm. Now, securely sleeping in a rather more stable structure, our Achill Island adventure is rather more the Wild Wild West than Dora goes Exploring.

My beach body has been replaced by beached whale body as I comfort eat between rainstorms. Who needs sunburn when scorch marks from a blazing fire at night scar our shins just the same? Who needs expensive Spa facials when sandstorms and North Atlantic howling winds take two layers of skin off for free? Who needs cooling cocktail umbrellas when you can throw your inside-out umbrella in the bin and surrender to the elements? Trapped in a small (we’re calling it ‘bijou’) holiday cottage, rain pounding the windows in relentless laughter as we try and entertain two children who have yet to unwrap that “we’re on holiday, we’re meant to be relaxing” gene, hubby and I keep looking at each other with a look that can only mean one thing…. Next year we are so going abroad. To the sun. And a fun park. It’s really amazing how much one bedraggled eyebrow can say.

But then again, part of me is delighted with our little adventure. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Isn’t this what we experienced as children, and didn’t it make us, well, more robust? Achill has probably never been called balmy, so today we were probably barmy as we ran onto the deserted golden beach (the best thing about Ireland is the beaches, the worst thing about Ireland is its rarely warm enough to enjoy them) the second the sun scurried out from behind a cloud, as it eagerly shone on us before the next grey sky descended. We might have had 15 layers of clothes on, but that sun was shining so we were going to enjoy it! The girls ran up and down the beach like manic munchkins, danced with the waves and collected shells. Daisy hasn’t stopped singing and talking since we got here, running from one rock to another in boundless energetic excitement. I even braved the fiendishly cold Atlantic Ocean and went for a swim. It was cold yes, but it was exhilarating in a way I’ve barely felt since childhood. We explored the rock pools and threw clumps of soggy seaweed at each other, then we wrapped ourselves in towels, added another three layers of clothes and headed to the nearest pub for some fine Irish seafood – thick warm chowder swarming with prawns, fishcakes crammed with salmon and trout, scampi as fresh as the fish we just left in the rockpools. Stuffed to our gills, we rolled home, sand stuck in places sand is not meant to be, faces ruddy, and exhausted in that way only wild windy days can make you. The kids are asleep upstairs, sleepy smiles settled on their weather beaten faces. Hubby and I are cradling cups of warm wine by a smokey turf fire. Even the wind has mellowed. The sun may not be shining on our holiday, but the girls’ sunshine is making it a scorcher. That said…. Where’s the ClubMed brochure for next year?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arming them for life

Slightly bereft at having to chuck my much-used colour coded planning chart in the bin, I wave goodbye to my family. Left alone with my girls and a vacant diary, I feel the emptiness only a great time of love and laughter can leave in its wake. Every year, my mum and dad, my brother’s family, and me and mine all converge from our various corners of UK, Scotland and Ireland for a mass gathering of Kirk capers and quality extended family time. Of course, they’re not extended family to me, they are an extension of me, my family before I had a family.

This year they all came to me to be captivated by our new house and capitulated to my organisational orgy of planned activities (red), sightseeing (blue), culinary caterings (green), sleeping arrangements (purple) and picnic sandwich fillings (pink).

It was fabulous. For a week we all lived as maybe society originally intended – all together, sharing time and tasks. My girls loved showing their grandparents their new toys and dance moves, and I loved showing my parents our new furniture and surroundings. We picnicked, we walked, we beached, we parked, we playgrounded, we laughed, we talked and we ate. And then my brother arrived with his troupe and our family enlarged like a heart heaving with happiness. For three days, five kiddie cousins learned about each other. Friends enough not to be strangers, but strange enough to be exciting friends, they ran around the older generations like buzzing bees on a spring day. We all smiled at their energy, their imaginations, their spirit; new friends in our old family. And maybe I smiled most of all. I mentally added three more bullets to my children’s ammo belt of life. To watch my two girls absorbed in such intensity, besotted with six year old Ellie (who as an older girl is an object of pure adoration), while playfully joking with Tom and Alex, their twin boy cousins, for three days they were happily lost to me as they familiarised themselves with their family, courted their cousins, and built a bigger platform for their step off into life.

I smiled because I always visualise a belt around their waists you see, an invisible belt of ammunition for building their confidence, their happiness and for self-defence as they battle their way through life’s little wars and woes. Their dad and I are the lazer guided missiles, keen and catastrophic in our ability to defend and protect, the foundation blocks on the platform they will leap from in time. Their grandparents, uncles and aunts are the hand grenades to be lobbed to devastating effect, their love providing building blocks for the girls on their first steps up in life. Their godparents, cousins and friends are the bullets, quick fired and sure, all stepping stones so they can reach as high as they can. The more ammo they have – the people who love them, and care about them, people to teach them and guide them, and play with them, the better armed they are for life.

So I smiled because the firepower of family is fierce. And in the next day or so, our family extends further still, as a new cousin is born. Another bullet on my girls’ ammo belts. Another person to love them and be loved.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Beauty is Pink Deep

Part of being a mum, especially a mum to two girls, is that I teach them not to see beauty as skin deep. It seems every time I open a newspaper I read another survey about how hard girls are finding it living up to the spectre of skinny vacant role models that bombard our once cultured lives. But despite my pontificating that their cleverness, their kindness, their lovingness, their imaginations are what also make them beautiful, it seems my nearly-four year old has other ideas…….beauty is in fact, merely pink deep.

The other day I dressed us all up to go off and meet my friends for lunch, and I said to them, “You both look so beautiful today” admiring their pretty dresses. Daisy looked at me and then, returning to her dolly, spoke to me without looking. “But you are not pretty mummy,” she said in a disappointed voice.

I stood back in mock horror, “But why, Daisy?”
She looked me up and down. Yes, my three year old daughter actually looked me up and down.
“Well, your shoes are pretty” she conceded, noting they had a sparkling stone on them.
“And your clip” she admitted, seeing the sparkle there too.
“And your necklace,” she supposed, being that any jewellery is good in her book.
“But mummy, your trousers are not pretty. They are trousers, and blue. They are not pink and not a dress and therefore they are not pretty. You are not pretty when you wear blue trousers.”

Well, you can’t argue with that.