Surviving Easter (Part 2)

I had now reached week 2 of my Easter challenge. Bloodied but not beaten by my torn quad muscle, I knew that I required a different approach to successfully navigate the second half. I am a proud man but it was abundantly clear that I needed help, so on the Tuesday after Easter Monday I did what any good Irish son does in his hour of need, I headed to my parents’ house (the place that is still called Home on my mobile phone). As a family, we are very lucky to have both sets of grandparents nearby in Dublin, I still argue the toss with my in-laws about whether Shankill really is in Dublin but they are reachable by travelling on the M50 so that is all that really matters! Anyway the kids love seeing their grandparents and vice versa, or at least the grandparents do a good enough job of faking it! As an added bonus, the garden in my folks’ house is sufficiently long for the boys to happily while away a couple of hours taking pot-shots at each other with footballs, tennis balls, rugby balls or when things get testy, pretty much any object that comes to hand. My dad has a never ending supply of gadgets which he regularly replenishes in Flying Tiger, now that Hector Grey’s is no more (feel free to google search Hector Grey’s if required but in short, think of Flying Tiger but organised in a much more scattered and much less commercial way). These amuse and amaze the kids in equal measure. Tuesday’s visit to my parents followed a familiar pattern. As soon as the boys’ energy levels began to drop in the back garden (normally signalled by one of them trying to take the head off another one) and Ella started to get a bit grumpy, my mum produced her party-piece, crackers and cheese. It is a strange thing that crackers at home are only moderately sought-after but as soon as we enter my parents’ house, they become some kind of food of the gods, a modern day ambrosia. I must say, all of us were refreshed and replenished by the experience and I could now see a path through to the end of the week.

On Wednesday I went for an old reliable, the zoo! Well at least I thought it was an old reliable until Aaron went on over his ankle running down the mound surrounding the zoo car park within 60 seconds of arrival. I just about managed to coax him to his feet and despite the howls coming out of him I was pretty sure he was going to live. I can confirm that he certainly is not blessed with his mother’s high pain threshold (4 natural births without any pain relieving medication). Then as we ambled towards the main entrance, I noticed that Oscar’s tracksuit bottoms were on back-to-front, I mean did he not notice the dubs crest on his backside! I tried to get him to do a quick change at the side of the path but he was having none of it so it was back to the car. I could feel a Roy Keane tinged red-mist starting to descend upon me and the thought of packing up and heading back to Glasnevin did cross my mind, but Ella’s plaintive little voice asking “Daddy will we see animals?” pulled me back from the brink. The zoo is great and has improved immeasurably over the years. One of the benefits of having 4 kids is that I continuously get to see it afresh through a new set of young and wondrous eyes. Also, now that the boys are a bit older they can help push Ella around in her buggy so it’s win-win!

That was Wednesday successfully negotiated and on Thursday, I received a welcome wild card, the offer of a play-date for all three boys at the same time, jackpot! In my slightly frazzled state I was more than happy to depend on the kindness of strangers / parents from St Pats BNS, thank you Gillian! Again it was a win-win situation as the boys could sense that my mindset had changed from one of expansive new ideas (or my Leinster rugby frame of mind) to one of keep everything on a tight leash and hopefully we’ll get through it (my Munster rugby frame of mind). With the sound of nerf bullets flying past my ears as I dropped the boys off, I knew that I was another step closer to the weekend.

Friday was swimming with Ella day. Ella has weekly water babies classes and has been going since she was a couple of months old (as did all the kids thanks to the foresight of their mother). I now get to enjoy being in the water with her as she splashes to her heart’s content. The boys got to come and see her which was nice for them too, cue lots of waving from the viewing area and applause whenever Ella stuck her head in the water.

I had survived, I had made it through the fortnight and now all I had to do was start researching summer camps and fast (as I type I can see Niki doing up one of here dreaded To-Do lists). Was there any real secret to my survival, I don’t think so, a few new things, a few old things and plenty of help from friends and family. In the end I’ll certainly remember it fondly (mostly). Oh and we may have played quite a bit of minecraft!


Surviving Easter (Part I)

So here it was, my first really big challenge, the Easter holidays, two weeks with just me and the kids. Sure my wife (Niki) would be around for the 4 day Easter weekend but that was just a minor breather in a fortnight of white-knuckle, hold on to your hats, let’s make sure they don’t break me, adventures. I was determined not to rely on the dreaded screen-time as an easy way out, I mean what kind of father would I be if I had to turn to external distractions every time there was a bump in the road. My opening tactic was to smother them with kindness so our first breakfast was pancakes, pancakes and more pancakes with a healthy / unhealthy dose of nutella, sugar and honey. I started making batter from our never ending supply of eggs, unsheathed my trusty copperstone pan (an unusually prescient Christmas present), and turned up the heat. This worked exceptionally well (even if I must say so myself) and I was complimented on my “restaurant standard” (their words not mine) pancakes. I was off to a great start but unfortunately the only way from here was down. The next day it was the cinema and McDonalds, the cinema went down well but I soon realised that the only reason my kids like McDs is because of the easy access to tablets which enables them to circumvent the “no screen-time” rule. I think they ate 2 portions of french fries between the 4 of them leaving yours truly to hoover up the remnants of their unhappy meals. The kids also became obsessed with the current monopoly promotion and spent a good part of our time in McDs scanning discarded food, the floor, the bins and pretty much everywhere else for leftover tokens. Never again I swore, not for the first or last time.

Tactic number 2 was to tire them out. Luckily the weather over the last fortnight has for the large part been exceptional for this time of year, so I was able to bring them to the local park without having to load up on rain gear. The two-on-two football matches are getting more and more competitive and soon the rule where I can only score with my weaker left foot will have to go out the window! Frisbee has also made a welcome entry into our outdoor games repertoire and with a bit of work the boys were soon making regulation 10 foot passes to each other albeit there was still the occasional moment when fear of frisbee finger (the smacking of a knuckle with hard plastic) would cause an elementary drop. Interestingly, while we were playing our games, an outdoor boot-camp was taking place within earshot. At one point Oscar (age 6) edged towards me and whispered in a secretive tone “that lady said a bad word”, I glanced over as she did another 10 burpees and gave her an understanding nod. The trip to the park was an unqualified success, so much so that I decided to take it up a level and try out something completely new, footgolf. For those of you not aware of footgolf, it is as the name suggests a cross between football and golf. It basically involves trying to kick a ball into a hole in as few attempts as possible. Following a bit of online research I decided to bring the gang to Deer Park in Howth which has an 18 hole footgolf course. Deer Park has many fond memories for me as it was the place where I learnt to play full blown golf, having honed my short game on the pitch and putt course at St Anne’s. Back in those days, a round of golf involved a dart trip to Howth station and then carrying my bag of overly heavy clubs up the exceptionally steep hill to the Deer Park ticket office. Getting to the first tee was already an achievement worthy of an army cadet, so no wonder my first tee shot back in the day ended up skewing off the toe of my wooden driver (remember those) and scattering bodies on the nearby putting green. Back to the present and the 9 hole golf course in Deer Park has been converted into 18 holes of very enjoyable footgolf. Well mainly enjoyable, though there were three negatives to the experience. First of all our footwear (runners / trainers) was nowhere near sufficiently water-proof to deal with the moisture on the course (particularly in the rough). Secondly Ella (age 2) got pretty fed up after about 9 holes when we had reached the lowest part of the course and had to be carried around the back 9 (coincidentally she’s probably a similar weight to my old golf clubs). And last but not least I managed to pull my quad muscle on the 14th hole trying to knock it onto the green of a par 4 in one!! I had been playing pretty well up until that point and may have even gone up in my kids estimations with a display of strength and accuracy from my trusty right foot. There was even talk that I could have been a professional footgolfer at one point before the high-pitched scream of anguish on the 14th hold brought me back down to earth!

It’s amazing how you only realise how often you use a particular muscle when you have injured it. The drive back from Howth to Glasnevin was a painful one with every switch from accelerator to break and vice versa causing a sharp intake of breath. So I ended upĀ  back home feeling tired and upset while the gang were all wondering what Daddy had planned for them next. Despondently I threw them the remote control. We had reached Thursday of the first week!