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Getting Glasses- what really sells!

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My son has to get glasses. Since he was around 2 we were aware of a difficulty he had with his eyes dropping focus off to one side or another when concentrating. Since then he has been monitored by the consultants in the Children’s hospital, with the probability that in the future that he may need surgery to strengthen the muscle. After his most recent appointment the consultants decided that he should get glasses to force his eyes to work a bit harder.

This presented a problem- not because we don’t want him to get glasses, but because he did’t want them. So when we brought him into town we first went to Specsavers, and were left to our own devices to see what glasses we were going to get him. We had serious problems to start with, with him not wanting to try on any glasses. With the usual combination of cajoling and all we got him to try some on to see what would suit him, but could we get him to say what ones he liked! In the end we decided what ones there we thought would suit him.

Specsavers is only one of several opticians in town so we thought we’d check in some of the others. Our next stop was in Eyecare Plus. Again we were left to browse and try a few glasses on but he again didn’t engage. We got (forced) him to try different pairs and there were some that we liked the look of but they were not in a colour he liked. Which was his next excuse as to why he wouldn’t pick any of the ones we offered him. His sister did dry to help, and she found a host of novelty children’s glasses cases and he did actually warm to one of these which was blue in the shape of a crocodiles head- typical boy.

The attendant came over to us as my wife had asked if a particular pair were available in any colour other than pink. And she was great- she noticed my son playing with the glasses case and made a big deal of it showing how it was a crocodile on one side and another animal on the other. She asked him what glasses he liked and she offered us some advice. He would try on glasses for her and happily show them to her so she could see how they fitted and looked and told her which ones he liked.

Given how well he responded to them and how he liked what he was being offered which was a first for many things we decided to go with them for the glasses.

Leaving the shop it reminded me of another shopping trip with the lad, but this time when he was much younger maybe only 6 months old. Again we were shopping around town but this time for my wife and he screamed the place down every women’s shop we went into. He was OK in the men’s shops, children’s cloth shops everywhere else apart from the women’s clothes shops. Now wither it was because we were spending more time in them, I don’t know. All except for one.

My wife saw a lovely pair of shoes in the window of a shoe shop which alas is no longer there and when we went into the shop to try them on there were two young, attractive women working there. And he was happy to smile and laugh with them as they gave him loads of attention. He complained when we left.

And the shopping trip for his glasses was the same, absolutely no interest until a nice attractive young woman was giving him her attention and then he was putty in her hands.

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Now this doesn’t bode well for him for the future if this is how a pretty face can turn his head at such a young age, but it also shows that maybe it isn’t sex that sells but attractiveness, our minds just get dirtier as we get older.

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Equality

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I’ve been in Drogheda Toastmasters now for the last 3 years while I’ve been at home raising my children. The last few months have been a major change in our house hold. Not only have I now gone back to work but I’ve also given my Stage 10 speech and completed my Competent Communicator Award for Toastmasters.

Because of a small matter of an equality referendum here I didn’t believe it would have been appropriate for me to give my Stage 10 speech before the votes were cast as I didn’t want to be seen to be making a political speech or trying to sway peoples votes in one direction or another. It was a good speech, and an important one. Here’s the speech.

SoundcloudEquality Speech

If anyone can’t understand my accent and slightly slurred speech, I’ll put up the rough text for the speech.

The most challenging project of my life so far.

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My brain is a bit frazzled, I’m in the middle of one of the most difficult and challenging projects that I have ever undertaken.

Since I am planning to go back to work, we’re going to have to send Tomás to a child minder and crèche. He’s been with me since birth so it’s proving difficult for both of us to make this change. I don’t recall the others being as bad when starting crèche, but in all likelihood they were but maybe I’m finding this particularly difficult as he’s the last we plan to have, and this time at home with him as been different than it was for the others.

I didn’t take any time for Aoife other than a few weeks holidays when she was first born. For Aidan, I’d started a course, and then I started working for myself so since he was very small he was with a minder and then the crèche at least a few times a week and then when he was around 2 I went back to work full time. For Tomás however, I’ve been here virtually 24/7 363 days of the year (2 nights off with the wife for time served).

So this is a bigger change for both of us. Over the last week he’s been to both the child-minder and Crèche a few times and I think he is slowly getting better, but wails when I leave him and then when I come to collect him. Both the child-minder and crèche are nice and he’ll do well there. His brother and sister thrived in the crèche they went to and it made it an easy transition into preschool and then big school.

I want Tomás to benefit from the one on one attention that the child minder will give him and the social interaction, more structured learning and language development skills that he’ll get in the crèche so that’s why for the moment I want him to do both.

But he’s not loving the experience yet, he brings his bag everywhere when he’s away from me, to push down the slide first or to walk around with it on his back so that he’s ready to go as soon as I arrive. And he immediately starts to bring me to the door so that he can go. Even at times when we’ve been at home or at the P&T group he’s making baby noises and pretending he’s regressing just to get my attention and to give into what he’s looking for. Of course when he want’s to he’s perfectly able to ask for a banana, apple, the ball or for me to go outside and play with him, all in near perfect English.

For example when I collected him from the crèche today, he was crying “blub, blub, blub” a bit with the occasional “Daddy” thrown in to add extra potency. Of course when I announced that when we got home that I’d get him some lunch, a sandwich and a cheese string. He pipes up with “yea! I want a cheese string!”, and was perfectly fine again until we got out of the car and he seen me with a loaf of bread which he wanted to tuck straight into.

He is getting better, he survived 3 hrs in the crèche today after spending 3 hrs with the minder, which is better than he did on Monday in the crèche. He’s also at that stage where he’s trying to exert his own control over his life, seeing if he can get exactly what he want’s, for us to bring him where he want’s to go and to show who is boss. Maybe it’s a good time for me to spend less time with him as he tries to wrestle control of what goes on away from me and in doing so tests my patience and mental strength to put up with him.

But it’s hard to let him go, I’m not sleeping great at night as I try to figure out what is the best way, the easiest way for him to make this change. What could I do differently or better? That along with the blooming theme tunes to some of his favourite television programmes are waking me during the night, which of course makes me tired and irritable anyway before the battle of wills even starts.

The plan is that over the next few weeks repeated trips to the child-minder and crèche will get him use to the idea. Last week and this we just did a few days, next week I think it will need to be 4 days solid of going to the child minder for 2 hrs, then in the afternoon to the crèche. That way I can ensure that he has lunch and is eating, which he didn’t do today. The week after we’ll get him to stay a bit longer, and I’ll just have to steal myself to the heart felt, painful cries of “Daddy! Daddy!” when I leave him.

Making Easter memorable- The Rise of a Guardian

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Saturday my kids got to watch Rise of the Guardians on TV again. It’s a good film for keeping the kids entertained and quite approperate as it’s a film about belief, belief in the impossible and what could be.

Easter has become a time when we go up to my parents, and this year my brother was home with his kids so it was going to be a nice break where the kids could all play together. The last few years I’ve tried to make the whole experience of finding their eggs a bit of fun and have set up an Easter egg hunt. Some how this has managed to convince my daughter of the the existence of the Easter Bunny. That wasn’t the plan.

The first year I planned a hunt based on maps of our house, last year it was photos around the inside and outside of my parents home. This allowed me to take the photos the night before and print them off easily. Small eggs were hidden with a picture of the next location, so the kids could take turns in finding the location and it was a real test of how much they know about Granny and Granda’s house. With their cousin home this year he was able to get in on it too. We had to go to mass first to allow everyone to get up as there were a few sleepy heads from restless nights the night before (crying babies :-().

Once back, the pressure was on and the first picture shown to the kids, which sent them off in different directions until they remembered where the old shop scales were sitting. The hunt brought the through the house, the front garden and then around to the back,  running off in excitement to find the next clue.  They got so caught up in finding the clues that they didn’t want to wait till they collected their egg reward at each stage.

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The clue in the Green House brought them back to the living room where my nephew’s lego car was his major clue. Unfortunately for him he’d moved the car this morning from its location in the picture. Luckily his cousins recognised other bits in the photo, allowing the to find the last of the small eggs, and the final clue for the big eggs for themselves and Granny and Granda.DSCF4153 DSCF4159 It worked out as a great bit of fun for the kids and us adults watching them run around and have fun. We’re looking forward already to next year when we will have 2 more cousins running around with us on the hunt.

Sunday Miscellany

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One of my strange likes, one my own wife and parents cannot get their heads around is how never mind why I love listening to a Sunday morning radio programme on RTE Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany.

It’s a radio show which is a mix of music and prose -either poetry, historical tales or opinion/commentary. But I love it because there can be great tales and interesting talks. Whilst the tales are often only of mild interest, occasionally a great tale arises, or a piece which touches a nerve.

Last Sunday, Declan Collinge read a piece “In praise of Peppa” and I admit as I am planning to go back to work and will no longer spend time with my kids in the morning watching Peppa it did make me feel a little nostalgic.

So what do the Irish do on St. Patrick’s Day?

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One day a year the Irish get a day of their own, celebrated around the world with many of the World’s Monuments going green for the day as part of an international tourism drive for Ireland.

The whole celebration of Ireland’s patron saint originated in the US by ex-pats, and never ones to turn down a good opportunity or excuse for a party, we’ve jumped on board full hog.

Since 1904 it has been a public holiday, it used to be a dry day (no alcohol sales) but we did away with that in the 70’s. Whilst the stereotypical image of the Irish would be that we’d spend today in the pub or at home drinking I don’t think that this would ever have been nationally the case. It’s probably true that plenty of people in their late teens and twenties, who don’t have either families or work on the 18th might go out on the lash but most don’t.

Up till about 30 years ago you’d probably find a sizeable portion of the population at Mass this morning, these days you’ll probably find more of us in bed, enjoying the lie in. Which is exactly what we did, some how I managed to lie in till 8:30, before depositing the youngest downstairs to have his breakfast with his brother and sister and returned to bed to share breakfast with my wife and relax enjoying the morning.

Eventually at around 10 we got up, all changed and a quick picnic was made for lunch.

There has been a parade in Drogheda since before we’ve lived here, and even before we had kids we would come into see it. Even more so now that we have our own children, we get in early to get a good spot to watch it pass. This year my daughter was not taking part (too much on in the last few weeks for her to make it to rehearsals) so we got to start a little later than normal and to relax.

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Our position was on Fair St.  near the top of the town and on one of the quieter streets where we got a good position above the street.

As always there was a great turn out of people to watch the parade. The other roads tend to be so busy that the kids need to be lifted up so that they can see past people pushing in front of them.

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The parade in Drogheda, doesn’t have any of the big shows and performances which typify the parade in Dublin or other major cities, but it is a chance for some local companies and more importantly local groups to advertise and attract new members.

It’s a true collection of the good and the great of Drogheda life, such as members of the council and their invited guests, one of whom I think is the Turkish Ambassador.

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Drogheda is a town with 2 different brass bands  (the Drogheda Brass Band and the Lourdes Brass Band) who perform every year and provide a great opportunity to the youth of Drogheda to learn to play musical instruments.

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Drogheda being one of the main coastal towns in Ireland straddling one of the main rivers, the Boyne has alas had a long history of suicide and accidents through drowning. As a result the people of Drogheda have risen to this challenge and every year the 3 rescue groups based in the town show off their equipment during the parade.

The Drogheda Coast Guard.

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Drogheda River Rescue

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Drogheda Fishermen River Rescue

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There are a few companies who put on a bit of a show.

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Integral fitness always try to put on a good show, and this year they tapped into the film all of our kids have been pestering us about, which was very suitable for the day, it was dry but we were…

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And of course there was the collection of local groups.

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Although it went on for around an hour and 20 min everyone had a great time.

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After the parade, we did as lots of Irish people did and went home to have dinner, which we shared in my wife’s cousin’s house with her family. Of course we had a good traditional Irish meal… Pizza, chicken nuggets and chips (its a tradition in our house now the last 6 years)

I did have one beer, but then I have kids and have to get up in the morning.

Fears… The times they are a changing… again

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When my son Aidan was born I was out of work, an involuntary stay at home dad. I went off and studied, I did a course to set up my own business. but for the majority of the first year and a half of his life I was the go to person for him and my daughter who I was minding as well and bringing to and from play-school every morning.

Aoife and Aidan enjoying dinner out before I went back to work.


Then I went back to work, and he went to a child minder for a bit and then on to preschool. He is one of the nicest lads you will ever meet, kind, considerate to his friends and  quick to forgive. But he can also be a bit lazy, has little self control, can’t sit quiet or behave during times when you need to be still, and when he feels aggrieved he becomes (or at least his behaviour) is quite rude and sullen.  His behaviour last week made me realise that when I do things that he finds really embarrassing in front of his friends when/if he becomes a teenager it will just be karma coming back to him for all of the things he did as a child.

It is perfectly illogical that I should blame myself for his misbehaviour, my rational brain tells me that 1. he is a child after all, and it’s not easy for them to have the attention span to behave as I would always like him to and 2. he is a boy!. Now parents of only girls will not understand the reason for this possibly un-PC separation of the sexes, especially on this World Women’s day. But having observed my sons, my daughter and other nieces and Daughters friends there is a difference. And boys need to keep moving, cannot settle and calm themselves as well as girls, cannot concentrate as well at least until they are older and catch up in maturity. (If anything this could be a basis for all those objectives of the women’s rights movements- Boy’s never grow up- they just get taller)

I worry though that perhaps that his behaviour would be better if I had been there with him longer, those critical years from 2 till 4 when I I was there for Aoife. Is it perhaps that genetically there is no difference between the behaviour of boys and girls and that my daughter has more self control etc because I was there during those formative years. How much is nature… how much is nurture?

For the last two and a half years now again I have been a Stay at home Dad, but this time it was more out of choice, I have fully engaged in my role, and focused my time on the kids more than ever before. I’ve maintained this blog much more than I did before, I take Tomás to parent and todder groups, I’ve ended up running one and I have really enjoyed this time.

My son has too, OK he has still managed to turn into a bit of a TV addict (I blame his big brother who gets up early in the morning to come down and see the start of rtejr  or Milkshake on Channel 5 before he gets his breakfast), but he is confident, happy, mixes well with other kids and has no fear or feeling of limitation.

But alas I need to go back to work again both for myself and for the family. We need to have a bit more financial security of having both of us earning and the longer I stay out of the work force the harder it will be to get back into it.

And this is were the new problems start, not just the activity and work and worry about getting a job but then what job. I can try and go back to doing what I was doing before, working in plastics manufacturing and recycling. However I lack experience in one of the most common machines and also in medical devices which is the highest growth area in the sector in Ireland, so I’d have to retrain (again) and take a job on a much lower wage than I was on before. Or go for shift work in a factory as a supervisor or similar, which is a challenge with a young family. But that’s what I might have to do in the end.

Alternatively I could go and do something completely different, possibly with better hours, but due to lack of experience the salary would be lower. I’ve no hope of getting what I was earning before, not just because the recession has reduced wages, but because employers look at my CV and question- so what have you been doing for the last 2 years… the longer out… the longer it will take me to get up to speed is probably their thinking.

So that’s fears 1 and 2; Will I be able to get a new paid job? and Will the salary be enough to cover the cost of going to work?

But I also worry about my family, how will the kids cope with me going back to work, they have all enjoyed the security of having me close, collecting them from school and doing things with them (they would probably have an easier life if I go back to work) especially Tomás who has seen me around nearly 24/7 since the day he was born. Would he settle with someone else on a daily basis? Will he grow up like his brother, restless or feeling aggrieved that I’d abandoned him?

Making the kids do their homework.

Making the kids do their homework.

I also worry for my wife, she finishes work around 4, but pressure would be on her to collect the kids, to cook their dinner and do all those jobs that I had to do, but at least I had the advantage of having more time to get them completed and didn’t have to do a days work first. She says she’ll cope, and I know we all will, we have to. Doesn’t stop me worrying about them though.

I eagerly await the release of Fathers, Work and Family’s new book Working Dad’s Survival Guide and I hope that it will provide me with help to be the best father that I can be even when I’m not there 24/7 for my wife and kids.

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