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.


Bundoran- A promise broken

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I know I should have written this around 4 weeks ago but with the summer, the kids and too much else to be done I’m only getting to it now. Hopefully I’ll make better progress over the next few weeks while the kids go back to school.

It’s terrible, but we promise our kids that they can do things that they look forward to and then the world conspires against us and the best you can hope for is to make the best out of a bad situation.

Well like every year we took a trip to Bundoran during our break in the North-West.

Bundoran caught on to this tourism industry early and has been a resort since 1777. There are lots of amusement arcades so as kids my parents tended to avoid it as they didn’t want us wasting our money on slot machines and rides.  

In the last 20 years there has been an improvement in facilities and attractions in the town, with the development of Waterworld and the Adventure Park as well as the whole town getting a bit of a facelift and clean up.

Bundoran is also a major Mecca for surfers with some of the best surf in Europe and a host of Surf shops in the town.

We’d promised to bring the kids to Waterworld for the day while my father in law went for a walk and then we’d all go for lunch.

We got to Waterworld at around 11 and I’ll not bore you with labouring over the full hour and 30 min we were waiting to get in. Suffice to say that we were initially told we couldn’t be let in due to crowding in the pool and the changing rooms, finally we were informed that there was a problem in the pump room but they couldn’t tell us what or how long it would take to fix and there was never a problem with crowding. It turns out that there was a problem with high levels of chlorine in the water causing major discomfort to the bathers, many getting their money back as they left. Why they left people queuing for hours, telling us false tales on the delay while still letting more people join the queue I can only put down to no respect for their customers and bad customer service.

We left Waterworld and met with Orla’s dad to get some lunch, heading straight to Stakes on Main St. near the bridge.

We’d eaten here before and while it’s not fancy food it is good decent grub, well priced and very family friendly. I had a burger which was lovely, my Father-in-law was very pleased with his fish and everyone had a great feed. Again.

Since the pool was off for the day, Orla brought the kids down to the Adventure Park while I brought Tomás on a walk to do some shopping so that he could have his nap.  Purchasing the multi-ride tiny tots wrist band which gave them loads of access to rides over a few hours for €11.95         

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park


Although I don’t enjoy this kind of thing my older pair loved it and had a great time on all the rides. No sooner was one finished than they had run off completely ignoring me or Orla to the next one to get in as much as they could. It was well worth it and the price.

In the end we couldn’t keep our promise of going to Waterworld but the kids had a great day in the Adventure Park so everyone left Bundoran happy.

Lough Navar Forest Park

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During the great weather in mid July we headed off to South Donegal for a few days bringing my Father in Law on a break from Dublin.

There is lots to do around the region covering, South Donegal, Fermanagh and Leitrim. This week however we kept it near to base so that there were no long car journeys to stress out my Father-in-Law.

We made two trips to Lough Navar Forest, my Father in Law is an avid walker and we like to do it when possible and the Forest Park offers a range of different walks.

Lough Navar Forest is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Located approximately 5km outside the village of Derrygonnelly, this spectacular forest extends across 2,600 hectares.

Photo of Lough Navar Map

Photo of Lough Navar Map

The first trip was to the Magho Cliffs, a 9km long limestone escarpment dominating the southern shore and skyline of Lower Lough Erne on the northern edge of Lough Navar Forest. The spectacular view is arguably one of the most dramatic on the island of Ireland. At a height of 300 metres, the viewpoint offers a bird’s eye view across the lake far into counties Fermanagh, Sligo, Tyrone and Donegal and even as far as the Atlantic Ocean. A path brings you a short way along the cliff which broadens the view. There is also a walk up from the Shore Road along the Erne but it was closed for repairs when we visited. This was our second trip to Magho Point but our first to do the walk and it was great to look down on an area of the Irish country side that I’ve loved for my lifetime. We were able to look out and spot the Atlantic ocean, the hills and mountains of Donegal and Tyrone, Belleek and the islands on Lough Erne. There is also information on the history of the Erne, from its formation due to Glacial Movement at the end of the last Ice Age through to it’s use during the 2nd world war and the unfortunate aeroplane crashes.

This was a short visit to the park as we had no food in the house this trip to the park before we headed on to Enniskillen for lunch, then the kids went to the playground while I did the shopping.

Our second trip on Friday was to be a more testing one for us. Well that was the plan. I’d proposed to do a longish walk of around 6km, however my father in law was concerned that the kids wouldn’t be able for it. So we opted for a shorter walk through the Correl Glen Nature Reserve which is easily missed on the other side if the road from Lough Navar Forest.

It is a beautiful walk along the river before rising up to look over the Fermanagh country side. The kids moved the walk with Aidan leading the way, and climbing to the top of the hill when we got that far.


By the time we got back to the car the kids were warmed up and ready for more so we drove on around to Lough Achork. The smallest of the upland lakes situated within Lough Navar Forest, is accessed via a looped path that hugs its shore line creating a beautiful 1 mile walk.


We stopped at the first of the picnic tables for a snack,shorter before stalking on. The kids rushed on a head with Grandad while Oral and I took our time with a nice leisurely walk. Last time we were here the flowers around the lake were teeming with wildlife, dragon flies and damson flies. This time however we only seen one or two. So we told the kids that there were badger and otter tracks going down to the lake so they set off to inspect ever hole along the path for signs of life.


It was another beautiful day and a great run around for the kids who were starting to get tired as they climbed the hill back to the car.


A Promise Kept: The Great Outdoors

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Do you ever make a long term plan to do something with your kids.  Well long term is not the right word, but something in the distant future? You know, maybe buy them some floats with the thought of going to the pool, or buy a tent so that you can “in the Future” go camping.  Which is grand, you can prepare to do these things at “some-point-in-the-future” with no specific time frame in mind and you can spread the cost.

Which is all great until the kids find out; because then it’s “when can we go camping?”, “Can we go camping tonight?”, “Are we going camping this weekend?” and on and on and on…

For the last few months I was able to fob them off with we’ll do it “during the summer”. Then it as we got to the summer holidays it was “the tent is too big for our back garden” (it is) “We’ll have to wait till we’re in Granny & Granda’s or Donegal. Now it wasn’t a sudden aversion to camping which made me stall, but the knowledge that they would not settle well in the tent till late at night, likely would be up early and then cranky the rest of the following two days. I didn’t want them being tired and cranky, along with the school term.

Finally a few weeks ago in mid July, I packed the tent and new sleeping bags into the car to go and visit my parents. I did inform the kids that camping this weekend could only happen on the 13th July, depending on the weather and how things were going outside the garden (12th July in N. Ireland)

The 13th came along and it was dry and the streets were quiet, so the tent was pitched, mats rolled out and sleeping bags readied. My Mum seen it as her chance to mind Tomás for the night, but I argued that he’d be fine and that I wanted to see how he did sleeping in the tent before we tried taking him else where.

Camping out in the Great Outdoors

Camping out in the Great Outdoors

Aoife and Aidan were very excited. They were changed for bed and out in the tent long before I was going to put them down for the night. So stories were read,prayers said and they were left out there for a bit on their own to chat. There was no point me staying with them at that point, I’d get no peace and still had Tomás to get ready for bed.

Someone had already beaten me to giving him his bottle before bedtime, in fact they had given him two! As I settled down on the couch with his PJs and a clean nappy he clambered over to me with that look which can mean one of two things. Either he was very, very tired or he was not feeling very well and wanted a cuddle. Unfortunately it was the latter.

After a few minutes contently sitting in my arms he stood up, to climb on to me and promptly brought the whole two bottles up all over me. My dad fortunately was there to run and get some towels to clean up the sick off the couch and off my clothes. Dad then took Tomás to get him cleaned down while I went and changed into my PJs. Of course Tomás was now full of energy and wide awake again. So I got myself a bowl of cereal for supper, which I had almost finished when a well aimed swing of his arm and Tomás sent the bowl of cereal all over me.

So as soon as I was changed again, we were out the door for me to try and settle him in the tent, and miracle or miracles after tell him his story, he settled quickly in my arms. I was able to transfer him to his own sleeping mat and sleeping bag with out disturbing him. Aidan was still chatting and messing but gradually getting quieter and eventually asleep.

Tomás slept soundly all night

Tomás slept soundly all night

Eventually Aidan slept soundly

Eventually Aidan slept

Once asleep everyone slept well a part for an early morning run to the bathroom (Great Outdoors one) by one early riser.


But she settled back down quickly and it was after 8:30 before anyone started to waken.

Aoife had a great sleep too

Aoife had a great sleep too

The camping trip was a great success, everyone slept well and the kids had a great time. Much to my mothers disappointment Tomás slept better than he had when he was inside the house in the travel cot. Just goes to show you can’t always tell what they prefer.

So my only regret is that we didn’t go camping sooner. The fears that Tomás might not settle or that the kids would want to go back into the house as soon as it got dark didn’t materialise. So I’m all encouraged to go and take the kids to one of the many great camp sites around the country. That’ll be the next hurdle to cross.

Ducking Sunday

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For the 12th weekend we headed to Belfast, not a normal trip for most people from Northern Ireland, the majority usually head the opposite direction. We had good reason, as it was our anniversary and we’d planned to abandon the kids with my parents over night on the 14th for some well deserved rest.

We arrived up a few days early and after a quiet, secluded and rainy 12th the Sunday was bright and sunny. Time for us to get out and do something.

Itching to be going, Orla checked out possible places to visit for an hour, looking for things that would interest the kids and be fun for us too. Eventually she settled on the Waterfowl and Wetland Trust’s bird reserve at Castle Espie, just outside Comber.

€19 in for the family was possibly a little steep, but since the centre is a conservation project, we don’t mind making a charitable contribution once in a while. Special bird food can also be bought to feed the birds around the main pond.

The guide map brings you first to the main pond where the resident waterfowl can be fed. This was the best bit of the day for us.

"Can I have more food for the Ducks"

“Can I have more food for the Ducks”

A part from one overly hungry bird who tried to have one of Orla’s fingers, all the birds were very friendly, relaxed around the visitors. Orla had them eating out of her hand which just goes to show that it’s not just me and her class who she has the power to enthral.

Orla gets the birds on side.

Orla gets the birds on side.

The kids loved it too. Tomás spent the whole time wandering around saying “duc” and trying to make a honking noise to mimic the particularly friendly Eurasian white fronted geese which we had feeding from our hands.

The Geese wanted fed too

The Geese wanted fed too

We walked on then, visiting the different hides looking out over Strangford Lough and activities for the kids to get involved in.

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat

Aoife the maiden of the prehistoric boat

Next we stopped in the adventure play ground to play on the climbing frames, balance logs and play hut. As always they made their presence felt, despite our best efforts to get Aoife to stop shouting instructions to Aidan.





Kids enjoy the play ground

Kids enjoy the play ground

The Duckery was the last port of call on the walk to see the newly hatched ducklings. The kids were disappointed that they couldn’t handle the ducklings themselves. Unlike a lot of countries swans are very common in Ireland during the year. But locally these tend to be Mute, Bewick and a lot of whooper swans. Castle Espie now has 2 Black Neck Swans who had chicks this spring. `Rather than the dull dirty grey cygnets we all know from the story these were small white fluffy balls.

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie's FB page

Black necked Swan at Castle Espie, photo from Castle Espie’s FB page

A great afternoon was had by all with a tea, scone and some treats for the kids before heading home. I’d recommend a trip to Castle Espie for the kids. You can take annual membership, as I’m sure there is also plenty to see in the winter out in Strangford Lough as well as the birds in the main pond.

First day of the Hols

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Today was the first day of the summer holidays, everyone finally finished yesterday and we now enter the long 2 months of the summer. In America, Canada, Spain you can be fairly confident of what the weather will be like. Ireland it’s a different story, its normally slightly warmer but not always dryer than winter. So we have to make what we can of the good weather when we get it.

My wife was off to Naas last night for her sisters birthday and she stayed over, so I had the kids for day to myself. Much to my daughters disgust, when we all woke this morning at 7:30, I made her get changed immediately. No lazy Saturday lying in front of the TV for hours. By 9 we were out of the house heading over to Oldbridge Houseso I could do my stint helping out at the Oldbridge Parkrun. I must say my three kids were great. The older pair made friends with other kids being minded by their dad while he managed the race and their ma ran it. The youngest was grand for a while and then started to get bored in the buggy. So I let him out to play in the grass. He decided that he wanted to climb back into the buggy again. Instead of sitting in the seat, he stood on it held onto the bar at the front and tried to walk his feet up the back of the seat. His first attempt rolled the buggy, but his second was more successful.

After a quick snack for us all, and a run to the shops for some food for a picnic we were back in Oldbridge for the Country Fair which is on this weekend. And the kids had a great time. It started off with the kids decorating plant pots and planting flowers, which they got to bring home. They really enjoyed it.

Planting flowers at the Oldbridge Country Fair

Planting flowers at the Oldbridge Country Fair

We then had some lunch and were joined by friends from St. Mary’s Parent & Toddler Group and we watched the Musket demonstration before going on a long walk around the park doing a tree trail questionaire which kept the kids really engaged (well Aoife and one of the boys, the rest enjoyed the walk) and we made it back in time for the story telling with Delphine who was fantastic with them.

Oldbridge Country Fair Story time with Delphine

Oldbridge Country Fair Story time with Delphine

Soon after that there was a flower arranging workshop at which point I thought I’d like to go home, but my daughter was insistant that she wanted to do it. As Felicity was staying for it with her daughter, I took the boys off for a walk around the food tent and to see what else was being exhibited. When we got back they still hadn’t started so my two boys played while Aoife arranged the flowers with assistance from the others, and I’ll admit made a good job of it. It was her first time doing flower arranging and to my horror started asking where we could get the green stuff and flowers as she wanted to do it again on her own this time. I think she was disappointed that I didn’t know of any classes she could go to but I’ll have to keep her out of the garden centre for a while.

Flower arranging at the Oldbridge Country Fair

Flower arranging at the Oldbridge Country Fair

The kids were really thankful that I’d got them up and out early this morning. We left at 9 and didn’t make it home till 4:30 in the afternoon. And all for the cost of a picnic, 2 bars of chocolate and a tea & Scone. A really cheap and excellent day, we’ll hopefully be back tomorrow for day 2.

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