You can’t win them all!

They say ‘Never work with children’. Well they may be right but sometimes they sure are fun.

Recently I have been prompted by a group of young swimmers I am teaching, to ask myself, if I could rid the world of just one thing what would it be? My answer… digital clocks. Not world poverty I hear you wonder, or crime? Well now you’ve made me feel bad, so okay, as well as world poverty and crime, I would like to get rid of everything that displays the time digitally.

My reasons are simple. I am at present teaching a gang of young swimmers, aged eight to ten years of age, and they are very unfamiliar with the non digital clock. We spend many hours together each week at the pool. As they begin a set I say, looking at the clock, ‘Ok go at the top’, I say.

Except when I look at them, they are not gone. They remain where they were, looking at me, and at the clock. ‘You should be small__1555836838gone’, I shout. ‘Oh we thought it was the other top’, they reply. The reason being that the hands on our clock are a double hand. So as one red hand points to the top, the yellow hand points to the bottom.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that they were never going to get it without help, so I took them all out of the pool to give them a lesson on the clock!

‘Right, I said, If you go at the red top and come in at the red bottom how many seconds did it take you?’. One or two knew the answer immediately so were banned from answering, but the majority did a lot of pointing at the clock, and made thinking faces. Eventually they gave a huge variety of answers ranging in time from ’20 seconds?’, to ‘one minute’. We persevered and they soon began to get it right. I made it a bit more complicated, ‘What time would you do if you went at ten past and came in at quarter to?’. That lead to even more creative answers, and an awful lot more thinking faces, but eventually they began to understand how to work it out.

So it was time to test them practically. Back in the pool they had to swim two lengths and tell me what time they did. I was very hopeful. They got back into their lanes and just as the first group were about to go, one of the younger ones looked at me and said, ‘Tric, will we all wait until the top?’. ‘No, you all go very five seconds’, I replied. He looked at me, then with a puzzled face, ‘But how will I know my time if I don’t go at the top?’.... Back to square one, with him and a few others, but eventually they said they had it. So a lot less hopefully I sent them off.

Back they all came and I began to ask them their times. Silence. En masse, they put back on their thinking faces, and turned to the clock, fingers pointing they began counting, five, ten, fifteen…. Thankfully some did actually get it right, so we continued with some more swims, and eventually they began to calculate their times quickly. However one young swimmer was having untold difficulty. ‘I’m photo credit: C-Serpents via photopin ccsorry Tric, but I can’t figure out my time’. she admitted. ‘No problem, I said, where did you go in the lane?’, (meaning first, second, third etc so I could calculate what time she began on). ‘Here’ she said, pointing to where she was standing!

Eventually, I decided they were ready for me to further ‘test’ them., I said, now we’ll do one lengths’. They looked at me in horror. ‘What! Will we have to tell you our times?’, shouted up one swimmer. ‘Of course, I said’. ‘But how will we know what time we did?’, he continued. ‘I took a deep breath. ‘Look at the clock and work it out’, I replied. Just as I was about to set the first group off, he shouted up at me, ‘Ah Tric,go on, will you just give us a clue’.

A week passed and they continued to improve. They even began to enjoy the challenge of trying to swim faster. I was beginning to pat myself on the back. What an amazing teacher I was. Success. I turned to one young swimmer and asked her what time she did. ‘one minute forty five’ she replied quickly and correctly. ‘Well done’, I said even more pleased with myself. Then one of the other young swimmers shouted up, ‘Ask me Tric’. So I did. ‘I did a one minute 25′ he said, proudly and incorrectly. ‘Sorry I don’t think you did that time’, I said as gently as I could, knowing for a fact he was wrong. ‘Wrong’ he shouted back at me, ‘You’re wrong Tric, I did do that time’.But, I said, that is the same as the fastest time you have ever swam in a competition’. ‘Yes’ he replied. ‘So, I said, you just swam as fast as you did in your fastest ever swim?’. ‘Yes I did, he replied, sure that’s why I’m so tired!’.

Smiling, I decided to leave it there. Years of competing, and even more years of teaching have taught me that sometimes you just can’t win!

photo credit: ozjimbob via photopin cc
photo credit: C-Serpents via photopin cc

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A Merry Christmas?

I read a facebook comment from an online friend which made me stop and think. For her at the moment life is far from ideal. Even though I’m sure she will have a lovely Christmas it is not quite the Christmas she would have dreamed of.

As I struggled for something ‘wise’ to say to her, I began to think of the past many Christmas’s I have lived through. There were small__2147999608the many magical ones I had as a child, of which my memories are full of presents, food, and family gathering. Singing, card playing and games also featured strongly. Wonderful Christmas’s, which ensured that forever more, Christmas would be a magical time in my life.

There were also darker Christmas’s, such as the Christmas we knew was to be my Dad’s last. I’m sure it was heartbreakingly sad in places, but I remember the family laughing and partying as always, and making it as perfect as it could be.

As the years rolled on I remember my first year married, when I was rostered on for night duty, effectively ruining my Christmas. How cross I was, and not being able to go to my family home for Christmas was so very hard. However after that, there followed the many wonderful years of my babies arriving and enjoying Santa and presents. We moved house, made new friends and began new traditions with our own children. Passing on the love of all things Christmas to them.

Then there was the Christmas two years ago when we welcomed young Daniel home from hospital, shell shocked at his diagnosis of leukemia, and last years Christmas, so soon after losing him.

Life is very much swings and roundabouts. Sometimes it is such fun, and other times we just have to hold on for dear life. This year I am determined to have a Christmas full of fun. Laughter will be my main guest, closely accompanied by good food, wine and great company. Another year over, my family all well and happy. A huge amount to be thankful for.

So today as I write this post I think of my young blogging online friend and I say to her,
I hope you can enjoy this Christmas. It may not be the Christmas of your dreams, but keep dreaming because one day that Christmas will come.

photo credit: NCReedplayer via photopin cc
photo credit: andrewr via photopin cc

The Perfect Christmas Tree… Not!

We are a family of real Christmas tree people. No pop out of a box, artificial tree for us. We take our tree hunting seriously and this year was no exception. We had a two hour window last Saturday when we would all be free to go and look for one. So the six of us loaded up into two cars and off we went.

Our first port of call was a local garden centre. In the past we had got a few beauties there. However on arrival we looked around and my heart sank. There was a distinct lack of trees lying around. The four kids and myself wandered around with a ‘we are not impressed’ look on our faces. However not my husband. He was busy picking up the one or two dismal specimens that were, dumped, lying there.

‘What do you think of this one?’, he asked, holding up a half a tree. ‘No’, chorused the five of us. Not to be put off he picked up another, ‘No’ we shouted again. Reluctantly he dropped it. ‘Well this one, what’s wrong with this one?’. I stood behind it and putting my head through a huge gap in the branches I said, ‘I think this might be the problem’. ‘Ah you’re very fussy’, he said, sounding less than pleased.

The kids wandered back to the car in a united show of disgust, but Mr Determined was not to be put off. Eventually I had to explain that regardless of what he wanted to happen, there was not a chance that we would be getting a tree from there. ‘There’s a delivery due in shortly, I think we should wait’, he said desperately, but he knew it was not going to happen. Reluctantly he said his goodbyes and we left.

Our next port of call was a home industry. A family who bought in half a forest of trees for Christmas, and laid them out in their garden for us and many others to buy. Mr ‘I can’t believe we didn’t buy from my favourite place’, came with a bit of an attitude. We could all sense it, but the kids ignored him. They began to quickly pick up and discard various trees. Too big. Too small. Too fat. Too thin. Too bushy. Not bushy enough. ‘Pick this one up’ they would say. ‘Will you turn it around’, ‘No not that way, the other way’. ‘What do you think?’, he’d ask hopefully. ‘No’ they would chorus. Eventually he could stand it no longer.

‘Right’, he said, ‘This is the one’. He held up a lovely tree, which was perfect in every way but one. It wasn’t really the familiar dark small__11257550686green tree we associated with Christmas, more a light green one with small pines on it. ‘No, I hate the colour’ they all agreed, ‘and those needles are all wrong’.

Oh dear I could see the introduction of colour was the final straw. We had lost him. I knew we needed to move fast. Decision time.

‘Okay gang, pick your top two and we’ll decide’I said, with no hint of ‘we better hurry as he who has the money is about to leave’. Quickly they came up with two and when, we, Mr ‘I can’t understand why this is taking an hour’ put them side by side, the final choice was an easy majority decision. ‘That one’, they all agreed. Delighted Mr ‘not feeling the Christmas buzz’, went off to haggle very unsuccessfully with Mr Christmas Tree.

And it is then that it happened.

As Mr Christmas went to pick up our tree to shave the end of it, in error he picked up the one beside our choice tree. My son spotted it, and said so immediately. Mr ‘I’ve not got a bargain and I’ve wasted an hour of my life’ immediately disagreed. He held up the, new, never seen before, not eight foot tree, for just a moment, and said, ‘No this is definitely the one’. Mr Christmas Tree, had also had enough of the gang of us, and assured us it was the right one. The three girls had headed back to the car so they were oblivious to the fact that there was any issue. I had to make a call. What to do?

I made a split second decision. Yes it was smaller than we would like, but it was bushy, and the right colour. So I looked to my son and asked him, ‘What do you think?, Are you okay with it?’.’But Mom, you do know it’s not the one’.’I know, but will it do?‘I asked, while nodding in the direction of Mr ‘I’m quickly putting this feckin tree in the car before they can stop me’.  He understood what I was not saying, and reluctantly he agreed.

It is now up in the sitting room, a much smaller specimen than we would usually have on display. To date the girls are unaware of the swap. When they do look at it they occasionally remark that they hadn’t realised it was so small. When my son looks at it he questions if it is crooked. When my husband looks at it I suspect he thinks ‘that feckin tree!’.

As I look at it I smile thinking we have a definitely not perfect Christmas tree in our house, despite all our best efforts, chosen for us by a complete stranger.

photo credit: Eric Kilby via photopin cc

Ben Canty, ‘Child of courage 2014′

If you ever want to know what courage looks like watch this. You will see courage in the faces of these parents, and you will hear it in their voices. This is the story of a young Irish boy called Ben,aged 6 years, who received the Irish Heart Foundations ‘Child of courage’ Award today.

I have written about young Ben here before, but tonight you will see him in all his glory. The Ben his family miss so much. Happy and smiling, which is how anyone who met him will always remember him. Quite literally ‘one in a million’.

Tonight young Ben, ‘child of courage’, we celebrate you. All that you were and all that you achieved in your short life.

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I have learned a great lesson.

Do you know the important things in life? Do you find yourself stressing about the everyday? Do you go to bed with regrets?

Since young Daniel died I am changed forever. However that is not all bad. When we lose someone close to us we grieve, but sad as it is, it can actually have a positive outcome on our lives.

Over twenty five years ago I lost my Dad. It crushed me for many years and if I am honest I still miss him most days. He didn’t live to walk me up the aisle, or to welcome my four children into the world. I have missed a lifetime of hugs and his gentle counsel.

However his death has brought a lot of positives into my life.

My Dad died in his early fifties of Motor Neurone disease. I watched him slowly lose his ability to walk, move and talk. I watched him die a difficult death.  However, hand in hand with his dying, I watched him live. Even in the depths of his illness, as I have written of so often, he continued to contribute enormously to my life. He taught me lessons every day, and when we lost him I learned the ultimate lesson, ‘Never, ever take life for granted. Your future is not guaranteed. Live every day’.small__7086258931

As the years have passed I have very much tried to remember this. When I had young, demanding, non sleeping children I tried to remember how lucky I was to have my children and my health. In the dark days after my child abuse case went public, very very public, I dug deep, feeling my dad close to me, and I got through it. I have never believed that a long life was my right, and have lived most days happy in the knowledge that if this were to be my last day I have hugely enjoyed it.

Smug in my thinking I had life sussed, I was rocked to my core when Daniel got leukemia. This was not something I had ever imagined, and even though it was not my child, it was my great friends child. Time ticked by during his treatment, with so many ups and downs, that we felt we were at sea, in a storm with no firm footing. Then out of the blue another friends child, young Ben aged 6, became ill and within two weeks, despite every sort of intervention, his family had to say a desperately sad goodbye. Three weeks later we welcomed Daniel home for two special days, before he too moved on to a new adventure.

Since then the life I thought I had sorted, the life I thought I had prioritised correctly, has changed enormously. I listen to friends speak of their stresses and I think, ‘if that’s your biggest worry aren’t you lucky’. I see my children stress about exams, homework and where life will send them, and I think ‘chill out, as long as you’re happy’. I see people fall out and I think, ‘Life is too short’.

My children are beginning to feel the side effects of my new thinking, and they can’t quite ‘get’ it. Last Thursday night my eldest returned unexpectedly from college and asked, tongue in cheek, could she take my youngest, aged 12, out of school early the next day, to go to the cinema to watch ‘the nativity 3′. Without hesitation I agreed. My third child, aged 17,  heard about the arrangement and was not one bit pleased. As she began to let me know how unfair that was, I announced, much to her surprise, that she too could skip the afternoon to join them.

And so it was that three sisters headed off a few weeks before Christmas, to enjoy an afternoon together. I lied in the notes I sent to the school, and I felt not one jot of guilt. For since Daniel died I have begun to realise exactly what it is that is important in life. Would my girls have remembered all they learned that afternoon in school, or will they always remember, leaving school early and driving off together for an afternoon at the cinema?

Yes, losing my Dad, and missing young Daniel have changed me forever. But it is not all for the worse!

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photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc
photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

What sort of a person are you?

Are you a talker or a doer? Some one who talks about a problem, or someone who wants to fix it?

Last week here in Ireland, a man named Johnathan Corrie was found dead on a doorstep, only yards from our government building. He had been homeless for many years with a variety of personal difficulties. There has been a huge reaction to his death in this country, with candle light vigils being held for him and much debate on the airways. All laudable I know, but I ask myself what good will talk do? What are those who are blaming government actually doing in their lives to make a difference? What would have helped Johnathan? How can I help?

Recently I have become aware of an organisation which is certainly making a difference. It was the brainchild of a man who had an idea and followed through. His name is Kevin Kelly and he hails from Co Carlow.   Having watched a video uploaded by Emily Deveraux about a woman in the US who makes coats for the homeless a seed was planted. A number of weeks later he visited a home as part of his job as a fire and flood restoration specialist. There he saw three coats which were going to be thrown away. Remembering Emily’s video he decided he would have them dry cleaned and give them to the homeless. This kernel of an idea took root, and he and his wife, Sue, and Emily came up with a plan. They would collect unwanted coats, hats, scarves and gloves for redistribution. This would be done by liaising with charities, both here in Ireland and abroad, who would ensure the coats go to those who needed them.

And so ‘Jacket off your back’ was born.

It is such a simple idea but it has taken off. There are now many people throughout the country, who thanks to Kevin, can quite easily do something for the homeless, rather than just talk about them. There are drop off points in many counties throughout the country, and a large number of charities liaising with Kevin in order to collect the coats and put them to good use.

So if you are living in Ireland why not check out this fantastic charity. Look for the drop off point in your area. Don’t forget that that coat which is hanging up in your house, probably never to be worn again, could this very night be keeping someone warm.

Don’t just talk about it…. do something about it, today.

If you don’t have a spare coat there are other ways to help. Perhaps you might visit Jacket off your back on facebook and give them a like. Spread the word among your friends or via social media.

To Kevin, Sue and Emily, although we have never met, I salute you. You, and those around you, who have helped make this such an overnight success, are certainly what I would call ‘doers’.  You are making a very real difference to so many.

On behalf of myself and all the less active doers, I say ‘Thank you’.

 

A new variety of Christmas.

Can you imagine how many different traditions families have for Christmas?  When do you put up your tree?  Is it real or fake? When are the Santa letters written? Where do you post them? Where in the house does he leave the presents? Are they wrapped or unwrapped. So many different varieties of the same celebrations.

One of our traditions in this house is the advent calendar.

My eldest is twenty three and my youngest twelve, so as you can imagine we have been opening calendars for many years. December 1st was always greeted with great excitement. Christmas had officially begun. The countdown was started. It was now okay to speak about Santa, and to sing Christmas songs.

Our calender was a beautiful wooden one, in the shape of a house, with brightly coloured doors to be opened, each with a Christmas themed picture on it. However nice and pretty as it was, all my gang wanted was the mass produced ones which had a chocolate behind each door. At the time I had my four children, I minded two more girls, who were like family, and most days my friends four children were also over.  To buy eight or ten of those calendars was a cost I was not willing to bear, so I came up with an alternative ADVENT CALENDARidea.

Every day I hid one jelly or small sweet behind the appropriate door. The kids took it in turns to be the one to open that door and take the sweet. For those who didn’t open a door I hid sweets around the kitchen. I would then call them all back in and gave each a clue as to where their sweet was hidden. There was great excitement as they ran around the kitchen trying to be ‘the winners’, and there was always much joking about the poor misfortune who just couldn’t crack the code.

I have spent the past many Decembers lamenting the time and effort that went into the hiding of the sweets and the clues, not to mention always having a bag of cheap sweets around.  This year however that calendar is not in use. I must admit as each day passes and we do not have a big door opening ceremony I miss those days.  Why you may ask do we not have it this year? Well to my horror of horrors my youngest has been given one of those much wished for chocolate hiding calendars. Rightly or wrongly I believe that without it we might have managed to put off the inevitable for one more year. Daily I am concocting different ways to ‘lose’ it. (So far I’m thinking of telling her the dog ate it, but it’s not exactly original is it?)

As the days pass and no one else seems to miss the old calendar and the fun, I am forced to face the truth. Christmas as I knew it is over. My little ones are little no more. It is time for a new beginning. Time to find a different variety of Christmas. They are moving on and I must follow.

I’m not sure this new variety of Christmas will ever be as good as the old one, but you never know. As my daughter happily opens a door of her commercial calendar and scoffs a chocolate every day, I think she would tell me that she is more than happy with this new variety.

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Where Is Your Sense Of Humor?

tric:

I’m still a little shook after the sad events of the past week, however I wanted to remind you all that I used to be a fun read and humour featured strongly in my posts. I intend to get back there next year, if you will stick with me! I wrote this almost two years ago, when I was brand new to blogging.
I wrote this before…….

Originally posted on My thoughts on a page.:

What is it that makes me choose the category  ‘Humor’ before any other?
Why can I not take life seriously?
Why do I want to reduce every situation to one I can laugh at?
Is there something wrong with me?

The more blogs I read the more I question my sanity?
So many are so serious.
Sometimes I have to bite my tongue, (in my case, take my fingers off the keyboard!)
When I read about parenting discipline issues etc I am so tempted to comment, small__3288730203
“Or you can just slap them!”.
I hasten to add I have never slapped a child in my life,
its just my humor!
I know, its sick.
Its definitely not ‘normal’.

Do you ever see someone come towards you, and you cringe?
They suck all the joy out of a room.
This is a typical conversation you would have with this person.
“Hello, Isn’t…

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leaving home.

So long my friend.

You may not know it, but Ireland is a little quieter today. There is a little less noise, a little less banter, and a lot less laughter. For today, my pal and I, said a fond farewell to our Thursday morning buddy, Denis, who at 83 is leaving Ireland for a new life in England.

photo (6)His son arrived on Saturday night, and a van was loaded up with all he wished to take with him. I called a couple of times over the weekend, and then this morning it was time for our final meeting. It was, as always, largely filled with humour, but today our pal was obviously distracted. His time remaining was ticking by very loudly, and he said he’d found sleep hard to come by last night. Eventually we could put it off no longer. My friend was to say her goodbyes first. I turned away, as it was difficult to watch. He had a real grá for her, and vice verse. They shared their final hug and she tearfully drove away.

However for me there was to be a bit more time. It had been decided that I would accompany Denis and his son to the bank, so happily I got a reprieve, a stay of execution.

On our return I decided to be strong, no more tea, no more chat, I would not go in to the house. It was time.

We stood beside the car and I spoke to his son advising him I was going to head away home. He shook my hand and thanked me for, sitting chatting, drinking tea and enjoying a morning of storytelling every Thursday, looking after his dad. I couldn’t stop my tears, and without realising what I was saying, I embraced him and said, quite threateningly, ‘You had better look after him‘. He laughed and assured me he would. Then kindly he said, ‘I’ll leave you two to say your Goodbyes’. 

I turned to my pal, standing tall, with two sticks for support, and tears falling down his face. ‘Ah dear, he said, I can’t believe it has photo (7)come to this’. I as good as ran to him and hugged him close. ‘I’ll miss you’, I said, ‘now you behave yourself over there, and enjoy your family!’. We straightened ourselves and smiled at each other. ‘Bye Denis’, I said and I kissed his cheek one last time.

He stayed at the gate as he always does, waiting as I turned my car, to wave me off. As I passed by I pulled over one last time, and wiping my tears I laughed and said, ‘For Gods sake Denis, you’re still making women cry at your age’. He threw back his head and laughed his lovely hearty laugh, his eyes twinkling as always. He blew me a kiss and shouted ‘Love ye’, to which I replied, ‘And I you’, as I drove away, oblivious to the road ahead, so busy was I looking in the mirror behind me.

So my friends he is gone. Our loss is his families gain. For there is indeed another side to this story. Denis was beginning to fall over occasionally. He lived alone and at his age life was not going to get any easier. His son had explained to us that his family in England all live beside one another, and  there was also the fact that there were three very excited great grandchildren counting the days for the arrival of their great grandfather.

As I write this, I acknowledge that indeed yes today I am sad, and lonely for Denis, but I am also smiling. For I have no doubt he has a wonderful new life ahead of him, surrounded by family, and maybe even new friends, but most especially, there are three young children who are about to get the best Christmas present they will ever receive…. their great grandfather.

Photo credit…. Me and Peggy! Yes for one post only there is a real photo of me, and my friend Peggy, and our dear pal Denis.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Daniel.

I have written so many posts about this young boy. I have shared the long road traveled from his diagnosis of Leukemia, through photo (2)chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplant, and infection. So many of you have walked that road along side me. I have tried to describe, as well as I could, the character that was Daniel, the boy behind the illness. Many of you may have even thought you ‘knew’ him to a small degree. Well today with the backing of his Mom and Dad, I will give you photos of Daniel. The boy who continues to live in the hearts of all who knew him.

This is the Daniel we all knew. The cheeky, fun loving, sports mad, handsome, outgoing, young boy, who lived twelve years of a charmed life before illness came his way. During that time he made an enormous amount of friends, who continue to be loyal to him today.

Danny in all his glory

 

This day last year his junior school principle stood up at his funeral mass and said, ‘where ever Daniel was, there was fun’. His friend spoke another time and said, ‘No one will ever forget Daniel, for Daniel was unforgettable’.  After we lost Daniel so many stories were heard, all with a common theme, Daniel’s zest for life, and mischief.

Daniel can be descibed in so many ways, a lovable rogue, a real charmer and great fun to be with. However as you can see by his photos, his mothers description is the most apt. For regularly on our walks together she describes him as ‘my beautiful boy’.

 

Yes indeed, he is a beautiful boy, and he is much missed today and everyday. I will leave him sign off on this one himself, in the photo of him which I love so much. Today many hearts around our village and beyond are breaking, remembering a young boy who was always larger than life.

 

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