September is closer to New Year in my mind. I have been invigorated by the summer sunshine or certainly the summer light but there is a change in the air. A few tiny leaves waft to the ground. It’s not warm in the morning. There is a tinge of golden appearing on the trees. The smells are damper, edged with decay.
I freaking LOVE Autumn. I am full of the joys of Autumn. I love the excessively bright days where skies seem crazy blue when contrasted to the oranges, yellows and browns of the trees. I love blackberry picking.
With all this joy I feel I should channel some energy back into my blog. Kicking it off with an easy one but I hope it will help you get organised for the first full week back at school. This week’s menu includes lots of comfort meals and also freezer meals. Hopefully it will make the transition easier while we get used to the new old routine.
A couple of the recipes this week are doubled (or sometimes even tripled!) so I can put extra dinners in the freezer. I immediately add these to dates in our AnyList app so I don’t forget about them. They are always scaled to feed 6: the sixth dinner usually being lunch for Himself the next day.
As a reminder we have three children aged 14, 12 and 8. Two in primary and one just started Junior Cert year.
My most recent article for Beo.ie looks at some of the issues that I as a parent am experiencing as my children get more involved in technology. Can I keep up with them? The latest game to cause some concern is Minecraft. Read on or contact me for a rough translation 🙂
Thugamar cuairt ar an deartháir is sine liom faoi Nollaig. Tá beirt chailíní aige agus le linn na cuairte thaispeáin siad Minecraft, cluiche ar an iPad nua s’acu, don bheirt gasúir is sine linne. Ó shin i leith tá na buachaillí s’againne go huile is go hiomlán gafa leis. D’insealbhaigh m’fhear chéile an leagan in aisce ar an iPad s’aige, ag ceapadh nach mairfeadh an leannán seo acu.
Thug m’fhear chéile a iPad leis ar turas coicíse agus go ceann trí lá d’ímpigh siad is d’impigh siad orm Minecraft a insealbhú ar an iPad s’agamsa. Dhiúltaigh mé. Thairg an duine is sine a chuid airgid féin chun íoc as: dar leis, thuill sé an t-airgead timpeall an tí agus is faoi féin conas a chaitheann sé é. Sa deireadh tháinig muid ar réiteach agus fuair mé an leagan nua de Lego Harry Potter. Tá dífríocht amháin idir Minecraft agus Lego Harry Potter a thuigfidh aon tuismitheoir eile le ‘crafters’ sa teach: tá críoch le Lego Harry Potter; leanfaidh Minecraft go deo.
Ach nach ionann cluiche amháin leictreonach agus ceann eile? Is ea, go pointe áirithe, ach tá difríochtaí móra idir gnáthchluichí agus Minecraft agus ní ormsa amháin atá imní faoin mbealach a imríonn na gasúir an cluiche seo. Ní gá ach cuardach a dhéanamh ar Google ar nós “kids playing too much minecraft” agus tiocfaidh tú ar neart cláracha plé agus blagmhíreanna ag tuismitheoirí imníoch ag lorg freagra ar an gceist.
Seoladh Minecraft don PC déanach i 2011 agus bronnadh duaiseanna láithreach air: “best downloadable game”, “best indie game”, srl. Tugtar cluiche bosca gainimh nó domhan oscailte ar a leitheid de cluiche. Seard atá i gceist leis seo ná nach bhfuil scéal ar leith i gceist leis an gcluiche: fágtar faoin imreoir taiscéal a dhéanamh sa domhan iad féin.
Tú Féin atá ar an Maide Eolais
De ghnáth, ó thaobh ríomhaireachta de, ciallaíonn sé seo nach bhfuil gá ach rialacha a leagan síos faoin mbealach gur féidir leis an imreoir gabháil i ngleic leis an timpeallacht. Mar sin is féidir a leithéid de chluichí a sheoladh go sciobtha de ghnáth freisin. Míbhuntáiste, ar ndóigh, is ea go bhfuil gá leis na rialacha ó nach bhfuil sé dodhéanta gach uile féidearacht insinte a shamhlú ar an gcéad dul síos agus a chruthú. In alt i 2005 (tá fhios agam – ársa go maith!) scríobh forbróir cluiche amháin, David Braben, go bhfuil ardchaighdeán léiriúcháin sroichte: tá samhail an tsaoil réadúil cruthaithe ach “The Holy Grail we are looking for in fifth generation gaming is the ability to have freedom, and to have truly open ended stories.”
An rud is aistí faoi Minecraft ansin ná go bhfuil na graificí bunúsach. An-bhunúsach. Tá siad blocach, tá an pailéad srianta go maith ach is cuma don imreoir mar má shocraíonn sé nó sí ar teaichín deich n-urlár le díon tuí a chruthú, thig leis. Níl srian ar bith leis an tsamhlaíocht ann. Sin an rud a tharraingíonn ar ais arís is arís eile iad. Sin an fáth go bhfuil an-spéis ag oideachasóirí sa chluiche seo.
Inár dteach tá neart uirlísí aibhléise idir uirlísí iOS agus ríomhairí. Tá Wii agus tá PSP againn agus d’éirígh leis na gasúir am a chur isteach ag imirt cluiche ar an meaisín DVD fiú! B’fhearr i bhfad leo suí siar le cluiche in ionad clár teilifíse agus go dtí seo tá níos mó spéis acu i gcluichí ina bhfuil fadhbanna le réiteach iontu nó sprioc ar leith in ionad cluichí “shoot-em-up”. Is é am ríomhaireachta an duais is fearr is féidir thabhairt dóibh agus tuilleann siad dearbháin timpeall an tí gur féidir leo trádáil ar son 15 nóiméad anseo is ansiúd.
Sa dara áit don duine is sine tá leitheoireacht agus dá dhearthair, tá teilifís mar chaitheamh aimsire. Nil mórán speise ag ceachtar acu i spórt, idir rannpháirteacht nó féachaint air. Mar sin, cosúil le híomhá choitinn na máthar, táim buartha go bhfuil siad ag foghlaim drochnósanna a mbeidh tionchar acu ar a sláinte anois agus amach anseo. Scríobh mé cheana (féach an nasc ‘is fearr an tsláinte’) faoin mbealach ina bhfuil cruthaitheoirí teicneolaíochtaí sláinte ag iarraidh “gamification” a shníomh tríd a gcuid earraí agus léigh mé alt amháin a leagann síos gurb iad na tréithe aigneolaíochta céanna a chruthaíonn cluichirí dírithe is a chruthaíonn “gym rats” dírithe. Nílim róchinnte ach feicim tréith na hiomaíochta sna gasúir. Le Minecraft feicim gur féidir leo díriú isteach ar thionscnamh agus fanacht leis go dtí go mbeidh sé curtha i gcrích acu. Caithfidh na himreoirí na hábhair thart timpeall orthu a úsáid chun an timpeallacht a mhúnlú. Tá dhá modh imeartha sa chluiche: cruthaitheacht nó modh an mharthanais. Ligeann an chéad cheann don imreoir leanúint leis an tógáil gan tionchar ó ocras, caitheamh an lae nó ó ionsaitheoirí cosúil le ainmhithe, damháin alla nó zombies. Sa mhodh marthanais, caithfidh an t-imreoir gabhail i ngleic leis seo go léir chun teacht slán. Is féidir leo imirt leo féin nó is féidir imirt thar an idirlíon le cairde agus stráinséirí.
Bíonn tuismitheoirí buartha go minic faoi choimhthigh ar líne agus ar ndóigh ní cabhraíonn a leithéid de scéal is “Man jailed for having sex with 13 year old” ina bhfuil an suíomh Bebo lárnach. Mar thuismitheoir briseann an scéal seo mo chroí. Is léir go dtuigeann cruthaitheoirí Minecraft deacrachtaí tuismitheoirí le hoscailteacht córas ar líne. Tuigeann siad an eagla. Ach is creatúir sóisialta muid agus giorraíonn beirt bóthair go háirithe nuair ortsa atá an fhreagracht an bóthar sin a thógáil cloch mhéarach i ndiaidh na cloiche méaraí. Tá modh sa chluiche mar sin gur féidir leat freastálaí priobháideach a shocrú agus na sonraí a roinnt le do chairde amháin. An buntáiste is mó atá leis seo ná gur le cuireadh amháin a ligeann tú imreoirí teacht isteach; an míbhuntáiste ná is faoin tuismitheoir, de ghnáth, an freastalaí a riaradh. Deis iontach foghlamtha, nach ea?!
At the end of August I ordered just over €100 worth of schoolbooks from Schoolbooks.ie (I know, I know, I should have ordered them last JANUARY right?!)
The nippers started back in school on 30th August and no sign of the books. I couldn’t tell from the Schoolbooks.ie website whether they were to arrive imminently or not. Around this time I realised that I wasn’t the only customer whose books were missing but I took them at their word (to the media, mind, not me) that the books would arrive shortly. However at this time our (truly wonderful and sorely missed) childminder finished up with us so there was no one at home to receive our parcel. So I emailed them at firstname.lastname@example.org and asked them could they deliver to my city centre office. 2 working days later I was worried about the lack of confirmation about this action.
Upon investigation online I realised that the situation was far worse than I initially thought. I also realised that I was dealing with people who were being a little loose with the truth claiming, for example, that they had contacted every single customer that was affected by what seems to be some sort of technical issue. Apparently I didn’t count as I have never received a single word of communication in any format from Schoolbooks.ie. as I’m trying to be nice I will refer to this as “not best practice” especially as we are repeat customers.
I continued trying to get through by phone and tweeting about the issue in the extremely vain hope that someone might respond.
At this point I emailed to cancel my order. I still have no idea whether they read or acted upon that email. I thought that the books may still arrive.
By the end of the first full week (9 days of school) we decided we couldn’t possibly send the kids back to school the following Monday without books. I legged it to Reads of Nassau st one lunchtime and despite the assistance of a really helpful staff member Reads didn’t have a single one of the books (please note I was looking for Irish language books only for my Gaelscoláirí).
En route back to the office I rang the National Consumer Agency who made all the right noises in a non-committal sort of way. They sent contact details to me but there was nothing I hadn’t already gleaned from the Schoolbooks.ie website. I asked the NCA whether they would be investigating the issue further but the very nice chap I spoke with couldn’t say at that point. He also reminded me of our rights as online consumers which I was very familiar with thanks to my last job. One point he made was that should the books arrive AFTER I had bought them elsewhere I could refuse delivery and Schoolbooks.ie would be obliged to refund. Good luck with that, Rosie!
Since then I have written to the Visa Chargebacks department in the hope that my money might be refunded. I finally received a complete refund on October 8th.
On September 21st I spoke about this during my usual monthly technology slot on Splanc, Newstalk’s Irish language radio show. Obviously I’m dismayed that I’ve been badly treated, annoyed that I was out of pocket but what bugged me the most is that with the application of a little cop and some cheap or free technology a lot of this could have been fixed. If they wanted to be old fashioned about it a few grand to a half decent PR company could have saved their business. What galls me the most however is that the MD’s attitude to his customers has at the least cost him business and at most cost him his business. While I have as little care for him as he obviously has for me, I think in these recessionary times (sorry) it is practically criminal to play so fast and loose with his staff’s livelihoods and other people’s money. When I got home that evening, lo! the books had arrived and are still sitting on our sideboard in their packaging.
So what you might say? Well I think that Schoolbooks.ie are in fact a perfect anti-case study. I would generally avoid using negative examples but Schoolbooks.ie tick all the boxes.
It’s easier to keep old customers than find new ones (or as the grown ups call it Retention vs Acquisition). We have bought our books from Schoolbooks.ie for the last 4 years, spending at least €50 every year. Schoolbooks.ie have always been poor at maintaining contact, not reminding us at crucial points in the year about themselves in order to ensure our repeated custom.
Join the conversation or they will bitch about you and not even behind your back! I already knew that Schoolbooks.ie were poor communicators, having not received much by way of correspondence from them over the last four years; a blessing you might say in these times of bulging inboxes. It’s possible that Mr. John Cunningham, MD of Schoolbooks.ie, thinks that he is being stoical by refusing to engage with customers on Faceboolk Twitter, Boards.ie and blogs like this. He may be of the mind that it will all blow over but Gawd help the poor sucker who has to manage their SEO in the future. Considering the company is unlikely to exist in the future
Social media is all media. A storm in a tweecup can quickly become national news because you can no longer presume that the busy bodies on social media are not influencing the busy bodies in national media. This story quickly became a running theme for back to school week on Joe Duffy’s phone in radio show. Schoolbooks.ie became synonymous with bad customer service and it will be some time before the market will forget. What a waste of a perfect URL.
Ah the Irish Summer! Well so far this year we cannot complain too much. Most primary schools will finish up this week so expect a turn for the miserable in no short time. This year, however, I am uber-prepared. I have a list of things to do, I’ve sorted the toys and with quiet optimism I have purchased* a pair of children’s wetsuits from Puddleducks. I say quiet optimism because, while I hope to hit the beach, I am presuming it will be cold enough to require said wetsuits. About 3 years ago I bought a wetsuit for Himself so that he could “enjoy” surfing when visiting friends in Donegal even in November. Either the wetsuit or male bravado enabled him to stay in the water for up to 3 hours while myself and the other surf wag chased children up and down the beach purely for the purposes of keeping us all warm. We soon realised after one weekend in Donegal when the kids were paddling with their Puddleducks raincoats on and nothing else (I kid you not!) that wetsuits were a no-brainer for the Irish weather.
Last year we holidayed in lovely Lahinch. (I never did rustle up the energy to post about the lovely holiday we had there. We rented a holiday home in Ballyellery from Trident Holiday Homes. Photo on right was the view from the cottage on one of the truly Irish days 🙂 Ask me if you need more details.) Lahinch is a major surf destination so Himself and some of our friends had a great time. Yet again I missed an opportunity to surf as I was pregnant and too bloody tired even though I wasn’t so far gone. The weather was only okay at the time and we looked at wetsuits in the surf shops in town. The available range wasn’t great in Lahinch and even the second hand ones were pricy so we left it. However there were a number of days where we had to quit the beach as children’s lips turned blue!
I sent a tweet to Puddleducks earlier this year asking them if they were planning to stock wetsuits ever and Aedan replied to me that they were researching the options. A while later Suzanne contacted me and said they were sourcing two different types of wetsuits from suppliers and would I like to try them out. We opted for the full length suits in XSmall and Small. They have since launched a range of different beach products including these suits, a shorty version and various UV suits and beach shoes.
Due to the fact that their father has a wetsuit the Nippers were already favourably inclined. Considering the pair of them had to date refused to even put a two in the water we were concerned that it would be money badly spent regardless. Well the Nippers seemed to think that these suits would make them invincible and Nipper 2.0 even had great plans to go bodyboarding! (Where does he get these ideas!) Their first outing was literally a wash out which involved a real Irish picnic in the car before putting on all our raingear for a walk and some sandcastling in the rain on the beach. Our next outing was on one of the hottest days in this recent hot spell. My sister and I rustled the two of them up after school and headed for Sandycove. While I wouldn’t recommend Sandycove for a hot day, even midweek it was jammed, it was perfect to get the boys in the water in their suits. It’s a very calm inlet which helped them get over any reservations they might have had.
They played happily for the 2.5 hours that we were there in and out of the water. No blue lips and we are saving a fortune in suncream! The suits are great and a good fit with some growing space in them. The Nippers are very different shapes and both at the smaller end of the scale for their age. You can see from the photos that the limbs require a little turning up. Nipper 1.0 is whip thin and so we managed to pull the suit onto him no bother. Nipper 2.0 still has some of his baby fat (he recently turned 4) so we struggled a fair bit to get him into his. Let me put it like this: a child who was disinclined to put on their suit would win that particular battle! That would be my only issue with the XSmall size – it doesn’t seem to allow for the fact that a child that age might be likely to have a little more pudge. Add neoprene, however stretchy, to the mix and there’s a bit of heave ho-ing. But they were both very easy to remove and because of their size far easier to rinse than an adults. In fact I rinsed them in the sink and there is no way you would fit even a small adult suit into a sink.
We subsequently spent an afternoon on Curracloe strand in Co. Wexford which was far less sheltered and there was a stiff breeze that day. Again they played very happily in and out of the water although Nipper 2.0’s courage failed him somewhat. (Who’s talking about bodyboarding now, eh?!) Of course, I put them all to shame by swimming in plain ol’ togs. Due to the ongoing fluctuations in my body weight over the last 8 years there has been no point in getting a wetsuit for myself!
At €35.99 for the suits I think they are well worth it. They seem to be well made (I’m not expert) and include all the features you would expect on a wetsuit: tight ankles and cuffs and a turtle neck with adjustable fastener. The zip is sturdy with a strap for closing and it tucks away neatly. All the tech specs are included in the Puddleducks listing. Look at it like this: on an overcast day you might decide that the beach is just too cold for the kids so you go to the swimming pool. In Lahinch last year that notched up €21.00 for 3 of us. Alternatively if you compare it to the cost of suncream at circa €10.00 per bottle which may get wiped off as soon as it’s on it’s also a far longer lasting bargain. I also really believe it’s the way forward for holidaying in Ireland. I’m the only family member who doesn’t have a suit but I noticed in Lahinch last year that most of the families were all kitted out in them and many of them were not surfing at all, just swimming.
*Disclosure: I received these suits at cost-price from Puddleducks.
Well it’s been a week since Nipper 3.0 landed in our lives and as a friend of mine said a few years ago after giving birth to a girl after two boys, “It’s the icing on the cake”. Mind you she went on to add a cherry since! I’m saying nothing!
I want to write briefly about Ada’s arrival last week as I did for the boys. I’ve always done this for a few reasons: so I don’t forget; because I like to hear other women’s stories and I know how strong the need to talk about it is; and for future Ada who might read herself one day.
Don’t worry there won’t be any gory details because there are none but also because that’s not my style.
Like many women will say I can’t really put a finger on when things started. Probably things had been in motion since a week previously but I suppose being woken up in the wee small hours of Monday morning by contractions made me think that something might happen that day. However when I was expecting Nipper 2.0 I rang Himself so many times and asked him to come home only for the contractions to lose steam that I vowed this time I wouldn’t say a word until I was absolutely sure. Anyway as Monday pushed on I didn’t have any more contractions and I relaxed at home with Nipper 1.0 who was recovering from a very nasty tummy bug. I was pretty tired after dealing with that on Saturday night and all day Sunday. On Monday afternoon however I decided he was well enough to go for a walk and that it would do me no harm at all to get out too: cabin fever had set in after hurting my back had kept me housebound the previous week. Mind you neither he nor I needed to walk quite so much and by the time we got to the creche to pick up Nipper 2.0 both of us were tired and cranky. I had quite a few contractions en route but walking often brings them on only for them to dissipate once you stop moving so still I wasn’t sure. I was also feeling really nauseous and genuinely thought, “Oh no I’ve got Nipper 1.0’s tummy bug!”
We walked home complaining all the way and I decided when I got home I would ring Himself and ask him to skip his yoga because I felt so weird. But lo! when we arrived home there he was. I said I was feeling yuck and retired to the bed. I started tracking my contractions then. I used an iPhone app called Labor Mate – I think it’s about 79c. I tested a few but I liked this one the best. I set my autolock to 3 minutes and, pregnant ladies, you will be relieved to read that not one of my contractions ever lasted longer than the autolock. In other words all my contractions were far shorter than three minutes. Happy days!
So Himself fed the Nippers and put them to bed and then came in to see how I was. I told him then that I was pretty definitely in labour and that he should ring my parents. It was about 8.30. My dad came over just after 9pm and amused himself prepping his show for Wednesday I’m told. I actually didn’t see him until we were heading out the door. It was so nice to be in my own bedroom with Himself in familiar surroundings, low lighting, soft carpet, my yoga ball, my own bathroom, my own tunes. Between this time and when we left for the hospital my contractions became more intense but I also had pleasant, calm periods between them where I completely relaxed and even dozed a little.
Mum arrived over at around 11pm and after Himself appraised her of the situation, she thought we should leave. After de-icing the inside and the outside of the car (!) we drove down to the Coombe and arrived just before 11.30pm. My lovely cousin Rosemary found it amusing that I “foursquared” my arrival at the Coombe but there was method in my madness. I knew that many of my friends and family would see this update on either Twitter or Facebook. (Nothing to do with the fact that I wished to retain my title as Mayor of the Coombe… :))
It was right after this that my waters broke and things really took off. While there was 31 hours between my waters breaking and Nipper 1.0 arriving and about the same amount of minutes for Nipper 2.0 who was induced, I figured it would be somewhere in between with Nipper 3.0. Not at all! She was born 38 minutes later just inside the delivery suite.
So it was quick in the end! I only had one panicky period when I wanted to push but the midwives wouldn’t say yes or no to me. I think they were afraid like me that I wasn’t completely ready. Around this time they tried to get me to take some gas and air, something I had never used. As someone who completely relies on my yoga breathing to get me through my labours this was the worst thing they could do because it involves breathing in through the mouth and I was trying to control my breathing by breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Himself was a rock, trying to get me to calm down while also trying to reason with them and basically tell them no. I think their intention was to try and slow things down so they could make sure I was ready but nature took it’s course and a lilac coloured Ada arrived after about 3 pushes.
I’m completely smitten of course and we think she’s completely gorgeous (but are aware of the fact that everyone else just thinks she looks like a squidgy baby) and all is going well. Naturally I had a couple of ropey days when the milk was coming in and I’m still quite tired but all in all I can’t complain. I have plenty of visitors and as I always say that’s one of my most favourite things about having a baby: it’s such a sociable time!
I want to take this opportunity to thank a few people. A big thanks to Himself of course who is just brilliant. I won’t go on. He knows 🙂 I would also like to thank my parents for being on call and ready to help whenever we needed (and for the imminent arrival of the breadmaking machine 🙂 ). A big thanks to Abigail and Jor for looking after the boys while I was at my yoga classes. Thanks also to Grats & EJ for the company, to Mammy MacCabe and Aged Uncle P for the babysitting, bolognese and lemon cake. Thanks for everyone who has called in before and since she arrived: I love company! Thanks to Irish Betty in Brooklyn for the truly gorgeous flowers and remembering that gerberas are my favourites!
I would also like to thank Anne L’Henoret, my yoga teacher, for her inspiring and relaxing classes in the last few weeks. I would recommend to any mum-to-be to try and get a space in Anne’s class. While they are yoga classes, there’s a lot more to them to inspire confidence in your changing body and to assure you that you can deal with the challenge and adventure ahead. Please contact Anne at 087 9545777 to check availability. My classes were in the lovely Seraph Studios but I know she runs classes elsewhere too. Thanks also to Tots2Teens for pointing me in Anne’s direction! By the way if you are attending in Holles St. the antenatal yoga classes there are also excellent but book up quickly too.
I would also like to thank all of you! My family and friends, online and off, who jollied me along in the weeks coming up to the birth when I sorely needed it. Thank you all very much for calls, texts, emails, IMs, comments, and tweets congratulating us on Ada’s arrival. I’m sorry if I didn’t manage to reply to you all individually but it meant so much to me and Himself too!
I know now you would expect me to thank the team in the Coombe and I do thank them for doing their job. I know that the patients they deal with do not always have as easy pregnancies and births as mine. However, as a general rule I did feel that all those that I met were just doing their job. I felt like I was no more than a patient number and a chart. I couldn’t fault their work but I felt that the care could have been a bit more woman focused and a lot less of “that’s just the way we do it in this hospital.” To be fair this may well have been because that’s all that was humanly possible for them given the resource issues in the healthcare system but I don’t know, I felt it was a cultural thing; that it was part of the culture of the hospital. Maybe I’m being too naive but conversely maybe they are too wary. There were, of course, one or two who went the extra mile for me (I’m thinking of the community midwife who finally bit the bullet and just brought me upstairs to see the delivery suite after months of my asking. The irony of it is of course I was there for all of 30 minutes, most of which was after I had delivered!) I don’t mean to be mean-spirited, I am trying to be constructive, but after the personable, friendly and knowledgeable treatment I received on the Domino Scheme in NMH Holles St. it was a bit of a disappointment. As an example, I was trying to find out would there be a shower available to me during labour and should I bring my own towels. All academic queries as it turned out but the midwife told me she didn’t know because she didn’t work on the labour ward. She works in the hospital but hadn’t informed herself or been informed about the system in the labour ward. The mind boggles. As I have mentioned previously I understand that a Domino scheme will soon be available in the Coombe (although from my conversations with the staff there are varying levels of certainty about that) and I really hope that this initiative will help them realise the benefits to both the hospital and its clients of a woman centred approach to antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care.