Yesterday for a little Monday treat I took the kids on a walk to see the sunset as it looked absolutely stunning.

View from Culmore Point

View from Culmore Point

Luca loves looking at the water and every morning on our school run I put down the car windows as we drive past it, watching out for boats, birds, seagulls and to see how much water and wildlife we can spot. I think he might be a future David Attenborough!

We got a really lovely surprise when as we were looking over the old dry stone wall,  one swan popped it’s long, graceful neck over to have a look at us!

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Followed by two more equally stunning swans.

Luca, Eve and I have been following the lives and progress of the swans ever since they were little baby cygnets. There used to be four but yesterday we only saw three. Wow they have grown a huge amount since the last time we saw them up close, which must have been last January/February.

Back then they were very small, following their mother closely, now they are big, magestic, magnificent birds resplendent in their beauty and oh so confident!

Three beautiful swans

Three beautiful swans

They weren’t very impressed that we hadn’t got any food to give them, judging by the sheer size of them and the fact they were not one bit afraid of us – in fact there were slightly intimidating in how overly friendly they were- they are obviously quite spoilt. How could they  not be, they are so beautiful.

Swans always remind me of the old Celtic legend of The Children of Lir, not least because the only daughter was called Fionnuala.

The whole setting yesterday would have been ideal as a film set!

On the rest of our walk back to the car we were joined by two very friendly cats, purring around our ankles and trying to make a break for the backseat of the car.

Looking at the view across Lough Foyle to the Lisahally docks is really nice – even the smoke coming out of the factory funnel adds to the ambience.

Lisahally Docks

Lisahally Docks

The view of the Foyle Bridge in the distance is beautiful against the stillness of the water, the clouds and the glorious array of colours coming from the setting sun in the sky.

Foyle bridge in the distance

Foyle bridge in the distance

I’m so grateful that we live in such an outstandingly beautiful area of natural beauty. I really don’t appreciate it enough.

 

 


To Cora,

Cora

Cora

Cora I can’t believe you turn 15 years old today,

You have grown to be truly beautiful more than words can convey.

I remember so clearly the day you were born, being totally amazed by how perfect you were,

From the tip of your toes, your perfect lips,to your fine blonde hair.

Cora 7 hours old

Cora 7 hours old

You were very loved right from the start, wherever you went you touched people’s hearts.

Old people, young people it didn’t matter, you would talk to anyone with your constant chatter.

Cora and her granny

Cora and her granny

Singing songs and performing ballet shows you were never shy,

Cora black swan

Cora black swan

Core en pointe

Core en pointe

Cora in Les Miserables

Cora in Les Miserables

Writing poems, stories and letters brought a tear to our eyes.

A real little bookworm you always loved school,

Cora at Primary school

Cora at Primary school

Wearing glasses you make them look cool!

Cora's new glasses

Cora’s new glasses

With lots of sympathy, big hugs and kind loving words,

You have the ability to cheer everyone up by  being funny and absurd.

Quietly confident you try to do what is right,

You rarely ever argue with your family or fight.

 

You’re really talented more than you know,

Your creativity shines out when you get into the flow.

You’ve always had your own unique sense of fashion,

Denim dubgarees

Denim dubgarees

Vintage dress

Vintage dress

More recently music and beauty have become your new passions.

Transforming us all with your makeup skills,

Face mask night

Face mask night

Cora's makeup

Cora’s makeup

Cora's makeup skills

Cora’s makeup skills

You help make others look stunning, even  when they feel ill.

Your beautiful long hair is your pride and joy,

Cora's hair

Cora’s hair

You love going into town to talk to your bffs and boys!

With the largest group of friends I’ve seen,

They’re all a really lovable bunch of teens.

Teen's trainers

Teen’s trainers

You’re wiser than your years which at times can be funny,

You’re really very good when it comes to money.

Your sister and brothers totally idolise you,

They copy and say the things that you do.

Cora, Eve and Max

Cora, Eve and Max

Cora and Eve

Cora and Eve

We love you very much, you’ve made us very proud,

I’d like to freeze you at this age – if only it was allowed.

Thank you Cora for being you,

Cora and I

Cora and I

img_6227

Cora

Cora

We all love you so much, we really do.

Family

Family

Us all except Max won't fit in

Us all except Max won’t fit in

Love from your family xoxo

 

 

 

 


Yesterday was one of those days, you know the kind I mean, when every single thing you do seems to go wrong.

Looking at my SnapChat story or other social media accounts you would never have guessed it was anything other than a perfect family day out to the park.

Max, Luca and me

Max, Luca and me

 

The reality couldn’t be further than what was portrayed in this small reprieve of fun in the midst of what I can only describe as a day where chaos and anarchy ran supreme.

The Morning Mishaps

It all began to go pear-shaped when I heard a vaguely familiar sound in the background and realised it was my alarm going off over and over!

We’d all slept in for the second time this week and it was only Tuesday!

Panic stations ensued with me barking orders at everyone.

I dislike mornings as it is – I’m more of a night owl – and being late doesn’t help my morning mood. So everyone was immediately on edge when they realised the situation.

Mayhem is the only way to describe most mornings here as I’m trying to get Eve out to school and literally juggle between getting the two boys’ lovely massive morning nappies changed and new outfits on.

Then there is the fun that is breakfast – aka a wrestling match – where I try to get bibs on two, strong, wriggly boys who certainly do not want bibs on. Breakfast is a whole story in itself…but you get the jist, we were late.

I dropped Eve off at the school gates, had to stop back home to change Luca’s nappy again. Then Max  began to cry. I fed him briefly then  we set off on the road for a second time, to a doctors appointment for Cora.

Finding a parking space was horrendous so feeling like an awful parent, Cora had to brave the appointment alone, at nearly 15 she is very capable, but I still felt terrible about it.

I drove around for 30 extra minutes until I found a space which as luck had it happened to be on the steepest hill around. Afraid of my car zooming off down the hill as soon as I stept out (my car doesn’t have a handbrake) I hurried to get the boys into the  double pram and raced to the doctor’s surgery.

Late again!

As Cora was already in we joined her and the lovely GP at the end of the appointment in a bit of a flap.

Luca chose this moment to go absolutely mental, screaming “I want out,” repeatedly at such a high frequency it didn’t sound human.

On and on he screamed. Oblivious to the fact I was trying to listen to the doctor. Cora needed bloods taken and her heart rate had to be monitored. Embarrassed at how boldly behaved Luca had been, Max then kicked up a fuss because he needed a nappy change.

Handing in our form at the treatment room reception with both boys still going crazy wasn’t pleasant  The sweat was dripping off me and I felt suffocatingly warm/angry/embarrassed.

Into the baby change room we went while Luca screamed on, getting louder and more frantic sounding by the minute.

Cora’s was called and I panicked because she is afraid of needles and needed her momma for support.

On she went – alone again and I felt bad again. I felt really stressed out and suddenly we are all in tears with me muttering to myself like a mad woman.

Just then a firm knock on the door is followed by a lovely nurse who pops her head around the door, asking if she can help.

More tears and tantrums from the boys follow as we gave Cora moral support, then it was back to wait for a chat with the GP.

The good old ‘santa is watching’ bribe is used to excess while we wait again, until a promise of going to the park happens, one which no amount of back tracking later is going to work.

Playtime In The Park

Off we set later and enjoy a really lovely time in the park, my two boys and me. I capture it on camera relieved the drama of the day is over.

Luca climbing the Park steps

Luca climbing the Park steps

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge

Max in his sling

Max in his sling

 

Max's first time on a swing

Max’s first time on a swing

Luca on the Merrygoround

Luca on the Merrygoround

Luca pushing Max on swiing

Luca pushing Max on swiing

 

     But then it’s not

School Run, Not So Fun

On the school run Luca turns into an escape artist and manages to release his buckle and in one fell swoop, dives out, unzipping his coat like superman on the way. Then off he runs, fast as lightning, laughing his manic, crazy, up-to-no-good laugh.

I was speechless and couldn’t believe it happened. The louder I shouted for him to stop, the faster he ran! He nearly escaped out the gates, only he was rescued by his crèche manager, our heroine!

Never have I felt like a worse parent than that moment. When he was caught Luca began squirming and wailing: “Let me down,” over and over. It was awful.

My lovely friend pushed Max’s pram back to the car for me, and came back to mine for a cuppa to calm me down.

img_6168

New Day

I’m hoping today will be a much more positive and relaxed day. It might be time to look into a set of toddler reins, something I thought I’d never have to resort to!

 

 

 

 

We LOVE Halloween

Halloween in our house is always a big occasion, especially as it is also my birthday!

Every year we go all out decorating the house both outside and in.  A few new decorations always seem to sneak their way into the Halloween box somehow…

I love that where I live nearly every house has kids and we all try to make Halloween special by decorating our homes to create a fun, atmosphere, it’s just lovely!

Crafts

I have a very crafty bunch of kids, they love creating pictures, the messier the better. Luca especially loves anything that he can get his hands into (and spreading it all over the house). When I get a few spare minutes alone with him I like to spend it doing activities. He chose to make a pumpkin and a footprint ghost.

Luca gluing his pumpkin collage

Luca gluing his pumpkin collage

Proud of his pumpkin masterpiece!

Proud of his pumpkin masterpiece!

Luca's foot in white paint

Luca’s foot in white paint

Happily splodging his paint onto the page

Happily splodging his paint onto the page

Luca's finished ghost

Luca’s finished ghost

Both activities involved a certain amount of mess – gloopy glue for one and paint in the other, every toddler’s dream and parent’s nightmare! He really enjoyed it so much  I couldn’t stay mad.

Costumes

This year we were more organised than ever before, deciding on a family dress up theme – Superheroes and Villains. We’ve never  done a theme before but thought it would be a fun challenge and get everyone involved.

Eve dressed up as villian Harley Quinn

Eve dressed up as this year’s most popular villain, Harley Quinn

Luca went as Batman but wouldn't wear the cape and refused to get his face painted

Luca went as Batman but wouldn’t wear the cape and refused to get his face painted

Luca's little sidekick Max as Robin

Luca’s little sidekick Max as Robin

Max went as a skeleton to his babygroup Halloween party

Max went as a skeleton to his baby-group Halloween party

Beautiful Super Cora

Beautiful Super Cora

Unfortunately I forgot to pose for take any photos of us adults! As we only got to wear our costumes for a few hours on the night so nobody really got to see them (usually we visit the grandparents), but on the bright side we can dust them off and use them again next year!

Our House of Horrors

It really was a house of horrors this year as there was so much sickness in the house just days before the big event!

On the very day that she got her school holidays, Eve became sick with a horrendous vomiting and diarrhoea bug! Poor Eve  was very ill throughout the night. Then the following evening Luca became ill too.

Just as we thought the worst was over, on Halloween night Eve was sick again! Then they all took colds with a horrible cough! Unbelievable! So we only got to go to a few of the Halloween celebrations in town. I had high hopes of doing lots more, oh well there is always next year.

We were all so exhausted from lack of sleep that I forgot to buy food for the trick or treaters! It was a mad rush on the day to find a shop that still had enough sweets.

I also forgot to do a few little extra things that I usually do on the day – like playing my scary Halloween soundtrack when trick or treaters come to the door or doing the party ideas I had planned (I bought lots of apples but didn’t get around to doing any actual dunking for them, doh!)

I even forgot all about  my own birthday cake, not that anyone was in the mood to eat it!

Decor Details

We always try to make our house look  as creepy as possible every year and a little different from the year before.

I mainly use whatever we already have to do the bulk of the decorating, but decided to add a little to our usual two boxes (I even forgot about some of the things that I bought, whoops!)

I always have to buy a few extra cobwebs each Halloween as the outdoor  webs tend to  get wet and weather-beaten by the end of the holiday.

B&M Bargains is my absolute favourite shop for all occasion decorations, everything is so reasonably priced and lovely – what more could you want! Their Halloween selection grows every year (a bit like mine!), I’d love to buy them all, but I have to reign myself in as Christmas is only around the corner…

Haunted Halloween House Tour

Outside

For the garden we used a life-size doll of Eve’s, dressing it up in one of her  old ghost costumes. We put some fake blood over her face and down the front of the dress. Positioning her smack bang in the centre of the garden for best dramatic effect, it looked very scary especially at nighttime.

Blood streaked creepy doll in the garden

Blood streaked creepy doll in the garden

Next we bombed the front porch in cobwebs, adding in a few spiders, creepy crawlies and bats. We hung zombies, ghosts and an old glow in the dark skeleton up too. We put in our special Halloween green light bulb and had green lights around the living room window too.

Freaky front door

Freaky front door

We always decorate the doorstep with a plastic pumpkin with LED candle lights, a broomstick, cauldron, little mice and black cat.

Front doorstep

Front doorstep

The down-lights at the top of the house also had green light bulbs to add a spooky green hue to the entire house.

Ghoulish green house

Ghoulish green house

Inside

Each year we hang cobwebs the entire length of the hallway and then I spend some time adding in lots of spiders, creepy crawlies, skeletons and bats to it as well.

Haunted hallway

Haunted hallway

I love the new little light up ghosts I bought this year hanging them along the staircase and at the bottom of the stairs we had a big creepy witch that screamed when you walked past.

Witch and ghosts

Witch and ghosts

hallway

hallway

The living room mantelpiece was adorned with a garland of black cheesecloth and purple lights and had one massive white cobweb running around the room with orange and black spiders in it.

mantelpiece

Light up garland on mantlepiece

bat

bat

 

The windowsill had green lights around the frame and a light up cobweb and spiders in the centre, all from B&M Bargains!

The kitchen had lots of plastic bats and glitter skeletons hanging off the cupboards and lights and a cauldron in the centre of the table.

The downstairs bathroom had cobweb  and dotted spiders around the window ledge too.

Taking the decorations all down again was another story entirely…

 

The very word breastfeeding stirs up a wide range of emotions in women from; frustration, contentment,  pain, joy, disappointment, a sense of achievement, guilt,pride anger, peacefulness. Some are passionate advocates while others feel that it is just not for them.

I have had both positive and negatives experiences of breastfeeding and have went through every possible spectrum of emotions regarding it…

Breastfeeding My First Baby

Baby Cora and I

Baby Cora and I

For me breastfeeding was the norm, as my own mum breastfed all nine of us children and we all saw her feeding. I genuinely just took for granted that all mothers fed their newborns this way. It was only after the birth of my eldest child Cora that I realised that here in Northern Ireland bottle feeding is the more popular choice.

I was surprised as the midwife smiled in surprise yet encouragingly at me when I said I wanted to breastfeed (especially as my new baby had just pooed all over her nice clean uniform!)

With Cora I managed to breastfeed for the first three weeks of her life. I remember it was my solace during a very tough period in my life – I would take my precious baby off to the calm of my bedroom and sit gazing at her as she fed (a mixture of shock, being in a love bubble with pain killers taking the edge off it all.)

My daddy bottle feeding Cora

My daddy bottle feeding Cora

I was proud that I did it and was a bit sad when I had to give her the first few bottles of formula, but I had the last few months of my A-level exams to complete and that meant going back to school full time, so I didn’t dwell on it too much. I was happy with what I had achieved and I was dying for a night out too! My lovely patient inspirational mum was always on hand to give me advice and support (and still is!)

My Second Attempt

Seven years later when my next baby came along I was adamant that I would breastfeed her for longer this time, as I had completed university and was not working, so I had more time to devote to her.

Eve one day old with a super strong suck

Eve one day old with a super strong suck

But after giving birth this baby proved to be a super sucker, latching onto anything she could get her lips around and sucking for dear life. A well meaning midwife suggested I give her a dummy to ‘stop her using me as a dummy’, which I did, not realising that this was the wrong advice when trying to establish breastfeeding as it causes nipple confusion and can lead to the baby missing out on a feed as they suck the dummy instead.

By the time I was discharged from hospital my nipples were in an awful state – I really didn’t have a clue how to help my baby latch properly, she seemed to be ravenously hungry so when she latched I didn’t correct her positioning no matter how much it hurt – it was hard enough to get her on in the first place and I was afraid if I took her off she would suck my nipple twice as hard.

Eve with a dummy

Eve with a dummy

I knew that breastfeeding would be painful for the first few days so I stuck it out for twelve of the longest most gruellingly painful days of my life. Due to the many bad latches my nipple suffered quite a bit of trauma, my breast was not getting emptied of the milk properly,  and my baby wasn’t getting enough food, which made us both very upset. I also had an over supply of milk which only added to an already bad situation.

On my final day breastfeeding little Eve I was in a lot of pain  and I had got to the point that I absolutely dreaded every feed. The slightest sound from little Eve and I was hiding in the bathroom from her, fearful of the dreaded call to feed her.

It was the first time I was properly alone in the house with Eve.  When she began to whimper  I busied myself getting ‘organised’ (stalling for time)  to feed her. I was in agony, my breasts were engorged with milk and my nipples were bruised and cracked – I didn’t want anyone to touch me and I couldn’t bear for anyone to watch. I had to work myself into the ‘right’ frame of mind to get her latched on as quickly as possible.

My Godmother came to visit and tried to help me but Eve and I were so worked up that I just couldn’t do it!

I was so angry with myself, feeling like a failure. Two and a half hours later I finally managed to get baby Eve latched on and fed.

Out of sheer desperation my partner phoned the midwives asking for an urgent appointment as the situation just couldn’t go on.

MASTITIS! 

Two midwives came and examined my breasts and delivered the devastating news I had a severe case of infected mastitis and advised that I stop breastfeeding as it was clearly causing everyone so much distress. They sent for strong antibiotics and gave my partner instructions on how to help me and how to make up the formula and bottles.

I was heartbroken that I hadn’t succeeded for as long as I wished and the first few bottle feeds were very emotional for me, lots of tears were shed.

However  the sense of relief that I felt knowing that I no longer had to endure the pain  is indescribable. I had put so much pressure on myself but I just wasn’t enjoying the experience like I longed to and everyone was suffering as a result.

It was the best decision for the family at the time. After a few weeks of grieving I realised I had to stop beating myself up about it and start enjoying my baby.

Success At Last, But It Wasn’t Smooth Sailing.

Five years later and little Luca came along in 2014. Undeterred by my previous traumatic experience I was more determined than ever to make breastfeeding work. Surrounded by strong female role models such as my mother, my big sister, my sister in laws  and a number of friends I was reassured and very willing to give it a real go.

This time I researched it as much as possible talking to other mums about their experiences.

Baby bLuca's first breastfeed

Baby Luca’s first breastfeed

I asked if I could stay on longer in hospital for a few days after I gave birth so I could get all the support I needed. I found this help invaluable. The midwives were more than willing to help with positioning and latching, helping until I was comfortable doing it myself. I was so nervous of developing mastitis that I wasn’t taking any chances!

The policy and education around breastfeeding had changed dramatically since my first experience with Cora and even Eve. Before being discharged I was given a leaflet with phone numbers of peer supporters who could give me phone support if I needed it or come to my home if I had difficulties. There was also lots of information on local breastfeeding support groups – which I attended and found very helpful, making some really nice friendships along the way.

There seemed to be so much more knowledge and awareness around breastfeeding and it seemed to have become increasingly more normalised.

I also joined a local Facebook breastfeeding support group (Breastfeeding in Northern Ireland), which is a priceless tool in helping with all manner of feeding problems and solutions 24/7. The shared knowledge and support is amazing, women encouraging, supporting and championing one another. The sense of community and sisterhood is very inspiring.

Engorgement & Over Supply Issues 

Although the support was much better I still did have sore and cracked nipples when I left hospital, but I felt like I was in a much better position to deal with it all.

After the first ten days when I was settled back at home my breasts were still rock hard, painful and engorged with milk.  I felt very low at this point as I was still in such discomfort and my partner’s paternity leave was up so he wouldn’t be around to help me.  I knew I had to do something as I was on the verge of giving up, yet I longed to continue.

I got in touch with a school friend and now mum of four, who was a real breastfeeding advocate having breastfed  all four of her children(and is still feeding two of them), overcoming her own struggles, beating all odds even breastfeeding her daughter born without a nose!  She went above and beyond to help me sort it all out. She urged me not be afraid of my breasts and tips on how to spot the early warning signs of mastitis with simple, easy steps on how to avoid it . She gave me the breastfeeding Bible, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and a sling which was brilliant. Most of all she instilled a confidence and sense of calm within me that I didn’t have before. (Read her story here  https://bornextraordinary.wordpress.com/)

One of my lovely sisters came to my house and stayed with me for that first week without my partner. Even sleeping beside me she was by my side each time I fed Luca, gently encouraging me.

My lovely sister Medbh and Luca

My lovely sister Medbh and Luca

The engorgement wasn’t easing so I made an appointment to see a Lactation Consultant at the hospital. She finally came up with a solution,  nipple shields, block feeding and introducing the dummy.  I had over supply issues which meant that I was producing much more milk than the baby needed, so my breasts were not getting the chance to drain properly and the baby was getting too much milk, which was making him unsettled too.

medela nipple shield

medela nipple shield

The nipple shield slowed the flow of milk, which meant my breasts were no longer being over stimulated to make more. Nearly immediately all the pain I had been feeling stopped, the nipple shields were a saviour to our breastfeeding journey. My milk began to regulate too and soon my breasts got the message, only producing enough milk for my baby as opposed to a set of triplets!

Love Bubble

FINALLY  I was able to have the beautiful breastfeeding experience that I had for so longed for. Each feed was magic and little Luca was a real boob monster! He loved his milk and I was addicted to having him so close to me,  I loved the feeling of having him so close and he was so content. I finally felt like I was getting it right and I was proud that I had kept it up after all the pain and the disappointment (in myself) at not being able to enjoy feeding Eve.

Ditching The Nipple Shields

After using the shields for four months I was able to wean Luca – and myself off them – I was terrified that I would be in lots of pain again, but after two weeks I was able to go it alone, which I was really proud of. Making it to my six month goal, which at times had seemed so far off. Neither of us were ready to stop anytime soon, we were in our stride, feeling confident I wasn’t afraid to nurse him in public if he needed fed.

My first time breastfeeding Luca in public

My first time breastfeeding Luca in public

Cows Milk Protein Allergy and Going Dairy Free

 Luca was diagnosed with a cows milk protein allergy CMPA at nine months of age. He was still breastfeeding so I had to cut all dairy out of my diet as well, which was very tough at the beginning, but worth it when I saw the vast improvement that it made to Luca’s skin and breathing. Breastfeeding was his big comfort and I couldn’t get him to drink from a bottle anyway, so we stuck it out. I will write more about this in another post.

One Journey Ends And Another Begins

Shortly after Luca turned one I discovered I was pregnant again! I was happy to keep nursing him – I decided I would follow his lead – preparing myself for tandem feeding as he was a relentless feeder.

That was until one day when I was six months pregnant, Luca told me my milk was ‘yuck’ and refused to take any more milk, never feeding again. I spent the next few days trying to make sure it was what he wanted – following him around wagging my boob at him – but he was adamant. I was sad, but again relieved as it was his choice and by that stage I was getting nursing aversion – so we were both ready for our journey to end.

Starting All Over Again

When I had Max just three months after breastfeeding Luca I thought I would be a pro – having fed Luca for 16 months. But it turned out that I again felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I felt like I was back to square one.  I had the same sensitive nipples, cracked and bruised for the first two weeks as all the other times. I had to relearn how to position Max, as each new baby is different.

Baby Max's first breastfeed

Baby Max’s first breastfeed

This time I called on the help of a breastfeeding counsellor when I was discharged from hospital. She was brilliant and spotted where I was going wrong immediately and helped with better positioning. I had to end up using nipple shields again for the first sixteen weeks to ease the over supply issues I had before.

Seven months on and Max and I are still breastfeeding strong. At the six month mark we had issues with fussiness and my supply took a big dip, coupled with beginning to wean on to solids and the return of my period,  it was a very scary time for me.   Thankfully we have sorted it out now and our journey still continues.

I plan on following his lead and keep going for as long as it suits us both. With Max I feel much more relaxed about it all and I think this has shown with how much more smoothly it has went for us this time.

If only I had had access to the information and support back with Eve as I do now I feel that we could have succeeded, but it was that ‘failure’ that made me so determined to stick it out with my boys.

To All New Mums…

For all the new mums out there starting out on their own breastfeeding journey or considering it, know that the first few weeks can be very difficult – for some lucky mamas its easy – but those are few and far between. For most new mums it is hard at the start, but with the right support and educating yourself, those early day niggles are long forgotten (just like the pain of childbirth) and when it works it is the most lovely feeling.

For those that it doesn’t work out for, for whatever reasons, please don’t beat yourselves up over it. You tried, you did you best for your baby by giving it a go, be happy that you tried. It can work another time. Educating yourself and finding good support is key. Be kind to yourself and hold your baby close.

Fionnuala xx