Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.


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Identity and At-Home Motherhood

As an at-home parent I have experienced an incredible process in terms of identity that no other life experience could offer.

Being at home can leave you feeling identityless in the beginning and that can tear your confidence apart. You begin to doubt your opinions or just give them up altogether because you don’t have the space left in your brain. Or you find yourself repeating the same story to the same people because you thought you told that story to someone else the other day.

The fruits of your labour are so abstract that you can’t even measure the results of your parenting choices.

Many times I have had people switch off to me when they ask me what I do and I tell them I am at home with my children. In the early days this was upsetting but no longer do I feel upset by it because I have firmly allowed myself to form an identity as a sahm. Anyway,  it says more about a person who validates people only on circumstances that they deem worthy.

Consciously choosing this route despite society telling you how unimportant you are, when ‘science’ and politicians say your children are better off away from you and to continue on this path despite all the hostility is powerful and damn fucking feminist.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer a V sign to all the opinions and ‘studies’ that do not see my children as individual people but as something herd-like to be ‘studied’.

I choose to relinquish my identity as an earner and vulnerably place my trust in my husband. That is empowering- to relinquish financial identity.

I choose to exchange my identity as a passionate current affairs debater to one that offers recommendations of tried and tested laundry detergent. I relinquish the identity of importance.

According to what I read in Irish newspapers and through political statements, there is no job more invalid than that of a sahp, so yes, I now relinquish validity.

It was only a farce anyway- society has a tragic blind-spot when it defines a person’s validity as it still lives in a system of hierarchy.

As I have said, I have found myself processing a life experience like no other. Becoming faceless, invalid, unimportant, unfeminist, lazy, incompetent-

identityless.

And it

feels

wonderful

There is nothing more empowering than having yourself and society strip you bare, beat your brow, invalidate you, make you disappear, ignore you, make war on you. It is this that has left me free to define myself.

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photo credit: shenamt Trollstigen via photopin (license)

As Mother.

The most powerful being on Earth.

And you can throw all your studies at me and judge my choice. I can beat myself. I can doubt myself. I can fail and try harder. I can be a great incredible mother and I can be a shit exhausted mother.

But I am MY mother and she raised me, a woman who does not fear her facelessness but evokes it and remains a blank space for my children to mould.

For they are the true teachers.

And just as they mould me, they will mould their society.

They will teach respect for all kinds of people because they were raised by a women whom society laid no respect upon.

They will honour effort over result because their mother will have walked through hell to be the best person she can be for them, and she will still be a flawed human being.

They will teach their society to move beyond the scope of their identity. To push themselves to the point of facelessness. For it is here that they will find their true selves and when we find that authenticity we no longer have to pin ourselves against our peers.

In that state maybe society can appreciate everyone’s uniqueness. Imagine that kind of world?

 

 


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On being slow

When I was a child

I was slow.

Slow to process

slow to learn

slow to grow.

 

In those days there was

no such thing

as a person who learned

outside of the ring.

They yelled and they screamed

I could not do

anything.

 

So I became fast.

 

I acted instead of thought,

so fast.

I escaped instead of felt,

too fast.

I stopped thinking.

I stopped feeling.

I stopped being.

I stopped breathing,

at last;

they stopped shouting.

 

In the quiet of the night,

when no one was around.

I stopped stopping.

Dwelling inside

the rhythmic nothingness

of sound.

 

And I was slow.

 

I was me.

 

I comprehend slow, but deep.

I act slow, but wisely.

I am so slow,

I can hear your heart break.

And as a witness, you are held in my slowness.

 

I see you

I see everything

I process the elephant in the room

I store a few ounces of your anger, fear or pain

I am slow enough to see your light bloom,

or fade.

 

And although I am slow in living this life,

in learning or counting or holding

a knife,

I see all that is magic and all that is there.

I see you, Great Spirit,

I feel your soft hair.

 

Caressing.


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Every depression is valid

Sometimes it’s acute.

Sometimes it’s chronic.

Sometimes it’s severe.

Sometimes it’s mild.

Sometimes it’s just depression.

Sometimes it’s depression and anxiety and paranoia and ocd

maybe mania alternating with severe lethargy,

or suicidal ideation

or suicidal

and millions of other symptoms that there are no words for,

that have to be labelled as a condition beyond depression.

Sometimes it’s just depression.

Sometimes you can get out of bed, strap a smile on your face and nobody,

NOBODY, can guess what you are hiding.

Sometimes you just can’t hide it.

Or get out of bed.

Sometimes you’re nuts.

Sometimes you’re sane.

Sometimes you can’t control yourself.

Sometimes you can’t stop controlling yourself.

Sometimes you have it once.

Other times it doesn’t go away and is a chronic illness, you need to manage.

Depression is a wide, infinite, spectrum.

Every single experience is unique.

It’s genes, it’s receptors, it’s environment, it’s lifestyle, it’s trauma, or, it just is what it is.

No matter how severe, or mild it is,

whether you use prescriptions or exercise or counselling,

or everything.

Or nothing.

EVERY depression is valid.

 

 

My Random Musings


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Childhood memories and Aunty Anna’s buns- gluten & dairy free

I christened today ‘Misery’.

We had one of many tantrums before we even left the bed this morning. 

Then the rain never stopped and I discovered that my wet gear no longer fits over my bump.

Then in between tantrums the Elf grettled and growled- Klingon was the only language spoken today.

Despite all this I decided I was going to be positive and kill Misery with kindness.

Then I broke my favourite china plate.

Then Elf fell.

Then my neighbour decided to tell me all about the rugby even though I told her I don’t watch sports and couldn’t give a fiddlers fart if Ireland were playing.

Then I got locked out of the house.

Misery won.

***************

Before Misery won, I set up the kitchen like a cafe and played ‘I can cook’ (Elf’s favourite tv show).

I emptied the shelves and found the makings of some buns and even a bit of topping.

I was reminded of our Great-aunt Anna’s baking. Every Sunday we would go to Nana’s for tea and Aunty Anna would fill the table with freshly baked apple tarts, jam and coconut buns, chocolate buns and real top quality ham for the sambos. I used to set the table, carefully choosing the china and designing where they would go. Anna taught me where everything goes. Mam tells us about how growing up only the men were allowed the meat and the women got the cheese because ‘Men need their meat’. Aunty Anna started bringing the ham to tea so that we could all have some. That was her solution. That was the kind of person she was.

Aunty Anna is so fondly remembered in our family. She never married nor had children. She baked for Heuston station until her retirement. She was very intuitive and was known to arrive at our door unannounced only to give my Mam a few bob (on the very day my Mam had prayed for help). Anna’s house smelt like baked goods- all the time. My Mam nursed Anna as she was dying. She slept in our living room until she passed on. It hit us all hard, especially Mam as they had a very special bond.

I’ve never been able to recreate her baked goods. I don’t know if that is because of ingredients or just her years and years of getting to know a recipe without having to measure up. I decided to make an alternative out of whatever I found in the press to keep Elf occupied and to provide myself with a little bit of comfort on this miserable day.

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                                      Aunt Anna’s jam & coconut bun (credit: @myinternalworld)

 

Of course, these will taste a million times nicer if you can eat regular flour and butter but as I avoid wheat and Robotman avoids dairy I had to adapt. Also, these were just remnants of what I had up in the press- seen as I couldn’t go out. Normally, I would halve the sugar and add stevia. I would use all coconut oil or just pure butter if Robotman wasn’t getting a look in.

  • 150g Doves Farm white self-raising flour blend
  • 1 tsp GF raising agent
  • 150g butter (I used the last 50g of coconut oil and the rest was DF margarine I found in back of the fridge)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g caster sugar (I had 25g caster sugar, 25g granulated sugar and 100g soft brown sugar)
  • 5 tbsp rice milk (or normal milk)
  • Paper cases
  • Jam, desiccated coconut, chocolate for the topping
  1. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I use the blender as the coconut oil is very hard to beat (or else I melt it first) 
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sieve in flour and mix thoroughly. Lash in the milk.
  3. Half fill paper cases.
  4. Put in pre-heated oven (180’c for a fan oven) for 15 minutes.

I would prefer these with less oil and would definitely avoid using the margarine next time. I literally only keep it in the fridge for emergencies. I would also prefer less sugar and I must say they were gorgeous with the soft brown sugar.

The toppings give them the nostalgic flavour.

I still haven’t worked out what Anna did with the jam but I just can’t repeat it. Her jam was always thin, sweet and seed free. Maybe it was catering jam from her job, I don’t know. I just boiled 1tbsp of strawberry jam with a little water and some icing sugar. This definitely thinned it out and gave it that cake sweetness. I then just topped it with the desiccated coconut.

I had to melt the chocolate for the Elf. She only likes chocolate ‘sweets’. She doesn’t even eat the bun- she just licks the chocolate off. Now come at her with a pack of cheese and onion crisps and she’ll lick the foil clean. 

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You’re supposed to leave the chocolate to cool. Ours didn’t last that long.  Can you spot Elf’s finger? (Credit: @myinternalworld)

 

 

 


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Connecting with my Dublin roots

I recently visited an exhibition in Dublin’s North inner city called Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout 1913.

I had been sent to write a feature for thejournalist.ie and I was really looking forward to it, as a bit of a history buff. I have always had a weird fascination with glum history.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hopped on to the luas. I got off at the Jervis stop about six minutes before ten in the morning so I hailed a taxi to take me to Henrietta Street to ensure I wasn’t late.

I was really glad I did this. Usually, when I am walking through this unfamiliar part of town I am too busy figuring out where I am going to take notice of anything.

The short taxi ride gave me the opportunity to really see this side of the North inner city.

Stepping out of the taxi, I couldn’t believe how beautiful Henrietta street was. I have a big thing for Georgian architecture. Sure, I got married in a magnificently renovated Georgian house which I chose specifically for it’s architecture and decor. So, you can imagine my nerdy swoon as I stepped out of the taxi.

Henrietta street is the original Georgian street in Dublin and although it was left neglected for a long time it has been so well preserved by Dublin City Council over the last few years. It’s spotless clean and the cobble street carries the townhouses up to Kings Inn law library which caps the top of the street in grande palatial style. It is one of the wider Georgian streets in the city so you have a better opportunity to appreciate it and just for a moment step back in time.

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(Credit: Irish Heritage Trust)

I went in to no14 which has been leased until the end of August to showcase the exhibition on Dublin tenement life. The interactive drama brings you through tenement living, focusing specifically on life during the 1913 lockout.

The actors were just brilliant- really raw and authentic although I was suffering from a bit of stage fright myself during the interactive parts. I like to be a wall flower, you see; taking in everything from behind the scenes.

(Credit: Dublin Tenement Experience)

(Credit: Dublin Tenement Experience)

When you look around the rooms you can see remnants of old painted walls and ceilings. There are countless holes in the walls. They look like bullet holes but are actually just holes from families nailing typical sacred heart pictures and the like. This touched me more than anything-  the memory and the story behind each and every hole in the wall- I wanted to touch them and be zapped back in time.

The story dramatised during the exhibition is a personal one, rather than a factual historical approach which, I guess, is why I left feeling so raw.

The starvation and the striving to maintain some dignity during the descent into pauperism is overwhelming.

These are my ancestors I realised.

For the first time, I have felt confronted with my heritage.

Although I am not really very ‘tribal’ in nature, I always had a basic ‘I’m Irish’ approach to heritage. I have never actually said or thought I’m a Dubliner.

The reality is, based on the 1911 census and through oral tradition, I am very very Dublin (at least 3/4’s)- with only a small portion of recent ancestors coming to Dublin from Meath (who were of French descent, apparently) along with a vague connection to Clare.

Only two generations ago and beyond, most of my ancestors lived in or came from tenement Dublin.

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(Credit: Irish Heritage Trust)

As I sat on the Luas heading toward my family home in the suburbs, I thought and felt the journey my people before me have taken, leaving a hard rock in my stomach.

Not because of their hardship.

Because I have never acknowledged them.

As mentioned in my article, free education, suburban living and our contemporary cosmopolitan culture has completely changed so many people. Also, I’m an eighties child so I have never really experienced hardship. Even during that recession I was too young to notice my parents stressing over their next mortgage payment and I have never felt hunger.

So, despite my perspective, I can still see that old Dublin culture is being left behind. This culture that is completely foreign to me, yet one that- through this exhibition- I have come to recognise as a significant part of my heritage.

I have wondered since about how much further away from it my own children will be, especially now that we have left Dublin.

Looking around the Wicklow commuter town where I now live, I find it interesting to meet so many Dublin people (and beyond) from all walks of life blending so well with each other- creating a new culture. It feels so enlivening to be part of such a diverse town and watching my local society change and diversify.

Still, I think it’s good to remember where your ancestors brought you. Until the 1913 lockout, most tenement dwellers were actually living a better life. Moving into these buildings was an improvement in living standards for many.

Sometimes I think the Celtic Tiger brought us a new, uninvited culture- a kind of commercial greed and a sense of social climbing that rejected its roots.

Maybe that’s why we collapsed.

If there is one good thing that has come out of this current recession, it is that we as a whole have been brought back down to earth- exactly where that typical Dublin culture has always been.

Well, some of us anyway. Or, being positive- most of us.

I would highly recommend you make the effort to visit this exhibition- it’s so contemporary, raw and hits you harder than any HBO series will at home.

If you would like to see the exhibition you can book online here. It only costs €5.
It opens 6 days a week (closed Wednesdays) and is open until the end of August.

NB: This exhibition is not suitable for children under 12.