Movement and Learning

There have been some genius ideas posted lately for both children’s learning at home, as well as ideas for incorporating more physical activity into our day. By incorporating the two, we are encouraging and enforcing learning, and keeping healthy and active. How can we mesh learning and physical activity for children? Perhaps it happens more than we realise, in many natural, play based ways.

Read on for simple, natural ways to bring on and encourage movement in learning.

Take a break from Tables and Chairs

A chair and worktop that’s the proper fit for a child puts them in the optimal writing position. However, don’t be afraid to take writing or drawing to the floor or onto your feet. We utilise different muscles to write and draw when we sit on the floor, lie on our bellies, or stand at a table. Many children often find focus and concentration comes naturally when their body is flexing or moving in an active way while they work. Try it out! White boards, etch-a-sketch, or good old paper and pencil will do the trick.

Small pocket notebooks or diaries

Pocket notebooks are an excellent way of encouraging writing, drawing, and mark making.

An excellent way to bring writing and drawing wherever their little bodies bring them, this simple tool encourages children to document the things they see or thoughts that pass through their mind. If you have a quiet road to walk, children can draw or write of the plants or animals they find. Or a child might take a break to sit in a quiet corner to jot down a few ideas. Let your child take the lead. Their tool is small and mobile, let them take it where they please.

Many children treasure these notebooks and some may wish to keep them to themselves. Their writings or pictures may seem small or insignificant to adult eyes, but they are huge to your children! Exercising writing and drawing based on a child’s own interests is not only utilyzing that developing pencil / pincer grip, but it excourages creativity, exploring and thinking, develops interests and encourages reflection. Let children take ahold of this project and their learning.

Housework! 😮

Help your kiddos gain responsibility and pride in their work.

Helping out around the house naturally gets the body moving. Any adult knows this is all too true. Children are far more capable then we give them credit, and they find a lot of the cleaning tasks that adults view as mundane, as fun! Make it a game! Dump out the odd sock basket and see who pairs the most socks! Or teach skills like vacuuming, sweeping, or mopping. The cleaning materials in preschool are always a hot item as children sweep, mop, wipe and polish. Bring this ability into your home. Ask children to empty the dishwasher. Even young children can do this; give them the cutlery basket and watch them exercise their sorting skills as they place the cutlery in the correct places. On a nice day get outdoors and help vacuum or wash the car.

While children are home 24 hours a day during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no better time to work a bit of housework into their daily routine. If it’s kept fun and positive, hopefully we’ll start to see kiddos taking their jobs (big or small) on board, and taking pride in their work. Life skills!

Get those hands Moving, Manipulating, and Shaping their Gross and Fine Motor Skills

Playdough, clay, flour, sand, and water are all simple sensory tools you might find in your own home.

Clay, play dough, sand, water, or any sensory materials provide opportunities for movement, creativity, and learning skills for children.

Using our hands to mold and manipule clay for instance, is exercising our fine motor skills needed for a life of writing and creating. Soft play dough, sand and water is great for all ages, while harder materials and clay is a good challenge for school age kiddos.

Add tools to sensory activities like sand or water. Measuring jugs encourage movement, mathematical concepts, pouring and transferring. Push household items like bottle tops, string, or natural materials into clay.

Make it a game!

Math hunt, “collect 10 stones, READY, STEADY, GO!!!”

Games can be as simple or complex as we make them. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” gets children moving while enforcing parts of the body, and practicing coordination. It’s simple and fun and there are countless songs and dances that reinforce movement and concepts. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Create your own game of twister by taping colours to the floor. Watch as your children twist, move and stretch while enforcing their recognition of colours. Start with primary colours. Extend to secondary and tertiary colours as your child learns and grows.

Turn lessons into active games. Exploring the alphabet? Create alphabet baskets or mark squares on the floor with tape. Ask children to run and find items for the “a” basket… “On your marks, get set, GO!” Running, racing, laughter and learning are the name of the game here.

Mathematic possibilities are endless. Have the kids been sitting for a while? Announce a fun break, name it, make it your own! Ask children to run and collect a number of items. “Collect eight soft toys, on your marks, get set, GO!” or exercise memory AND movement, “collect 3 teddies, 2 books, and 4 shoes, READY, STEADY, GO!” As children learn to count they’re often very proud of this ability (and rightly so)! Whether it be counting to 5, 10 or 100, ask them to collect that quantity of something!!! Stones, lego, blocks, or their choice. Lay them out, visually group them in twos, fives, tens, or all in one row. Count them. Hop, jump or dance as you count. Movement enforces learning, so enjoy it!

Anything can become a game and as you can see, they can be varied in complexity to suit all ages.

Play, Play, and PLAY some MORE

Dress up play encourages imagination and self help skills!

Play is the name of the game! If you sit and watch children play you gain a real picture of movement, learning, and imagination!

Children learn and make sense of the world we live in through PLAY! Active play experiences that children know and love bring not only MOVEMENT but also reinforce learning naturally. Let children choose their own toys or experiences. We don’t have to play WITH children all the time, but sometimes children look to us for company and support in play. Ask them how you can join their play and take their lead.

Getting the “I’m boooorrred!”? Here’s a few ideas that may spark their interests.

  • Dress up: Children exercise their imagination in a Big way as they dress up and pretend play. AND dressing and self help skills help children gain independence. (Bonus 👍) Dress up clothes don’t need to be expensive Halloween masterpieces. Clothes in a child’s own wardrobe, or even something from Mom or Dad’s can be used for lots of fun and laughter. (an old purse, hat, tie or bag)
  • Make a fort: the kids made a Fort yesterday. I sat back and watched and was amazed by the amount of movement, problem solving, and coordination necessary to make their masterpiece. And I really enjoyed a cup of coffee, while it was still hot 😁.
  • Matchbox cars: make a track on the floor. Use tape, electrical tape is really handy. Children can have hours of fun running and racing cars around their tracks. Bring lego or blocks into the mix to create a village around their roads and tracks.
  • Animal and dinosaur figures: create a habitat for them and play! Add natural materials or bring them outdoors.
  • Dolls and stuffed toys: dress, change, bath, feed, and bring babies for walks.

Let children play and adapt their own experiences.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

Enjoy and be well! Our outdoor experiences may be limited due to social distancing and isolation, but children are resilient and we can learn a lot about moving, learning, and playing from our kiddos.

What movement, learning and play has worked for you at home?

"What 𝘪𝘴 History, Mom? "… COVID-19 and the Kitchen Table

My son learned about “the Big Wind of 1839” in school last year. And since that history lesson, he hasnt stopped speaking of it. When the weather is blustery, he shares stories of how windy “the Big Wind” really was. He watches houses being built around us and tells of how we learned to dig and build foundations for houses after peoples homes were swept into the sea. His eyes widen as he asks “How scary would THAT be mom? If houses just blew away!”

Early in Ireland’s introduction to the COVID-19 crisis, I made the mistake of listening to talk radio with the kids in the car. As I listened to stories of those falling ill in faraway countries (oblivious that my six year old was also listening) , a man stated that this will be HUGE! It will be something that our children’s children will ask their parents about in years to come. My little boy peeped up from the back seat with “Will it be bigger than the Big Wind?” And with that I turned off the radio. I haven’t heard him speak of the Big Wind since. I have three small kids so let’s face it, there’s plenty of wind in the house but no historic “Big Wind” talk since the radio incident in the car that day. Now he speaks of history. “Will my kids REALLY ask me about the coronavirus mom?? I’ll tell them how we had no school and couldn’t even visit Nanny and Granddad nextdoor.” And he repeats “Is it REALLY going to be history mom?”

We built our house a couple years ago. It’s a new house with all the newly built bits and bobs we put into it. In a very modern building era, I think our house is a little different. I feel it’s just us, a blend of the things we like and have put together and continue to adapt over time. Like all houses I suppose. In our kitchen sits a big old oak table and six oak chairs. It stands out amongst its new surroundings. It’s been the topic of conversation between myself and hubby, and many visitors in our house. I found it online, it was second hand, and the photos painted the picture of a brand new, gorgeous oak table. My husband and brother and law drove the hour and a half to collect it, and it took 4 people to lift it out of the house. The table lived in a beautiful holiday village beside the Atlantic and the house was rented weekly to surfers, families, and anyone looking for a getaway. When it arrived home it was NOTHING like the photos, but it was definitely a big, sturdy oak table that would stand the test of time. And the price was right. We had varying plans to bring it a new lease of life; varnish, chalk paint, glass top. And here we are almost two years later and it still sits in the same state we bought it in. As a matter of fact we did sand the table and apply a clear varnish before using it. The table stubbornly protested. It took ages to dry, remaining a tacky damp surface for almost ten days. Even when we asked the painter how this could be so, we were left none the wiser. And the varnish soon disappeared without a trace, and the table looks as raw as the day we bought it. And I’ve grown to love it, we all have. The table has history. And so why am I rambling on about dining tables you ask?

My son with his wide blue eyes asked “Well, what IS history?”

As I explained that every bit of the past IS history, my three kids laughed. We were sitting around the (let’s use the generous term “Rustic”) table, and I explained how this table is history. Imagine all the historic events this table has been around for. How many happy holiday makers, or vacationers, sat around it eating a quick breakfast before heading for the beach. That’s history. How many late nights were people crowded around it with glasses resting upon it? Music and song surrounding it. That’s history. There was no doubt highs and lows, happy times and sad times, good news and bad. That’s history for you. And now it sits in our kitchen and history continues, and I’ve promised not to attempt to erase any of it’s history again with my poor DIY skills. So much has happened within the last couple years, and I have many happy memories around our table already. There have been less sad times, and I know there will unfortunately be more of them in years to come. We hope and pray the happy memories and history will outshine the difficult ones.

Today my son and I sat at the table eating our breakfast, talking about what history will tell of the coronavirus. I highlighted how we can choose to shape history by the ways in which we act, and the things that we do (and do not do). He piped up “I know, I know, how we can’t go to school or see our friends, we wash our hands… ” While he sounded annoyed and full of attitude, he also sounded like someone who understands. The decisions we make today will affect tomorrow. And this especially rings true with COVID-19.

We are very fortunate here, I am under no illusion. We have the means to stay at home and away from others. There are homeless, impoverished, and oppressed people here and around the world whom will feel the greatest affects of this crisis. There is little which individuals in many circumstances will be able to do to protect themselves or others from this disease. And yet to those WITH the means, will we be able to get through this crisis with the most positive effects on the population? Will people follow guidelines, social distancing, hygeine, and isolation as directed? Will we consider those worst affected, both close to home and far away, those already ill, those with no medical access? Or will we forget and turn a blind eye? As working life has come to a halt, we have witnessed a huge worldwide decrease in pollution and emissions. Will we learn from this unexpected insight and work harder to reduce our carbon footprint in the future? Only time will tell. That will be history, OUR history.

And time passes; around kitchen tables, inside houses, outdoors, on the streets, in hospitals, on farms, in shops and businesses, in prisons, and in countries all around the world. And our children’s children’s children will ask, hopefully learn from our actions, and inevitably study our mistakes. But to my seven year old, history is no longer “the Big Wind,” it’s “All that stuff that happens and happened around the table.” I’ll take that, both as a metaphor and as truth.

I have to head off now, I have been called to the kitchen table. The kids pushed the very heavy table to the middle of the room, “Look mom, now it’s a classroom!” And there are lots of heated opinions being thrown around it of what’s about to happen: painting, coloring, monopoly junior. So that’s some more history for our kitchen table. I’m keeping it happy, positive and fun wherever and whenever I can because I have to… for three smallies who will remember these times forever. I’m learning its painting a happier history for me in turn. Be well my friends.

In One Week…

In parts of the world this has gone on for months. But in Ireland, COVID-19 really hit home about a week ago when schools closed and we began to take this disease very seriously. We are one week in. In just one week our life has changed dramatically. We’ve done our part to keep to ourselves. The kids are too young to understand the COVID-19 crisis, and yet they’ve been very understanding. 🤔 It’s early days of course, but I’m proud of these three little people.

One Week, the Highs and Lows

I’m terrified, the news is simply horrific, and I fear for the health of those I love near and far. I’ve kept smiling for these three little people. And they’ve given me plenty of reasons to smile. This week I have:

  • Danced the Macarena with the kiddos… its amazing how quickly it comes back to you.
  • Learned The Haka (Don’t even ask, sometimes you just have to close all the blinds and do it for your kids).
  • Walked, walked and walked some more.
  • Stopped 1,926 times on such walks as son collects “fossils.” Carried, lugged, stored and displayed said fossils in car, house, basically they’re everywhere I turn.
  • Attended college online from the couch. It’s pretty comfy.
  • Watched the Apollo 11 launch with my seven year old. Surprisingly moved by it, as was seven year old. I’d recommend, check it out on Netflix.
  • Visited the Melbourne Museum, Dublin Zoo, and Irish National Stud, all online with my kids from the kitchen island.
Rock collections are growing uncontrollably on window sills, in corners, and around potted plants. Help!

We’ve also had our Lows…

  • The children don’t understand, and my eldest has had a few moments of missing friends and school already. He’s been easily comforted…. For now. Check with us in a few weeks.
  • I’ve limited news and social media to the evenings, after the kiddos go to bed. The 9:00 news hits me like a ton of bricks every night. We’re all worried about those we love near and far, about the sick, about those who fall into the vulnerable categories.
  • On a lighter note one of my three year olds is increasingly refusing to wear pants, pleading for swimwear. 🙈 Leaving the house is an uphill battle. I never imagined a star chart for “wearing pants.”
  • My son needs a haircut badly. I clip my dog regularly, surely a child can’t be that difficult? (right now anyone who knows me is visualizing the many messy shears poor Max has endured).

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Be well my friends. Keep up social distancing, but please stay in touch. We don’t need to be physically together to interact. Tell us, what were your Highs and Lows this week? We’re all in this together. Stay safe, stay well, stay in touch.

It’s Not All Happy Smiles, Sometimes it’s a Disaster.

Today brought me back a few years to when our twins first arrived. The early days of trying to entertain a 4 year old while juggling two small babies; my eldest’s energy and longing for my attention. Some “adventures” ending badly. And there were feelings of isolation. My photos tell a different story, all smiles and adventure. That’s just human nature, we record those memories we enjoy the most. Not the tantrums, tears, or nappy explosions (those are diapers for any Americans reading 🤣).

We headed out for a walk. It had to be a new place, the kids are sick of our usual. It had to be quiet, we are keeping to ourselves and following COVID-19 guidelines. So for a change of scenery we headed to the bog for a walk.

For all my American friends, the bog is where turf is cut, dried and brought home to burn for fuel. Ask an Irish person about the bog and the stories start flowing: long summer days turning the turf, tea and sandwiches, and lots of memories. Most have stories of working and playing in the bog as a child. A love hate relationship perhaps. It takes many trips to the bog each year and lots of work to get it all home and stacked away in their shed. Everyone seems to hate working in the bog but yet love sharing nostalgic stories.

Our walk heads Downhill, and not Geographically

We were all prepared in warm clothes and even rain gear. My girls dressed in their brother’s old blue and green rain suits, the joys of being the second and third child. Three cars stop along the quiet bog road to comment on “the three boys.” My eldest loves this, lots of laughter.

I try to avoid the buggy these days (aka the stroller to my American friends). The girls can join us walking now and it’s great for tiring them out… and honestly very little tires our twins. We were two minutes into our walk when one of the girls started the “I’m tired, up, up Mommy!”

My son is suddenly disgusted that we are walking on the road. “you said we’d walk IN the bog! It’s just another road!!!” I point to the forest ahead in the distance. My arm aches as I realise I’ve just committed to walking miles with a three year old on my left hip. “oh great,” he says as he runs ahead, “but I’m walking IN the forest, not on this road!!!!” Suddenly this morning’s happy twin is terrified “Mom he’s going in the forest with the Gruffalo!” I explain there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo but now I sound like Julia Donaldson’s big bad mouse. She isn’t buying it and even points out “Owl ice cream” ahead (cat tails growing out of the swamp). We keep walking. I move heavy child to my right hip. Keep walking.

We stop about 10 times before we reach the forest. I’m now carrying one child, a sippy cup, two coats, three hats, and the sweat is pouring out of me. The car seems really far behind us, and I have heartburn.

We reach the forest and walk down the path. He’s disgusted we can’t walk IN the forest, but doesn’t even ask as it’s full of ditches, thorns, and dark shadows. But he’s disgusted. “Let’s just go home.”

Out of the corner of my eye I can see a figure wearing a high viz vest coming toward us. Perhaps at jogging pace. As I squint and stare, it speeds up. The (jogger?) is bent over at the waist, limping, and making a desperate wheezing noise. Perhaps I’ve bought into the kids fears, I don’t know. But before they could see what was coming I had all three whisked around and walking/running in the direction of the car. The sweat’s pouring off me, and I’m choking with heartburn. My son stops suddenly “I forgot to take a picture of the forest.” (he’s loving his kid’s camera these days). Of course the camera takes four attempts to power on, and despite my efforts to move us along RAPIDLY, we are standing in a little woodland path with a slightly scary stranger on our heals.

And here we go. The stranger is upon us. She stops at the head of the path, the kids turn, the twins scream, and as I stare I realise I could be utilising my first aid skills to resuscitate this hi-viz woman. She tries to talk, hardly able. Between wheezing and huffing and puffing she reveals herself as a woman suddenly out of work and spending her time learning to run. She holds her arm out as if to signal for us to stay away… as if there was a possibility of me moving toward her with the death grip x 3 of these little people clinging to me for dear life. Now she tries to crack a smile but is obviously still in pain as she’s bent over at the waist, a 90 degree angle. The three say nothing, eyes wide. Arms, hands and fingernails clinging. I fumble with my words, ask if she’s okay, and suddenly she’s limping away, still hunched over, chatting away to herself about how lovely it is I’m “getting those three boys out into nature.”

The kids are quiet and we stand and watch, hoping she’s okay. My son adds “it’s good she’s learning to run.” And from the crook of my arm, a little annoyed voice utters “and we are NOT boys.”

The walk back to the car has got to be about three miles longer then the walk to the forest. My seven year old told me so. I’m starting to believe him. My arm is numb and I am now forcing this stubborn three year old to walk to one esb pole before being carried to the next. I’m alternating this pattern of forced walking and carrying and listening to all three complain of tired legs, cold fingers, and now it’s started to rain.

We made it home alive, my arms have feeling again, and no injuries. We even saw the hi – viz woman walk safely into her house in the distance. Success for all! And when I asked what the children’s favourite part of the day was they told me without hesitation and with enthusiastic shouts “THE WALK!”

Kids!!!! Not everything goes to plan. In fact most things don’t. I think that’s the truth we don’t see in photos or social media. Oh and next time I’m bringing the buggy.

COVID-19 : Choosing Love and Learning over Crisis

As school closures are upon us, we as parents now struggle to provide our children’s care and education. We may not be qualified school teachers, but we all know how to love and play, and especially in the under fives, this means you parents are experts! Try to embrace this time. It’s hard; we are worried about loved ones, financial worries, and feelings of isolation. Lots of the HSE’S latest reports are about fake news. Try not to believe all you hear and search out health reports and real news for information. Also remember little ears are listening more than we know. More so, children feel tension and worry. Perhaps keeping the news or social media times for after their bedtimes or similar plans that work for your house. It’s all about keeping the whole house happy, inside and out.

As you know, we follow the Aistear Curriculum. We could spend all of the school closure time exploring this, but I won’t do that to you. I’ll sum it up: in the under fives it’s all about play based exploring and learning! It’s about keeping it FUN and finding ways (often very basic ways) to bring meaning and learning into play. Also called purposeful play, it’s how children make sense of the world we live in. It’s about finding ways to extend this learning and adding new learning and ideas to the mix.

For example, Sarah plays with her blocks repeatedly. Sit and play with her. Ask her questions. “What are you making? Wow its so tall, how tall is it? How many blocks are in your tower? Can I make a tower with you?” Extensions: provide more building materials (recycled boxes and plastic items), duplo, lego, natural items like rocks and sticks. Show pictures of buildings around the world (big and small). Ask child to build one of them. Sort the blocks by colour. Measure a tower with a measuring tape. See how BIG your tower can be. Ask the child to make a tower the same size of themselves.

An ordinary toy may seem basic or even boring to an adult, but the learning, creativity, imagination, and extensions possible are immense.

Follow the child’s interest and bring Learning into it. A child loves the play kitchen. Can we get outside into a sand box and play kitchen? Add bowls, plates, spoons, forks, measuring cups. Watch and join the child as they measure, pour, and manipulate. A water table can be used in a similar way in warmer weather, or even at Bath time. Back indoors, baking can bring important skills such as pouring and transfering, measuring, and fine motor skills.

Whenever possible, it really helps getting young children outdoors. So much learning happens in the muck, and kids will come clean with a little soap and water 😉. Even a rainy day can be lots of fun with rain gear and wellies. Let them jump in the puddles! Let children’s memories of the covid 19 crisis be the most amazing, family memories! Join them in the puddle (🤫 you might like it!)

I find a rough schedule helps all (and probably me more than my children to be honest). For example:

9-11: outside play, possible ideas: water painting (give a cup of water and a brush and children can see their brush marks transform into works of art on concrete or various surfaces), sand box, sand/mud kitchen, ball games, nature hunts or walks, build with rocks and natural materials, writing/drawing in sand (exercise that developing writers grip), find all the colours of the rainbow in the back garden, tag, jump, dance, cycle.

11:00 snack/lunch

11:30: painting, colouring, art. These don’t have to be masterpieces (though to your child they may be, which is awesome!). Save egg boxes, cereal boxes, cardboard and plastics. Different shapes, textures and sizes encourage thinking and fine motor skills when a paint brush and paint, scissors and glue is brought into the equation. Dress children in old clothes or use an apron. Relax and remember it can all be cleaned up following the activity, and get the children involved washing hands, brushes, and surfaces.

Start a junk box and add recycled materials that can be written on, painted, or used for building or play

Playdough is another brilliant activity. Don’t have any? Utilyze those all important fine motor skills of pouring, measuring, transferring, and manipulating to make SALT DOUGH. Explore colours by adding food dye.

Afternoon: Go for a walk. Chat on your walk about ANYTHING. Maria Montessori called the child’s mind the ‘Absorbent Mind,’ they have a brain like a sponge especially in language development. So immerse children in spoken language, listening, and participating in conversation. What plants, animals or more can you find on your walk? Run, race, explore. Once home again show children books or media about the plants or animals they found. Again chat and reflect.

QUIET time: this is really important. And it won’t be hard if you’ve had lots of fresh air! Read with your children, as much as possible. The learning and bonding in this simple activity is HUGE. Don’t be afraid to repeat books, in fact many studies show repetition in books is natural and aids learning. Alternatively, if your child takes the lead with a quiet play activity or book, perhaps it’s time for mom or dad to get comfy and read their own story. It’s modelling healthy behaviour and guess what, we will probably feel really good having our own quiet reading time. Nourish yourselves whenever possible!

Other nice projects during this long school break:

°Make a Fort! Let the child take the lead in building, creating and problem solving. Have lunch or snack in it.

°Get children involved in meal preparation. Help mix or stir. Peal an orange. Butter toast. Encourage and watch children beam as you all eat the food they helped to prepare.

°Plant seeds, use both quick growing seeds (cress or sunflowers ect) and longer growing seeds. Perhaps vegetables? Carrots or herbs? Veg the children can smell and taste! This is a great time of year to start these plants off in windows. Use recycled materials like yogurt cups as pots. Paint or decorate the pots. Water them daily and encourage caring for their plants.

°Get children involved in daily chores or tasks. Empty and sort the cutlery, pair socks, tidy, wash. Take pride in their work.

°Choose a movie and wrap up in cozy blankets. Don’t forget the popcorn!

°Stick to regular bedtime routines and times.

°Bring food outdoors, have picnics in the garden or other areas (away from crowds).

°Embrace holidays such as birthdays, St Patrick’s Day, Easter and more in your own ways! Hold your own parade. Decorate your house. Dance, sing, play party games. Recognising and celebrating important days is important. Not to mention it can provide a refreshing change and bit of excitement during this isolating period.

Showcasing children’s work cause bring them a sense of pride and accomplishment

Share what works for you with us please! We are all learning from each other and would love some inspiration. Let’s keep in touch!

Embrace this family time folks! Let’s keep it positive! Follow children’s interests. Let children realise their interests are huge, and exploring interests is very important! And that they should be proud of their explorations and learning. Let’s create lifelong skills, resilience, pride, work ethics, drive. We can do it, through the most simple, family based, warm and loving play experiences and days at home!

The Everyday

On a mundane, ordinary sorta Monday evening, we plopped on the couch after a very long day. We shared bits of our day, and had plenty of giving out about this or that. RTE played in the background, and before we knew it we were stuck into tonights documentary. A documentary on a very heavy topic: death. We joked to each other “finishing the day on a real positive note huh?”

But we couldn’t stop watching. A funeral director shared the ins and outs of his business. But moreso he shared the stories that had stuck with him over his 40 years in business. Stories of the people and the families. The last wishes. The goodbyes. A dying man invited the funeral director into his home, they seemed to be old friends, and he told the director he expected to pass in the next five days to two weeks. They spoke of funeral plans, and reminisced of the past. And then he said things that truly stuck with us. It stopped us in our tracks. It was what we needed to hear that night. The dying man, hardly able to sit up in his chair, spoke of wanting an everyday, mundane day. Just one more. Just an average, nothing special, kind of day. He would never have another one of those days. The days we find busy, boring, routine, tiring, mundane. And yes, this man’s dying wish was to have one more.

Last night two out of our three kiddos were up sick. All night, yes ALL night. In our high tech world I can now check to see if the horrible nights were as horrible as I thought. This morning my sleep app revealed it was worse than I even thought. (think its time I ditch the smart watch until the kids get a bit bigger. 🤣) Anyway just as my seemingly healthy, non flu ridden child woke around 7, the other poor things finally slipped into a deep sleep, wrecked after their horrible night. Which left me to get up with one little one, and wow she was full of energy and delighted to be an only child while the others slept. Being a twin these moments are few so we both embraced it.

I made a cup of very strong coffee and some breakfast for my little one, and we plopped ourselves onto the couch to watch some tunes and cuddle up. This morning I couldn’t stop thinking about that man. Of course soon I was back to laundry, and decided to put some sausages and rashers on for the sleeping beauties still asleep upstairs, hoping to cheer them up when the woke. Before I knew it I had the kitchen cleaned, as well as a few more cuddles with my happy toddler who was now beaming from all this one on one attention. I kept thinking to myself how there was a time not too long ago when I wouldn’t cope without an undisturbed 8 hours of sleep. And now this morning I was flying around fueled by coffee, toddler cuddles, and that man on telly last night. I was the person he wanted to be. I had a hard night but I’m healthy and able to deal with it. I have loved ones around me, near and far. Im learning to embrace the moments, the small ones, like a cuddle on the couch or trying to fuel unwell kiddos with a nice hot breakfast. As I washed the frying pan I looked up and out the window; nothing but fields, livestock, birds flying past, and on this particular morning the sun shining brightly. Wow, so much beauty all around me, so much to be thankful for, and yet i seldom take note of it.

Let’s take a step back. Let’s face it, life is full of stress each and every day. I am the first to get bogged down. I feel my energy being sucked out of me by challenges at work and home. The stresses of life are not going to magically disappear with this sudden epiphany of positivity and thankfulness. But something did hit home to me watching that poor dying man. It was to stop trying to create big experiences and fun and excitement in my life and to simply acknowledge and enjoy the little things that happen naturally each and every day. I’ll use the phrase of the decade: mindfulness. Concentrating on what really matters and those whom we love and care for.

It’s the little moments that happen everyday that I fear I’ll miss the most someday. Its so easy to fall back into the complaining rut, and so I’m leaving this here in hopes it will be a reminder to me to appreciate all these gifts that I all too often take for granted. For all my family and friends, near and far, you too are my gifts and I love you to pieces! Be well everyone! I hope you enjoy some special moments today.

An Introduction to Flying by the Seat of My Pants

“It is better to know how to learn than to know.”

-Dr. Seuss

My first job was behind the food counter at our local movie theater. I’m American, born and bred. The job was about as American as you could get, filled with popcorn and soda, candy, movies, a first kiss and late nights after work at one of the many pancake houses or diners. I’ve had many jobs since, but I often joke to my six year old son that the movie theater was about as good as it gets.

Back then anything was possible. Everything was ahead of me, the possibilities were endless. I was loved and cared for by my family, and my extended family. I was (and I am still) truly blessed by the people in my life. I followed the common American path to college, having absolutely not a clue in the world what I wanted to be or do with my career or life. And so I studied and graduated 4 years later with a Bachelors of Science in Social Sciences of which I have yet to utilyze in any way, shape or form. My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to school. I also spent years paying back student loans. I worked my tail off waitressing, bartending, in portrait photography, teaching horse riding, offices, hardwares, you name it, before happily settling into life as a Montessori teacher. But oh the movie theater. It brings back the nostalgia of youth. If you came to the refreshments counter back in 1996 and told me I would be living happily in Ireland in 2019 with my husband and 3 small children, singing the “hello everybody” song in Montessori each morning to 4 and 5 year old Irish children, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. I’m leaning toward disbelief. Yes, I think that’s about right. Not disappointment. Not jubilation either. I would probably peg you as one of the customers who leaves empty beer and liquor bottles in the theaters we cleaned every evening.

My path took many twists and turns, and as cliche as it may sound, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve always been extremely independent and adventurous. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve relished in the ups and learned the most from my (many) mistakes. I have a wonderful family, and have met amazing friends along the way. The twists and turns, family and friends; these are what have shaped me the most.

Where do we learn the most in life? Where are we shaped and formed into our current selves? For me it wasn’t a college or school. I’ve learned my lessons through the jobs, careers, friendships, relationships and children in my life. I’ve learned to learn, and not to pretend I always know. Problem solving and adaptability are the greatest tools. Life’s now full of sudden changes of plans and thinking on my toes, embracing the positives no matter how big or small, and laughing at myself… Often. Life’s about letting go, choosing battles, getting a bit of sleep and it’s fueled by strong coffee and sheer determination. I didn’t learn any of this in college (bar my love of strong coffee however in those days it was enjoyed after a late night out rather than late nights comforting or feeding little babies).

Sometimes I look back at the Movie Theater and laugh at the blissfully ignorant person who was 16 year old Me. I knew nothing of the real world and yet I didn’t pretend to. There’s something so refreshing about life before I was led to believe I knew all the answers. What followed next was the false grandure of adulthood that suddenly falls to pieces when you set eyes upon or hold that little baby bundle for the first time. There are many life events that burst people’s bubble, but for me when I first held my little boy in my arms I realised I didn’t really have a clue. I didn’t have all the answers, and I never would. I did know I would try my damnest to get us all by with lots of love, laughter, and all the ups and downs together.

Looking back there’s something liberating about this acceptance. I do not pretend I have all the answers. But I have learned how to learn, on both sides of the Atlantic. So yes, these days it’s less about knowing it all and more about winging it and flying by the Seat of My Pants!

Stay tuned for the next chapter as I explore daily lessons in the life of an American Expat mommy.