A week in reflection – Asthma, Aches and (dead) Animals

Last week was one of those roller coaster type of weeks… plenty of ups and a few downs, in a seven day stretch that felt more like ten.  On Monday myself and the children headed to Wicklow for the annual Summer week with Nanny and Grandad.  For the children, the excitement of spending a week with beloved Grandparents with the bonus of exploring their lovely old garden, meeting cousins and the joys of a few regular, local walks and activities.  For their mum, a chance to catch up with family for a few days before taking a rare couple of days away from the children to rekindle an old pursuit.

All went well on Monday, we arrived in time for lunch and as the Sun shone for the rest of the day we took to the garden and I got to spend the afternoon watching my children do what children do best….. play! Climbing trees, riding bikes, rolling down hills and swinging on the old fashioned rope swing.  A day full of fun and fresh air.

Three tired children tucked into bed that night and I was sure they would sleep soundly until the next morning.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  At three in the morning I had to lift my seven year old from his bed as his asthma kicked in and his breathing rate soared.  I had brought him to the doctor before we left to be sure that the heavy cold he had was nothing more.  Two days before I was told his lungs were completely clear, now the wheezing and the rapid breathing spoke a different tale.  I spent an hour trying to calm him, with one hand on the inhalers and the other on the car keys, ready to bolt for the hospital if required.  Eventually I felt he had improved enough to go back to bed and I lay watching him until morning arrived and I could bring him to the doctor. Asthma confirmed and a course of steroids and antibiotics prescribed. 




Did you know… Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world?

Tuesday was spent in a tired and worried state, watching my son wanting to run and play with his cousins one minute and then slumping on his mother’s lap the next.  My plans to finish my week’s blog quota went out the window and my proposed departure the next day did not look too likely either. The steroids made him hyper and agitated so another restless night for both of us.


Wednesday morning dawned a little brighter.  Cautiously I acknowledged that his breathing had improved.  He seemed a much more alert, happy kid.  My parents urged me to pack my bags and head off, they would look after him and his siblings for two nights and everyone would survive.  My son even told me he was well enough for me to go!  I was still unsure at lunchtime, until I saw his Nanny open a second tin of beans to stave off his renewed appetite.  Leaving my parents a two page list of medical advice and instructions I headed for Limerick to meet up with hubby and join the last day and a half of an Aikido Summer school.


It was with anticipation and fear that I undertook this course.  Although I have put in many hours of training in my day and I help my hubby run a kids Aikido club in our local village, it has officially been ten years since I last did any formal training!  Rather than choosing to dip my toe in to an evening class I somehow found myself signed up for eight hours of training!  Encouraged by a lovely group of people that welcomed me back on to the mat I muddled through and managed to complete most of the remaining course.  The sense of achievement was equally balanced with the sense of PAIN!


…”there are 642 muscles in the human body”…


…I think I ached in every one of them!  It was lovely to have crossed the line and be back training again and despite the pain there seemed to be a good level of muscle memory left after the ten year gap.  Now that I have done this I am determined to return to training on a more permanent basis.

Smiling through the pain with hubby (left) and Sensei John Rodgers -Shehan (centre), head of IAF


So Friday afternoon I managed to ease myself into the car and make the journey back to Wicklow and a heart warming welcome from our three lovely children.  Despite the reassurance from my parents and the regular phone calls it was lovely to see for my own eyes that my son was recovering very well.  The rest of the evening’s entertainment was unwittingly provided by my attempts to sit, stand and manage the stairs.  My very unsympathetic family were in stitches at my demise!


Saturday morning and our last day before returning West and I was determined (despite the aches) that we finally make a family trip to the National History Museum …. otherwise known as the Dead Zoo! The trip did not disappoint… Caer said it was the best Museum every and the children darted from one animal to the other with unwavering enthusiasm and delight.


Visiting "relatives" at the National History Museum!
Visiting “relatives” at the National History Museum!


This display shows the skeleton of a human, a chimpanzee (common), a baboon, an orangutan and a gorilla.  I asked the children which one they thought was most like the human’s and after a bit of consideration they all decided it was the chimpanzee.  They were spot on as the chimp is the most closely related species (genetically) to us!

Caer with her favourite animal
Caer with her favourite animal
Caer was delighted to find her favourite animal.. the tiger.  The tiger is the biggest of all the wild cats… very evident when you get to see them up close like this!
Speaking of tigers… the children were thrilled to see a lot of the insects they find around the garden in the insect section.  They were quick to spot the Tiger Moth, that we posted in a previous blog, and this time they got to see the beautiful orange back wings.
Culann with his hound
Culann with his hound

I couldn’t resist this one… with a name like Culann I had to take this photo when we came across the Irish Wolf Hound.  The Wolf Hound was bred to hunting wild boar, elk and wolves that would have been native to Ireland at the time.  They were also commonly used as guard dogs… as mentioned in the Cu Chulainn legend.

The Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle

Finally, a photo that leaves us all a bit red faced!  This is the last Golden Eagle in Ireland, it was presented to the Museum by Captain Boxer but the story goes that it was my children’s Great, Great, Great Uncle who shot it on Clare Island, Co. Mayo and then gave it to him.  At least we can take solace and encouragement in knowing that the project to re introduce these beautiful creatures back into Ireland is doing well.

So that was our week… fun filled, action packed and presenting us with some great memories to add to the wealth already generated this Summer.  Now safely back home in the West, my aches are subsiding and I can get back to my blogging. We will no doubt find some local exploits to fill our last and final week of Summer holidays… for when you keep your eyes open to it, there is always an adventure waiting around the next corner!

Father’s Day tribute – and the science behind the bond!

Father’s Day tribute – and the science behind the bond!

It is Father’s Day here in Ireland.  A day to reflect on our own bonds and experiences with that special man in your life that has known you since birth!  My own story is a wonderful one, my Dad and I are very close and my life memories are filled with lots of special moments with him.

My Dad meeting his 6th grandchild for the first time!

I have a lot to thank him for…

…the weekends he gave up to bring me to yet another horse riding competition or event (only really appreciated this one when I had kids of my own, up until that it never occurred to me that he would have anything else to do ;0)  )
…the lovely way he explained to me how special I still was to him when my little sister was born!
…the day he took off from work and brought me to Galway to see what a nice place it was… this was after I got my “Leaving Cert” results and realised my dreams of becoming a vet were gone… he knew me well enough to know not to try to talk me out of my “depression” but to open my eyes to other possibilities in a different way!  Considering I have now lived in Galway for most of the past 24 years, I think he can chalk that one up as a success!
…the way he stayed up all night reading my PhD thesis when I first showed it to him… and I mean ALL of it… he even had the typos and edits ready for me the next day!
…the way he treated every drawing, every card, every poem I gave him as a child as an amazing work of art… in fact it seems he still has them all!
…the way he is still the one I go to for advice!
…the way the sound of his voice will still make me cry if something has just upset me.
…the way I can see our bond live on with his relationship with my children!

So I thought today would be a good day to reflect on what a wonderful man he is… and to take a look at the science behind the bond between a father and his children.

A lot has changed in a father’s role since I was born.  My Dad was certainly not present at my birth, he was at work and came to see me once he got the call that his first daughter was born!  By the time my own children were born things were very different…my husband was not only present at their births but was actively involved in the whole process, he was my “hypnobirthing” partner and helped me stay relatively calm and focused throughout each birth!

My Dad was also not as “hands on” as most men are now… nappy changing, bottle preping and the like were not really part of his repertoire.  However there is no denying the strength of the bond he has with all three of his children.

The science behind the bonding process between mother and child is more commonly known and understood but there is a definite and undeniable bond formed between father and child also, and although less studied there  are many scientific explanations emerging.

It is now known that expectant fathers may also experience hormonal changes coming up to, during and after the birth of their child.  Studies have shown a drop in levels of testosterone and an increase in prolactin and cortisol levels in men during the weeks coming up to the birth.  These hormones are more commonly associated with expectant mothers.  Prolactin levels are also seen to be higher in fathers than in men with no children, and higher in fathers with young children than with older children.

Studies have also shown an increase in oxytocin levels in fathers after the birth of their child.  This is the hormone that is strongly associated with aiding strong bonding between mothers and their babies.  Fathers have shown an increase in active play and interaction with their infants after receiving oxytocin.

Research is still ongoing into the reasons for these hormonal changes and more importantly the role they play in forming and strengthening the male parental bond.  It is possible they play a role in calming fathers, in increasing their sensitivity to the smell and touch of their young children and in encouraging more play and interaction between father and child.  In other words they may help dampen down the aggressive side of the male and bring out his “inner child”!

Regardless of the science and the research behind it, there is sometimes no need to examine and explain the love, care and affection between a father and his children…

….so today I want to say a big HAPPY FATHER’S DAY  to my wonderful Dad and a big thanks for all the love, support and encouragement he has always given me!  I hope you like my unconventional gift Dad x