It has been said that there is no rest for the wicked… I must be pretty high up on the evil meter. The one sure thing about being a single parent is if you are down for long, the natives get restless. Children have built in radar, capable of detecting the tiniest increments of movement on the wellness scale. Fever, vomiting, throwing up? They’ll leave you be and take the help of those you have organised to care for them. The very minute there is a fraction of improvement; you’re expected to be back in the game. It’s no wonder I kind of liked being in the hospital!

With my kitchen shelves looking like the baby food isle in Tesco, I am on a dedicated routine of mush in the morning, mush in the evening and a little solid in between. This is where having an addictive personality really comes in handy. You give me a regime to follow and I’ll follow it to a T. I amaze myself at how quickly I can manifest my physical conditions, but I also take great pride at the speed in which I can remove these maladies. It’s almost like I do it on purpose… (I’ve rid myself of cancerous tumours in less than 1 month, TWICE!) We’ve all heard of damage control. Well, I like to refer to it as drama control. Keep the drama surrounding a diagnosis at a low, and the cure is much easier to facilitate.

So the extra 18 pounds that crept on over the summer is gradually starting to come off. How could it not? I’m eating what looks like pre-digested cat food dinners from a tiny plastic cup. I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve reached that age where a small bit of extra weight can be an ally. My skin is 40-something now, and that elusive target weight that used to plague me now isn’t quite as desirable. Five or ten pounds makes the difference between looking good and looking haggard. But as I discovered this week, sometimes playing the ‘old’ card is just as effective as the adorable youngster card.

My friend Aishling is not only my dear friend, but she is my children’s dance teacher, and mother of Lorcan, one of my daughter Jemma’s BFF’s for like, forever. For as long as Jemma and Lorc have known one another, they have shared a passion for writing lyrics and rapping. I must say, they have come up with some pretty clever material over the years; lines that make you realise that they actually have been paying attention to the world around them. They got the surprise of a lifetime when Aishling and I gave them their birthday presents this past year. Three tickets to see Jay-Z and Kanye West in the O2 in Dublin. The third ticket went to Lorcan’s older sister Robyne, because Aishling and I decided it would be the proverbial icing on the birthday cake if they could go without their lame mommies hanging out of them. Robyne was 20, has awesome spiky red hair, is a savage dancer and a 10 out of 10 on the cool scale. Can you just imagine the memories that were made that night? They will never forget their first concert.

When the auditions for the Athlone Star Factor were announced, Lorcan and Jemma couldn’t wait to sign up. They decided they would do a song that showed off both their singing and rapping skills. Lorcan spent last Friday night at our house so he and Jemma could practice and perfect their performance. My 8 year old, Jada, did a superb job of playing the role of the annoying little sister, heckling them and doing everything she could think of to distract them from their task. It’s an important job, one that builds character (says she who was the exasperating little sister, many moons ago).

Aishling even called off dance rehearsals on Saturday so that we could support the kids and take any added pressure off before the auditions. Those who made it through this round would go on to the semi-finals and ultimately the All-Ireland Star Factor. The children reminded us every five minutes that the prize was eight grand. I think they just loved saying grand, neither of them really having any concept of how much that is or what that actually means. Eight grand? Gees, maybe I should enter… Be careful what you wish for.

That morning, the glaring confidence and awesomeness that had been oozing from the kids less than twelve hours before, was suddenly replaced with trepidation and excuses. That’s not like either one of them, really. Ahh…the Universe must be setting a plan in motion. They both felt sick to their stomachs and had that deer in headlights look going on. About an hour before the auditions, Aishling and I decided we would take the opportunity to teach the kids a lesson in facing your fears. We told them if they would go on, we would audition as well, with no preparation. They agreed, and what unfolded over the next half an hour was comical.

Aishling had a baby dance class to teach of 4-6 year olds, right up to five minutes before the audition. She told the tots that they would be learning a new dance. So there are Aishling and I on the front row, with our pint-sized back up dancers, throwing together some moves as we belted out “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. We both nearly died laughing when we suddenly realised that after years of hearing it in discos, and dancing to it at weddings, that when it got to the part that says “when they play the right music, getting in the swing”, we must have been mouthing the words, taking a sip of our drink or laughing to divert from the fact that WE DIDN’T KNOW THE WORDS! “When they play the right music, nah-nah –nah nah nah, something something KING.”

Time was ticking and we had now promised the children we would enter. The girl who was signing up the acts and taking the registration fees smiled the smile that all grown-ups do when looking at two cute little kids; Jemma in her sparkly skirt and sequined high tops, and Loracn with his gangsta hoodie and cap on backwards. She thanked us and looked down at her papers until I caught her attention with an “Ahem”.


“We have one more act to register.”

Jada was next to me as the lady exclaimed,

“Oh, I’m sorry darling, I didn’t know you were auditioning, too.”

Jada quickly replied, “I’m not! THEY are, pointing to me and to Aishling.

“Riiiigght” She said, with a tone that I’m still not sure was one of horror or pitty.

“And what do you call yourselves?”

Before I even had a chance to register the question in my brain, Aishling blurted out, “Mommy Madness! We’re Mommy Madness!”

The children were called first, and when they came out the door, faces were down and Jemma looked as if she was on the verge of tears.

“We did terrible, Mommy. He said we should have had a backing track.”

Well never let it be said that I’m not one for jumping straight back on the horse if it throws you off. Aishling went one way and I went the other. She marched straight down to her studio and grabbed her computer and speakers and I went straight back over to the registration table. I proceeded to explain that it didn’t matter whether or not the children actually got through to the next level, what mattered was that they didn’t leave feeling deflated. We were talking about a pivotal moment in two children’s lives; the chance to learn the lesson of tenacity. I paid a second time and signed them up to sing again, only this time, they would perform with music, after watching their mothers have a go.

Aishling and I explained our situation to the judge, who I must say was extremely supportive of the cause. He totally got it, and made the space and time for us to teach our kids the value of “If at first you don’t succeed…”

We had an absolute ball! Despite Aisling’s head cold, and my complete inability to dance, we managed to squeak out a decent performance. The judge certainly laughed, but then a funny thing happened. He started giving critiques, followed by suggestions for song choices if we were put through. Aish and I looked at each other and giggled. We thanked him and quickly set the stage for Jemma and Lorcan to belt out Justin Bieber’s “Baby Baby” complete with rap, to a backing track. After watching their mothers’ clowning around, they were much more at ease and sailed through it. We all left the auditions, happy in ourselves, the mommies having taught a valuable life lesson, and the kids with the joy of feeling like they had actually done their best.

Jemma turned to me and said, “We’ll get in because we’re fabulous, you’ll probably get in because they think two old mommy’s would be really funny!”

Thanks Jem…

On Sunday, the day after auditions, I was teaching a workshop on Metaphysics in Galway. From Dancing Queen to talking to the dead; God, I really enjoy my life. I had a fabulous time with the very capable and eager audience and feeling well satisfied, got into my jeep to drive home. About five minutes down the motorway, the heavens opened up and ice pellets bombarded the windscreen while gale-force winds made it nearly impossible to keep the vehicle between the lines. About 20 minutes from home, I saw headlights facing the wrong direction on my side of the road. A car was barrelling down the road beside me, far too fast for the treacherous conditions, only to realise that a car had smashed into the median wall, was facing our direction and he was going to smack right into it if he didn’t go left and force me off the road. Petrified, I hit the gas, sped up and went left just as he swerved into my lane. No one could stop without causing an accident so I sent up a distress signal for the person in the car that had crashed. Minutes later, two ambulances and a Gardaí car went flying down the motorway. I gave thanks that help was on the way. With my heart in my throat, I had to pull over for a few minutes and catch my breath. I suddenly had a very real insight into my own psyche.

Because I’m an “always look on the bright side” kind of gal, I am forever taking the harrowing experiences of my life and turning sour grapes into wine; lemons to lemonade. Rarely do I actually sit with the experience before I have them churned into a story that will help someone else work through their own traumatic episodes.  I could feel this awareness bubbling up inside of me as I reflected on the side of the road, following a near miss in an ice storm that resembled an Arctic apocalypse. My life revolves around a need to make others feel less frightened about the human experience. I write and speak about rape, near-death, divorce and cancer with an enthusiasm that is actually quite peculiar. Do I do this to avoid my own pain or fear? Who knows? But I do know that with this latest little incident, someone was trying to show me something.

Only yesterday, while driving to work in Dublin, I came across a lorry that had jack-knifed and crushed the roof and windscreen of the unfortunate car that happened to be behind it. The fire brigade had immediately arrived on the scene, but the way that the traffic had stopped, left me at an angle, facing the crushed vehicle, as the firemen worked frantically to get the driver out of the car-alive or dead. Within a matter of a few days, I had been forced to revisit the terror of being in a car accident, one a near-miss and the other being positioned to watch the outcome of someone trapped in a totalled, write-off. I sat with it, because I had no choice, and realised something about who I am. Whether I’ve avoided pain by pushing forward or making light and accessible the many traumas in my life, there is a method to this Mommy’s Madness. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Maybe I don’t allow myself to feel the fear quite as much as I could, but that’s my way, and it makes what I do…doable. I like how it feels to see someone take my experiences, apply them to their own lives, and create a different outcome. I don’t just like it, I love it. It’s sort of payment in kind for agreeing to serve. If in my madness, I can bring just one person closer to their own divine self, then it’s all been worth it.

Just to finish the story, when I returned to Athlone on Sunday night, a little shaken but grateful for the insight, I went to pick up the girls. Jada had been at a friend’s house and Jemma had stayed at Lorcan’s place. When I walked through Aishling’s front door, it was one of those weird moments where you wonder is it just you, or is somebody else seeing this? Aishling, Jemma and Lorcan were all screaming, jumping up and down, but making absolutely no sound. They were like three creepy little mimes with their jazz hands and silent laughter. I then realised that baby Poppy must be asleep. I knew straight away that the results had been posted for the competition and the children had made it through. It was then that it dawned on me that Aishling was laughing a little too hard. Oh my God. Mommy Madness had been put through to the semi-finals.

What did I say before? Be careful what you wish for… I’ll keep you posted!

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