Monday, 31 August 2009

Milestone Mania

His enthusiasm caught me off guard. I had grown accustomed to his refusals. His default negative responses when faced with any mention of the word school. "Bye Bye School" had been the catch phrase of the last few weeks. Rory's like that though, he just says no to everything; just in case.

This morning when I crept in to give him is 7.30am feed and meds, he was still bundled under the blankets snuggling up to bear. I worked away at his tube, able to carry on without disturbing him. His eyes opened, just a crack, he took in the light grey morning sneaking in between the curtains. He sat up, and announced, "I'm going to school today". This was a promising start. I thought it best not to rush him so I let him have a little lie in, a few moments to contemplate his new educational fate.

We busied ourselves with the usual morning routine, uniforms were donned, toast was crunched and caffeine was administered in strong doses to the grown ups.

His regulation grey trousers were proffered, and accepted, along with the grey shirt and school jumper, which he had previously deemed to be too 'scratchy'. All were put on without so much as grunt of protest.

I had expected, if not an all out battle, at the very least some very vocal objection, none were forthcoming. He was positively jovial at the thought of the uniform. He completely blind sided me, with his cheerful acquiescence. The lump in my throat came on very suddenly and before I could swallow it down, the tell-tale brimming of the lower eyelids began. I could feel a full scale wobble coming on. It seemed completely disproportionate to the situation as Captain Sensible, just popped on his shoes and asked for his Madagascar school bag. Fair enough, the kid was going to play it cool!

We snapped the obligatory photos, the kids chuckled and off we went.

Simple as that.

The entry to the class was equally low key. He sauntered in like he owned the joint. Charmed his teacher and Special Needs Assistant.

"Slan, Chickenlicken, see ya later" was the last I heard as I rushed out the door - the fear of making a complete show of myself was now even more acute. I had one aim, get past the school gate without making eye contact with any other parent.

I hadn't allowed myself to imagine this day, it seemed far too presumptuous. Now that it's here; all nonchalance and normal, I don't quite know what to do with myself!

It has taken us six years to come from this :

To this :

Sometimes the enormity of normal just knocks the stuffing out of me!



Monday, 24 August 2009

The Big Six

I can't believe it's six whole years since you blasted into our lives full of fire and fun. You arrived with such a love of life, clenched, vice like, in your tiny fists. Now your hands are bigger - you can pack more in.

Happy 6th birthday boy wonder, long may you continue to amaze us.


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

P P S Anyone?

Can anyone tell me what exactly a PPS (Personal Public Service) number is good for? I have had cause to ponder this a lot lately. To me it seems like a quirky little Irishism, like the way you might be asked what your mother's maiden name is, or where your people might be from.

Public servants seem to either worship it or ignore it. The neat box designed to hold those hallowed digits seems to blink like a talisman for every civil servant in the land. But what exactly do they do with it?

I, of course, am far too literal and logical to ever fathom the depths of the mandarin mind. The twists and turns of those firing synapses when faced with official form filling completely bypass my sub civil servant brain.

Let me illustrate my point. I am a full-time carer, in receipt of carer's allowance; a social welfare payment which is means tested. Therefore, my means are below a certain threshold.
That's all quite straightforward. If you look up my PPS number on 'the system' it well tell you this.

I have recently decided to return to part time study. I figured I should up-skill in preparation for the day when my carer's duties reduce. I could then re-enter the work force, and maybe pay some taxes. I waded through an ocean of literature on entitlements, what one could and couldn't do in my situation. I made numerous phone calls to the nice people in the carer's allowance section of the the Dept. of Social and Family Affairs. I followed their instructions to the letter. I was officially sanctioned to apply for a Higher Education Grant. I receive the form, and am told, I have to be means tested again. But what about my PPS number? Surely it will give you all the information required? If the good people in the carer's allowance section are deemed competent enough to means test for social welfare entitlements, could we not save a whole other mountain of paper and just, you know, take their word for it?

Absolutely not! They are a completely different section of the public service, a whole new means test is essential.

So I fill out the form, queue for an hour in the dole office, taking up time that could be spent processing the many new claims, they look up my PPS number on 'the system'. It confirms my income threshold and that I am indeed a full-time carer, married with two dependent children. They then stamp the lovely pink form which has been printed by those nice people in the Higher Education Grant office and return it to me.

I then go and queue for my long form birth cert. It costs me 10 Euro. Does my PPS number not tell what age I am and that I was born in Galway some time towards the latter half of the last century? Obviously not, because the nice man in the register of births office spent quite a bit of time looking up my details on 'the system', of course this may not have been the same system.

Then the other kidney gets dragged into the fray, because I have to prove that he was mad enough to marry me 11 years ago, and that we have been living together at the same address for at least the last 3 years. He also needs to 'fess up again to how much he earns, which you know, we already did when I applied for the carers allowance. Then he needs to sign the nice pink form, to prove, well I don't know what exactly. That I have his permission to go back to education?

So then, after a week of queuing in offices and collecting various coloured forms, I bring them all to the nice man in the Higher Education Grants office. He then photocopies all my documents, stamps them, returns the originals, asks for some more evidence in paper form, and sends me on my way. Couldn't he have looked up all of this on my PPS, I am in 'the system' you know? No, they need paper proof!

I had just about recovered from this when, in a rather foolhardy gesture, I now realise, I rang the form E112 people. You know that office that eventually let us go to London to the feeding assessment clinic?It turns out she also needs a form, except this one is white, not pink.And guess what?She needs to means test us! I sheepishly suggested that, since I was in receipt of social welfare which was plain for all to see when they looked up my PPS number on 'the system', that maybe we could forgo the repeat means test. No she needed paper proof!

Am I missing something here? You see, from where I'm standing this seems like the most extraordinary waste of the little gem that could be the PPS number.

If I was a PPS number; I would be Pissed off, Put out and Sulking at this stage!


Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Hope of Peace

An old friend took his own life yesterday. As the shrapnel of his loss ricochets around his family and friends, it makes me think; there, but for the grace of God, go all of us.

I wish him the peace that so eluded him in this life. I hope he now feels safe.

I remembered this Seamus Heaney poem called The Rescue, it made me think of all of those who tried so hard to save him.

In the drifts of sleep I came upon you
Buried to your waist in snow.
You reached your arms out: I came to
Like water in a dream of thaw.

Safe journey home.