Back to school.
Rose of Tralee
Is there anything like the Rose of Tralee on the box, to say back to school? I always had a love/ hate relationship with the Rose of Tralee festival. On one side, I was allowed stay up late and look at all the lovely dresses but on the other, the anxiety about school would be mounting and a sense of imminent doom. This year we have a Waterford Rose winner which is great. Congratulations to Kirsten Mate Maher and I hope she has a great year.

What time is it?
Alas, back to school. I hate talking about it, I hate thinking about it, and I hate actually doing something about it. Organising back to school. Hate Hate Hate. It screams of homework, rushing dinner, rushing to activities, it screams of rushing, just rushing. It also highlights my bad, bad timekeeping. I am not a good time keeper. I try to keep good time but I always fall short about five minutes. Which, I have learned from my friend who is always on time, is actually ten minutes, because you should be five minutes early. But I always think I could just get another little thing done, a counter cleared off, a wash on, veg chopped for later or just make a latte to go even though I’ve been swigging from one since I got up. And then I’ll usually end up driving stressed, guilty and saying very mean things to myself in the head. This year I will be better….

Organisation Skills
I normally organise for the following year before they finish school in June – get the uniforms sorted, pay the book rental scheme, cleanout schoolbags and put away etc. Please do not think that I am in any way organised. I AM NOT. AT ALL. But I think I might have alluded to the fact that I hate thinking about back to school. Therefore, in order to allow me to just get up on the morning of back to school and without thinking about it prior to this, the above is what I normally do. Not this year though, because the weather was so amazing prior to the school holidays that we went from school to swim most days. I even thought about taking the children out of school (Shhh….don’t tell my school attendance officer brother).

Angry
So this year I found myself in a queue for the secondary school books during the summer. By the time I got to the counter I was in fowl form. The poor student, working for the summer, trying to earn a few quid for college or pints or both, was being very patient with me. I eventually had to explain to him that I’m normally quite a pleasant person but I find spending lots of money and I mean lots (more of that later) on something that the person receiving them isn’t best pleased about receiving, is just a tad frustrating. Well, you see where I’m going.

Voluntary contributions
What is the story with the cost of school books? Our eldest started secondary school last year with books alone costing nearly €500, not to mention uniform, administration costs, art and the ‘voluntary contribution’. I actually thought naively that that was that for three years. But no. The Irish League of Credit Unions say the average spend per year on a primary school child is €999 and a secondary school child is €1379. OMG! In our primary school, I pay, before summer starts, a fee per child for book rental and supplies. I do not buy books. This covers it all. It’s really good compared to others schools that you have to buy books and pay for all the rest. But with secondary school it’s absolutely madness. I can’t help but wonder, is someone ensuring that big school publishers thrive. Does history change? Geography? Maths? Why not do the book rental scheme in all schools??? Surely, better than filling the world with first editions, second, third editions that books are reused or perhaps the use of iPad – although how would you know your darling teenager is not snap chatting instead of studying? That point needs more thought. With the school book business being upwards of €55 million, the government supplement the cost of books in DEIS schools but parents are mostly picking up the bill. This is, 25 years after a report into the cost of schools books was carried out and school rental scheme was the main recommendation. Besides that, someday a school or the department of education will be sued over damaged backs of teenagers carrying enormous books. Oh Lord, why am I even giving out? If nothing has been done after 25 years and as we’re apparently now out of recession (really?) the appetite for change will not be as ferocious.

Anyway – enough of that, you’ve heard it all before. So here’s some advice from the butchers wife on how to beat those back to school pitfalls.

1. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. This will work, possibly, day one or could back fire and you think you’ve all the time in the world that you loll around checking emails, what’s app and Facebook and you actually tear in the school gate even later than last year and still have to put up your daughters hair so she might not get the dreaded head lice. So you stand outside the car, while the priomhóide is giving assembly in the chlós, pulling the head off your daughter, with tears rolling down her face, but technically she is present for assembly so yay, win.
2. Prep school lunches the night before so you can ensure your darlings will have a healthy nutritious lunch every day.
What actually happens? Monday Tuesday and maybe even Wednesday the lunch boxes contain all if not most of the food groups – protein, dairy, fruit, vegetables and carbs. Thursday’s lunch includes cheese strings, three biscuits and a jam sandwich and Friday’s lunch box is a petrol station breakfast roll and a fruit winder (its fruit isn’t it??).
3. Label everything. This actually does help in locating the third school jumper that has been lost and it’s not even Halloween. You dread asking the teacher if they’ve come across said jumper, in fear they send you to the lost and found box in the store room that smells of, what I can only be described as, old gym gear at best or, at worst, something Gordon Ramsey finds in a fridge of a closing down road side restaurant in Iowa.
4. Lay out clothes the night before therefore saves time in the morning. Again possibly on a Sunday Monday and Tuesday evening I might remember to do this but by Thursday and Friday morning the children head off to school looking like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.
5. Prepare healthy mid-week dinners in advance. Involve the children in this task so they are more invested in their food.
Reality of this is, you were too unorganised to do this at the weekend and therefore you start from scratch and if you attempt to involve the children, the kitchen ends up like a scene from a war movie (more than when you started). The dog won’t even look at the dinner never mind attempting to eat it and you end up cooking pasta.
6. Ensure the children have a consistent bedtime routine. Yay, I do manage consistency here. I consistently ask the children to step away from the TV, then I consistently ask them to wash their face, hands and teeth. They might do one of these and then I consistently ask them to get into bed. I consistently try and read them a relaxing bedtime story without the consistent argument who gets to lie beside me and I consistently end up giving up and closing the book and vowing that tomorrow night will be better.

So there you go, some back to school advice to get you through the first few weeks but one must at least try. For those of you with a little one just starting, be it your first, or your last, I have the ABBA song, ‘Slipping through my fingers’, in my head. The late great Gerry Ryan played this song on the first of September every year – school bag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning, waving goodbye with an absent minded smile……
Makes me cry every year.

PS here’s a recipe that was loved in our house using this weeks special offer so it might help with the back to school economies…
The Butchers Wife xx

Chicken and Chorizo
1 tbsp. olive oil
300g chorizo cut into cubes.
10 chicken pieces  

CHORIZO AND CHICKEN PIECES WITH RICE. YUM

salt and fresh grounded black pepper

2 small onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic
300g basmati rice
200mls white wine

1 litre of chicken/vegetable stock
2 tbsp. of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Methods
Put olive oil into casserole dish on a medium heat. And add the chorizo. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until it releases the lovely tasty oils and remove the chorizo but leave the oil in the dish.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the casserole dish and cook for 6-8 minutes turning to make sure it’s browned all over.
Then stir in the onions and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft and slightly browned.
Add the rice and pour in the wine, then bring to a simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes reducing slightly.
Pour in the stock and bring to boil, and then reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the chorizo, parsley and serve.

 

The finished product X2

#Tips from the butchers wife.
This was a big big hit in my house!! Delicious – if you’ve drank all the wine replace it with extra stock instead. But don’t worry all the alcohol is cooked off anyway. Serve with a salad or some vegetables.