Digital Dad: A Bell-inter of a night away

The first night away from your kids can be filled with anxiety for a lot of parents but for us (well me anyway) our first time leaving our 6 month old, Thing 3, was anything but. We’re not ‘helicopter parents’ so any chance we get to ‘escape’ our kids is always met with enthusiasm.

The prison-break in this case was an overnight stay in Bellinter House, Navan, Co. Meath, and to say that we were looking forward to it was an understatement.

Our rescuers for the night were my in-laws and before they had even finished their offer of taking all three boys overnight, we had packed the toys, clothes, nappies, creams, EpiPens, formula, baby food, monitor, travel cot, kitchen sink and buggy and we were camped outside their front door with the car engine still running.

The only trepidation we had was how soon into the trip would we start arguing about directions.

Photo credit:: Ruth Maria Murphy
Photo Credit: Ruth Maria Murphy

Me and my good lady wife have travelled all over the world together and have umpteen road trips under our belt but navigators we are not. In all our glorious years together we have yet to reach a destination without numerous in-car profanities having been hurled at each other. Thankfully Sat Navs have become the norm but even with that, we still travel with two of them – Google Maps and in-car navigation – just on the off-chance that one of them is ‘lying’ to us.

So we headed off kid-free and with the sound of two Sat Nav voices talking over each other. It was like having two other stammerers in the car with me…it was starting to sound like a rap song. Forty-five minutes later we ‘reached our destination’‘reached our destination’ and as we switched off our two travel companions we were ready to relax and indulge in our pre-booked afternoon tea.

And that’s what Bellinter House is – a step back in time where one can relax and indulge in the surroundings of a fabulous 18th Century Palladian styled house, designed by Richard Castle the same architect responsible for Leinster House.

Stepping inside we were met by very friendly and knowledgeable staff who informed us of the games room, the library and the set of interconnected drawing rooms that branch off from the lobby. Our bedroom – one of 5 rooms in the main house – was a large Georgian room with high ceilings, pink walls, dark wooden floors, and oodles of character.

Vintage furniture, coupled with a modern mirror-tiled rain shower, centrally controlled lighting, an entertainment system and coffee/tea making facilities (which delightfully included Tunnocks tea cakes) all combine to the quirky elegance of the hotel.

Photo credit:: Ruth Maria Murphy
Photo Credit: Ruth Maria Murphy

As mentioned, we booked ourselves in for afternoon tea – a selection of hand cut sandwiches, warm scones with cream & jam, and pastries, all served with tea and coffee – and settled ourselves in the fabulous drawing room for the next couple of hours. At €20 a head the afternoon tea was good value for money and the scones ticked all of this Dadbod’s boxes.

My only bug bear was the bizarre Banksy-esque interior design choice of blanking out sections of paintings, with spray paint and masking tape throughout the drawing room. It’s an odd choice and we weren’t the only ones to comment on it. This is subjective of course and the ultimate first-world problem and to be honest, we were just happy to sit in our palatial surroundings without having to peel ham sandwiches off the floor or wash cream and jam out of Thing 2’s hair.

If filling your belly with afternoon tea isn’t your thing, then Bellinter’s extensive grounds offer a multitude of paths and walks and with wellies available for guests, it’s easy to slip into your walking attire and explore what Co. Meath has to offer. Horse-riding, clay pigeon shooting, hot air ballooning, wakeboarding, golfing or fishing on the River Boyne can also be arranged.

Needless to say we did none of these and having hit a food coma we retired to our fabulous room for three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Bliss.

Photo credit:: Ruth Maria Murphy
Photo Credit: Ruth Maria Murphy

Bellinter’s 2AA Rosette award winning restaurant the Eden is located in the vaulted cellar which is accessed via a narrow spiral staircase. The food and service were very good although the cellar itself felt a little sparse which was in stark contrast to the cosy surroundings of the drawing rooms above.

That said we couldn’t fault our lovely meal – Eden Smokies and Braised Pork Belly – and two hours later we rolled out of the restaurant and retired to the drawing room for some evening drinks by the open fire.

The next morning we enjoyed a perfectly good buffet breakfast in the cellar before my darling wife headed to the Bathhouse Spa for a very relaxing back massage and some eyebrow treatment thingy. I, on the other hand, headed back for a 2-hour kip in preparation for next 11 months of broken sleep. Hail kids I thought. Hurray.

The damage…

The cost for an overnight stay including a 3-course dinner and full Irish breakfast will set you back €105 per person sharing. Afternoon tea is priced at €20 per person. A 30 minute back massage and eyebrow tint and shape cost €40 and €20 respectively.

Check out their website below for numerous offers including Valentine’s packages.

The verdict…

We had the pleasure of being invited to Bellinter House on a complimentary bed, breakfast and evening meal basis. That said I feel that the prices listed above reflect good value for money and as a couple we had a very relaxing and enjoyable stay. It’s a very charming venue that perhaps could do with a polish in one or two places but that is to be expected for any 18th-century house.

We had been looking for a one-night bolthole within an hour’s drive of Dublin and Bellinter ticked all the boxes. Door to door it took us 40 mins.

We’ll definitely be back again.

The details…

Bellinter House, Navan, Co Meath. Tel: (046) 903-0900

Other options in the area…

Other hotel and spa options that we looked at around Meath and Kildare include:

Co. Meath

  • Dunboyne Castle Hotel and Spa
  • Johnstown House Hotel and Spa
  • Knightsbrook Spa & Golf
  • Tankardstown
  • Pillo Ashbourne

Co Kildare:

  • Killashee
  • The K Club
  • Carton House Hotel & Gold Club
  • Osprey hotel & Spa
  • Clanard Court hotel

Wherever you choose, I hope you have a great time.

DD

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Digital Dad: Nut allergy, the biggest party pooper in town.

What started out as an innocent bite turned into a life threatening, life altering situation.

It happened one Saturday morning. On seeing his Mum attempting to scoff down a peanut butter bagel before starting the 100+ chores that every parent has, Thing 2 innocently asked if he could try some of her bagel.

After duly obliging for fear of a tantrum, Thing 2 bit in and no sooner had the crunchy butter hit his lips than he spat it out with the typical ‘yuck’ that most 2 year olds so quickly become fluent in. He didn’t even swallow it. It merely touched his tongue. It had been in his mouth no more than two seconds. Unfortunately that was enough.

What started out as an innocent bite turned into a life threatening, life altering situation.

His entire face swelled up. His eyelids became so puffed that he could longer see. Hives broke out all over his body. He started to gasp for air and credit to him he didn’t even cry (which was almost worse). Needless to say we got the fright of our lives but thankfully this was only a warning sign. After bringing him to our local chemist, his symptoms were treated with oral antihistamines but we were lucky. Very very lucky.

Thing 2 has since been diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. He’s allergic to other nuts too but peanuts are the killer (god forbid) and had he swallowed the peanut butter that day who knows what would have happened.

His entire face swelled up. His eyelids became so puffed that he could longer see.

Thankfully it’s now being managed. I say managed because it’s impossible to control it. Control implies that you are in charge of it 24/7 but unfortunately you can’t always control what your child eats or more importantly what another person gives your child to eat. This is Thing 2’s Achilles heel.

I find that the hardest thing about Thing 2’s nut allergy is being the party pooper – no you can’t eat that, no you can’t eat that either. Sure we’ve been told that Thing 2 is never allowed to be in a Chinese restaurant. A life without sweet ‘n’ sour chicken and spring rolls is not a life worth living!

What’s more is we’ve become the party pooper family.

Thing 2 started preschool a few weeks ago and due to the seriousness of his condition, birthday cakes are banned and letters were sent to the families of the other kids stating that no nuts of any kind were allowed.

Bye bye Mr Peanut Butter sandwich.

This not only applies to his school. As you can imagine, parties, planes, sleepovers, child minders, relatives, friends etc all have to be instructed about this strict strict policy and furthermore they have to be shown how to use the Epi Pen(s) if Thing 2 is exposed to nuts and goes into anaphylactic shock.

We’ve become the party pooper family.

I can’t stress enough how serious a nut allergy – particularly peanut – is. A lot of people still think being allergic to nuts means that you might just get a rash or start sneezing etc.

For instance on informing a group of people about Thing 2’s allergy, one of the lads in the group piped up with a ‘sure my kid is allergic to carrots’ gag. Now I appreciate that it was a joke but on hearing other people laugh i couldn’t help but feel that he was making fun of the allergy.

My first thoughts were, ‘well if I shove a carrot where the sun doesn’t shine, do you want to see what type of reaction you’ll have’

I can’t stress enough how serious a nut allergy – particularly peanut – is.

But in all seriousness, Mr Carrot Man’s joke/attitude highlights one of the major reasons why it sucks to have a child with a nut allergy – some people assume we’re being paranoid and that we’re being party poopers for no good reason.

That said education and awareness is much better than it used to be and if we could tackle nut allergies like the NHS are tackling sugar with their Sugar Smart – Change4life campaign we’d be doing well.  Checkout their Sugar Smart app (free on iOS & Droid) where you can scan the barcodes on food packaging to reveal the number of sugar cubes in everyday food and drink.

Now wouldn’t it be nice to see the HSE do similar….

DD

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Digital Dad: My Attempt to Lose the Dad Bod.

The Dad Bod. What is it? Well when you wake up and realise that you can’t see your feet anymore and that your breasts are bigger than hers, it’s most likely that you have one.

For the past number of months I’d been blaming numerous dry cleaners for ‘shrinking’ my suits and I’d been setting the washing machine to low heat because well why else would my shirts not be fitting me anymore? My wife too had been indicating that I’d be able to breastfeed Thing 3 soon enough and when the sports bra she leant me broke I started to get the hint.

The Dad Bod,  when you wake up and realise that you can’t see your feet anymore and that your breasts are bigger than hers, it’s most likely that you have one.

Granted, before Things 1, 2 & 3 arrived, I was no male model (I’m more female model now) but to a certain extent I did manage to stave off the visual signs of ageing and gravity. Now however I have what you might call a Dad Bod.

It’s basically my old body but it doesn’t fit into my clothes anymore and it’s always best kept covered up…

Some people will argue that has always been the case, but we’ll ignore that and swiftly move on.

My wife too had been indicating that I’d be able to breastfeed Thing 3 soon enough and when the sports bra she leant me broke I started to get the hint.

So the Dad Bod, this was a problem because I had been invited to my cousin’s wedding (Hi Sophie & Ed), which was one week away and the only black suit I had had obviously ‘shrunk’.

Without the time and/or patience to hit the gym I decided then and there that I’d embark on my first diet of the non Cadbury variety (farewell for now, my milky chocolatey dunky friend). It was the weekend – how hard could it be?

It’s basically my old body but it doesn’t fit into my clothes anymore and it’s always best kept covered up

I got up the next day, got the kids fed and joined them by pouring myself a bowl of All-Bran (yes it still exists). By the fourth spoonful every last ounce of moisture had been sponged from my mouth.

I felt like I was doing the 60 second Cream Cracker challenge. I was half tempted to give Bear Grylls a call but that would have been stupid as I don’t have his number.

Poor Thing 1 looked at me with a somewhat worried expression. He passed me some of his orange juice, but I refused. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that.

For lunch I had a salad. For dinner I had a salad. For my nightly tea dunk I had carrot sticks. By 8am the next morning, wifey, and all the kids had locked themselves in the kitchen while I banged on the door with a rice cake begging for a fry. I threatened to eat ‘Bunny and Neem’ but not even the shrieks of horror from Thing 1 & 2 were enough to open the door.

I felt like I was doing the 60 second Cream Cracker challenge.

But I persisted. Mainly because as I passed our hall mirror I looked at my reflection and what stared back at me was something that resembled ‘Sloth’ from The Goonies.  ‘Youuu guuuys’, I roared and made my way back to All-Bran hell.

Somehow I made it through the next few hours and by 5pm this grumpy fatty was ready to sell the kids for kebabs.

I stood on the scales, watched as the digital reader flickered for a few seconds (a dodgy battery obviously) and waited with bated breath. 3lbs lost, yahoo, 3-whole-lbs in 36 hours. Unbelievable.

Then as my fat brain kicked in I questioned it.

Guess it was unbelievable – that bloody battery. The reader was so dim that I didn’t see the decimal point. It was actually .3lbs lost, yahoo, .3lbs. Result. No better way to celebrate than by tucking into a Buttered Chicken and reuniting with some of my Cadbury friends…..Belt off and lounge pants to the ready.

The wedding was great.

DD

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