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Confessions of a working mother: Do all parents dread the half term hols?

By karen Ireland

Well, as predicted, love was in the air on Sunday as Valentine's Day was marked in the Knox-Ireland household. However just as I’d predicted, the only cards were mostly those of the hand-made variety and delivered to the under-10 age bracket.

Korey (8) spent hours lovingly preparing his card for his chosen Valentine, adding all those personal touches, and was delighted (and mummy was equally relieved) when he received one back from the source of his affection.

Even Teo (5) got a card via the postman, creating much excitement. He even turned detective as he tried to figure out who had sent it, rhyming off a list of girls’ names in his class with a wrinkled up in distaste nose — before deciding, as it was marked Marks & Spencer on the back, that it had to be from his nanny as she shops there “every day”, according to our junior Poirot.

Nanny remained tight-lipped, refusing to confirm or deny her role, but she remains number one suspect.

Meanwhile the two words that parents either love or hate — or perhaps love to hate — ‘half term’ are upon us.

We love it as it means no homework and a week without running back and forward on school runs, a break from making lunches and ferrying children to extra curricular clubs, but hate that it brings with it childcare issues. In houses such as ours choruses of “I'm Bored” ring out by 10am in the morning'.

After a day of back to back Horrid Henry re-runs, I was ready for the hills so we did the next best thing and opted for a break from the norm by shipping out to the most laid-back chilled out corner of Northern Ireland, Portballintrae. Some kind friends, who probably felt sorry for us after my recent stay in hospital, loaned us their house in the Co Antrim bolthole for a couple of days.

A favourite spot in the summer (and one where Jesse is threatening to move to in later years) I tried to pre-warn the boys that it would be a lot colder, emptier and more windswept than our normal visits during warmer months.

Still, they insisted on packing the wet suits though the only one to venture in this time round was the biggest kid of all, Tom, who braved the cold to venture into the surf with his body board.

Thankfully at this time of the year we didn’t have to contend with the expense and crowds at Barry's but we still ventured out regardless of the weather, as the dog needed walking and so did the children — if we wanted to tire them out before bed-time.

All in all, it was a chilled out way to spend the half term holidays. The boys brought their bikes and we did very little except walk and cycle around the Port. We stopped off via a toy shop en route, where believe it or not the boys still had some vouchers left from Christmas, for some boredom busters. Jesse opted for Cluedo so the evenings were spent trying to figure out whodunit (EastEnders has nothing on us!).

And speaking of whodunits — this is the weekend of the Murder Mystery Party — Tom has been getting into character by practising being the nutty Professor Plum.

Having never been to one of these events before, I have no idea what to expect — other than that my husband may turn out to be the murderer ...

It's back to earth with a bump tomorrow as I return to work and the kids go back to school, but next weekend it's off to a Host a Roast party for charity. At last my social life is starting to pick up ...

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