All Because the Lady loves

Once upon a time when I was single girl, in the days before wellies and well, em, boys, I was quaint and I did love a silver service. Knowing this, a wonderful friend once bought me an antique wooden tray. A egg shell coloured tray with gold rim, just enough space in the handles for a dainty lady to carry and the picture of two antique roses on top. Beautiful. I used it a lot, in my free time, when I wasn’t working, I lived like a retiree, going from one elegant cup of tea to the next. Ah, the memory of it.

Alas, there is nothing like life to come and add some rough edges. Trying to keep my beautiful tray from recieving the Brosnan young boy treatment, I hid it, under the socks; a guarentee that it would never be seen again. For with a gaggle of young sons, a farmer and yours truly, the dilemma of the sock mountain has yet to be overcome, literally.

This morning, in the rush for one pair of matching socks, just one, Lord, just one, I came accross my tray. It’s image must have attached itself to me for it hung with me whilst I ran two boys to school, got an emergency milk cluster shell at the creamery (I know), and the obligatory bottle of calpol for the feverish little one. And because my young man had not slept very well last night, he duly toddled his way up the wooden stairs for some much needed sleep.

So out came the tray.

Holding back on breakfasts, as mommys sometimes do, until the crew are all delivered to their posts, I had it all to eat now. I lay that beautiful tray on my table and on it I placed the warmed porridge with creamy milk, some fresh juice, brown bread with butter and jam, some coffee. It needed a napkin, some lovely (and by lovely I mean clean) cutlery, some brown sugar and a tidy space to lay it down. I dare not look around because you know what the house looks like, I need not describe it to you. No. Instead, know that the lady of the house enjoyed her peaceful breakfast looking out over the mountains of Kerry on a bright sunny morning as the last of the lavendar wave their goodbyes. I dare not come to the end of this post, and know that the lovely tray will have to be put away, maybe somewhere that from now that it will serve as a reminder to the quaint little lady inside who needs a quiet and darling old time.

He’s grand

Please understand. If you are a young mother in need of company, reassurance and a chat with your babe in arms then the mother and baby gettogether is a very valuable haven. But it was not for me. And it has taken me seven years before I can come out of the baby closet and tell you why.

I gave an hour of my life to a mother and baby ‘todo’ and I will never get that hour back. Nor do I want it!

Living in the countryside when you are a young mother is altogether very difficult. Living anywhere when you are for the most part alone with a new infant without your parents, siblings and friends to rant to is very difficult. You love your new infant but the trouble is he doesn’t come with instructions or a wide vocabulary or an ability to dress himself. Imagine!

So finding myself in a similar state when my first born very patient child was born, I took the advise of a visiting nurse (it’s always the nurse!) and took myself off to a mother and baby group. Now to begin with my expectations were high. I wanted to know how to keep this little person in good stead while keeping myself, well, sane. I wanted laughter, I wanted a little light relief, I wanted some friends. I don’t ask for much. Instead what did I get? An hour long conversation on poo. No. An hour long graphic and visual conversation on poo.

Only a young mother, breastfeeding her child or otherwise can fully appreciate the obsession that one has when her first born arrives with the colour of their, excuse me, stool. But put a group of young walking wounded sleep deprived women with young babies in a room is, or was in my mind, a reciepe for disaster. All it takes is one person to mention the poo word and they were off.

‘Yes, it was black and tar-ry on day one, and then it became more yellow and mustardly.’

‘Is yours still mustardy’. ‘Yes.’ ‘And smelly.’

‘Mine isn’t so much as mustardly as kind of greenish now. The nurse said that was alright.’

‘Can I see?’ And yes, she did reveal all. I was indignant on behalf of the babe in arms. But it didn’t stop there. All members of the assembled group joined in while I covered my sons eyes at the scenes of bare bottom nudity while rashes were examined and nappy contents continued to be dissected ad nauseum. And what was I looking for? What did this party need beside alcolhol?

Why, a sense of humour. Why are we mature adults not seeing the hilarity of talking about poos. Was I the only one who felt that I had just left the real for the surreal? That common sense had left the building and taken its buddy humour with it. Looking back, the only sensible addition to the meeting would have the presence of an older mother, a granny or mother of three grown children to periodically look up from her knitting and say ‘he’s grand’. Sitting there in the middle diffusing all anxieties with ‘he’s grand.’ ‘That’s nothing girl’, he’s grand’. For that’s how it was done you know, new mothers were held in the care of the wider family and shown how to rear their young and dismiss nagging worries with nonchalant shrugs and laughter.

So there you have it. I feel lighter for having said it. I’m sure there are more positive experiences out there in the world of mammy and baby meetings but I don’t want to know. I am no longer the young mother lost in a sea of questions about babies but beggining to become fluent in the language of the mature mammy uttering ‘he’s grand’ at every fall. ‘Up ow that, you’re grand.’

So come here you young mammies, please know, he (or indeed she) is just grand. Big love to you.

Don’t try this at home

I passed supermom mode one bar of chocolate ago and am now in a fuzzy, confusing place. This day started way too early ago with my second little darling starting school. Let’s just say my blue-eyed challenging humdinger of a baby has made it out into the real world. To say that he inherited his mommy’s spirited streak does neither of us justice but it is safe to say that around this day, some five years ago he looked into my eyes on his arrival (trust me, this kid could see), and I knew it was going to be an interesting journey, to say the least.

So at nine am, I left him at the classroom and with him my heart for he for all his wildness is the funniest most lovable rogue that a mommy ever had the pleasure to know. He was happy, I was happy-ish. Arriving home, I was intent on making the day perfect (eeek) and started into baking the first-day-at-school-cake while trying to give our third son a bit more attention given that he was now the centre of all my attention. So the cake, think jam and jelly and cream and fruit squashed between two sponge layers. Delicious. But no, why stop there. My eldest was starting into a new class too, why his favorite, he would have to have meatballs. And the third little boy could help. Sigh.

And then I would fold the washing with the third. Then we would play and read stories and chat and have tea and call Daddy for lunch. Dizzy yet? Then we would collect our newest school go-er and chat about his day at school. And then, we would try and fit in another number of jobs and then we would collect Primo. And then we would cook the meatballs. And have a first day at school party with the cake. By now, believe me, we’re tired. And then, we would go to bed for pity sake. We would read. We would eventually fall to sleep. And then, yours truly would go and get organized for the next day. Nope, not over yet.

As the craziness continued, I felt it most necessary to take out the agricultural notes I had spent all summer avoiding and of all nights begin revising them tonight. Tonight. So as I sit here writing a blog post (why not), I am up to my oxters in diagrams on the external features of a Beef animal (I would say a cow), feeling like a bit of a rag. Someone show me the way to go home. We do it though. We go too far. And don’t we know it. And don’t we have to reel it back in. Wherever you are out there, mind yourselves and for God’s sake, don’t be stuck if you need to know what end of beef animal (aka cow) you’re looking at. Sleep tight.


Second Cut Silage

I’m stuffed from cold chips. It’s that kind of a day. You grab meals while you run between the two smallest boys who want a drive on one of the five tractors bringing in silage outside the door and the kitchen where you run getting the tea ready. By now, I can time it well enough. They have another five acres to collect, the sky is holding, so the silage men will eat before they cover the pit. I’ve got a half an hour.

It was an early start. As always, we were in a rush around the farmhouse, our usual tardy selves catching up with the day. I put the bacon onto boil while I made the scones; a dozen brown, a dozen fruit. With the oven still hot, I put the bacon now smeared with honey, mustard and cloves into bake and it’s scent wafts into every corner of the house. I lay the table and have to run to town. I never know when the crew are to eat until closer to the time so I have the food ready to go. Scones covered, ham cooling, salads ready.

All the way home from town the boys ask if the tractors have arrived. I’m not sure. Maybe. Probably. Every five minutes or maybe less, the same answer. Soon. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see. And then as we drive along our road, we can see the big machines in the silage fields sucking up the grass like a straw in a green field with their forage harvesters. To placate the boys who just want to go to Daddy, I set two chairs up in the field so they can watch the trailers emptying their loads of grass onto the pit and see the awe-inspiring packer climb over the grass even-ing it off expertly. I know it would take my boys in wellies about five minutes to get to the gate so I run between them and the kitchen. With the tractors parked up in the yard, I can switch on the oven and fill the kettle all the time running between the children and the oven.

All plates were eaten whilst watching an Irish athlete go for gold at the Olympics. He broke an Irish record as we all watched on drinking the tea and eating the ham, satisfied. No rest for the wicked, the pit has to be covered, the children have to watch on and I have the ware to wash. The cow’s feed saved for the winter. I might just flick that kettle on again before the running starts again. Second cut silage saved.

Ah, Sleep

I think if I were to read the blog tags retrospectively they would mention sleep and children quite often. It’s been a consideration of mine these past seven years, an obsession really, given the time of our lives.

‘Did you get up last night?’ he might ask. ‘No, they slept through.’ High Five.

Last Saturday morning, I found myself early in a park in Cork. At nine in the morning to be precise. And there I met a woman with her children who was at nine o’clock in the morning trying to ‘wear them out so they’ll sleep the night.’ At 9am. In the morning. And because we’re just coming ourselves out of the crazy torturous sleep schedules of young children, I had to bite my lip so as not to offer this lady advise. You see, she admitted that she hadn’t sleep in two and a half years. The age of her eldest daughter. Two and a half years of no sleep. And it’s not too distant a memory that I’m unaware that the cruelest thing to do to any poor creatur in such a state is to offer her advise. Because she has tried it. How do I know? Why, I’m a mother of young children, I have tried it. All.

And whatsmore, even though I have children who were relatively good sleepers (mainly because if they looked like they wouldn’t sleep, I’d drive them to the local beach and release them like labradors to run until they looked tired), I would have lied. Because as you know, worse that the person who wants to advise you on how to give your children a nights sleep, is the person who tells you (smugly) that their children always sleep. Until ten o’clock in the morning mind you. I haven’t slept past eight o clock in seven years (and it was 6.30 until three months ago).

If she hadn’t been a perfect stranger, I would have told her to go off for a sleep for herself on the park-bench while I watched the children. Odd, definately. Instead, all I could lend this lady was a listening ear. Listen to the delirium of a body who has not slept in a long time as she raved on incoherently about children and the suggestion that her mother recently gave her of putting diluted whiskey in their bottles. It’s how it was long go. Apparently. Happily, we laughed that suggestion off.

So, if you’re off to bed in the sweet knowledge that you will sleep soundly, my friends, sweet dreams. As for all the rest of you night warriors, keep the faith and the whiskey in the cupboard. If you must.

The Takeaway

Thursday night I found myself having a takeaway with my lovely sisters in the city. Just like that, we ordered from an Asian cookhouse before leaving the homeplace and collected it on the way to my middliest sister’s house. From the extensive menu, we ordered Asian food and it came to us so easily in the cutest little cartons. And while I tried to focus on my sisters, I couldn’t take my attention away from the food, so fresh and hot and aromatic. I thought, there has to be more, these are very small cartons but on opening them up there appeared just the right amount of food for all. Delicious. Easy. An accessible meal.

Everything consumable in the city is easy.

I was telling my sisters about our attempt to have a Chinese takeaway some weeks back as our eldest indignant that his classmates had all eaten takeaways, would like to try some. Fair enough. Now, I must add, that others may have tried and may have been more successful but it is not an easy task and after one or two attempts, women stronger than I have said to have given up. So I know of a lovely Chinese restaurant in our nearest big town, Listowel. It’s good enough food and reasonable. What more does a seven year old want for his first takeaway experience? It’s about 15 km away. Problem number one, how to keep the hot food hot and tasty. It’s manageable enough. But alas, there is always the problem of directions.

The entrance to our house has red gates, symphony red according to the colour chart and they are a beauty. Aside from being aesthetically lovely, they are a beacon to lost delivery men when looking for our homestead. If you see the red gates, that’s us. Alas, at nighttime, the red gates, in the absence of street lamps or streets in fact are not visible. Problem number two. So having called up and ordered we waited an unusually long time before I got a call from the village from a forlorn delivery man to say that he was lost. Not the best at given directions (reference red gate), I handed the phone to my farmer who explained the way to our house.  Some ten minutes later, I received another call to say that he has been driving up and down the street and village, he just can’t find the turn off to our house. ‘Stay right where you are’ I said and hopped in the car to go and find the lonesome delivery man.

‘I didn’t think that road led anywhere’, the man said shocked that anyone would even think of living up ‘such a lonely road’. ‘Everyroad leads to somewhere’ I said now channelling my inner hungry Buddha. ‘Amazing’ he said and started to chat about living in the country and how he could never do it. Ordinarily, I would have been delighted to engage but I was aware of the luke warm package in my hands that needed feeding to the wide-eyed expectant family. ‘Rightso,’ he waved me off, standing in the village street-light watching me off not quite believing that there was a road beyond the sportsfield; one he had dared not to travel. ‘Townie’ my Buddha whispered while sending him much good tidings for his return journey.

As for his first takeaway experience, my young son ate it up. Not bad he said.

The moral, everything consumable in the countryside is not so easy. But you can curse the darkness or learn to make a very good Chinese meal. Now to find some of those cutesy cartons.

Home Made Pizza Manifesto

Being an idealist gets you into all sorts of trouble. You might with little time to spare decide to make pizzas from scratch or indeed, even marry an Irish dairy farmer. If you are a romantic with that idealistic streak, well, you know yourself, those rose-coloured lenses often need replacing. Throw into the mix the socialist hangover from your youth and you end up with a big grin with people saying ‘isn’t she lovely’ while really meaning ‘more that a bit naive and she’ll definitely buy it.’

What is more, being an idealist leaves you often susceptible to all sorts of anxieties as the world and humanity throws you curve balls from its tennis ball machine as it assaults your conscious and better nature from all sides. But what protects you, if you insist on continuing to be an idealist and are steadfast in seeing the good in humanity and the world, no matter what, is your absolute conviction that people are good. And well, that people are the same. Really. Just the same.

You and I are really just the same. We may have different access to broadband (you may not have to stand on the roof to get coverage for example), we may view the world differently, pray to a different but the same God, drink coffee in a different manner but we are both the same. Our bank balances may be different, our children though beautifully individual are just the same. We pretty much can only eat three meals a day (with some snacks). We farm differently but have the same end goal of producing food in mind. Naive bless her.

So as an idealist, I’m not buying this new threat to humanity, one of hate and racism thinly masked under a thin veil of populist manifestos across the world. I’m just not buying that. Because we’ve had that. It continues to bob it’s menacing head throughout the history of humanity and is unkind and toxic to the human condition. Remember World War two anyone? Bosnia? I will not believe what you have to tell me, I will continue to be good, a do-gooder (you said it) and try and steer my children in that direction too. Try stopping me.

So, if you don’t mind my silly grin, I’ll continue to be my sunny idealist self, loving my dairy farmer despite his long work hours and low milk prices. And you must excuse me, for I haven’t yet torn the fresh basil for the top of that home made pizza. Champagne socialist moi? Somebody’s got to be. Think goodwill, kindness and compassion if you will. Why not?