Category Archives: children

A portrait

It’s a tap on the shoulder from impermanence to say, eh, sorry, love, but you haven’t got all day. Sheesh. I know that, on your way, I’ve seen the grey hairs, the little wrinkles that he promises me he loves still. The signs to let me know that on awakening from what seems a ten-year slumber while washing the dishes and changing nappies; I’ve awoken and suddenly I’ve grown older. While sleep-depreived and breastfeeding, spoon feeding and toilet training, I had little time for watching the world or really taking as much notice as I would have liked.

While I was measuring the little steps, their height on my pantry wall, their ability to reach the biscuit shelf, everything else was getting a little bit older too. You’re right, impermanence, time does not wait for any man or woman. Just show yourself out will you?

They’re older now, in fact, they’re all away, at their Nana’s, two nights away and I believe I just heard silence, real silence. There it is again. No sound. No screaming or pushing, laughing, ‘I’m hungry-ing’, no falling, nobody has let the cats in or out, nobody has slammed a door. There is just me and my tap, tap, tapping and head space and oh my, do I have a lot to catch up on.

And empty, the house reminds me of a frame of a beautiful picture, I mean, it’s a very fine frame, a collector’s item really, regardless of the battered edges that lend it a somewhat fine aged contour. But it is an empty picture nonetheless without the three main characters in the picture’s portrait. The little beautiful creatures who take up the foreground of the painting of our lives here. And here, listen to me, me with time on my hands, to tidy in peace, sit still, watch uninterrupted television, to read a book, feed a calf and I’m sitting here thinking of them.

Time without children is time to recuperate, time to recover from the exhaustion of always being somebody’s, some three bodies mother. Where does time go? She’s off to the garden, with a beer and a little music and a bit of appreciation for the finest things in this life.

In gratitude of my beautiful portrait.

 

Anne

 

 

About now

About now, you’ve finished early, taken the tie off, flung it on the backseat or relaxed in your casual Friday gear; you’re off to collect the kids that extra hour early. It might be a Chinese for supper, or that new Asian street food place you like. He puts that wine you like in the fridge and you buy the croissants for Saturday morning or pancakes, he makes pancakes on Saturday morning as a treat. It is, after all, the weekend. I dream of your weekend sometimes, remember, that time when, in a lifetime ago, I clocked out early on Fridays and met up with the gang after hours to exchange out of hours office gossip over cocktails and local beers. Dream of how himself might finish at five, collect the kids while I get my hair done for a night out.

And so to now, how can I describe the weekend to you on the farm? What changes on the Friday, moreso, Saturday to whisper take-that-break? As usual, I can only describe this evenings scene. Friday is market day in our nearby town and myself and my almost four year old make it our business to shake hands with the fish monger (they’ve built up a friendship) and pick up enough fish to feed, let me see, two men, one woman, three boys for dinner.  And then from under her awning, local farmhouse baker, Audrey, who has been up since 5am baking delicious cakes, saves me a job and I carry home dessert for after our meal of fish. The children, like yours, come home without homework and they disappear, to play, shout, cartwheel. This evening they are pirates, all three with hats on as they shout orders to each other while the cows look on, chewing their cud, happily in the sun, until the farmer and his pirates swashbuckle into the field to bring them home for milking.

As to the cats, on weekdays I shoo them out, there are four, Coco and her children Hermione, Harry and Tom (formerly known as Lily) but at the weekend they remain hidden happily in various parts in or out of the farmhouse, in an available basket, basking in the sun on top of one of our collies, Sam and Pepe. I might wash the ware, or not straight away. There’s no rush, the weeks work is done in the farmhouse, I listen to my radio, light a candle, chill that wine, think about writing to you, watch my pirates as they laugh into the Kerry air surrounded by cows and cats and dogs, their family.

The work really doesn’t stop but it might move down a gear, but don’t tell anyone. We continue to milk the cows twice a day, feed calves twice a day, move wires, fence, feed remaining silage to heifers, clean out cubicles for any remaining animals housed, go to the creamery for supplies to keep us going for the weekend, fix water troughs that might need mending, spread fertiliser, slurry, agitate same slurry and an innumerable amount of other chores so that we can have Sunday afternoon off between milking. Phew, you say.

My friends have stopped asking, we’re not really available to meet on Saturdays but we’d love to see you Sundays. We’re great friends on Sundays, between milkings. And yes, it is difficult. But it reminds me to book a babysitter, to remind himself to finish milking early on Saturday. It is our life, one that I know, though it has it’s moments, now, I have come to love. I’ll take my chair and book and tea later and sit outside and watch all my pirates chat with their Daddy as they bring their cows in and delight in the weekend that is here.  Sometimes I bring the cows in but not on Friday evenings let it for Daddy and boy time as they take off along with the cats, dogs and cows to wonder over to the milking parlour all enjoying each others company. And I breathe in the weekend and exhale the busy week that was. Another weekend on a dairy farm as I take my little break.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Badabing

You have to be a little bit sneaky when you want something on a farm. There’s always a queue. Look, this year there was a slurry tank, a course and a milking parlour before us. In fact in ten years, there’s been a lot before us. And the luxuries you have to squeeze past like they’re sales pitches.

A trip to New York. Think of it as an investment, in the farm, your marriage, our mental health. We can do it in the quiet of the year. When the cows are dried off. I know, I know, I say, holding the brochures in and around his vicinity for a month, it could be a bad year. Then again. A good year like a bad year in farming is like a surprise. You never know. It’s a toss of a coin.

Then again, you could hold this pitch when say for example, maybe, when, em, he hasn’t sleep in a few nights in the Spring. I know. I know. Sneaky but stick with me. It’s for his (read our) own good.

You’re feeling sleepy. Ten calves have arrived in forty eight hours. Wouldn’t a soft bed in a New York Hotel with your wife be dreamy. Oh so sleepy. There will be Manhattans and fun and New York adventures and so many dreams for a sleepy, oh so sleepy Dairy farmer.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

And before he knows it, he’s sipping that Manhattan in the Tavern on the Green in Central Park and his face is saying ‘Well, ain’t this life grand.’

Well, when you’re married ten years, you get to know the short cuts.

He’s back on terra firma, checking out the cows after I stole him away for five whole nights without the kids to celebrate our anniversary after ten crazy years. And a break is really as good as a rest. And when you’re married to the coolest, calmest man in well, actually, the universe, your holiday is a meditation where you get to enjoy every moment in the company of your best friend.

Back to the grindstone, the hooting and New York twang is just a ringing in our ears as he teaches the three Yankee capped boys how to play baseball (using a Youtube video) and they roar and shout about rules and catches and home-runs in a North Kerry green field basking in the yellow November light. Now in a more New York state of mind. Badabing.

Ooooooooooooooommmmmm

Picture the scene. A farmhouse in North Kerry, Ireland, November, 2016. It’s windy and cold outside. The farmer of the house is milking the cows. Inside, in the main living area of the house, there are three young boys running everywhere while a mother shouts commands. The children in response jump off the couches, scream at lost blankies, pout at the injustice of it all.

They arrange the meditation cushions, fighting all the time about who gets what colour. The mother, determined, pulls the cushions into a circle. There is a crashing noise in the background. A black cat appears from the kitchen looking coy. She’s undeterred. She asks the children to get down on their cushions. They’re going to meditate.

“May we safe from inner and out harm” And by that she means that the eldest takes his foot off his brother.

“May we be happy and peaceful” hoping that her emphasis on peaceful really resonates in their inner sanctum or that they just stop talking long enough for her to get to the end of the sentance.

“May we be healthy and strong” repeating her lifelong wish that they get to adulthood without her losing her mind.

As she sits in the lotus, eyes closed, in this scene of chaos of sprawling limbs and giddiness, she smiles. Maybe just a little.

“What about the om’s Mom” the second boy giggles. Oh God, she thinks, not the oms.

And then echoing throughout the farmhouse, on a rainy morning in Kerry just before schooltime, three boys and their mother hold some ‘Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooms’ for longer than is descent and louder than is possible.

Sometimes, after this ‘practice’, they arise from the cushions having got the crazy out, othertimes, they pull her up willing her to go on. Mostly, the poor woman gets up shaking her head walking towards the coffee machine, dejected. Why does she do it?

She hopes that they remember that in the craziness, that there was for a few moments, at least, a smiling mom in the middle of it all. That they can always find peace in the middle of all the chaos. Repeat.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm.

I walk with you

So I thought I was having a bad week. And then I thought again.

It’s been a tough week. As I type I have one little boy in arm my arms burning up with a fever, medicated to cool down into sleep and there is little else for it but to hold him for a while. His brothers are shivering and feverish on the couch. It’s one of those parental days when you put it all on hold to get them back on their feet.

It comes on top of a lot of other things. The bills, the poor milk cheque that we thought would resolve things, the upcoming anniversary trip that maybe we shouldn’t take. The parlour that looks like it might never be built. Poor me.

And then I think of her. She’s putting layers of clothes on her boys so she’ll have enough for them to survive the Eastern European winter. She can’t carry non-essentials. Leaving photographs behind, his first baby hat that she kept because she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away, the little sheet on the wall with the first scribble of his name. Will they make it? Will they survive the walk? Where will it bring them? Will they make it out of the war zone alive?

Perspective.

He is beginning to cool down. He breathes deeply in his little sleep and of course I know he’ll be alright. The bills, well, you know, they always get paid. Farming is a sticky old business. One year you’re doing good enough to invest back into the farm with a new road, an extra spread of lime, reseeding and then along comes the year that is wet and the market dictates your every move. And we sulk a bit (well I do anyway), adjust the budget and recollect ourselves and count our blessings. In a few hours time they’ll be up and running around, fighting and healthy. The parlour, believe me, will get built. It will Dan, it will. We’ll take that trip because we can. And we’ll laugh the whole time. And continue to count our blessings.

So as I sit and type with my boy in arms, I walk with you. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But I walk with you. That you and your little boys be safe, that you are delivered to safety soon.

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.

To the Mart

He may only be three going on four but already you get glimpses of the man he’ll become. I’ll be talking to Daddy he tells me excited at the day that lays ahead. I’ll be up on the big box with Dan (as he calls Daddy) when we sell the calves. The same calves who he tried to feed some weeks before. The same calves he let lick or morelike swallow his little hand previously.

He walks down the drive with a little swagger behind his father who is busy trying to think of what else he might need for the mart. Calves, check. Calf cards, check, phone, wallet, keys check, little namesake, check. The rain pours down on them but little will dampen the spirits of the three year old, who carrying the ham sandwiches on Thomas the Tank backpack, will drive with Daddy in his tractor to the mart.

The city woman in me used to wonder what we would tell them about the days we would have to put calves in the trailer to take to the mart. It used to make me a little sad but I’ve come to realize that my life as a farmer’s wife is less of a novelty now and more the norm by the year. That these little of boys of mine while adoring their animals, know from a young age that taking the calves to the mart is a part of the job. Not a time for sentimentality mom.

Just before being lifted up high by his Daddy towards his little seat on the tractor, he gives me one big wave and a happy smile. He’s off for a day at the mart, a day with Daddy. Such a big boy now.