Tag Archives: children

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.

 

Another Nollaig na mban

Nollaig Na mban (Women’s Little Christmas) is a bit funny when you live in a predominantly male household. What does this Queen Bee of ours want now?! A day to celebrate women? What?

‘Why can’t it be Little Boys day?’

‘That’s every day,’ I mutter.

‘What?’

‘That was last week darling.’

‘What?’

‘It’s just a day to celebrate the Mommies who have been really busy getting the place ready for the real Christmas. So you guys have to mind me, do the housework and while you’re at it, take me out for dinner.’ Hey, it’s once a year! I’m milking this!

So I put on the lippy, heels and got all concerned into the car, besides the husband who can tie himself in now. Today, we drove to Killarney, our resident town for extraordinary beauty in Kerry that has both good food and open spaces.

Outings are measured. They can be fraught; restaurateurs wince at the sight of young boys coming (can’t imagine why) and so eating out is a hurried affair for the time being at least.

From a very tiny age, however, I have taken the boys with me to cafes locally for a Friday morning coffee. For one half of an hour (maximum) on a Friday morning, I have, over the past eight years carried one, two and sometimes three little boys (aka the double espresso days) with me for a Friday morning coffee. So they’re good enough when they’re out in public, I mean there’s a time limit, but they’ve been trained since babyhood to know that sometimes, Mom needs a little treat, that girls need to be treated a bit special on occasion. And just hold those feminist horses ladies, for when you live with these wrestling, soldiering, bundles of energy you have to have your high maintenance moments.

This year’s Nollaig na mban felt a bit different. My littlest has outgrown the family buggy and while the older two are growing up fast; still holding my hand walking down the street, they seem that little bit wiser. It’s beginning to look, dare I say it, a bit easier. After dinner, we strolled around the corner to Killarney’s National Park to let my young dates run off the energy that they had stored up whilst giving their mom a peaceful enough meal. There was twenty minutes left before the park closed and a fog had descended over a darkening National Park as they ran chasing after each other. Myself and my farmer walked on behind arm in arm with one of the Killarney’s Lakes sparkling in the distance.

At five o’clock to get to the closing gates, I shout that Mommy refrain ‘Who comes to me the very first?’ into the quiet of the park to have one, two, three little boys run through the fog into this lucky lady’s arms.

A Nollaig Na mban to remember.

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.

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.

A Rainy Bank Holiday

The June Bank Holiday weekend is a trial for the summer holidays. At this stage, we’d be hoping for good weather but already in the style of a good-auld-Irish-can’t-complain-about-the-misery-sur-tis-green episode of non-stop rain, I contemplate a farmhouse in Kerry for the summer with three young boys. I can do it. I’ll make the best of this by God.

I awake at 7am after a lie-in. Normally, these boys wake earlier. I sneak downstairs, fuel up on coffee and get the breakfast ready. Some minutes later the house arises with ‘That’s mine’, ‘no, mine’ and ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.’
Up the stairs I go and have the perfect parenting conversation, I think.
Right boys, says I, we can have a good day or a bad day. A good day includes, fun, kindness to one another, giggles, hugs, imagination and anything else my just awakened mind can dream up. A bad day, on the other hand, involves cross boys, a grumpy mommy, a boring day, tears, hoarse voices and have I mentioned a grumpy mommy?
We decide on the good day.
After eating breakfast, cleaning up and dressing, we decide to start as we mean the summer to go on and not switch on the television right away.
We did lego yesterday. We baked yesterday and I ate all the substandard dinosaurs. I am full to the brim with one-legged stegosaurus.
Puzzles it is. Yes, I can work with you and you. At the same time. Find the pieces around the edges first. You want your bottle? Ok, pet. Great work. Well done. I am helping you. And you. Drink up. Oh, you have a poo, let’s change that. I do help you. All the time. Let’s play tidy up the puzzles. Come on. You too. You have to. Because I said so. Great stuff.
Toy hospital? I’d love to. Girls can be doctors too you know. Yes, I’ll be nurse once you know I could be a Doctor too. You two be Doctors because you’re the boys, no, no, because you insist, no. no, because you make great, caring Doctors. Yes, your doctor outfit is here. Yes, I’ll make the beds. Yes that toy Dog can be a sick cat. Yes, and her too, she can be an elephant with a broken toe.
Oh now, you’re Dogs and I’m the vet and you’re hungry dogs, ok, Mommy Vet will get something nice for you to eat. Let’s sit down and have a nice snack together, oh you still want to be dogs, who are chasing each other, and me.
Followed by Superheros, Hide and Go Seek and crawling races.
It’s 9:15am.
A good day. Where’s the remote?

Six Years

I’m six years a mother. Don’t worry, the six year old is catered for by way of a cake, party, present but this is my moment. Stand back. Six years seems so paltry a figure for describing such an event. A small step for womankind but one immeasurable step for me. Drumroll please.

I have been changing nappies for six years. Since 15:15 on the 2nd of February, 2009, I have been feeding, kissing, changing the nappy of one boy or another. If this was a TV audience, there would be a grumpy looking man with a queue card saying ‘Applause.’ Instead, I’m holding the queue cards and I’m telling you what to do. Applause. Louder. Call that a round of applause. Six years people, three boys, feeding, wiping poos, minding, loving, adoring, worrying over, playing with, pampering to, reading stories to, nursing better, don’t-ing, cajoling. And what’s that you mumble from the back? I chose it? Oh yes, I did. But by God, I’ve earned it. Uproarious applause please.

Now for the sentimental bit. I love them all but the first one was a pretty good template. Despite being my first, and therefore the guinea pig, he has withstood my awful singing, woeful nappy changing attempts with and flashes of ridiculous looking silly temper. He is and will always be the first one to snuggle under my arm first thing in the morning. His smile makes me weep sometimes. He is beautiful. From 7lb and 10oz of tiny goodness, he has set up shop in my heart and grown into the most handsome little gentleman any mommy will ever have. That woman in the front is raising a hand. Don’t want to know about your Grandson Mrs, have her removed!

If motherhood is a test, then I’m the student with the writing up her sleeve and the ‘please God’ look on her face in the exam hall. Yes, I’m six years a mother and it’s been worth the slog. What’s that? A standing ovation. Oh you.

Happy almost Birthday, my boy Philip

 

 

There’s more, I’ve written for Irish Country Living this week…. http://www.farmersjournal.ie/views-on-farming-from-a-city-girl-173739/

 

Dear Minister

I’m writing to you to request an extra allowance for farmer’s wives who happen to be the mothers of young sons. You see Minister, you must allow in your estimate of how much water a family can possibly use for the unimaginable quantities of water that some families can go through. Allow me to illustrate using the example of one such family on a dairy farm in North Kerry, namingly mine.

This morning Minister, my second son (three years old) decided he needed to wash the dogs. This began at circa 8am and may have continued until I realised he wasn’t making noise in my immediate vicinity circa post coffee 8:15am. The dogs are clean but the son was not. Bath number one. Later that morning, several buckets of water may have been used to clean up the ‘accidents’ of a certain toilet training toddler. The baby (four months old) who is being weened, Minister, ate solids for the first time today followed by a healthy evacuation of the bowels. Bath number two.

The washing machine is not shy when it comes to consuming water. Why, just today, the same machine washed one load of farmer’s milking clothes, one load of sheets and one load of baby clothes. It’s bedfellow, the dishwasher, is contemplating an all out strike and the negotiations are ongoing. The milk pasteuriser requires a large volume of water to cool the gallon of milk that is brought in from the parlour every second day. Three boys, Minister, three boys.

In the evening, in order to give the farmer’s wife a break from the general washing, cooking, mopping up, bathing et al, the farmer (heeding the warning signs) takes the two older boys to bring in the cows. This as you can imagine Minister on a damp enough day is not a clean job. At approximately, 5.30pm of an evening, two walking mucky boys reappear before me. Clothes in the washing machine and boys in bath number three.

So you see, Minister, in your calculation of the average water usage of Irish famililes, you need to be cogniscent of the fact that there is a farmer’s wife out there who is a slave to water consumption. We are not ordinary mortals when it comes to water Minister, and the allowance could be up to your own discretion. Let’s say, I wouldn’t be adverse to a shopping trip to the capital or indeed, a medal. With that Minister,  I’m off for a hot bath myself and a stiff drink of something, preferably not water.