Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Latest from here...

I've begun - and then scrapped - so many posts to this blog recently. Each one has sounded like an apology more than anything else, so perhaps I'll just get it out of my system and then I can move on. It's true this blog began as an essay, of sorts, to my children.  The past few months, it has felt harder to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and filter out what needs to be said and what doesn't, harder to edit the details of my life to what matters. I can safely say Jack's arrival saw me go a little deranged, but then, what post-partum period isn't?  But I felt eaten up with a sleep deprived anxiety about the future and I wonder whether, at the heart of my worries, was the selfish panic that I would never ever have any time again, time for anything, time for myself, to write a bit - write this small effort at capturing my children - no time at all that wasn't taken up with nursing, soothing and changing an infant; feeding, tantrum-managing and entertaining a two year old or ferrying around, negotiating with and being interrogated by a four year old, and then cleaning it all up and starting over again! That gives you a taste of the passing undocumented days...and when I say undocumented I say it with the sweaty realisation that the 'genius' I saw in the Apple store seems to have erased all 6,000 photos I've taken since 2006.  That's the birth of three children, five years of 'firsts', and yes - I really thought I had backed them all up but everything I seem to open is blank and bare.  So here's where the memory will have to sharpen up.  And that really sums it up, just as I'm about to share some thoughts here, something like the loss of 6,000 precious photos gets in the way, and then someone, usually everyone, needs feeding again!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome 2011

Hello New Year! I'm so glad you're here. I know I'm a few days late with the welcome wishes and everything, but I just wanted to get the measure of you. You see, your predecessor threw me some hard balls early on and I just...well, you know, I just wanted to make sure we were friends.  2010, I don't know, it looked good on paper but it just wasn't my best, that's all.  But 2011, well I don't want to be gushing - but it feels good. You look great by the way.  You really do. No, I'm not just saying it.  So here we are. Yes, I can safely say I feel more comfortable that you're here. I think we are going to get on. I think it's going to be fun. So really, well, I suppose I just wanted to say thanks for coming.  Stay around a while, make yourself comfortable.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dairy Diary

Yesterday we came back from a few days staying on a dairy farm north of the city.  We rented a bungalow that looked out over the run down farmhouse and out-buildings.  Everything looked like it needed some love, the paint was peeling on the barns, overhead wiring between the buildings looked perilous.  There was slurry on the roads and mud you could lose a boot in.  We arrived there in howling wind and torrential rain, but after such a relaxed Christmas, our spirits would not be dampened.  In fact the space and the farmland and the view of the sea was just what we wanted. The wind hardly let up - so much so, that it was sometimes hard to catch your breath - but the sun did come out and the light of the early sunrise and sunset was amazing. And our friendly farmer wanted to talk corn prices and agricultural politics and show us the farm where he'd grown up.  It was the perfect place for my puddle jumping, mud-loving children!
In the place where I grew up, my next door neighbour was a dairy farmer. The herd of fresians rubbed their necks on our garden fence, their black and white backs were dotted about the fields around our home, we smelt their muck and trod in their cowpats. In the spring we heard their braying when their calves were taken from them.  In the autumn, we picked the mushrooms that grew out of their manure. When we camped in the field once I was convinced they were gnawing on our guy ropes but the tent did not fall down so it must have been their noisy chewing of the cud.  So I have slept just yards from a cow but in spite of this proximity, I had never seen one milked.  And since I'm nursing at the moment myself, I had a new level of respect for these animals as we observed them from the 'pit' in the milking parlour. The invitation came from our accommodating host and was seized upon happily by all of us.  But when you are eye level with a swollen udder, heavy and veined, a few things happen. First, you realise how big a cow actually is, then you become extremely thankful you are not also a cow with their heavy gait and weighty milk-producing burden, and you promptly have a new appreciation for a simple glass of milk and vow never again to let it go off by leaving it out overnight or let it spill across the table from a clumsy hand.
Through a circular piece of glass you could see the milk pulsing out of the udders.  The farmer talked about the iodine used to prevent infections like mastitis. I winced with the memory of it.  He told us the herd were more productive if they listened to music they recognised.  A tinny sounding Latin jazz from the local Hispanic radio channel could be heard from a speaker strung over a beam on the ceiling.  Don't all the parenting books tell us, you nurse better when relaxed?  I looked on in awe, safe behind the iron rails that held the cows in place. Then I got a splash of cow pee and decided to retreat a little closer to the door of our observation 'pit' - poor Jack was strapped to me in a carrier after all.  Not deterred by any of this, Max and Oli wanted to see the calves.  Aged between two weeks and three months, they were being weaned in little tents nearby. Their coats were clean and fluffy as they jumped around their muddy pens. They stuck their noses through the fencing and sucked the farmers hands in the absence of their mothers.  Max wanted to kiss them. Oli wanted to put them on the BBQ. 'Me eat that cow' he said, pointing at one whose pink nose was spotted with black, as if she'd stuck it in an ink well.  'Me dream 'bout cows' he told us this morning and I didn't really think to ask what kind of dream it was.  We offered both boys a beefburger for lunch today and in contrast to Oli's gastronomic take on his farm experience, our future vegetarian declined for both of them, 'That's a waste of a cow' Max said.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Oli's words, part II

I remember how, 2 years ago, I watched Max's language begin to evolve. I went to bed at night hearing his peculiar turns of phrase, it inhabited my head, his repeated demands for 'big milk' or the intriguing way in which bananas were always 'numanas'. I smiled at the sweetness of those ever so slight phonetic inaccuracies. And now it is Oli's language that rattles around in my mind, the repeated lines that he uses to make himself understood.  'You dough-way' he says, pushing me off, his independence threatened by my kisses.  'Me pee!' he cries as we rush to the pot.  Then 'You read it!' as he drags a book to the sofa where I am nursing Jack. 'You read it 'den. You read it right now.'  The other night he cried out in his sleep. 'Me have it. Me have it.' I walked down the corridor to his room. His hot head was on the pillow, his body curled round his sucked thumb. 'No, me have it!' It was a wail of desperation. 'It's yours' I whispered in his ear as he dreamed.  And how I love the phrases he's heard, like a traffic jam which he calls a 'japping jam' or how he proudly sings 'row row row your boat' and abbreviates those final 'merrily's to a succinct no-nonsense, 'melly like deem'.
I'm all too aware that this is a brief window, it's almost impossible to hold onto his changing language and his emerging comprehension of it.  He has now worked out that his name is Oli with an L rather that Oyi with a Y. He said it with a Y for the last time a few days ago. And soon enough he'll realise the small yellow beetle that hides out in Richard Scarry's strange world of bananamobiles and carrot cars is not in fact dollbug. 'Me see dollbug!' he says, stamping his little finger down on the page with an audible inhale of pure excitement, or a whine of 'Oww, me' if Max spots it first.  Funny to think all this will be gone in a month or so.  I'm sure he'll still tell me to 'dough-way' but he'll say it with a 'g'. And I'll be able to take it because I'll have the memory of him asking me, just today, 'hold yous hand, Mummy? Hold yous hand.'