Children,  they grow on you

Family is the best.

The other day I was watching my two young adult sons walking from the shed back towards the house after a day of work.  It was lovely to see them chatting to each other as they finished their workday on the farm.  I am sure they weren’t talking about anything much but it was a nice feeling seeing them get along.

Some families don’t get along.   I hear people saying that they don’t talk to their brother, or sister, or mother or father and it breaks my heart.   I just hope that we have brought our kids up with enough generosity and thoughtfulness and love that they will respect their siblings no matter what life sends them.  

Brothers and sisters will always be there.  Since you first enter the family nucleus they teach you patience and sharing and how to be thoughtful of other peoples feelings.  They know all your secrets.  They were the first people you shared the bathroon with, the first people you holidayed with. In my case we endured hours in the car on the weekends driving to little rural towns where we watched my Dad play cricket. Three of us in the back seat, for the most part annoying the heck out of each other. You can always connect with your siblings when reminiscing about those trips and can always bond over the idiosyncracies of your parents.

Family are a very important support.  Through good times and bad.  I think the quote “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” means you are lucky to get those people as your family.  I hope that my kids will choose their siblings to be their friends for the rest of their lives.

When running a farming business there can be extra pressure on relationships as the siblings grow up.  Who wants to be a farmer? who gets the farm?  Who might want to be a farmer but leaves to make their own way, because they know there can only be one person taking over the business.  I have seen this cause rifts, anxiety and sometimes siblings just drift apart. As our children get older that is foremost on my mind. I want to make sure the farming business doesn’t affect them as friends.

The inheritance of a farming business can be tricky. We are trying to keep all our four children involved; with lots of communication, discussions at the dinner table and eventually they will be at the business meetings. They know that they are part of our business whether they are here on the farm, involved with the day to day running or off pursuing their career in the ‘big city’.  All of our children know they will be involved and supported in the future, the best way we can.

I am lucky to have one brother and one sister, both whom I love and respect and actually like to spend time with socially.  Mind you it has taken a few years for me to realise that they are very important to me.  It wasn’t that we never got along, more the fact that we didn’t realise how much we liked each other and we all just click. My sister and I have many things in common, we both love Yoga to name just one interest. My brother and I both have a love of the sea, surfing and swimming. Unfortunately I live about three hours travel away from both my brother and my sister but we see each other as much as possible. I am grateful for any time we get together. I am blessed to have such a beautiful family.  It will bring me joy seeing my kids liking their siblings company as much as I like mine.

The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.” – Mario Puzo

Backs, they come, they go (out)

Thanks to the MindJournal for picture

So, I have been laid up for almost three weeks now with a “bulging disc” in my lower back. It is a frustrating thing for me as I like to think I am a fit active person who loves Yoga and Pilates, walking, my morning swims and bike rides with “handsome farmer husband” when he nags me enough and it isn’t windy or rainy (I have my rules). Like most people I know, having a sore back wasn’t ever going to happen to me. It was a shock when it did.

At its worst sitting was painful, I couldn’t stand for long and I struggled to sit down on the toilet without pain. I could not put pants on without help (thanks amazing child number four) and had to let my legs ‘drip dry’ after I got out of the shower. The worst thing was I could not drive my car. For me that is like cutting my legs off. Living on a farm, out of town is difficult enough but if you can’t get in your car and drive to the shop to get food, the mail and most importantly, a decent barista made coffee, it is like life itself has ended. Bottom line, I was relying on other people to help me with all manner of things; my children, my mum and dad, my friends and neighbours and my ‘handsome farmer husband’. I had to learn to ask for help and had accepted that I would not be able to do any normal day to day activities for an indefinite time. So this was all fine and dandy, for a while.

It had been about a week since the initial back pain had started and it was definitely getting better. I had seen a chiropractor who relieved some pressure. I was taking it easy, no bending or picking things up off the floor. No packing the dishwasher, loading the washing machine or unloading the washing machine. I was struggling to lie down comfortably, but once I got there I was OK. I had resigned myself to taking anti-inflammatorys and pain relief constantly and was resting as much as I could. One week to the initial day and I was feeling heaps better. I felt great as I got out of bed, gingerly, but much easier than the few days before. I felt so good that I had made a few plans for the day. Make some pies for lunch, maybe even do some washing, perhaps re-edit a blog I had started.

As I was standing at my sink I had an urge to sneeze, without even thinking of the consequences, I did. Oh dear. Oh dear. There were a lot more interesting words coming out of my mouth than that, but they cannot be printed here. I could not move. I was in so much pain I could barely breathe. I held onto the sink and broke out in a sweat, the pain was intense and I actually thought I might vomit right into my kitchen sink. So I breathed through the pain, or tried to. Looking back I now liken it to labour pains, but I knew darn well they weren’t going to end and I wasn’t going to get a reward, like a beautiful little baby.

So, I thought I would lie down on the floor, that will help settle it. Ah, Nup. Now instead of standing up in pain I was lying on my floor in pain. More pain, which would not go away. So just so that you can see my dilemma here, I was actually in my dressing gown and that was all. I was actually busting to go to the toilet but couldn’t move. Luckily two of my boys were in the house so I yelled out to them and asked them to help try and roll me over. In my pain affected brain I thought I would crawl to the toilet. Ah, Nup again, was I stupid or just optimistic? I am not sure. It hurt so much and it had started to spasm. I was panting through the pain, breathing similar to birthing my kids. It stopped me from passing out, lucky I remembered that, lucky I was already on the floor.

Long story short, the boys got my ‘handsome farmer husband’ who was fortunately close by in the shed and he then called the ambulance. Much to my embarrassment three ambulances turned up. (Another long story). Obviously they didn’t want to miss out on anything. I met some beautiful, caring, wonderful people, who gave me some major pain relief in the form of a ‘green whistle’ or two and some other stuff which I cannot remember, then they whisked me off to hospital. Before the ambulance people came I had to ask my ‘handsome farmer husband’ to help put my underwear on. It was bad enough I was going to the hospital in my dressing gown, I was not going anywhere without my knickers. It hurt but it was worth it.

So my morning sneeze set me back to even worse than the beginning back pain. I spent a few hours in hospital being monitored by nurses who tried to keep my pain level as low as they could. After a few hours a lovely young doctor looked me over, gave me a referral for a CT Scan a few more pain killers and and sent me home. Back to the couch, more rest, more anti-inflammatories and very strong pain relief. Lucky me, I got a walker. It helped me walk, albeit, slowly. I felt older and slower than my 98 year old grandpa but the walker was invaluable. For the first three days back at home I didn’t go anywhere without it.

Eventually my back has calmed down. I am walking without my walker. I have had my scan and I am heading off to see my doctor next week. It seems I have a bulging disc, which requires rest but also gentle movement that does not antagonise the issue. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately) still no bending or lifting allowed; eg, washing, dishwasher stacking, cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming etc, etc, etc. There is less pain when I am sitting and I am trying to help out by cooking. It has been a challenge. I have to ask for help just to get a plate out of the cupboard. Most of the time I feel useless. I am judging myself harshly. Who knows why this happened, but my sister always says there is a reason for everything.

I found many intetesting articles to read while looking for information on the internet. Videos on how to support my back while sleeping and and activities which will help strengthen my back without doing more damage. I also found many interesting articles to read. One was Spiritual Meanings behind Physical Aches by MindJournal. Their meaning is as follows; “lower back pain indicates that we have taken on more than we think we can handle’. And truth be know I may have thought that recently. I may have been overwhelmed with the things I wanted to get done and probably quietly wondering how I could manage everything even though I had managed quite easily in the past.

Also while totally incapacitated I came across this verse by Safire Rose. I will leave it here for you to read. It is called She Let Go.

And so that is what I am now trying to do. Let go of the self judgement that I have back pain and a health issue. Let go of what I think people think of me. Let go that the dishwasher is not loaded the way I do it. Let go of the sight of socks and shoes cluttering around the door way of our home. Let go that the bread is not back where it lives but just dumped on the bench. Let go of everything not being done my way which I like to do my way. I just had to let it all go and hope for the best. And you know what? I am still here and the world is still turning and I am grateful for my body and family and everything is OK. Not perfect but definitely OK.

Boarding School

Sport at boarding school

It has been a week since we have had our youngest son home from boarding school. He was home for school holidays. We get to hang out with him for two whole weeks. It is always nice to have him home as he likes everything I cook him and he enjoys doing things with us. I am sure this would be different for any other normal 15 year old boy who doesn’t go away to boarding school.

As they all did, while away at boarding school, when they come home they appreciated their family, their home cooked meals and their freedom on the farm. And from my experience over the years I am certain that when they get back to school they are happy to be there with their mates, doing things with them 24/7. Some holidays we go away and they love that but they also appreciate just being at home in their own bed.

We are lucky we are only three hours drive away from the city where they are schooled. We are also lucky to have the technology of mobile phones so we can keep in contact with our kids at any time we like. Unlike the old days when ‘handsome farmer husband,’ was away at school. Once a week, they had to line up to ring their parents from a big old black phone that was stuck on the wall and letters were the regular way of communication. If they were lucky they would see their parents through the school term, but more often than not it would be the end of term when their parents came to collect them that they finally saw them.

All of our children went to boarding school. It was something I thought was important, even though I never attended one myself. I had to argue my case strongly and would bring it up regularly when the kids were young. It was a much discussed subject while driving to the big city with my ‘handsome farmer husband’. Even though he went away for schooling himself, he wasnt sure about it being possible. Obviously cost was a big factor and we had to send four of them. We did have to make some sacrifices in the early days.

I know he knew well the benefits, because during his 4 years at boarding school he made long lasting friends from far and wide, his education improved along with his confidence and and back in those days he had lots of fun experiences. There are many stories he tells about his time there. Many will stay untold until all the children are actually finished school, just in case they want to follow his example.

With hindsight, my children are not exactly the same personalities as their father and so I should not have presumed they would all be fine like he was. I was so confident that it would be good for them all to learn some independence away from their mother, who by the way is a pushover and does way too much for them still.

It was a learning experience for all of us. Our eldest probably had it tougher, being the first cab off the rank, but the youngest was like a duck to water. Every child gained something important from their time away. They are all confident, independant people. We now have three who have finished their Year 12 successfully and since finishing boarding school none of them have looked back.

For two years we only had our youngest child at home. Three at boarding school and one at home. It was very peaceful and there were no arguments over who was doing what jobs around the house. We also had plenty of hot water and the grocery bill was very low.

Now we are back to three at home and one away and it is a very different story. With three big (sort of adult) children home it is interesting. We have a big house, but sometimes its not big enough. We have a big hot water service but sometimes, not big enough. We have a reasonable size fridge but not big enough and the list goes on.

Recently there have been many discussions about the length of peoples showers, why they are always in their rooms and who unpacked the dishwasher last, who cooked last, who fed the cats and the chooks, brought the wood over, who did or didn’t put the rubbish out, who didn’t flush the toilet or put the toilet seat down and the list goes on.

We are teaching them to cook so they can at least feed themselves once they leave the nest. It has been challenging but fun. Everyone cooks once a week. The meal gets a rating out of 10. It is rated on taste and appearance and we try some new recipes along the way. Cooking dinner also entails the clean up and tidy the kitchen and pack and put on the dishwasher as well. ‘Number one son’ is very clever as he tries to pick a Friday night to cook, this is very often the night he is out with his mates. Generally everyone has a go, without too much complaining.

I am grateful to have them home for as long as I can. It is lovely to see my boys walking back from the shed chatting to each other after a day at work or hearing my daughter laughing with her big brother while they are cleaning their teeth at night. Sometimes they even help each other cook. I will make the most of those little things, store them in my memory bank. Soon they will be out of our house, back out into the world, independant young adults. Then before we know it ‘number four’ will be home from boarding school. The countdown is on.

A trip to the shops

Shopping for groceries, some people love it, some people hate it.

When the kids were young, a trip to the supermarket was not an enjoyable outing for me and something I definitely didnt look forward to.

Living out on the farm meant loading the kids into the car and driving into town.  The timing had to be right and all the loading and unloading was exhausting.   I had to load two babies and one toddler into the car and buckle them in. Make sure I had the pram, the nappy bag, a spare change of clothes (you really just never know) three favourite toys, a drink bottle or two, my list and my purse.

When I got to the supermarket I then had to unload.  It was a bonus to get a park out the front.  I got the pram out, two into the pram, then the eldest beautiful child out last, so he didnt run off.  The nappy bag, drinks, favourite toys, my list and my purse.   This took around 20 minutes and I hadn’t even got into the supermarket.

In my supermarket they had a twin trolley.  It was very helpful when my twins were babies.  They sat up top and their older brother sat in the trolley, until we ran out of room for food, then he had to walk.  This mostly worked well.   I remember saying a lot of “no put that back” “Don’t touch that” “stop poking your brother”. “No you can’t sit in the front”. “No you can’t push the trolley” “You can have some fruit, you do not need lollies”.

Even on the good days when no one was crying, or there were no tantrums, I rushed through the list as quickly as I could.  There was a small window of calm with ‘three under three’, some days I made it, others I didnt.

Being able to shop in our little country town supermarket was both a blessing and a curse.  It was embarrassing when the two year old toddler had a tantrum,  because everyone knew who you were. It didnt matter which one it was,  at some stage they all had a turn (yes, all four of them).  My only, ‘favourite’ daughter, may dispute this.

I can clearly remember my eldest son howling on the floor in the fruit and vegie section because I wouldn’t buy him some cherries at $16 a kilo, he didnt like cherries.  He wouldn’t move and screamed louder when I tried to touch him.  Because I was a local in this little country town the blessing was they all knew I hadn’t kidnapped him or anything like that.  No police were called, instead a couple of lovely girls tried to help.  They just watched him lay on the floor crying while I rushed through two isles getting the essentials. The whole shop could hear him screaming.  I was mortified.  No one else took any notice. Finally I went back and got him, I paid for our groceries and got out. ‘Number one son’ didn’t calm down until I got him in the car.   Then as every normal two year old does after a tantrum, he promptly fell asleep.

On the good days, shopping in the supermarket where I knew everyone was also a blessing. Locals shopping and staff, always said hello to the kids.  They would stop and ‘goo and gaa’ at the twins and give chocolate frogs to my ‘number one son’.  This was lovely, but also, in turn made the whole experience an hour longer because not just one person stopped to chat but every person you came across wanted to say hello to us.

I think the experiences of taking four children shopping have scarred me. Even now that my children are grown up, stay home and look after themselves, grocery shopping is still something I do not look forward to. I have a list. I get in and get out. Head down, don’t make any eye contact with anyone, get my food and go home. Its not because I am in a rush or because I don’t like to chat. I think it is an old habit from when the kids were little. I do not ‘dilly dally’ in supermarkets.

The other day in the supermarket I stopped to chat to another ‘beautiful farmers wife’ who was shopping with her young boy, he is a cute little rascal. She was very calm about the many things that he kept bringing her to put in the shopping trolley.  She kept chatting to me as she told him to put each item back, every time he came up to her with something clutched in his hands and a big smile on his face. She was so calm and had all the time in the world for me. I admired her relaxed attitude.  That day my ‘farmers wife friend’ was an inspiration. She could have taught me a thing or two in my early years.

It seems like a hundred years ago that I was in the middle of the time warp of having four young children.  Every little outing took a long time and lots of organisation.  Shopping with small, busy children was always interesting, to say the least.  Some days were easy, some days were hard. The harder ones seem to stay stuck in my memories.

Lately I have tried to change my anti-social shopping habits. I try not to rush, I take my time and try and walk each isle. I make eye contact and chat with the staff and other people who I know.  I am starting to see shopping as a nicer job and to be grateful that I have time to slow down a little. It is certainly still not my favourite outing, but these days I am trying not to hate it as much.