Funny Farm

Irish leftovers

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Last week’s blog post covered highlights from our Irish adventure. So what’s left?

Odds and ends.

Like the moment of gastronomic nirvana, when I stumbled on a cheesemonger peddling his wares in Kenmare.


Time out: It’s possible that the term cheesemonger, and fishmonger and other mongers have gone the way of the Dodo bird. But this might be my only opportunity to ever use cheesemonger, so I’m running with it. Okay, time in.

Cheese is my one, true Kryptonite, my Achilles’ heel. I am powerless around cheese. If you apply the litmus test of questions that define addiction, I fit the profile.

“Do you eat cheese alone?” Sure. “Do you eat it in excess?” Absolutely. “Do you eat cheese to forget your problems?” Doesn’t everyone?

Decisions, decisions. I spent several minutes drooling over options. The cheesemonger was very kind; he offered samples to taste, even a smidge of his top-tier products. I bought several wedges and a 1/2 wheel — at a fraction of the price typically charged at home. One cheese choice was quite pungent. I stashed my stuff in the trunk, but within an hour, my haul had stunk-up the entire car.

Aside from the delectable cheese display above, I should also point out my constant travel companion: Ugly Backpack — that dingy, gray sack strapped over my shoulders. Ugly Backpack is a story in itself, and probably warrants a separate post. But suffice to say, it is proof-positive that Ralph Lauren’s Polo line includes some hideous looking merchandise. That said, Ugly Backpack is practical as hell; it has logged more airline miles than all of you readers, combined. The 4 of you.

Seriously, Ugly Backpack has visited 5 continents, and countless countries.

Here it is on a trip to Paris, 12 years ago:


And before that, in Romania:

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Its travel log predates digital photography. (And based on these photos, that purple polar fleece is a real globe-trotter as well.)

Now I’m totally off-topic. Forget the cheese and Ugly Backpack. On to Kilkenny, which should have just been an overnight stay. But we were awarded a bonus day, thanks to Frog — shorthand for frozen fog — which hit London, and grounded hundreds of flights, including ours from Dublin. We couldn’t rebook until the next day, so we kicked around Kilkenny. And checked out Kilkenny Castle.


We toured the place, both inside and out.


As everywhere else, simply brimming with tourists…

Our hotel was a stone’s throw away from the castle. (Hadley, don’t touch my laptop.)


Admittedly, our fabulous trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

In our travels, several items were lost, including Cayden’s retainer. We searched every pocket of every bag, and contacted the hotels where we’d stayed, to no avail. Retainer replacement adds a big line-item to our vacation budget.

The missing mouth wear was a touchy subject until Martin broke the ice on our journey home. While we gained a spare vacation day, with it, came a 5-hour layover at Heathrow. We killed time wandering the concourse, eating, shopping, eating some more, shopping some more, until finally, we slumped in a row of airport seats and gazed at the digital departure board.

The kids didn’t want to slump and sit; they wanted to explore. But Martin and I were too tired to shlep our bulging carry-on bags and plod in pursuit. So we let them go. Alone. In Heathrow. One of the busiest airports in the world.

Cayden and Brynn were first to venture out, and as they slipped among the moving mass of bodies and luggage, Martin shouted, “Hey! Don’t lose your sister like you lost your retainer!”

That was worth a laugh, even as the kids were swallowed by a stream of travelers — some striding purposely to their gates, other wandering aimlessly between stores, parents dragging resistant, wailing toddlers, and solitary souls sprinting desperately to distant gates.

I got a little anxious when boarding time approached and we were still two kids down. But they turned up. (So did the retainer, according to hotel staff, but the news came when were home… after we’d ordered a new one.)

But hey, we left the States with 3 kids and we returned with 3 kids. And a bit of laundry.

Not too bad!

The questions is: Will there be another trip next year? An Irish five-peat? Are plans in the works for Sheepfest 2018?

As President Trump has taught me, anything is possible.




Although Brynn has only been hospitalized for 6 days, it feels longer — probably because this circus kicked off 12 days ago, with Hadley’s broken hand and Brynn’s doctor appointments.

I can’t describe what this is like for Brynn, or Martin, Cayden and Hadley. I can only share my own observations.

I spend most of my time at Hopkins, driving 68 miles home late at night, when everyone’s asleep. Then I set out for Baltimore before sunrise. Notes on the kitchen table and an empty travel mug are the only signs that I’ve been home.

What else about this week?

*Lots of people offer help, but sometimes it’s hard to accept it. “Do you need food?” someone will ask. A week ago I had a grocery list, paper-clipped to a check for the bank, but they’re long gone. All I remember is “butter.” We need butter… and anything and everything else.

*Some folks act like chess players, staying a few moves ahead of me. They know where Cayden and Hadley will be two days from now, and arrange to pick them up.

*We are all dirty. Martin feeds the kids, but no one’s bathing. Myself included. I do Purell my hands about 150 times a day. Just looking at a door knob or a hospital elevator button prompts me to sanitize my hands… as if germs are transferable through eye contact.

*I’ve abandoned my compulsive relationship with the weather forecast. The horses could be shivering or sweating to death right now.

*People have come out of the woodwork. Old friends, who I barely notice on Facebook, have sent Brynn creative, thoughtful toys. But then I’ve failed to respond to many emails, calls and texts, because I’m busy, distracted and tired. And when I’m idle, I’m still tired.

*It’s impossible to work in a hospital room, because nurses and docs constantly interrupt to poke, prod, stick, jab, monitor, measure, administer, or just stare at Brynn… every 7 minutes.

*Brynn is incredibly tolerant of poking, prodding, jabbing, physical therapy and confinement. She has been unable to leave her room, except for a brief operation to insert a picc line.

*I discovered that Hadley has a breaking point: her sister’s illness. Hospitalization has been harder on Hadley than Brynn.

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*NPR is painfully repetitive when you’re car-bound for three hours a day. Nothing new ever happens or changes between 5:30 am and 9:30 pm.

*Speaking of commuting: PigPen’s is not the Doc Brown DeLorean. Remember “Back to the Future” and the DeLorean, which traveled through time when it hit 88 miles per hour? I tried that with PigPen… time travel would certainly shorten my Baltimore run. But at 88 mph, the car just starts shaking a lot. (Must be g-forces.) I think it’s best to keep PigPen under 85 mph, to prevent more parts from flying off.

*Motivating doctors: They are driven by deadlines. The day Brynn was admitted, I mentioned her school play a week later. Since then, the team has been fixated on discharging Brynn before her performance. You’d think she’s starring in “Annie” on Broadway. In truth, she has no lines. She’s a human prop — a marigold for about 2 minutes — tomorrow night.

 But if that’s her ticket out of here, we’ll take it. Tomorrow.

The Great White Blight… In Pictures



If you’re on Facebook, or if you peruse the local papers, then you’ve gorged on snow photos.

Well, I’m sorry to subject you to more. I promise, this’ll be quick and painless. And then we can move on:

With all the white hype, last Friday, Martin tried to resuscitate our tractor, which was suffering from starter problems.

With assistance, Martin kicked the tractor into gear, but it blew a hydraulic hose, which rendered the bucket inoperable. (The bucket was a lead actor in this performance.)



While Martin gave the tractor mouth-to-mouth, I went grocery shopping. The choices were slim pickings.



Snow started falling and accumulating on Friday night. By Saturday morning we were snowed in: the drifts sealed the mudroom door shut.



Snow permeated every crevice. In the mudroom, snow billowed through a wisp of a crack in the dog door. By morning, an inch of snow filled all of our shoes.



Much like the storm of 2010, the drifts piled up along the fencelines… and 18 inches really meant 3 or 4 feet.



The drifts proved too much for Maisie.



On Sunday — tractorless — we began to dig out. The horses were the first to be liberated.



The path to the sheep was ponderous.


Eventually we dug a trench to the sheep shed and — crawling and slogging — I ferried hay and water to them on a sled.

The sheep were utterly ungrateful.



All the while, the kids rode out the storm at my cousins’ house (where the risk of a power outage was minimal.)

It was a struggle over there:



Without an operable tractor, we were paralyzed. So we called for backup; Andy and his Cat plowed us out.

But first things first: we had to mark the drive, so Andy knew where to plow.



Andy removed the snow like a peel from an orange…



… and in the process, he created a mountain of snow… a sledding hill from what was once a plateau.

The kids built a luge run and an igloo.

It is part of the landscape until melting overcomes everything.

And life returns to normal.

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