smile for the camera!
1. I went to the mall two days in a row. TWO DAYS IN A ROW I WENT TO THE MALL. I hadn’t been to the mall since back-to-school shopping last fall. I kind of consider shopping, especially at malls, one of those rings of hell, though perhaps a lesser ring. But I did it. I did it! I even returned items, and got a refund for a torn pair of jeans without having the receipt, which felt like I’d pulled off a minor miracle. Inside a ring of hell, no less.
2. Due to my sufferings at the mall, I now have outfits appropriate for all occasions in London. With accompanying footwear. Fooey and Kevin have seen and approved everything, although Fooey was in a bad mood and was a bit unnecessarily harsh in some of her critiques. Getting older under the scrutiny of one’s children is an exercise in biting one’s tongue/laughing on the outside/crying on the inside.
3. Did I tell you that my other daughter, somewhat in conversational context, asked this recently: “Mom, did you used to be really pretty?” To which I did a sit-com-worthy double take, and then, with dignity, argued that I consider myself even more attractive (not to say “pretty,” perhaps) as I age, because of blah blah blah experience, confidence, etc., to which she replied that she didn’t mean that, exactly, she was just wondering if I was “prettier back then,” to which I suggested she perhaps stop digging the hole any deeper and we could just leave it at that.
4. Motherhood. I tell ya.
5. But hey! The sick boy has been reading and reading! I don’t allow electronic devices when he’s home sick, because I want to offer no enticements to stay home any longer than strictly necessary. The awesome part is that he devoured all three of Susin Neilsen’s books, including that one I hoped he would try and nearly killed with my overt recommendations: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larson. We even talked about the books, at least a little bit.
6. Today is publicity planning day. Apparently, I’ll be recording a little publicity video for Two Roads, my UK publisher, on Friday. As I also land at Heathrow on Friday, I’m a little worried about looking jet-lagged and in need of a shower. I will aim for a haggard glamour, as the fresh-faced variety may be out of reach. I will also aim for coherence.
7. That’s on Friday! Friday! Two days from today!
8. Also on Friday, I’m having dinner with my Canadian publisher, and on Sunday I’m having lunch with my American publisher. And there are parties on Monday evening. Wowza. It feels like I’m about to step out of one world and into another completely different one.
9. I still have to fit everything into my bag. And leave room for souvenirs. I am not to return home without bringing souvenirs, says Fooey, who will not object if I note that she is my bossiest child, because she knows this, and is proud of the fact. (Or rather, as per the Boss Not Bossy campaign, she is my exceptionally-gifted-in-the-senior-executive-skills child. She really is too.)
10. The boys both need haircuts. I will not have time to attend to this detail until after I get back from London. I suppose there are lots of other details I will have to leave until then, when I dive right back in where I’d left off. Including this: please note in the events calendar on the RH side of this page that I’ve got readings coming up in Waterloo and Toronto, almost immediately upon my return — and come if you can.
11. Deep breathing. Deep breathing. Speaking of which, my cold is much better. It must have needed the rest.
12. It’s time for the piano lesson run. And, go!
kids on the fridge
I never seem to get the end of my inbox. I think I’m there, and then I realize something else is waiting to be answered, and I’ll admit it makes me feel ever so slightly that I’m constantly letting people down. But one must prioritize. And I probably say Yes far too often as it is.
I’m in preparation mode, full throttle. It happens that Kevin is also working very long hours this week, and I’ve developed a cold, so an element of this particular preparation mode is survival. I completed a lovely nine consecutive days of yoga and then I stopped the challenge. Likewise, we’re doing no early morning swims this week (and by “we” I mean swim girl, although I also get up with her, and then run while she’s at the pool, and I decided neither of us needed the added activity). I need rest — sleep, pure and simple — more than I need to prove to myself that I’m a superhero.
Also, I’m not a superhero.
I used to travel a lot, before kids. Now I travel rarely, so rarely that going away for a whole week feels like a huge leap. This will the longest I’ve been apart from my kids ever. Come to think of it, it will also be the longest I’ve been apart from Kevin since we got married. You should see the detailed daily schedule I’ve written on the chalkboard wall. But I know from travelling experiences past that once I’m away, I’ll be where I am, not here, both mentally and physically. I’m remembering how much fun it was to go to Vancouver and Winnipeg on my own, with The Juliet Stories, little adventures out of the ordinary.
I’m in the ordinary right now. In fact, it’s so ordinary that I have to go back to the mall to return some items purchased yesterday on behalf of a child who doesn’t like what I chose. I’ve got a sick kid home today, and I’m boiling up a huge pot of chicken stock for soup, and I’m brewing my garlic & ginger tea. Health! Please! I keep checking the temperature of the moods in our household and wondering whether this meltdown or that case of the grumps is due to my imminent trip. Yesterday we had a piano practice conniption, and this morning we had a weepy existential crisis (not me). I can’t help but feel some measure of guilt for wanting to go on an adventure that excludes my very favourite people on earth. Yet I feel sure that it’s important to get out of my comfort zone. I suppose that’s why I’m going. It’s like adding salt to the broth.
One last thing: I got to run with my big kids on Sunday afternoon. It was beautiful and sunny and it felt like spring. We got muddy. I didn’t care how fast I was going nor how far, and I thought that perhaps this was why I wanted to run all along — so I could run with my kids.
I’m collecting all these photos to illustrate blog posts that have gone unwritten.
For example, these photos are from last Thursday, when I got up early with AppleApple who was swimming, went for a lovely run (first I checked the temperature and actually said to myself, hey, -24 with the windchill, that’s not bad!, mainly because I’d been expecting -30 and you’d have to admit, by comparison, -24 sounds positively balmy). I started my run around 5:30AM and discovered that the sky was growing pink by 6:20AM. It was a beautiful morning in Canada! (Today, I was running in nearly broad daylight by 6:45AM, although it was still -24 for some reason. I run on Tuesdays with my friend Nina, and we swear that this winter’s trend has been: Tuesday will be the coldest morning of any given week.)
So last Thursday, post-run, post-shower, post-poached-eggs-for-breakfast I fetched AppleApple from swimming, and tapped out a blissfully happy status update on FB: A beautiful morning in Canada! Then I took a nap. Kevin got the little kids up to their friends’ house before walking to his office. The older two were both home, one sick, and the other taking a “mental health” day (which we all need, on occasion). I was woken from my nap by the sound of wind striking the house. It was that loud, that dramatic. I opened my eyes to a scene of winter obliteration outside the window, and saw the time: 8:57AM. Exactly when my two little kids would be walking to school with their friends. So much for the beautiful winter morning in Canada! My initial instinct was to hop in the truck to try to “rescue” the children, but after I’d texted Kevin and the parents of the walking friends, I downgraded my response to “anxious pacing.” It was clear that driving in such conditions would help no one. (In fact, the shockingly sudden snow squalls caused enormous pile-ups during the morning’s commute.) The squall blew itself out in less than 15 minutes.
less than an hour and a half separate these photos from those above
That afternoon, Fooey reported that they were nearly at school when the snow blast arrived — “I couldn’t even see J, who was right in front of me!”
“Was it kind of exciting? Like an adventure?” I asked, hopefully.
“No. It was cold. It wasn’t fun.”
Right. Hello, realism. Well, at least no one was scared or lost or sad, from the sounds of it. Tough little Canadian kids we’ve got.
On Friday, I met Kevin for lunch and I splurged, which is not a word that I usually associate with my purchasing actions (I hate shopping, as a rule). I bought x-country skis, boots, bindings, poles, plus vastly reduced snow pants (everything was on sale, which helped me to justify the decadence). And then on Saturday I went skiing while Kev took the kids sledding. I went out again yesterday morning with a friend. It was -27 for some reason. It was also stunningly beautiful.
I used to hibernate during winter and get pretty blue. A few years ago, I discovered that running was an all-season activity, given the right clothing. Winter improved immensely when I started getting outside in it. But there are times, as when slogging up a slushy street struggling to find footing, when one thinks to oneself: I’m trying my best, but let’s be frank — this sucks. When will this damn stuff melt so I can really run again? Truth is, I’ve never embraced winter sports; I’ve never, up until last Friday, invested in any equipment that would deliberately draw me out into the snow, that would induce me to think, even faintly, hey, I hope this snow lasts awhile longer because I’d really love to go out skiing again soon! That is a whole new level of winter acceptance right there.
The fireplace in the living-room doesn’t hurt either.
I’m 39 years old and I’ve spent the better part of my life in this country. I think I’m finally starting to feel like a real Canadian.
I’m writing this post in bed, because it’s bedtime, and because I can, thanks to my precious and much-appreciated laptop. On a day when I spent five hours driving children around to their various activities, waiting outside of their various activities, and folding laundry during the down-time, I just feel like writing before bed, please. (I also spent at least an hour this afternoon watching Canada play Latvia in an Olympic hockey game, while live-texting results to my brother, who was in a meeting, so I really shouldn’t complain about time wasted.)
I want to tell you about the worst hour in recent memory, which happened yesterday evening, just upon arriving home from AppleApple’s soccer practice. I’d made advance plans to meet my siblings for a drink, basically as soon as I’d arrived home from AA’s soccer practice, and I was really looking forward to sharing a pitcher and catching up, as some of us haven’t seen each other since Christmas, and also because the day had started rather on the wrong foot when a dog made a deposit in the front hall, which I stepped in without realizing, and then tracked around the house in the dark, while up at 5AM to take AA to swim practice. Which meant that when the deposit was discovered, in the light of day, to have been tracked all around, I was on my hands and knees cleaning it up before breakfast, which put me in rather an unpleasant mood.
Suffice it to say, I was looking forward to that pitcher of beer with my sibs.
We pulled into the driveway. Kevin appeared rather mysteriously from the back yard, looking a bit perturbed. “What are you up to?” I asked, still, in my imagination, about to depart.
“DJ seems to have escaped,” he said.
“And DJ’s so dumb!” Fooey said worriedly. “She won’t know what to do!”
Well. The panic began. Children circled the house, calling for DJ. I thought I heard her collar jingling. We searched the snow forts in the back yard, the garage, all the rooms of the house. It seemed apparent that she had indeed escaped, likely through the back gate which had been difficult to close with all this snow. The pitcher of beer began to fade, along with the plate of nachos I’d conjured up to accompany it. I decided to eat a leftover baked potato while Kevin drove off to widen the search. AA and Fooey ran around outside awhile longer, then they both came in and AA announced that she was putting on pants. She was still in her soccer kit. Pants sounded like a good idea. She popped in again not long after to say she was going “that way.”
Kevin drove up, no dog.
“Where’s AA?” he asked.
I thought she was in the front yard, or maybe around the corner. But no. Apparently, she’d gone further afield. And that’s when the real panic began. Kevin headed out in the truck, again, this time to look for our lost daughter. She is 11, I reminded myself.
“But she has a terrible sense of direction!” Fooey reminded me.
I gave her twenty minutes, and then I called the police. Perhaps an over-reaction, but it was dark and growing late, and cold, and my kid had left the house in soccer cleats, in an emotional state, and she hadn’t come back. I was kind of losing my mind, actually. Meanwhile, a couple of my sibs turned up and offered to drive around looking for AA, too, even though the snow banks were so high that no one driving by could spot either a child or a dog on the sidewalk anyway. My sister confided later that she thought, “We’re going to be driving around looking for AA, and we’re going run over DJ.”
Kevin’s texts had ceased.
The kindly dispatcher did not berate me for permitting my 11-year-old to search by herself for our lost dog in the snow after dark while wearing soccer cleats. Or that I couldn’t manage a detailed description of her coat. Or I didn’t know the colour of my lost daughter’s pants!
The back door whammed open. There was AppleApple, in tears because she hadn’t found DJ. I let the dispatcher know that the search was off (sorry, DJ).
“I couldn’t find DJ!”
“It’s not DJ we’ve been looking for–it’s you!” I told her, to her complete astonishment. She’d been so focused on searching (and of course she knew that she was perfectly fine) that she had no idea she’d been gone for a good half an hour.
Meanwhile, Kevin was slow to return. Turns out, he’d gotten into a small car accident on a side street. Yeah, it was that kind of an hour.
But the thing is, all’s well that ends well. AppleApple came home, safe and sound. The truck suffered a minor paint scrape that’s purely cosmetic. And not long after, a woman called to let us know she’d found DJ. In fact, she’d picked up DJ not far our house, probably within minutes of DJ’s original escape. DJ, who is not known for her arresting intellect, was crossing the street. (“And she’s colour blind, so she can’t even see when the stop lights are green or red!” Fooey noted.) Kevin and the girls went to pick her up, halfway across the city. DJ responded with typical DJ-ness to the arrival of her relieved entourage: she was largely indifferent, but agreeable to riding home in the car (she loves riding in cars). It appeared that she’d been nicely brushed during the interlude.
But I heard all about this later because I’d left with my siblings for that pitcher of beer. Which at that point seemed hardly sufficient, although it had to do. I was too tired for genuine debauchery. And my brother Cliff is the father of a four-month-old who rises at 5:30AM, so he was too tired, too. And my brother Christian had to leave as soon as we arrived for a soccer game. So it wasn’t quite what it was going to be, in my imagination, and I didn’t bother with the nachos. But it was still a good ending as far as I’m concerned.
The “best school project ever” continues. AppleApple is studying nature art, and has looked mainly at the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a well-established British artist who works with materials found in nature to create ephemeral installations, mostly outdoors: they aren’t meant to last (though he does photograph them, and they’re definitely worth seeing, if you have time to click on the link).
As AppleApple was working on her project, we discovered that Meghan Harder, a young local artist and recent graduate of the University of Waterloo’s fine arts program has been creating nature art right here in Waterloo. (The Canadian Mennonite featured her on the front cover in January.) So we arranged to meet Meg Harder yesterday afternoon in Waterloo Park, where a year ago, with help from some friends, she’d built a “human nest.” With her teacher’s permission, AppleApple got to skip out of school early, and we trekked through snow banks and found the spot where the nest had been made.
|Here’s what the nest looked like a year ago|
Here’s what the nest looked like yesterday
After our hike, Meg and her boyfriend generously spent another hour with us, drinking tea and answering AppleApple’s questions. (I had a few too: I couldn’t help myself!) I’ve given very little thought to conceptual art, and we talked a lot about art that tries to communicate an idea or generate a conversation. For Meg, the process of creation is more important than the final creation. She also talked about the way in which nature art invites passersby to interact imaginatively with something they may not even realize is art, making it accessible to an audience outside of the traditional gallery setting, where we all know that what we’re seeing, if we go there, is art.
AppleApple took lots of notes. I’m fascinated to see how she’ll synthesize her material. I also need to find a way to print these photos, which she’ll be using for her display. Any ideas? The deadline is fairly tight, and I want to get this bit of the project (the part where I’m helping out) done this weekend.
one of AppleApple’s installations, after the snow fell
A note re health: Antibiotics to the rescue, again. Thankfully, I am feeling much better.
I felt well enough to go to yoga last night, although I struggled at times. The thought that soothed me, as I repeatedly fell out of a balancing pose, was “this is the body I’m in.” I just kept telling myself that, and it made me feel better, calmer, maybe. I want to be like my character Aganetha in Girl Runner, who I think fully and without judgement inhabits her body, born with a talent for awareness of its strengths and limitations. Doing a regular practice like yoga puts me in touch with precisely where my body’s at on any given day or hour; sometimes I feel strong, and sometimes I feel weak. Sometimes my strength comes as a surprise, on a day when I’ve felt discouraged or down; and sometimes it’s my weakness that comes as a surprise, although not last night. I knew I was feeling crummy. I would like to think that success is not limited to the days when I feel strong, rather success is the willingness to continue practicing, and to meet my body where it’s at. These bodies of ours do such amazing things. I don’t believe they’re just vessels for our spirits, they’re the expression of life itself.
Even right now: I’m able to write because my body is stilling itself into quiet focus.
One last thing. My dad forwarded me a review of The Juliet Stories in the MQR (Mennonite Quarterly Review), which is an American journal. The reviewer engages with the book as both a personal and a political work. It moved me to tears. This link is to a PDF file that includes the review (scan down, as it’s toward the end). Here’s the last line: “After reading The Juliet Stories, I’m convinced Snyder should be named one of the top women writers everyone must learn to know, given the power of a text that questions the permanency of borders, and the ways journeying somewhere new might cut each of us wide open.”
the view from our hotel room: downtown Windsor
Today has not gone as I expected it would, and that has made me grumpy. At times, today, I’ve been excessively grumpy, bursting with the misery of expectation unmet. But now is better. Now I’ve been writing and walking, simultaneously, for an hour and a half, or 1.92 miles.
What happened today is that Albus got sick. Apparently he has strep now, too. So the morning was spent waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting at the pharmacy, and making soup for lunch. I needed a longer nap post-kettlebell class. There is a mountain of laundry from our weekend.
It was noon before I arrived at my computer.
This weekend AppleApple and I went to Windsor, Ontario together. We drove ahead of the snow storm, and spent two nights in a hotel, and had an excellent time together. She was beaming at the end of yesterday’s races, and we were home before bedtime.
At the hotel, we discovered that TV is a highly addictive substance. I’m so thankful we don’t have it on tap at home. AppleApple was reduced to staring empty-eyed at anything that appeared on-screen. When she first turned the TV on, she sat waiting patiently, parked on the first channel she’d come to. “This is a really long commercial,” she observed, to which I replied, “What on earth are you doing?” “Waiting to see what’s on.” “Channel surf!” I commanded her, but she only stared blankly and I realized I was talking to a true television novice. Good heavens, my 11-year-old does not know how to channel surf. I count this as a plus. Of course, then I taught her how to go about it.
I had to ban the TV in order for us to get anything else done. It was probably the highlight of her trip. My highlight was just being with her.
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