Running Away from Home

Thanks for the laundry ideas. With a couple of rainy days this week, I hung clothes indoors, and though not right in the kids’ rooms, I put the clothes whose destination was upstairs on a rack in the hallway upstairs, and diapers and downstairs items down. Handy. The sorting takes place while the laundry’s still damp. Need a better laundry rack (or two) as I’m currently using backs of chairs, radiators, and railings in addition to this bulky, flying-machine-design wobbly metal rack upstairs … but Ikea doesn’t encourage online shopping, apparently, at least not for drying devices. They do have a couple of cool ones, for example, one that folds out from the wall, then back in again when not in use. But we’d have to get to Burlington or Vaughn or North York. Or I could just pick up another cheap wooden one like I have and enjoy downstairs. Canadian Tire special, if I’m remembering correctly.

Ah, laundry.

At the library storytime this morning at the WPL. The place was a zoo. Toddlers everywhere. The librarian is doing a good job, seems to like children (this has been a problem with WPL children’s librarians in the past–you’d think they’d have to like children, but apparently it’s not a job requirement). There are fun songs and activities in addition to stories, and F is entranced. Even baby CJ was pretty enthralled, though perhaps as much by the sight of toddlers stealing other toddlers’ stuffed animals and trodding upon each other. You can tell which I was paying more attention to. Storytime isn’t really for the moms. I can put in a few more years. It’s good people-watching, in any case. I like seeing the mothers trying to match up who belongs to whom–the accusing glances–is that your kid wreaking havoc and disaster while you browse the stacks? My kids were angelic, so I could feel all superior and successful–temporarily, of course. Parenting has a way of keeping one humble. See below.

Went for a run yesterday after supper. So so so good for the soul. I’d had a pretty magnificent meltdown mere hours before (see above re staying humble) when I’d tried to lie down on the couch before supper and was instantly swarmed and fought over by my children, which I tolerated for about fifteen minutes before essentially losing my mind, hopping off the couch, and literally running out the front door. On my way out, I accused Kevin of something (he was there–I didn’t leave them alone in the house), can’t quite recall what. Terrific. Fabulosity. As I stormed out the front door wearing crocs and socks, I realized our neighbours were on their front porch across the street, so I tried to look as though I weren’t muttering to myself–as though I weren’t Running Away. Walked with fake calm to the back of the house and stood in the yard for about two minutes. I felt like my children were saying–legitimately–“You don’t give us enough!” And I wondered–maybe I really don’t. I’m out in the kitchen baking for school lunches, cooking supper, washing dishes, and no, not being with them at all. You know, just being, being with them. 

Worse, the guilt. Because all I really wanted was to NOT BE with anyone, children included, and NOT DO anything. Two minutes elapsed, I returned inside, still upset, now angry with myself, still tired, with all the afternoon chores still waiting to be done. So I listened to Stephane Dion take phone-in calls on Rex Murphy’s program, while Kevin ferried the children to the basement to paint. (Vote for Stephane!). Supper got made, school lunches too, supper got eaten, then Kevin said, “Why not go out for a walk?” So I threw on my running shoes and went for a run instead. Thought I’d be too tired to enjoy it, but my body didn’t feel tired at all. It felt like it had been needing to run all week. It felt euphoric. I might try it again tonight after supper. Besides, when I returned home, Kevin had done the dishes, AB and baby CJ were in the bath, and A was washing F’s hair in the shower! Yes, they seemed to survive quite nicely without me. Let that be a lesson to me.

But I must sign off on that note. Because baby CJ is up from his nap and F has been entertaining him in his crib for quite long enough.

Inaugural Car Ride: A Portrait

Supper eaten. Table cleared. Dishes washed. Sun going down. Kids in basement with Kevin, going squirrelly. “When can we go for a ride?” How about now? Children racing back and forth between porch and driveway. “Open the car! Open the car!” Right. Car seats. Children dragging car seats off the porch and toward the car. Children scrambling over each other’s heads to be the first into the new car. Children shouting. Driveway littered with car seats. Kevin sticking car seats into position, Mama changing her mind about who will sit where, Kevin rearranging car seats. Mama incredibly grumpy. Not helping. Finally, seats in position. Mama straps baby in. Baby instantly stops chewing odd-looking odd-textured stuffed duck (where did it come from? why is it suddenly a favourite chew toy, when he’s drowning in options?). Begins screaming. Mama struggles in half-light to fasten straps. Baby screams, with conviction. Children cheer as lowered DVD screen comes to life. Cheer subsides when no movie is instantly forthcoming. Mama snaps final buckle. “Are you going to sit back there?” “I guess so. He’s really upset.” Mama straps self in. Proof that three can sit comfortably in the middle row. Plenty of leg-room. No time to appreciate, as Kevin backs out of driveway, and new uproar arises. DVD has started up, but won’t play. Baby howls. Mama fiddles blindly with controls. “You have it!” But she doesn’t. “I think that’s the right one, Mommy!” But it isn’t. “Try over there!” But she has. Kevin jeopardizes safety to paw around for the remote. The new car has a remote? Baby turning purple with rage. Another cheer erupts. Mama has inadvertently landed on the right button. Paddington Bear begins to play. “I can’t hear it! Turn up the volume!” Mama spoils success by poking more buttons. Apparently volume can’t be controlled in the rear. Kevin fixes volume, nearly runs red light. Baby shrieks. “Why isn’t the movie playing?” Mama lands on correct button again. Kevin hands back remote, pulls into parking lot. “Why are we going here?” Here is Kevin’s office. He’s dropping off supplies for scotch club. We’ve travelled about five city blocks. “I’ll just leave the car running, then? And be right back?” Yes, please come back. Mama plays peekaboo with baby. Moods improve. Eldest son plays with overhead light. Immensely pleased. Baby laughing. Peekaboo a riot. Mama fiddles with remote. Is promptly scolded by children, and tucks device into side pocket where it is likely to be forgotten. Kevin returns. “Well.” “Well.” “Should we just go home?” Drive back five blocks. Mama plays peekaboo with increasingly hysterical baby. Kevin shows off nifty high-tech features, such as rearview camera that kicks in when the vehicle is in reverse. It looks potentially confusing. Isn’t that what mirrors are for? GPS shows car travelling down familiar streets. Kevin risks life and limb to demonstrate how map on screen can zoom in, and then out. Mama wonders whether screen can be turned off. Kevin fiddles around. Then decides no. Vehicle pulls into driveway, parks. Uproar erupts. “Can’t we keep watching the movie?” Children have seen movie approximately five billion times previously. Theme song of Paddington Bear so embedded in Mama’s brain, she finds herself humming it on odd occasions. Too darn catchy. The answer is no. The answer is no! The answer is: it’s time to floss those cavity-laden teeth and go to bed! The answer satisfies few in the audience. Baby begins howling afresh. Children stumble lacklustrely out of new car. Mama and Kevin exchange heartfelt sighs. Family enters home.

Later

Apologies for the naval-gazing in previous post. Usually Kevin gets to suffer those thoughts; and trust me, those are thoughts I go round and round ad naseum, in some form or another, like, sigh, all the time. Years go by and I’m still going round them.

Or they’re going round me.

We have a new car! We are now a one-car family! But we upgraded. This vehicle actually seats seven normal-sized humans, with car seats too, which the minivan only pretended it was able to do. It sat six humans and one Gumby.

Whoops, my hamburger is cooking up faster than expected. Friday! We made it! And I’ve reached my exclamation point quota! My computer will shut me down if I use even one more!

Writing Day

Or writing morning and half an afternoon, to be more precise. It’s come to a natural end. My babysitter is about to leave, and I finished working on the story, so it’s blah blah blog time. This story is three years old. Amazing, but I wrote it the fall after F was born, and have tinkered with it unsuccessfully ever since. Think I solved the major problems today. This is a reminder of how incredibly patient the writing life requires one to be. It has to be, far and away, the toughest lesson to learn and to keep in mind when struggling to “be” a writer. Virtually nothing is immediate. That’s why writing this blog feels like cheating, somehow, way too easy.

I still put myself in quotation marks when it comes to the “writer” facet of my identity. I’m not sure what qualifies one, exactly, to claim to be a writer. Yah, I write things. I make things up and write them down. I’ve published a little bit, here and there, though not regularly. Does publishing make one a writer? Readers? Or can it be a pure pursuit of craft? Stephen Harper would likely see that as sinfully futile, pursuing something with absolutely no monetary or worldly value; but I can’t just throw blame on our prime minister, ’cause I feel that way sometimes too. Sometimes I wonder–if I were to write just one truly wonderful story in my entire lifetime of writing, would that satisfy me? Because, quite honestly, even one truly wonderful story would be a lot of ask for. But I’m not sure. Maybe being satisfied is the opposite of what I’m pursuing. Maybe satisfaction would kill the desire to try.

I spill words. I want to. They tumble out of me. I love putting them on the page and moving them around, playing with syntax, tense; it feels like play. The act of writing itself can occasionally be frustrating, but mostly, almost always, it’s happy time. I am taken out of myself. So maybe the end result is immaterial? Could that be true? I’m thinking in comforting cliches about the journey versus the destination.

But truthfully, that destination matters to me, too. Yes, I do want to write really wonderful stories. It’s almost terrifying to admit, and feels both arrogant and ridiculous all at once. Gives me the same feeling as those dreams where I’m wandering around naked (somewhere like a mall or downtown), not noticing until far too late.

Okay, wake up Carrie! Must, must, must get back into myself–and in time to organize for the school run. Tonight we’re also going to walk to the Rec Centre to get an idea how long this will take, because swim lessons start next Friday after school. After the Rec Centre run, I need to get to Nina’s buying club. And then make a fine plain supper out of frozen hamburger (Nina’s), leftover fresh tomato sauce (CSA), and ww macaronis (leftover from last night’s supper; not local).

Least Favourite Hour, Take Two

Wanted to write an update on today’s Least Favourite Hour, because it really wasn’t so bad. We had a pleasant walk home (always one of the best parts of the day), chatting about Safety Village and forts and French (AB was apparently cheered this morning when I assured her that other children in her class were also not fluent in French, and in fact, that if she already knew French, she wouldn’t need school to teach her. Poor kid. She’s a bit of a perfectionist. Wonder where she gets that from).

When we walked in the door, A was very excited about opening and displaying the contents of his backpack–which turned out to be all kinds of thrilling material about fire safety (field trip to a pretend burning building, apparently). A was insistent that we immediately check all fire alarms, and forevermore test them weekly; and that we make a family escape plan. All wonderful advice, I am sure, which I recall fretting over, oh, about twenty-five years ago: My bedroom has no handy rope ladder for escape! My family refuses to sit down and make an escape plan! Our house is a certain fire trap! We’re doomed!

First, I assured the kids that our fire alarms are in good working order–in fact, they go off regularly over cooking incidents.

And then, instead of heading toward the kitchen for the lunch-/supper-making quest, we ran some fun pretend fire drills in the living room, acting out potential scenarios (besides, baby CJ was starving and I needed to sit down to nurse him; many things I can do, but nursing while cooking is not one of them). A rolled on the floor to demonstrate precisely how he would extinguish the flames, were he on fire (“strangling” the fire, according to AB). His escape plan goes something like this: “First, I put the back of my hand to the door, and if it’s hot, I open my window and kick out my screen–” (here is where he was interrupted by his mother, “Whatever you do, don’t jump out that window!” [his window is two-and-a-half storeys above flat concrete]. “No, I’ll grab a big blanket and wave it. And scream.” “You can yell for someone to call 911,” I suggested. “I can cry really loud, too,” says A. “Maybe as loud as I can yell.”

AB also had a fun surprise waiting in her bag. “I have a pink piece of paper, Mom,” she says.

“Oh great,” sayeth I. “I’ll bet it’s a lice notice.”

Yup. Lice in her classroom. Last year we got about one of these pink pieces of paper every other week for months at a time. You have to sign and send back confirming that you’ve gone through your child’s hair. So we got out a pick, and went through the hair, A’s too. If you’re familiar with my kids, you will know that they have a lot of hair, and it’s tangly too. It took forever. And was oddly entertaining. While I didn’t find lice, I did find a few odd things that I otherwise would not have. Like what looked like sparkly blue pencil shavings in both kids’ heads. Weird, huh.

Anyway, by this time a good half hour had escaped, (who knew–fire safety and lice notices equal good times), and the kids ran happily to the backyard (oh fleeting summery weather, how I will miss you), and baby CJ hung out in his gigantic bouncy device, and I whipped up some new lunches (by Friday, my inspiration is running thin; but hey, hummus and pita is a healthy option), and made supper.

Which my family is clamouring for this very instant.

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My name is Carrie Snyder. I'm mother of four, writer of fiction and non-, dreamer, planner, mid-life runner, soccer coach, teacher, taking time for a cup of coffee in front of this computer screen. My days are full, yet I keep asking: how can I fill them just a little bit more, with depth, with care, with light.

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