Laundry, and Other Random Meditations

Morning meditation while hanging out laundry. There’s something in this near-daily (seasonal) experience that I find soothing. It’s certainly not laborious, just kind of rhythmical, picking out the pins, shaking out the fabric, hanging, repeat. I stand on the back porch and our clothesline is on a pulley, and the clothes swing out into the yard, under the trees. The air this morning was cool, birds were singing, behind me on the porch baby CJ was talking happily to himself in his gigantic plastic bouncy device (we haul this out of the basement for every baby; it’s ugly and bulky and suitable for only a few months in a baby’s life, but was already used when we got it for baby A, so has served its purpose well).

I’m looking ahead and wondering whether there will be some way to hang laundry indoors when the weather turns. Partly for energy-savings, partly to add moisture to our upstairs rooms, and partly because there’s something that seems particularly wasteful about using a drier to do a job that the air will do naturally, given the opportunity.

Darn, I have a very fussy baby strapped to me in a sling as I type. As usual, thought I’d picked a good “Mommy time” moment, and as usual, Mommy time is, by definition, interrupted time. I should call it something else. Not-Mommy-time, maybe.

Okay, brief pause and she’s back … baby CJ is now sleeping in his playpen; all he needed was a quick nurse to put him over the edge. My thoughts feel very random today and unfocussed, but to add to the laundry meditation, I wonder whether it is actually being outdoors that makes that experience so soothing. Last winter, when I was very pregnant, I went for a long walk every evening around our neighbourhood, (by the end, when I was somewhat-less-than-dainty, I called it my nightly trudge) and it was the first winter that I felt connected to that season in a really positive way. Winter has always been dark, cold, interior; not unpleasant, but more hibernation than actual interaction with the season itself.

Seasons. We’ve entered autumn. I feel my own life on the edge of a seasonal change, from a time of intense focus on babies and toddlers, to something, not quite sure what, else. There’s a Last Time sensation to many of the things I do with baby CJ. This time, the infant clothes have gone into a bag to give away, not back into the labelled boxes I keep in our attic for our babies-to-come. I have that simultaneous tug, forward and back; I’m excited and almost impatient to reach a new stage as a family (and an individual); and I’m nostalgic for what is passing right before me.

Oh, have to mention that my curries turned out fabulously yesterday, despite the spice mix-up (or, indeed, perhaps because of it!). We sat around the table extra-long, savouring the flavours, something for everyone to enjoy. These more formal evening meals have become very important to me, even though it requires more work. We sit longer, we talk, we relax in each other’s company, we eat good food. Not sure what I’ll have on offer tonight. I’m planning a pasta, with topping/sauce uncertain as of yet. I might stir-fry some tofu and whatever veggies arrive in our CSA. It needs to be simple and fast because I’ll be trying to get out the door afterward for some real “not-Mommy-time” with my sibs.

One more random story from yesterday’s truly Monday Monday. F’s Chirp magazine arrived in the mail, so I suggested she read it on the way to pick the big kids up from school (anything to make that stroller ride more appealing). It came with some advertising, including a toy catalogue, apparently more exciting than the magazine itself, so F said baby CJ could “read” Chirp instead. Mama Fuzzy-Brain said, oh lovely, and marched gaily up the hill, meeting up with a friend and fellow parent on the way, and chatting merrily along. It wasn’t till we’d reached the school grounds and I saw a dad glance into the stroller with an odd expression on his face that I thought to check on my babes. Oops. F was sound asleep, and baby CJ had eaten a large portion of Chirp magazine. A few damp papery flecks decorated his cheeks, but I could discover no wad in his mouth. Yup. He literally ate it.

But as with all of yesterday’s Monday-ness, it seemed to do him no harm, and we all came out happy in the end.

And now I need to turn my attention to F and our Tuesday morning ritual of baking muffins together from her very own Toddler Cookbook.

Monday, Bloody Monday

I need more sleep. This was such a Monday morning. It seemed like others at the school drop-off were feeling the same way–Monday! Not ready! And that feeling of resignation, of oh yah, this school-thing is every weekday for many more months to come, that feeling of the novelty wearing off, was also in the air. I must start drinking my cup of coffee BEFORE heading out the door to school.

Uh oh. Thought I’d settled on a good time to write, but the monitor is flaring red with waking baby noises. That was a short nap.

After lunch I prepped for supper. Inspired by some pretty decent-looking naan bread in the grocery store (President’s Choice), I decided to make curries. I’m soaking red lentils for dahl, and have chopped onions, garlic, added spices to the pots waiting on the stove for after school cooking. I’m also make a potato, eggplant, and leek curry (you’ve guessed it–those are the veggies left from last week’s CSA), and those are chopped and ready to go too.

Oh good grief–just realized I’ve mixed up my two pots on the stove and put all the spices in backward!!! Talk about a Monday. The whole day feels like this. So I guess we’ll be having a dahl flavoured like the veggie curry and the veggie curry flavoured like dahl. It’s kinda close to the same spices, except not.

And baby CJ is getting louder by the minute.

Squeezed

Everything feels squeezed today–squeezed into our one day in this week as a full-together family, one day for rest and work, and not nearly enough time for either. Woke up to the dishes that hadn’t gotten done all day yesterday. Clearing the kitchen took about an hour of pure old-fashioned work. Kinda regretted not having a dishwasher simply to solve that situation; but I sought comfort from the radio. CBC’s Sunday Edition ran a piece on activists, which felt almost like research, as the book I’m working on is about activism (at least in part). I’m queen of the multi-task, and to be feeding my mind while working on a necessary task is divine conflation.

Now I’m baking cookies for school lunches and this week’s playgroup, while blogging. I was also listening to Tapestry on CBC, but that seemed like one task too many for my brain. As soon as this first round of cookies comes out of the oven, I’ll be nursing the baby. Cookie dough prep time was also bonding-with-three-year-old time; if, that is, it can be considered bonding time to participate in some version of the following conversation for a full twenty minutes: “Mommy, can I lick that bowl?” “After we’re done making the cookies, yes you can.” “Mommy, can I lick the spoon?” “In a minute.” Zero pause. “Mommy, can I lick the spoon?” “Hang on.” “Mommy can I lick that bowl?”

Just realized I also have to get something together to take to the Euclid Street party, which has already started. And AB needs to be picked up from a birthday party. And so I will cut this post short as I turn the radio back on and chop some veggies while slapping cookie dough onto trays.

But here is what I’m thinking about today, as a general ongoing topic: I’m thinking about how to feed myself; not in an indulgent way, but in a deep and spiritual way, and I’m thinking about how to do that while still doing this full-time parenting job, which leaves very little time on the side for self. It’s hard to find time even to notice what’s missing when I’m folding laundry at 10pm (as I was last night) with a kitchen full of dishes waiting upon waking.

Here’s a small wishlist to start: Jogging. Yoga. Meditation. Walking. Movies. Books. Libraries. Spanish lessons.

Saturday Morning, Pre-Coffee

Baby CJ is sitting up! This is an improvement on his rolling-around-the-room moves because at least when he’s upright, he stays in one place.

Last night I went to bed at nine o’clock. I don’t just mean I was upstairs in my pajamas reading a book. I mean I went to bed and fell asleep at nine o’clock, and slept undisturbed (baby CJ went to bed at the exact same time) till 2am. That’s a grand total of five hours uninterrupted sleep, the most I can remember getting at a stretch for … well, apparently sleep deprivation affects memory, and, frankly, I can’t remember since when. Let’s safely say it’s been at least 5 and 1/2 months. Then, of course, I felt so refreshed at 2am, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. No worries. Sleep returned quickly. Along with some really disturbing dreams. I had to keep waking up to analyze them for peace of mind.

This afternoon is Nina’s potluck for buying club. On the advice of my children, I’ll be making baked beans (using honey and maple syrup from the buying club). Unfortunately, we have to walk uptown to the get the beans before they can be made. That’s on my morning to-do list, which is shorter than the usual Saturday’s, as I’m on my own today. Saturdays are generally catch-up days, folding laundry, changing sheets, vacuuming, bathrooms, et cetera; and today I will forego most of those chores in order to spend time with the kids. Which sounds pretty pleasant when I put it that way.

Breakfast crumbs … you’ve been given a reprieve. You’re living on borrowed time, so enjoy the floor while you can.

Oh, have to add a post-coffee update. Baby CJ went for a nap and whilst I was hanging laundry on the line (I should add that I really enjoy hanging laundry; or maybe you’ve already noticed that), and enjoying my first cup of coffee, the kids started an art project in the living room that I’ve only just now cleaned up. Actually, what I’ve just finished cleaning up was in fact their clean-up … props for effort, but sigh. The art project involved large paint brushes, newspaper, yogurt containers of water, water colours, homemade paste, and tissue paper. Dunno what the end result was intended to be, but I’m guessing the damp raggedy clumps of decomposed newsprint soaking into the carpet wasn’t in the original plan. Kid cleaning instinct then suggested this should be swabbed up using sopping wet cloths.

I’m positive this is karmic payment for my own childhood, and only wish I were of the temperament to revel in creative disaster. I’m not saying my house is neat, because it’s not; but in my head, it’s supposed to be. I think often of my grandmothers, both of whom kept/keep such spick-and-span homes. My mother has a story about her mother, who worked, rising at 5 in the morning to scrub their kitchen floor on her hands and knees. Sometimes when I’m pawing around swiping cupboard fronts with random dishtowels or sweeping handfuls of cut-up construction paper into the palm of my hand, I think of my grandma rising extra-early to scrub the kitchen floor, and how far, in a mere two generations, the standards of cleanliness have fallen. (Or maybe some of my friends are secretly rising at dawn …??).

So the art project has been cleaned up. But to offer a minute-by-minute update on the breakfast crumbs’ itenerary: they’re still insolently lolling about beneath the kids’ stools.

Writing Morning

It’s writing morning, and the blog doesn’t count. But maybe it will warm up these fingers. It’s chilly out there.

This (Canadian) election marks a change for me. This time around I’m declaring support for Stephane Dion and have even, gasp, put up a red Liberal sign in our front yard. It’s not a very big sign, but still. Every time I see it I feel so conventional, so Big Party. I’m thinking of putting up a Green sign just to balance it out. Unfortunately for Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May, my vote is a pretty accurate bellwether for political popularity; or unpopularity, as it were. (My apologies to Barack Obama, who will also be receiving the Carrie-vote-of-doom in November). I’ve voted dutifully–nay, passionately!–in every federal, provincial, and municipal election since turning eighteen, and in two American elections (once I realized I was eligible), and have voted for ONE winner. In Toronto. About a decade ago. �That was thrilling, but it was clearly the exception proving the rule. Which is that my political instincts do not swing toward the majority.
So best of luck Green Shift. (A name way too open to mockery. I’m for it, and can’t help seeing the pejorative alternatives …).
Democracy isn’t all about winning, right? Still, seems it should be about proportionality, or at minimum one vote worth one vote worth one vote.
Writing day, writing day … right.
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The best place to be, if you don’t mind the noise, chaos, and residual crumbs. It's just like my real house. Come on in. Here, find everything that occupies and distracts this Canadian fiction writer. Your comments are welcome.

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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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