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).
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.
I’ve become frantically reaquainted with my least favourite time of day this past week; that being, the hour or so between arriving home from school and suppertime. Kevin isn’t home, the big kids are wound up from their days away, F has been craving her siblings’ attention all day, and baby CJ becomes a little monkey child and desires utter attachment to his mama. We walk through that front door, and it’s a shambles of work and chaos for the next hour or more, till Kevin arrives and I drag baby CJ out of the sling and pass him off. I use that hour to go through school bags for forms to be filled out (and money requested; I picture School like a giant maw, always hungry); to empty lunch boxes; to make the next day’s lunch; and to start supper. Of course, in the midst of that work, I’m also trying to organize happy play (outside! go outside!), reprimand bad talk (why do they come home with the desire to say mean things to each other??), discover tidbits about the day (why a particular lunch item is untouched), and on and on.
Yesterday was this gorgeous warm afternoon, and all I really wanted was to go outside and lie on a blanket with baby CJ, who loves the outdoors, and watch the kids run around and play. They did go swing in their hammocks happily; but I couldn’t lose that hour. The work needed to be done. Supper has to be eaten. Lunches have to be made. After-supper chores await. And if I don’t get into those bags as soon as we walk through the door, I lose track of the forms, the library books, the squashed sandwiches; quite frankly, I forget otherwise, the contents of those bags disappears from my consciousness, and then I’m confronted with surprises early the next morning, which is not a time of day when I’m good with surprises.
I’m a pretty organized person. Maybe I just need to get my head around re-organizing that hour, structuring my time differently, so that I can spend that hour really with the kids, not shouting from the sidelines. Or maybe I just need to accept that thus it shall be …
But playgroup this morning was really really fun!!! I have been missing that weekly dose of adult conversation. It feels more relaxed without having to race off for half-day kindergarden, too. And I’m very well-caffeinated.
Obscure Canlit Mama sits before her computer on giant blue ball (instead of chair; supposed to be more comfortable, improve core strength; maybe does), with chattering baby underfoot (literally) and chattering toddler imagining with Little People (behind). Office doubles (triples?) as baby’s changeroom, and toyroom. Computer and writing life is an afterthought. Ball takes up way less room than proper chair would. Plus core strength, abs, et cetera.
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.
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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.