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.
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.
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.
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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.