Work for Peace

Want to note that CJ has been sleeping much better (at night) in the past couple of weeks. This is the sort of news I hardly want to mention, for entirely superstitious reasons, of course. So touch wood. And rejoice. What happened was that after we returned from our Halloween weekend at Kevin’s mom’s, CJ had gotten pretty comfortable spending all night in our bed, and was waking soon after being put to bed at night, just so he could come and cuddle with his mama. I have only a vague sleep-deprived memory of the magic moment, but what I recall is going to bed early (because he’d woken and wouldn’t go back to sleep otherwise), nursing him off and on till sometime after midnight, CJ remaining fussy and restless and miserable, and finally turning to Kevin and saying: “My tank is on empty. I’m going to let him cry.” So I laid him back into his playpen, tucked him in, and let him cry. I patted him a couple of times, and he cried for a full fifteen minutes, but that was it. Fifteen minutes of suffering and he fell asleep. All by himself. And it’s been much easier getting him into his playpen since then, and he sleeps longer when he’s initially put to bed, too.

But he is right now downright miserable in his giant bouncy device, probably hungry, and the living-room is filled with children playing Playmobil (playdate). So I should really, er, get off this electronic device and attend to some non-virtual needs.

Oh, and I had the kids wear the Mennonite Central Committee Remembrance Day button to school today, a red button with the words “To remember is to work for peace.” We had a fairly long talk about it before school this morning, and at the end, Albus said, “I think it would be easier to just wear the poppy.” I told them they could also wear a poppy. I hope I wasn’t overstepping parental bounds by asking them to wear this pin, too, especially because I wasn’t entirely convinced they “got’ it. But I have deeply ambivalent emotions around Remembrance Day, having been raised a pacifist. To me, wearing the button isn’t about standing against people who offer their lives to serve our country, but about being aware of the effects of war, and imagining more peaceful solutions … but I’m typing one-handed … and my children are behaving most unpacifistically all of sudden.

Things to Keep

Things I want to keep and remember:

Yesterday after supper, I was lying on the floor with baby CJ just cuddling him and squeezing him and kissing him, and he was so thrilled to be the centre of attention, and the other kids were sitting around me enjoying the scene too. Apple-Apple told me to sing the “zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon” song, and we did, and then had CJ “blast off” in my arms, flying over my head. He was just busting a baby gut, he was laughing so hard. That was round about when Kevin got home from his training day, and so children ran off to greet him, but Apple-Apple came right back and sat down near my ear (I was still prone on the floor; actually, I was down there partly to play and partly because it was nice to be lying down). “You look so cute, Mommy,” she said. “You look like you’ve gone back to being a little girl again, and CJ is your dolly.”

One more thing to remember: This afternoon I baked granola, and cooked apples (going soft in our cold cellar) down to a rough sauce, which I planned to serve for supper, along with–not on top of!–leftover chicken noodle soup and olive-sourdough bread from the market. As the sauce and soup simmered, just before it was time to set the table and call everyone together, I went into the living-room to nurse a very grumpy baby, and told Kevin the admittedly eccentric supper plan. He will dispute this, but it sounded like he said something critical about granola and applesauce as proper supper items; I will not attempt to recreate his actual words, which, heaven knows, might have been altogether pleasant on the subject. I was, in any case, not in the most cheery of moods, having just spent over an hour preparing this granola and peeling and coring mushy apples, and what I heard was criticism. I growled and marched upstairs to continue nursing CJ in the peace and quiet of the “baby” room, in my great-aunt Alice’s rocking chair … except for reasons unknown Albus was hiding in the dark room and jumped out when I entered with an exuberant and highly effective “BOO!!!!” I replied with a blood-curdling shriek. Baby CJ did pause his nursing briefly to reflect upon this.

So I sat in the chair and announced to poor Albus, who really had only been doing his duty as a child, that I was quitting my job. Those were my exact words.

Of course, after CJ had eaten his fill, I went back downstairs and dished out the supper I’d planned, no one complained, everyone ate happily, and all was well. Albus was on his third slice of bread when he said, out of the blue, “Are you still going to quit your job, Mommy?”

I hope I didn’t worry him too much. We all had a good laugh recalling the BOO and the shriek, and Apple-Apple observed how some things are very funny afterward, even if not so funny at the time.

Nick-Names for Children

Oh my goodness, my friend Katie has posted pics of her brand-new baby boy, Quinn, on her blog, and I am so in love!!! I don’t know how this is possible under the circumstances, but those pics make my ovaries ache … and technically I still have a baby. Good grief. However, we tried to fit the whole family into a photo booth at the Steam Whistle gallery at my bro’s art show in Toronto, Wednesday night, and we were really ridiculously crammed in there. A’s head appeared giant (the ‘fro) as he was clumped near the front, and the rest of us were squeezed shadowy fragments of face behind the ‘fro, and Kevin and I both said, “No more kids.” Maybe that’s not a good measure (too many kids to fit into a photo booth??), but it seemed as good as any.

The kids have the day off school today, and we spent the morning having a lovely family playdate with another family, quite peaceful, mostly conflict-free, plus the other family brought snacks–cake with canned peaches. That was a lucky thing because without my CSA box and Nina’s buying club, and because I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to grocery stores regularly, our cupboards are truly bare. And our fridge. Our root cellar is nice and full, but sweet potatoes, onions and garlic are not big hits at snacktime. Unless one is feeding bunnies.

I have been thinking about giving my kids nicknames for the sake of this blog. I hope it won’t sound too twee, but calling them by a letter seems terribly uninspired. So here’s my plan: A will now be identified as Albus (yes, after the Dumbledore variety); AB will be Apple-Apple, which is what she wanted to name her little sister when she was born; F, aforementioned little sis, will be Fooey, which was what she called herself awhile back (I miss those days!); and baby CJ will stay as is, because in his case, the initials work. Though we never actually call him that.

Well, it’s nearly time for another playdate (Albus is having a friend over), then it’s swim lessons. I am drinking the entire carafe of coffee by myself today because Kevin has gone to Toronto to run a training class. I’ve boiled up a lovely chicken stock with which to make noodle soup for supper, along with cornbread. I’ll be counting on the kids to help. Do you hear that, kids? I’m counting on ya! They’ve been playing outside for the last half hour because rain is on its way, but it’s still beautiful right now. And we haven’t reached hibernation mode yet.

Okay, OCMama, slug back this extra cup of coffee and rouse yourself, because it’s time to be “on” again. This is why I like blogging. It’s a wee bit of time off. I need some moments inside my own head every day. If I don’t blog, I just stare blankly off into the distance, or something similarly unproductive (I’m convinced the brain needs this “blank” time in order to recharge), such as surfing the net, or clicking on the “next blog” feature at the top of this screen. Have you tried that? You’ll go to all kinds of places all over the world and see photos of strangers and read oddly similar but intimate details about their lives–or more likely, the lives of their children. Just like here. Oh dear, just saw someone walking by on the sidewalk glance with concern toward our backyard from wherein emerged a blood-curdling sound effect courtesy young sir Albus.

Writing Day, with Poem

I’m going to post a poem that comes from a suite I’m working on called “How to Be a Writer.” This poem originally started with the words “don’t be,” which tells you how ambivalent I continue to feel about this writing path. Despite ambivalence, I’m looking forward to going to “poetry club” tonight and talking verse, talking writing. It will be an all-around writing day, from bottom to top. Here’s the poem …

don’t sit before the screen and tap tap tap

don’t lick your pen and fill a blank
with scrap scrap scrap
don’t whisper lines of verse
at the grocery store
don’t narrate yourself at a quarter to four
don’t half-light darkness
with old joy and ruin recast
don’t lie don’t leech don’t bargain thieve and grasp
don’t write, small soul
don’t pretend or imagine
don’t ache for a reader
don’t prance for recognition
don’t do it, you’ll regret it
the black dog will eat you whole
don’t do it, amputate, amnesiate, enfold
but you can’t?
then it’s fatal
but you can’t?
then you shall
be a writer
be a writer
be it well

Barack Obama Makes Me Weepy

Obama. At around 10pm last night, briefly considered doing the responsible thing and going to bed, but tossed that notion right out the window because there aren’t many moments in a life when you get to sit on the couch and experience history as it is being made. That sounds grandiose, and I generally shrink from anything resembling idolatry, but there it is. When Barack Obama came onstage, I felt myself gasp. All evening long, it seemed too much to hope for, that at any moment something could wrong. There was Henry Champ (CBC) at the White House reporting about a sudden and unexpected mob of young people running down Pennsylvania Avenue, chanting for Obama and against Bush, and it felt, briefly, like something terrible was about to happen–a riot, a display unsuitable for the moment that could potentially ruin it. But, no. It was only students coming out of their dorms from nearby universities, using their (as Mr. Champ put it) “text message machines,” to call each other to a spontaneous and, thankfully, peaceful celebration. John McCain’s speech was gracious, better than his entire campaign, and perhaps redemptive. And, then, finally, there was Obama walking onstage with his beautiful family in a park in Chicago, and the impossible was suddenly real.

I fear for this man. I fear for his safety. I fear for him because he is symbolic, because he embodies the hopes and aspirations of a country, and of a world. I don’t know whether Americans can fully appreciate how stunning his victory is for the world. I don’t know whether Americans know how far their nation has fallen in the eyes of the world under the governance of George W., but the overwhelming popular turn-out, the line-ups hours long endured by voters, the grassroots support of Obama’s campaign, culminating in his victory, changes the way the world sees America. It renews faith in democracy. It legitimizes the American dream. A bi-racial man who never knew his dad, who has a foreign-sounding name, whose background is unusual, exotic, not privileged, who has not spent decades building backroom political allies, rises in his 47 years to the most powerful position in the country. I am genuinely proud to be American, in a way I never imagined feeling. There: I know it sounds grandiose. I can’t help myself.

Okay, I know he faces a crazy, impossible task, trying to set the broken economy straight, working within straitened budgets, two dismal wars underway, and all the rest of it. But he has a quality that’s rare: the ability to involve ordinary people in the processes of power. When people feel their voices aren’t heard, or that they, as individuals, don’t matter, they check out of the system. It seems like Barack Obama has the ability to bring people in, to inspire them to work together, to think of something other than themselves, other than immediate gain. Does that make him sound like a socialist? Well, where’s the balance? Individual responsibility, and collective gain. Does that fit with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Patriotism is a sense of belonging, isn’t it?

Clearly, speechifying is not for me.


Another freakishly hot day, so I hung two loads of laundry. Seems wrong for November. I’m baking a batch of Amish Friendship Sweet Bread, with my own improvised alterations to the original recipe. Yogurt, chocolate chips, less oil. It rose up beautifully. Tonight our family is heading to Toronto for my brother Christian’s art opening at the Steam Whistle gallery. We’re very excited and proud. This morning, AB said, “He’s a real artist! And you know him even better than we do!” Oh dear, baby CJ is muttering to himself in the baby monitor, suggesting he’s ready to get up and get busy.

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About me

My name is Carrie Snyder. I'm mother of four, writer of fiction and non-, dreamer, contemplative, mid-life runner, coach, forever curious. I'm interested in the intersection between art and spirituality. What if the purpose of life is to seek beauty? What if everyone could make art?

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