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Just an Ordinary Morning

January 21, 2012

It’s 5am.  Baby is finally sleeping after an hour of babbling, squirming, rolling over in his crib and trying to practice crawling. Rather than wake the Big Guy by sneaking back into bed at this fragile hour I head downstairs for the couch, covering myself with a blanket and watching a star wink in the sky before sinking back into that blissful sponge of sleep.  I wake later when the shower starts, the Big Guy getting ready for work.  Reluctantly abandoning my nest, I head for the kitchen, turning lights on as I go, to convince my tired brain it’s time to be awake.  Put water on to boil for oatmeal, turn on the espresso machine and start putting away the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Steam milk for lattes, pour oats into the pot of boiling water and turn it down to simmer, pop in toast for one of the Big Kids.  Methodically perform these tasks the same way I have countless other times.

Pack school lunches.  It’s Friday, so supplies of fresh fruit and veggies are running low.  I grab the sandwiches from the fridge that I made last night, add some apple slices left over from our snack yesterday, and scoop yoghurt into smaller containers.  Finish with packaged granola bars and little containers of goldfish crackers.  These processed foods are mama-guilt fodder (overpackaged, undernourishing) but make the kids happy and will help them get through the last day of the week.

The Big Guy comes down with Baby and plops him into his high chair with a couple of toys.  Baby is remarkably chipper considering our early morning play date, and bangs the rattles on his tray while he babbles at no one in particular.  The Big Guy and I dance around the kitchen, negotiating the small space while making breakfast and packing lunches.  He’s efficient, out the door in minutes, coffee in hand, leaving me with a peck on the cheek.  We’ll meet again in 12 hours, but for now we each have jobs to do.

Mine is to get the Big Kids off to school.  Lunches are packed, the kids are eating, and I’m feeding Baby oatmeal.  The Big Kids dash off to brush hair and teeth, pack backpacks, get shoes and coats on and get in the van (not without a few reminders as they get distracted by their toys.)  I put Baby’s coat on and strap him into his carseat, then run out to start the van to warm it up.  It’s only -2 degrees C, but there’s frost on the windows and a thick coating of white over the garden. 

I stuff my feet into frozen Crocs (my chicken shoes) and tiptoe down the driveway so I don’t slip, opening the garden gate, then the door to the chicken run.  The girls are happy to see me, making pop-pop-popping noises and scrambling down the frozen ramp out of the coop.  I tip their water container to make sure it’s not frozen, throw down a handful of scratch, and return to herd the kids into the car. 

Smugly, I pull out of the driveway at one minute to eight.  We are on time.  The school bell rings as we pull into the drop-off zone.  I am too tired to walk the kids in and make small talk with the other parents today.  I step out to open the sliding van door, hug each child and help them don their backpacks, and tell them I love them and will meet them at the bus stop this afternoon.

Returning home a little deflated, the pace slowed, I snuggle Baby on the couch for a few minutes, ignoring the bowls in the sink and crusty oatmeal on the stove.  Where to start?  I grab a pen to capture the list running through my head: laundry, hang up bathing suits from yesterday, get groceries for the weekend, it’s my turn to bring cookies for ski lessons tomorrow (wonder if there are any allergies in the group?), rent a movie for tonight, make pizza dough for dinner.  Baby tires of playing with his toys in the living room so I take him up to his room to nurse him down – a bad habit but a surefire nap-inducer.  I start with the dishes, then sort laundry into big piles of lights and darks. 

This is when loneliness can creep in if I don’t keep busy.  The hours yawn ahead, somehow too few to actually catch up but too many to fill purposefully.  I can stay busy with the tasks at hand- vacuuming, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, and remind myself that Buddhists place high value on these entropic tasks, ones that are undone almost as soon as they’re completed.  There is a certain sense of pride in making a meal that everyone eats, nourished for one more day, or putting away clean, folded clothes.  These tasks are my job, necessary to the overall household functioning.  I can no more decide not to do these chores than the Big Guy can decide not to show up for work one day.  But I miss having colleagues, projects with deadlines that had tidy reports and Powerpoint presentations to go with them.  I miss getting a paycheck and spending money on a new outfit for an important trade show.  I miss the satisfaction of having completed something permanent, something that will be remembered longer than last night’s dinner. 

Rather than dwell on these depressing thoughts, I decide to start tonight’s dinner.

Pizza Dough – pour 1 1/3 cup hot tap water into a huge bowl, stir in 1 tsp sugar and sprinkle in 1 Tbs yeast.  Wait until the mixture is really foamy, then add a big slug of olive oil and a liberal shake of salt.  Stir in 1 cup of whole wheat flour, then start adding white flour until it’s too thick to stir.  Add more flour ( I think the total is four cups) and knead until it’s elastic; when I think I’m done I knead for a few more minutes until it’s really smooth and think of it as my upper body workout for the day.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise for two hours.  Punch the dough down, then let rise again for another hour or two, then refrigerate until tonight.

Slowly scratching chores off my list, I count down until it’s time to get the Big Kids from the bus.  I’m trying to muster the motivation to put Baby in the stroller and go for a run when he wakes.  It’s a day for EdieBrickell, Cowboy Junkies and 10, 000 Maniacs.  A day to breathe a sigh of relief that the week is almost over and tomorrow we can throw routine out the window and enjoy a weekend together as a family, my reward for the hours of thankless chores.   When I’m back at work I know I’ll remember these days of relative calm with nostalgia, so I try to focus on what I have to be very grateful for.


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