Life has felt full lately, full to bursting. It’s the slowly growing sense of things picking up and shifting, inertia lifting.
After a slowwwww, hibernating, coming-back-to-life beginning to the year, I get the feeling that I’m going to be welcoming 2016 with some serious momentum behind me. That said, it’s a definite shift. I am still taking care of Olive full-time, but I have also been working as much as I can. It’s busy, and hectic, and I write so much that I burned the ‘m’ key right off my laptop and until my replacement key arrives and I somehow decipher how to install it, I have to copy an m from somewhere else and then ctrl-v it into the word. Capitals pose a particular problem. As does my mother-effing NAmE!
Sorry. I digress.
Life has changed pretty drastically in the last few months, so I thought it would be kind of fun (?) to give a mostly accurate rundown of what our days are like lately.
Get comfy, this is going to be loooong.
8:30 am: We wake up. Olive is typically in my bed, I am typically clinging tenuously to one tiny corner of my bed. When I say “we” wake up, I mean “she” wakes up and then proceeds to heckle me and climb over me and cause me great injury with her pointy elbows and shrill voice until I slither face first onto the floor and army crawl toward coffee, sweet, sweet coffee.
(It’s actually quite nice waking up with her. She is a very snuggly little person, and she has started telling me that she loves me a lot, just out of the blue. I am clearly not a morning person, but I have no idea if or when I will next experience the exquisite joy of the feeling of my soft, sweaty little kid nestled into me, so I am enjoying it while I can. Even I can’t complain about waking up to that.)
Olive doesn’t nap anymore, so she typically sleeps from 7:30/8:00 pm to 8:00/8:30 am. I, on the other hand, am pathologically unable to get to bed before 1 or 2 am, especially if I have work to finish. Hence the exhaustion. I’m just not lazy, okay? (I mean, lazy also. But mostly just tired.)
9 am: I am almost awake. (OK, this is a lie. But I am probably mostly coherent at this point.) Olive is at the table eating porridge and some sort of fruit, probably mashing it into her face and the tiny cracks and crevices of the table. I am either sitting with her or, if she is being extra talkative, on the couch in the living room, finishing my coffee, looking at my email, replying to work-related social media stuff, and generally ignoring my child and being a terrible parent.
Historically, I have not always been great at eating breakfast, and drinking coffee only makes it worse. These days I will almost always force myself to eat a bowl of either plain Greek yogurt with hemp seeds/ground flax seeds or a bowl of cottage cheese, and I drink a glass of almond milk with a few tablespoons of Udo’s oil, too.
9:30-11:30 am-This is our time to clean up from breakfast, run errands, do household chores, play, and trash my house. Bonus points if Olive asks to play with her train set, promises she will clean it up when she’s done, empties all 100 pieces all over the floor and then abandons it. Then there is an addendum:
10:00-11:15 am: Ask Olive to pick up her train set. Ask her again. Count to three. Help her because “her little handsies are tired”(exact quote). Help her find the pieces, of which 97 remain to be picked up because she “can’t see them”. Swear you will throw the whole damn thing out. Step on the blue train. Apologize for stepping on the blue train. Comfort her because she’s can’t believe I’ve been so heartless in my dealings in what is now coming to be known as the Terrible Blue Train Incident of 2015. Etc.
11:30-12:00: Lunch! Huzzah! I don’t so much make lunch as I do assemble it. Olive is bizarre and unworldly and she eats anything. I exploit this to my advantage, and her lunch is often something like broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, a few slices of cheese or cooked chicken, and an apple or some grapes. Some days we have soup. This is terribly interesting. So glad you’re still here.
12:00 pm: We leave for preschool if it is a preschool day. We take a bus part of the way and then walk. We only need to walk eight blocks, yet if I budget any less than forty-five minutes to cover this distance, we WILL be late. I can’t even talk about this anymore because it gives me so much rage. I am not kidding in the slightest when I say that one of my biggest goals right now is to cultivate patience and calm while she dawdles her way to and from school.
I do understand and appreciate how incredible it is that she has such curiosity for her surroundings, such imagination and sense of adventure that every stick is a wand or a leash, every driveway a mountain. I know that for me this is just a Tuesday where I want to go home and get dinner started, but it’s also her childhood and I really don’t want the soundtrack to these amazing explorations to be “Hurry up! Let’s go! Come ON!”. That’s horrible. I will keep you updated on this mammoth test of my zen abilities.
1:10-3:30 pm: This is school time for Olive, work time for me, so after I drop her off at preschool I book it to a coffee shop.
Work for me right now means a few different things. I write articles for Earth911 once or twice a week, which takes anywhere from 1-3 hours to complete. Sometimes topics are assigned to me, sometimes they are ideas I have pitched. In addition to writing the articles, there’s also a social media component – sharing my work, interacting with readers, coming up with pitches, etc. Earth911 has been a fascinating opportunity to dip my toe into the world of green policy, business, and tech, none of which I ever really explored while mixing baking soda concoctions in my kitchen.
Once a week I write a column for The Guardian, which currently takes me ages because um, The Guardian. I can not express how out-of-this-world bizarre and surreal it is seeing my byline on their site. It’s the biggest publication I’ve ever written for and writing a new series or for a new outlet can be challenging for me at first because it’s really important to me that I do well, that I hit the right tone, and that what I write will engage readers. Doing this and doing it to the standard I require of myself means many, many revisions in the beginning. Consummate over-thinker that I am, I’d estimate that this bit of work takes me anywhere between 5-7 hours (maybe more? I’ve never really kept track), split up into little chunks whenever I can get time to work on it throughout the week.
This too has a social component, promoting the article and interacting with commenters, which I have really loved. Initially, I was sort of terrified by Guardian commenters, but when I started jumping into debates and joining conversations it became clear that I absolutely loved them. They are a feisty bunch, and not afraid to tell you if they think you’re full of shit, but they’re also, on the whole, wickedly intelligent and thoughtful in their responses. I’ve really liked the back and forth’s I’ve been getting into.
And then there’s the editing and copy-writing I have started doing, which varies week to week. I’ve been working with amazing clients including Krista Jane, SeekerLoverDreamer, and The Owner’s Collective, and I love this work. These women are so vibrant, passionate and driven – it’s incredibly motivating!
I will never get done everything I need to in this two hours, but it’s amazing how nice it feels to have this time to be still, silent, and focused.
[Ah, you noticed that I left out the blog, did you? Oh god, this poor, poor blog. It’s always bumped to the bottom of the list because there’s no editor and no deadline (and no paycheck) so that’s why you haven’t been hearing from me for such long stretches lately. I am hoping with the few hours of dedicated work time I get each week with preschool now, that this will change. I miss you guys!]
3:30-4:30 pm: We start the journey home. The walk home is even slower because now Olive is tired from school. It takes us an hour. To go eight blocks. Again….breathing exercises and mindfulness practice will be instituted so I can let go of this weird impatience and focus on this strange, beautiful daughter of mine.
4:30-8:00pm: Every parent just got twitchy seeing this time span. This is the witching hour. It’s the rushed chaos of getting home, get unpacked and organized, getting dinner started, making them eat, getting them ready for bed, and actually going to bed. I haven’t been doing a ton of cooking lately since it’s been so hot (who the hell cooks in the summer?) but as it gets cooler it’ll be time to break out the comfort foods – hearty soups and rich casseroles and, my favourite, roasted root veggies. Awwww yeeeeah.
Still life. A photo posted by Sweet Madeleine (@sweet.madeleine) on
8:00-8:45: After Olive goes to bed, things get a whole lot more calm. I clean up from dinner, tidy up from the day, do/hang laundry, and just basically restore some sense of normalcy to my house. Usually, I am successful.
8:45-?: my time! I’m freeeee! Sometimes I will have friends over, most of the time I will be working on articles or editing (especially if it wasn’t a preschool day). Either way, I find it unbelievably challenging to go to sleep, I just can’t let go of those quiet hours, that focus, that freedom. Right now the ~4 hours Olive is in preschool is the only time I’m not with her, so this time? It’s like gold. How can I waste it? Going to bed early is almost physically painful, but I am trying to improve. Honestly. (Soon) (Ish) (I swear)
At the end of the day, I walk into my bathroom, brush my teeth, take my 16 pills, and then I wet a washcloth with hot water. I press the hot cloth against my face and I just stand there for a moment, inhaling. It’s dark and warm and steamy, and I feel the tension leave my shoulders.
I can smell the faint lavender smell of my detergent, and the skin of my face warming and opening. I think about the day, how another one has slipped away. I think about how Olive is getting closer and closer to turning three, and how I am getting closer and closer to 32. I think about what I did well, and what I wish I’d done better.
The “done better” part almost always has to do with parenting. The moment I spoke harshly or failed at being patient. The time I had to keep putting her off because I needed to get something done instead. I try to remember and use these moments, not to feel guilty, but to help me do better.
I pad quietly into my room, I undress, I fall asleep. I dream. And the next day I wake up and I do it all over again. I feel truly lucky to have this life. Every second of it. It keeps growing more and more full and requiring me to shift and grow and change and adapt – it challenges me.
And it’s funny, it looks both nothing and everything like I dreamed it would.
Gorgeous writing. As usual.
Thank you, Erika! It’s so kind of you to take the time to say so.
Proud of you
I have a similar problem….. I am just not patient as my kid takes FOREVER to get ready in the morning. Seriously I am a bad mom then, I need to work on it.
Anyway I want to suggest a scooter or a strider; maybe not an ideal winter solution yet maybe it can help speed things now? Even if she hasn’t tried a scooter before I’ve seen really young kids pick it up very quickly, it might work for her.
Best and beautiful writing, you are inspiring!
That’s a great idea! I tried a balance bike at one point and she became incensed, ” I do not like this WOBBLY bike!” I’ll see if I can take her somewhere to try a scooter.
I’m with you on the challenges of the slllllllllllloooooooowwwwww walks. Solo parenting is so hard and when I’ve tried to pinpoint what the hardest things about it for me personally it’s the challenge of being in the moment. For me single parenting has required to much multitasking to get IT. ALL. done and sometimes I just need to get somewhere faster. There was a good posting about it on Cup of Jo a while back – and the comment section is priceless: http://cupofjo.com/2015/05/slow-parenting/
Love love love your writing! Is it possible for you to have an email system/subscription for a your other writing (guardian, earth911, etc.) like you do for your blog? I’d def subscribe! Thank you for you!
I don’t have anything like that set up (and it’s so lovely that you asked!) but if you follow the sweet Madeleine Facebook page or my twitter account ( @madeleinesix) I regularly post links to articles! And on Pinterest, too! 🙂
Hello, yes I found this blog by reading your Guardian column. Good luck with that, though I do think you can’t gloss over car ownership and use as a planet-killer (and a child killer, quoting the famous slogan of Dutch protesters against increasing carcentric development in the postwar era). I see that at least you are trying to use the damned thing less. Are you living in Calgary now, or still in your small BC town?
In Calgary there should be a carshare scheme by now. Younger friends with small children have succeeded in not owning a car by belonging to CommunAuto here in Montréal.
One of my favourite charity bazaars here is at Église Sainte-Madeleine d’Outremont, a “society” church (Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire married there) where I’ve always found good clothing for the times I have to work outside my home office at conferences and other events.
Hello! It’s so nice to see you here! I have moved to Calgary from my small BC town. and I must admit that I really miss it sometimes. Calgary does have a car-share system, called Car2Go, but I haven’t looked into it too much yet – this is a good reminder to do so! And absolutely, cars are HUGE polluters. I find so many areas of North America are so spread out that a car seems like such a necessity, especially with a small child, but, of course, it is doable without one.
The area we live in is very walkable (chosen deliberately for that reason) and so we can walk to the grocery store, post office, bank coffee shops etc. so our car use is fairly limited.
I like the name of that charity bazaar…Sainte Madeleine…has a nice ring to it 😉
I loved dis post nd how ur day revolves with focus on olive..cute pictures too
Indeed that church does! 😉
Though I don’t take donations there; I usually take them to Le Chaînon, a charity shop that helps women in crisis, including homeless women. In the Bad Old Days when Québec was dominated by a very retrograde Church establishment, Le Chaînon (perhaps under another name) was one of those places where – gasp! – unwed teenage mothers went to live out their pregancies while expiating their sins – I hope it wasn’t as dire as its notorious Irish counterpart the Magdalene (name again) Laundries, but it certainly wasn’t a joyful place.
It is nothing like that now, many decades later. I took all my stemware there, including some crystal of a bit of value, and gained a shelf. We drink wine out of Duralex tumblers, proletarian French (and similar Italian ones), as people do at home in those countries, and which are also used for water, juice and even black coffee. Gaining a kitchen shelf, important in a small apartment.
I was feeding an Olive today, but she isn’t a little girl; she is a black cat of a certain age. A downstairs neighbour acquired her after a marital breakup when the father took up with a cat-allergic spouse. Their son was a bit older than (human) Olive, but he was very very sad about losing his cat. He’s a young man now, and while he still remembers her and visits her sometime, life goes on.
Enjoyed your “day in the life”. A thought about your ‘m’ problem. Can you just type everything with ‘n’ and let spell-check fix it? Or is that not cool with serious writers?
Oh I loved this post so much! When I read this, I thought ‘someone, somewhere out there gets me’…! Those walks will definitely be the death of me. I’ve started listening to podcasts while walking (with my one earphone carefully hidden under a hat/scarf lest my toddler catch a whiff that I might be entertained). Talk about terrible parenting 🙂 Thanks so much for posting and keep it up.
I love your perspective, honesty, and writing style. I am so glad you wrote this because it lead me to your Green911 article about Terracycle which I never knew about! I am so excited to start recycling writing utensils at work and apple sauce packets at home! So thank you all around! XOXO
Hi – I just found your writing through the Guardian this morning – 3 Nov All You Need Is Less. I have some catching up to do! What a delight to stumble across your article – love your writing style and ideas. Now I’m here wanting to read more. Talking about advertising and needs I read more because we quit TV three years ago when the big flat beast finally died in a power surge during an electrical storm. TV is not missed in this house. We enjoy reading more online. No longer caught up in being bombarded with commercials. Ad blockers used online. Our home is now peaceful. I can’t even stand to have the radio on for long either. I prefer the peace. Engaging with my husband more and enjoying friends. We have been downsizing for the last 10 years. It’s amazing the amount of stuff that accumulates and doesn’t get used. I love thrift shopping for clothing when needed. Something in, something out these days. Right now I’m downsizing my tote bins of quilting fabric with sewers and making an effort to use what I have. I don’t like living with clutter – it tires me out. I love your blog now that I have discovered it. I look forward to reading more of it, following your series in The Guardian and hear your stories about being a Mom. Such a delight with my morning coffee. Thanks from Ontario, Canada.