This month has been one of those longest shortest times where I am never able to remember what day of the week it is or how long it has been since we’ve moved here while still being keenly aware of exactly how many more minutes we must endure until nap time.
Tonight I sit at our kitchen table and my laptop balances precariously on library books, bills, crumpled receipts, and goldfish crumbles. It feels like we’ve been here for ages. When you walk in the kitchen door it smells like us (eau de: diapers/counter-warmed yogurt/coffee grounds) and is full of our children climbing on top of and getting into everything. The weather cooled off a bit this week and we spent more time at the park and walking around the neighborhood and we are all the time falling more in love with this place.
But sometimes when I realize that we’ve only been here for twenty-six days I feel more than a little weary because it feels so new and I’m just so spent on newness. Sometimes I get in the car to run an errand and I mentally run through my route: turning right out of the neighborhood, another left at delta sonic onto Cicero. Turn left again down temptation lane: the Culvers drive-through calls my name every time I pop over to Ultra for groceries or Target for aimless wandering and diapers. But then of course I’m bumping down our little lexington driveway, bracing for the scrape of our undercarriage against the steep angle of the curb and remembering my new directions. Left at the Shell to turn out of the neighborhood. Another left onto the interstate. Two exits to target. (And let’s not even get into how mixed up my new target is. I spent 45 minutes wandering around looking for laundry detergent, diapers and light bulbs the other day. Arg.) Change is hard.
This week I began a new job working at a little retirement home. It seems like a really wonderful place – the sort of home you would actually want to live in if you found yourself unable to keep up with all of the parts of making life on your own. (brilliant idea: Assisted living communities for parents of toddlers!) Our residents are all fairly active and keep pretty busy so our main tasks as caregivers involve keeping the home clean and making meals to feed the hungry crew. It cracks me up when my supervisor laments to me about what a ‘crazy!’ day we’re having because one of our residents with dementia has taken off with half the dirty silverware in the basket of her walker and another has knocked over a potted plant and spilled some dirt on her carpet, necessitating the use of the industrial-sized carpet cleaner (poor Opal was the talk of the town, let me tell you!). I don’t mention to her how long it has been since I last mopped my floors or saw the clear surface of my countertops. If only she knew that I wear flip flops whenever I am home so I don’t have to feel the gritty grime of the toddler crumbles always underfoot. It is a nice escape to be in a place so clean and orderly. There are long stretches at work where nobody needs me to do anything but the task at hand and I am left to prepare a meal or clean bedrooms with nothing but my thoughts for company and it is glorious.
But I was not prepared for such an abrupt transition back into working life. Can’t there be a re-entry program where you spend one week waking up and getting yourself dressed and fed by 6:40am, but are then free to continue about your usual routine? The next week you practice your commute and maybe stay an hour or so before heading out to run some errands, catch up on emails and continuing working on your childcare assistance application. Finally 3 or 4 weeks later you have worked up the stamina for full days. This would suit me.
The thing is: what was supposed to be an every-other-weekend thing has quickly turned into a new-girl-picks-up-all-the-shifts thing. Spending full 12 hour days taking care of 15 seniors, then returning to my little people each night at the peak of their neediness is rather overwhelming. Lately Evelyn asks to nurse about every half hour and Rowan is working through an inner battle for in/co-dependence. Up for cuddles, down for laundry sorting, up for cuddles, down to climb the bookshelf, tantrums when I foil his plans, cuddles to help sort out his feelings, then some furniture rearranging just because.
I know so much of the increase in clingy-ness and tantruming is related to this major life transition. And to Evelyn’s learning to walk. And to our lack of routine. And to the molars that are piercing through. And to my absence. I understand because I feel all those feelings too and resent that it is less socially acceptable to have a meltdown in the middle of target because the detergent isn’t where it should be and I’ve already been wandering for a solid half hour and the kids are cranky and I have to pee but can’t because toddlers + shopping cart does not equal public restroom success.
So. We just keep slogging along and I keep trying to find little moments to celebrate just because and it’s sort of working. Celebrating Evelyn’s first steps. (Strawberry milkshakes.) Celebrating my new job. (Peach Blueberry Crisp.) Celebrating the first day of classes. (Chocolate covered blueberries.) Next step: learn how to celebrate without sugar.
I’m hopeful about what will be. About what life will be like as we find our rhythms. I know that in another month or so the financial stuff will be sorted out. We’ll have found some kind of childcare arrangement that we can afford, either thanks to an actual full time job or to the generosity of our government via childcare assistance. (A topic for anther time, but can we all just agree that there is NOTHING lazy about applying for/being on public assistance? The number of hours it takes to complete the 79 different forms and track down all the necessary documentation and the three different meetings that must be scheduled with the case worker is nuts! Although, Drew did earn the praise of our social worker for being “the most prepared client of all time”. That’s my man!) All because we literally can’t afford to work. And if we do secure more hours/income we lose benefits (childcare), making it again impossible to work. It makes me twitchy. But I digress.)
We will figure out insurance and get the kids back in for their next round of vaccinations. We’ll have gotten to know more of the amazing people at our new church and we’ll have explored a few more corners of this amazing city and all will be well.
All will be well.
But first: the laundry.