September 7, 2011

Teacher's Helper, or Childcare Disaster Zone

My very distracting children
We have, up until extremely recently, been very very lucky when it comes to our childcare.

Don't get me wrong, all things considered we're still pretty lucky.  But not as lucky as I'd like.

You see, we have virtually no family in the area.  And the family that we DO have in the area is pretty far away, all told.  (We're on the far south side of the city, my mother's cousin is in the near north suburbs.)  Add to that our extreme financial constraints... we basically just plain can't afford childcare.  And yet, somehow I must get to class on a regular basis in order to finish my degree.

For much of the first year, M was unemployed.  That is one of the reasons that we couldn't afford childcare.  But, that also made him available to watch the girls while I went to class.

Then we found Our Mary Poppins.  Our magical, wonderful, perfect part time nanny.  What made her so perfect?  First, she LOVES the girls.  LOVES them.  And they absolutely adore her.  Next, and also wonderful, she lives in the neighborhood.  In the event of an emergency, she can usually be here in less than twenty minutes.

But the biggest, best-est thing that made her the second most important adult in my life, was her availability.  She's an art student.

I used to be an art student.

I know how good art students can be on living on virtually nothing.

She was willing to live on virtually nothing.

Best of all?  Every semester, I would register first.  Then, she would register for classes around my class schedule.  And thus, she was always available when I needed her, she always had enough money to get by, and we had babysitting that we could BARELY afford.  We've been paying more for our childcare each month than for our mortgage.  And this month our insurance premiums went up.  Again.

It was a freakin' steal.  We knew it, and we were grateful.  So grateful that whenever she was running low at the end of the month, or had some extra expenses (wisdom teeth, etc.) we were happy to help her out.  As much as we possibly could.  Because we had become completely symbiotic.  Codependent, if you will.  And we had become friends.

Cut to this semester.

DD is cute enough to make me forget what happened next.
Thanks to the horrific, inhumane, and sadistic language requirements of my school, I have to be at class for one hour every single day.

She had almost managed to make that work.  Almost.  But then her advisor started shifting her classes around.  Other classes were canceled, rescheduled, or otherwise made to change their nature.

Suddenly, Our Mary Poppins couldn't come over anymore.  This was the start of my second week of classes.  I began missing my classes.

I started calling anyone, ANYONE who might help me.

I talked to a dozen day care providers.

First of all, places that can take my kids at 7:15am when I need to drop them off?  Not exactly a dime a dozen.  They're happy to take them at 8am.  You know, the minute my 50 minute long class starts.  That doesn't work.

Or, they're happy to take them at 7:15am when I need to drop them off.  You know, for $20 apiece for each hour.  Making two days of childcare for the absolute minimum I could require cost more than one whole week of our previous arrangement.

Or, they can come to me.  But only for twice Our Mary Poppins' rate, and only if I promise them twice as many hours as I need.

I tried Sitter City.  But to check any of the responses to my listing, I need to pay them $140.  That wasn't happening.

I tried a few local parent networks.  The one that seems the most likely still hasn't gotten back to me, but needs me to pay them an application fee and membership dues before they'll give me any real info.

The University provides childcare for free.  IF your kids are potty-trained (I'll MAKE them learn in a week, if that's what it takes!), and IF they're 2 years and 7 months old.  Which they'll be... five days before I graduate.  Screw you, University childcare!

So I finally found a situation that might work.  Two days a week (for the time being) Our Mary Poppins will continue to come to our home.  Until she finds something tha makes her enough money to actually live.

SI thinks something sounds unlikely...
One day a week, a friend of mine will come and sit with the girls while she works on her novel.

And last of all, I would drop my girls off twice a week before class with my friend Hella Mystical on the north side of the city, then drive back into the center of the city for classes.

Can you see the flaw in the plan yet?

Here's a hint- Chicago was recently named one of the top three worst cities in the country for traffic congestion.

I did the math.  Given typical traffic, I would have to get my girls into the car and on the way to Sage's place around 6am.  Then, I would have to leave her place by about 7:15 to make it to my class on time.

That's during typical traffic.

Today was the test day.  I don't just mean that I was trying out my ability to traverse three quarters of Chicago geography, either.  Today was my first Spanish exam.  Something I absolutely cannot make up later.  And that counts for a significant portion of my grade.

I had to make it to class.

Unfortunately, getting up is not my forté.  I slept in by about twenty minutes (I had stayed up until midnight studying), resulting in what would have been exactly a 20 minute delay in our departure.  Unfortunately, DD decided that the shoes I put her in were not acceptable.  She refused to walk down the stairs in them.  This slowed us down another half an hour.

We got into the car at 6:57.

And then we were off!  Took the back way up to LSD, like a ninja.  Hopped off of LSD onto the Eisenhower like a pro- traffic averted!  And then, the radio announced the worst few words I could imagine hearing.  Possibly ever.

"...and today, Chicago welcomes SUPERMAN!"

That's right, Superman started filming in MY city today.  Downtown.  Resulting in... lane closures, exits shut down, and of course- gaggles of Superman fanatics hoping to find their way to the filming location and snap some pictures of the Man of Steel.

I had to make a decision.  My kids were hungry and angry, but it was going to take me more than half an hour to get to Sage's, and God knows how long to get back.  And I couldn't miss my freakin' exam.

I turned the car around.  I took my children with me to school.

First, we walked into the student center.  DD stumbled and fell in the crosswalk to the building, and was genuinely freaked out when a nice lady helped her up.  I managed to calm her with the promise of a muffin.
DD's pout isn't nearly as cute when she means it.

We got to the coffee shop in the student center.  Thankfully open.  And possessing of muffins.

I started to grab some muffins, and my heart skipped a beat.  Only two varieties of muffin.  Cranberry, which my kids won't eat for some reason, and chocolate chip.

Chocolate chip.  I was going to have to buzz my kids on chocolate to come with me to class.  Well, it was this or nothing.  So, chocolate it was.

I tried to explain that they had to wait for the muffin until we got to the classroom.  DD didn't care, she wanted her muffin then.  Desperately.  It was the last morsel of food on the planet.  She wailed for half the walk to the building (the second farthest building on campus, I might add), occasionally throwing herself onto the sidewalk and sobbing.

We made it to the classroom.  With ten minutes to spare.  The girls sat down peacefully, quietly, happily, and ate their muffins.  As they ate their muffins, I noticed DD's face.  Her black eye was yellowing grossly, and on top of that she'd given herself a huge knock on the head last night when she fell down running after me as I ran to get a phone call.  I looked at SI, she needs her fingernails trimmed and had scratches on her nose.  They hadn't bathed last night.  They were covered in crumbs and chocolate.  My children were a gigantic mess.  They were going to make this impossible.

I thought things through quickly.  During the test, all the grown-ups would be sitting down, writing on a piece of paper and not talking.  I had paper.  I had pens.  The girls could do the same.

As more people filed into the room, the girls got antsy.  I gave them their pens and paper.  No problem.

And then la profesora arrived.  And she began to teach.

DD was okay.  She was happy to draw and write all morning as far as I could tell.  Not SI.  La profesora was obviously very important.  SI got up and began to follow her around.  She tried to crawl through her legs.  She tried to tickle her tummy.  She didn't quite want to reach.  This left her fidgeting with la profesora's fly and belt.

My daughter was trying to molest the professor, who was remarkably unfazed.  And my other daughter was sitting at my feet, trying to show the heart she had managed to draw with pride beaming from every pore.  I wasn't taking in a word of the lecture.

This child groped my Spanish professor.
I just kept thinking, "Just hand out the test!  Please, just pass out the damn test!"

SI grabbed her pen, and tried to write on the board like la profesora.  The screech was horrific.  La profesora kindly gave her a piece of chalk, and SI spent much of the rest of class drawing on the chalk board, following la profesora.  She occasionally tried to steal some of the students' pens.  Each time I would run after her, grab her, apologize quickly and quietly, and force her into the seat with me.  From which she would cheerfully jump to follow la profesora.

During the last ten minutes, all she wanted was for la profesora to carry her.  Which, amazingly, she did without any form of complaint.  Until SI sneezed on her face.

DD was a champ.  She drew on her paper, drew on the chalkboard a bit (with chalk), and ran in little circles giggling for a while.  She was distracting, but nothing could have beaten SI for being a chaos machine for that hour.

And the worst part of all?  Because I had been out of the house so early, I had missed an email from la profesora.

!No examen hoy!

It's still too early to start drinking, isn't it?


  1. OMG!!! And this is why women shall rule the world. Why? Because they! No matter the circumstances. They simply have to. That's all they can do. Most men would never be able to juggle all that.
    Hats off to you and enjoy that drink, sister! You deserve it! Good luck on the test, btw!

  2. I love your sense of humor and amazing attitude. Truly, Becoming Supermommy. Have a glass of wine on me.

  3. OMG! what a story. Lo siento chica! I certainly feel your pain. I imagined my little one doing the same thing.

    new MBC follower -

  4. HAHAHAHAHAH OMG!!!!!! what a story and NO TEST - oh my gosh - honey who cares what time it is, you deserve a cocktail

  5. Holy crap! The irony of situations when you work it out with your last possible solution. I'd need a drink after that too - and I don't drink! In fact I almost need one just from reading your recap!

  6. Oh, no way!!!!! After ALL OF THAT, there was no exam? Isn't that the way it goes?? I had to take my 3 y/o son with me to work today. I know how you sometimes have to do these things. So not fun! I am glad you are seeing the humor in it, though. :) So glad you linked up with us at #findingthefunny! I'm following you now.



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