Pre-Traffic Tension Headaches

I just found out that we got the last spot at the toddler’s learning center for big kids’ summer camp. This means the kindergartener will get to take tons of field trips, go swimming, work on her Spanish, and make new friends. Plus, it’s way more affordable than a lot of other options we’ve come across.

The only disappointment I have is that it isn’t closer to our house or at least accessible by train. Their other location — where Bea attended preschool across the street from our old apartment — has an opening for Ellie once she turns two, but they only do summer camp on the northwest side. Yesterday, amid all the construction traffic, it took me almost 30 minutes to drive the two miles to pick up the toddler. A bridge teardown isn’t expected to be done until December of *2016* and the water main repairs a block from us are going to take at least until the end of summer.

All those main streets are down to one lane and congestion is REALLY bad. Drivers are taking residential streets and alleys at high speeds, and it’s really hard walking Bea to or from school because everyone is trying to so hard to not let ANYONE GET IN FRONT OF THEM that they aren’t paying attention to pedestrians, even in crosswalks with school crossing guards.

I can feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders start to tense up before I even start the car. If there’s one thing I miss about Indianapolis (besides the people, of course), it’s the ample parking and ease of traveling by car (which is about the only way you CAN get anywhere). In Chicago, the train is practically the only way I want to commute since the bus is going to be stuck in the same junk my car would be.

I do hope Bea enjoys herself and relaxes, though. She is nervous about going to this location (she’ll be there for spring break) because her first two experiences were negative. I’m glad to learn that she’ll be busy with lots of activities and that it’s in our price range. Many parents in her school’s Facebook group are sharing where their kids are going, including a group that comes to her school, and hoping that classmates will be there as well. When I look this stuff up, it’s in the hundreds of dollars per week, for just a few hours a day. The kids are in elementary school longer than this place provides.

Social Mediator

Today we sent the kindergartner to school, despite the fact that she had a temperature of 99 degrees. No one can afford to take off any more time from work as both children have been sick with some virus, bacteria, cold, flu, or stomach bug so frequently in the past two months. She also expressed that missing her field trip today would be nothing short of devastating. Although I don’t think what she has is contagious, but a mild infection brought on by sinus problems, she is under the weather and I feel pretty guilty about letting her go. I can’t just call and check on her or stop in and see how she’s doing. There was one small method of contact I’d been hoping for, but I was let down.

The parents of the kindergarten classrooms share a private Facebook page and there’s an unwritten rule that if you chaperoned an event, volunteered at a class party, or otherwise helped with an event, you will post photos for the 99% of parents who were unable to go. As has been the case every frigging time, the parent posting photos displayed her own child and that kid’s friends in a dozen different shots. I couldn’t even locate the top of my kid’s head.

This is, of course, an extremely petty thing to get upset about. The kid will be home in three hours and I will know if she is feeling sickly or well. If she is really unwell, someone will call. But at the events I have been able to attend, I take and subsequently post photos of every child I can locate. I try to do group shots, and ensure that each kid present is displayed. At their holiday party, I even added directly to the post that I tried my best to get a photo of each classmate. This was, perhaps, more a nudge to other parent volunteers that they consider doing the same thing.

I’m irritated with myself for being irritated by this tiny slight. But I also can’t help thinking how doing something like this, while a courtesy to others, should include as much detail as possible. The kids have had a lot of events in the past few months and every time someone shares images, I am guaranteed not to see my daughter anywhere. I don’t want to look at eight photos of your kid’s face. That’s what your Facebook page is for. If you’re going to post images of the children on a field trip, at least do as many parents as you can a favor and try to get their kids in the shot.

The fact that I have taken the time out of my day to type this makes me even more angry.

The Joneses

I don’t think I really noticed the difference between our family and our neighbors until I started associating with other parents from our neighborhood. At her preschool here, it was kind of all over the place; very diverse, lots of ethnicities and backgrounds. At the elementary school, I see a family driving a Lexus SUV on snowy days and their Tesla on the others. A boy in her classroom told me that his gift for the first night of Hanukkah was an iPad mini and he gets a different app for it the other seven nights. This a kindergartener. He’s five. A mom who came to help out with the kids’ holiday party was having a conversation with the teacher about how much her husband complained that all she wanted for Christmas was to hire a decorator to put up window coverings. It wasn’t the cost–which, from what I gathered, was going to be more than three months of our rent on the apartment we can barely afford–it was that she didn’t want something he could wrap up in a box for her to open. The teacher laughed, commiserated, and said she’s having her new husband pay to whitewash their floors as her gift. The rocks on their fingers flashed and sparkled as their hands waved in the air.

My kid has been invited to half a dozen birthday parties since school started at the beginning of September. She has gone ice skating, to an indoor bounce-house arena, and was dropped off for some sort of athletic party involving gymnastics teachers and rock climbing with experts. We’ve declined three of those six parties because we just can’t afford to keep bringing gifts for the kids. I’ve poked around a bit because, of course, she wants to have a similar party for herself next year. The cheapest I could find started at $350 for 1.5 hours for ten kids and did not include food. There are 26 kids in her classroom and we have been told that if you invite one, you should invite all of them.

Her school has raised something like $70,000-$100,000 through various activities, pledges, walks, sales, and movie nights since September. We haven’t participated in anything yet but I’ve already been made to feel guilty for not “being there for [my] daughter.” A lot of the moms don’t work. And if they do, they run their own businesses and work from home, so they’ll take off a morning or afternoon to chaperone of the kids’ five field trips in the past three months, or volunteer to be a room parent, or help out with their parties. The school-day activities have cost us somewhere around $250 for the field trips, a Halloween party, a holiday party, a Christmas gift for her teacher, presents for the other kids’ parties, and the tools required to complete different activities that are supposed to be just for fun. We had to fill out a form demonstrating our (lack of) income in order to not be charged an additional $100 fee just to register for school.

I did my first bit of volunteering this week. I went for an hour on Wednesday to help the kids build gingerbread houses, then went back Friday to help with the games for their holiday party. This was when I got to hear about the ladies’ Christmas lists. I was suddenly extremely conscious of my paint-splattered jeans (the only pair I have that fit at the moment), my fraying sweater, my splotchy skin, the two inches of dead ends on my hair. These women, all my age or older, looked like they have regular trips to spas and salons. I bet a couple of them have already started getting Botox and the others looked waxed, plucked, coiffed, colored, and micro-dermabrasion-ed to perfection on a frequent basis.

Everyone was polite and nice to me. If they were aware of our income disparity, they were certainly too polite to acknowledge it by treating me any differently than they would, say, the person making their coffee. In fact, I felt kind of like I was in a different environment with my more high-end customers from the coffee shop. It was awkward but not painful.

And it’s not like I think these people have picture-perfect lives. One of them, for all her expensive clothes and car, has a child who will probably end up a sociopath. The child is nasty, mean spirited, and spent all her holiday-market money on one toy for herself, despite being sent with instructions to buy for her siblings and parents. She screams at the other kids that she won’t be their friend one day, then screams if they avoid her. Her dad had to apologize in advance to Charlie, saying that she apparently stole something from one of the other kids and he didn’t know if it was our kid or not.

It wouldn’t matter where she goes to school. We’d have some sort of problem or another anywhere. But I hate that I can’t do for her the things she wants or keep up even with minor extracurricular activities due to cost.

To top it all off, she is being sent to work with a specialist for twenty minutes each day, three days a week, in order to “gain focus, skills, and confidence.” She apparently works too slow in class. At our parent-teacher conference, Mrs S said that other children are done with assignments and she’s barely a third of the way through. Her teacher seems to think she isn’t where she should be with letter/sound recognition and math. Math? MATH? Of course, they aren’t doing ACTUAL math in class, so the teacher has no idea Bea can sit down and fill out two pages of addition and subtraction work on her own. And, yes, she does need to learn to focus if she’s going to stay in that class room, plus she lacks confidence in her answers and won’t really volunteer in class. But shit. She’s five. Back in my day, I was like the only kid who could read in kindergarten. We were being given all these tests and assessments to see where we were, academically.

There’s a reason this is the best school in the city and there’s a reason the kids who go here get accepted to the best high schools and colleges. I just don’t know if my kid is prepared to start all of this stuff so early. She’s loving and kind and artistic, plus she seems to have picked up arithmetic really quickly. But if, a couple years down the road, she’s still considered “behind,” we will start looking at other options.

Rich, White Hypocrites

My perfectly nice, albeit somewhat-clueless, neighbor directly south of this place has been complaining about “all the construction” going on across the street every time she sees me. Yet another tear-down of a perfectly reasonable three flat in order for someone to build a giant, million-dollar, single-family home. She then bemoans the fact that our house is going to be gutted and keeps asking me what the new landlord is going to do to it, how long construction will last, and what she’ll have to “deal with.” I have no idea. The landlord thinks he just did us a favor by cashing our checks for three months and then telling us to get lost.

I know one thing–everyone who knows the guy (he owns another building on this street) says he’s going to do the absolutely minimum possible to make as much cash off this place as he can. I know we’ll be priced out of it. A three bed a few doors down is currently on the market for over two grand a month. The place we’ll be moving to is only five bucks more than what we pay now and heat is paid, but it’s even more outdated, with a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher. And what we pay here is still almost $300 more than the previous tenants paid. Oh, yeah. I saw their rent check once.

I want to ask the nice-ish neighbor lady if she realizes the hypocrisy of her complaints, considering five years ago, she and her husband bought and razed the two three flats that were on the corner to build just two massive single-family homes. Between those two houses, five different kids are sent to private schools, and as many as six different families can no longer afford to live in this neighborhood.

Our public school claims enrollment is down, diversity isn’t what it used to be, and they are losing a significant amount of funds from CPS. Maybe if all the rich white people from Lincoln Park didn’t move over here to rip out all the apartments and then pay out a buttload more to send them to the Catholic school and $400-per-week elite preschool, more “diverse” families could afford to stay.

Snippy Remarks

One of the great parts about my job is that I can set my own hours, as long as I’m getting my work done. Some aspects can be completed at home (editing, writing, outreach, emails), which works well for me because we don’t have (and cannot afford at the moment) after-school care for the kindergartner. I have to pick her up at 3:10 every day.

One of the annoying parts of my job is that no one bothers coming in until late–10, 11, noon–so they don’t see me plugging away at nine in the morning every day. Almost all the courses in this program are offered in the evenings, and a majority of the professors apparently live in and commute from Oak Park, so they straggle in whenever works for them.

Yesterday one of my co-workers remarked that she didn’t think I existed anymore since she hadn’t seen me “in forever.” I informed her that I am here every Friday, unlike all the other grad assistants, because I have a four-hour morning class on Tuesdays and have to leave right after to pick up my daughter. And since Charlie gets the kids on Mondays, I’m here as early as 8:30 until 5:30, then go straight to my other class until 9pm. I did not see her any of those days.

And Mr. FancyPants Important Man, who is too busy giving interviews about his latest project to meet with me, made a snide remark the other day that I’m an “earlybird,” which makes it hard for him to give me assignments. I snapped back that I have a cell and office phone, email, and access to all of those in a variety of ways.

I like my job and I do enjoy the people with whom I work. I edited and indexed a really interesting book on a subject I knew nothing about until that moment. I finished it in two weeks, which made me feel a pretty solid sense of accomplishment. I know in any job, we will work with human beings, all of whom have their own quirks and preferences. But I do not enjoy being made to feel as though I’m not doing as much as other people.

This is barely enough of an irritation to warrant so many paragraphs, but sometimes I find myself writing a very wordy status update on Facebook, then transfer and expound on it over here in order to save my friends the time and energy they would have to use up to read and comment on my huge posts.

Oh, Right. You.

Yes, we’ve finally got back. Long story short, the new landlord is gutting the house and we have to be out by November first. Good news is we’re already paid for October, so our millions of dollars per paycheck (HA!) can go to renting a new place. Do I want to pack up all my shit all over again? No. But we have to. I hope this is somewhere we can stay for a while. Just settle and put up some artwork and shelves and take a breath. Although I don’t know when I’ll have time to get THAT done.

I have no less than five alarms set on my phone, most of which revolve around trying not to forget where each child or car is at any given time based upon my location and when I need to leave to retrieve that child. I love taking classes again and working for the university, but managing the schedules of four different people for six different activities is really hard, you guys.

Today I dropped off Bea at her school, then took Ellie to her daycare that’s about ten minutes away (the one across the street from us no longer takes kids under two/argh), then drove my car down to Roscoe Village where I parked it to get on the brown line , transferred to the red line at Belmont, and went down to the Loop for one class. I then went to work for a little bit before taking two different trains back to where I’d parked the car, drove back home, took a shower, and now I’m leaving again to pick up Bea from school and then collect Ellie. I will return home to make dinner before Charlie gets back from work.

My hope is that this program, as intense and different from what I’m used to as it is, will just catapult me into a position with the university. Right now I’m editing, indexing, proofreading, and writing for the newsletter. I’m also supposed to be working with a professor on an inner-city rail project, but I’m clueless as to what that looks like right now.

Suffice it to say we’ve been busy and I suspect that will continue for the next ten or eleven weeks.

It Can (and Probably Will) Be Worse

Charlie thinks it’s because he made a post on Facebook announcing our move. I think it’s because I told someone a week ago, “Well, things can’t possibly get any worse for us than they are right now.” Either way, if you are a superstitious person, then one of us has brought down the wrath of the fates. Today our landlord in Chicago, Dave, sent Charlie a text that read something like, “I have some news that will benefit the both of us. Give me a call when you can.”

Let me also mention that today is a national holiday, when most Americans are otherwise engaged in some sort of alcohol- and/or grilling-based activities. So. Bad timing on Dave’s part, who proceeded to tell Charlie that he has sold the two-unit building we were moving into. The house he grew up in, the house he raised his son in, the house we have been planning on relocating back to for the past couple of months at least.

It’s been since April that Dave and I have communicated about coming back and when. He knows about my job, school, Bea’s school, and the baby’s daycare choices. We have a pediatrician there. We had their shot records forwarded. I have changed our address with the USPS. I have switched our internet and cable provider. I have accepted a job and offer from my alma mater. I have promised Bea that we will be in the same place (just on the first floor instead of the second) in twenty-four nights, and that she will go to the same school as her friends from preschool. We have reserved a truck and movers to help us unload there.

Dave swears up and down that the new owner is a great guy, super relaxed, and this guy knows we’re moving in, plus how much we’re supposed to be paying. Chris, the new owner, closes “next week. The week after at the latest. It’s basically just a handshake,” he says, and we don’t need to worry about some weird legal stuff cropping up. Everything is taken care of, says Dave, and Chris isn’t going to raise the rent on us. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’m going to throw up. We have nothing on paper, no guarantees, just Dave’s word that it’s all going to be okay. I think, at one point, Charlie started to cry.

We’ve had to weather so much together, and especially the past year, when we’ve had to feed our kids with SNAP benefits, get them to daycare with CCDF vouchers, and live off pennies every day, sometimes unable to put gas in the car or make that auto payment. Our insurance has dropped us, our last month’s rent here is now four days late, and I’m down to just one part-time job before we were supposed to move.

I have no idea what will happen next. I just know that it can get worse.

Edited to add: We have spoken to the new landlord. His plan is to gut the house and he doesn’t want tenants while that happens. He knows it will take time to secure proper permits and permission, so he’s allowing us to sign a three-month lease, then go month-to-month thereafter. Apparently Dave told him that we were “interested,” not that he’d told us via text that the place was ours on July 30th. I hate the idea of moving again in four months, but I’d rather have 90 days to find a place than twenty days. If that’s what we end up having to do, then we just won’t unpack a lot of boxes.

In Transition

I’m currently working two jobs while Charlie is in between two and three. He’s training, was working at a bar on Friday and occasional Saturday nights, and is now going to be painting houses with a friend. I’m back at the coffee shop one or two shifts a week, plus the retail job, which is sucking the life out of me. Another friend has offered to pay me to clean her house. People donated over a grand to get us back to Chicago. But our food assistance was cut, our childcare was raised, my hours at the retail job were cut, there aren’t enough for me to go back to full time at the coffee shop. There are less than two months before we move and I’m going batshit.

I’m tired of heading to work, wondering if the person I’m schedule with is up or down today. Is she going to be pissed off? In a bad mood? Bitchy? Crying? Stomping around the store? Am I going to be condescended to today? Will someone call in sick and I have to find another person to cover? Perhaps something everyone else does gets blamed solely on me? One employee who’s getting ready to leave just mentally checks out completely, messes some orders up, and then tells me she doesn’t give a fuck anymore. So, probably best to lay it all on my shoulders. That’s how it has felt lately.

Yesterday Charlie got neutered. I’d requested the weekend off a month in advance. I was the only manager in town, so I was asked to open. I was told to “just find someone” to watch my kids. No one was available other than my brother in law, who came over for a few hours, got bored, and left for a concert. Charlie was home after a vasectomy with two kids, neither of which he could pick up. He had to sit on the floor with the baby and try to keep her entertained, feed her without holding her. I was late because a coworker called in and no one else was in until five. I said I could work only from until four. Yes, worse things have happened to people in the world. But it’s still obnoxious.

Sometimes I have to come home, stand in front of the cabinet with all my degrees, and remind myself that I am not mentally defective. Despite what a twenty-five-year-old young lady may think of me, I am intelligent, capable, and worthy of respect.

July 30th. That’s our move date. I start at my alma mater in the beginning of September. They’re paying for the entire program, giving me a job, offering me scholarships and study abroad. During my interview, the professor asked me what I was doing there. “You have a strong academic record, a solid resume.” Why would I want to go back to them? Why would I need another masters degree? Had I not found anything worthwhile in Indianapolis? I asked if he could answer that for me, because I certainly didn’t know. I gave a dazzling response about my love for the college, the campus, and my desire to be well prepared for a career with them. Because here, all I have been offered is retail and, even there, people treat me like an idiot. And, no. I did not say that last part out loud.

Screw It. Let’s Just Go Back.

I’ve posted maybe a handful of times since we relocated back to Indy. But we are officially trying to get back to Chicago. In the past two weeks, the universe seems to be leading us there. First, our previous landlord casually mentioned that the downstairs apartment would be available at the end of July. A week later, I was accepted to another graduate program at DePaul, which may be covered 100%, included a scholarship, and a modest stipend. This one is in the field for which I’ve been job searching the past ten months: higher education. Don’t get me wrong, though. Colleges and universities in Indianapolis are not the only places to which I have applied. I’ve been working in retail since January and have applied everywhere from ExactTarget to Target. IUPUI, IU, Purdue, University of Indianapolis, Harrison College, Ivy Tech, ITT Tech, Herron, Butler. Am I forgetting any? Angie’s List, nonprofits, other retail shops, social work, social services, community organizations, web sites. Maybe 120 different apps since August or September? 

Then the landlord here finally returned our calls. We’d both been sweating it because we signed a two-year lease and discovered the girls on the other side of the double didn’t give any notice. He found out they were leaving when their new place called him for a reference. But when Charlie spoke to him, he said this sounds like a great deal and we should go for it. Simple enough.

Then we started crowd funding after a friend suggested. She said she would happily contribute to something like that and we should set up a GoFundMe account. Two nights ago, I did, and we’re already up to almost $800. Granted, this is only part of what we’ll need. First and last month’s rent, a truck, a couple of movers to help us unload, and then juggling our bills while we transition in the month of August. I shouldn’t have to take out any loans with a graduate assistantship, but I’m not going to refuse the possibility for a little cushion when classes start in September. 

Right now, Charlie is riding pretty high on the things that have gone in our favor. I’m still skeptical, but hopeful. We were happier there. We missed everyone, but there was no shortage of things to do. Here, I am so down and depressed and stressed out that I’ve lost weight, I’m not eating, my hair is falling out, my skin is a mess, and I feel like I have to force happy conversation when I do see the people I love. I have nothing positive to talk about anymore and it’s killing me. 

Significant Denial

I have been living in a pretty serious state of denial for the previous eleven months. That doesn’t include the months prior to the actual move when I talked myself and my family into relocating back to Indianapolis. My husband is looking for a scapegoat–trying to blame all of this frustration and dead-end job searching on someone else. “Oh, so-and-so said they knew a higher up at X. And such-and-such told you that he could guarantee you a job at Y. I blame A, B, and C for telling you they could get you an interview.” 

The truth is, whether or not I took those promises to heart, and whether or not they were empty, I still felt like the best thing for us was to come back. For a number of reasons. My pregnancy was complicated. Ellie’s birth was complicated. We didn’t have a lot saved and there was no way of knowing we could get through much of any maternity leave. We couldn’t afford to put two kids in daycare at the same time. We wouldn’t qualify for daycare assistance without me being employed. We were coming back to Indy all the time to visit people. I wanted Bea to be closer to family and friends.

And now I’m reconsidering all of that. Yes, it would mean moving our kid yet again, and she would no longer be going to kindergarten here with her little friends from preschool and with whom she has grown up (a former co-worker whose son is five months older than Bea was accepted to the same school). And it would mean not having the kids around their new cousin, due the beginning of June, because his dad and mom are trying to move to Indy. It would mean coming back to Indy a lot for visits with two kids in a very small car. It would mean trying to figure out a way to break our lease here without having to pay the landlord a shit-ton of money. I guess it would mean a lot of things. But it all boils down to the fact that I am pretty unhappy here and cannot survive on the pay I make at my current full-time job selling crafts and local artwork, as much as I enjoy the business.

Our old landlord just let us know that the people on the first floor of our duplex in Chicago are moving out. The rent will be higher, but he now pays all utilities. We would go back to one car and save over $200 a month in payments, not to mention gas and insurance. 

So I broke down and applied for an advising position at my alma mater. I was in the running for several jobs there before I decided we couldn’t stay. I don’t know if leaving decreased my chances of getting something else, or if being a graduate will increase my opportunity for an interview.

Suffice it to say that Charlie and I have had some pretty serious discussions over the past two days. I don’t yet know what will happen one way or another. If we’ll stick it out here for another year until the lease is up and try to save? Or just say fuck it and go.