Terrible Twos Times Ten

It’s been two months exactly since we brought Miss Ellie home from the hospital. In that time, I’ve seen Bea go from a bright-eyed, clever, independent little four year old to a rabid, hysterical, tantrum-throwing preschooler.

I know her life has been turned upside down; new city and state, new house, new baby and now a new preschool. It took us two months after moving to get her in to a place we could afford, but all we can afford is 2.5 hours a day/4 days a week. It’s not enough. I take her at 1pm (when she would normally be napping), and pick her up at 3:30. By the time she gets home, she’s exhausted and cranky. And by the time we go to put her to bed, she has lost all self control.

I’ve never seen anything like it. When people talked about the “terrible twos,” I had no idea what they were talking about. At two, she was so sweet and cute. At three, she was inquisitive and clever. At four . . . I’ve heard stories of tantrums, but this . . . this is something else. Foot stomping, screaming, wailing, crying, jumping up and down, throwing herself on the floor, “no no no!” and whatnot. I was sort of, kind of prepared of her to resent the baby. Instead, she loves Ellie and hates us.

It seems as though, every night, once Bea is finally passed out, Charlie and I are having a conversation where we devise a new plan of attack. But since I’m the one home with both kids all day during the week, I’m the one who has to implement it all.

We’ve tried talking to her about it, reasoning with her, sticker charts, time outs, threats, taking away TV or toys or games, and we’ve both resorted to shouting at her to just stop screaming (super helpful and effective, as I’m sure you can imagine). It’s getting to the point where I can’t even deal with her anymore. I get so angry that I just have to remove myself from the situation and I don’t feel like going back to give her a hug and kiss. It doesn’t help that I feel “touched out” from holding and carrying the baby, feeding and nursing her. By the end of the day, I just want to pass out and not move for like 12 hours.

The baby’s great, though. I thought Bea was an easy baby, but this one has been a breeze so far. Good sleeper, good eater, healthy (a slight cold Bea brought home when she started preschool), happy. The birth was pretty traumatic and a story for another day, but I worried throughout the pregnancy and right up until the moment she arrived that something would go wrong.

Charlie is still working full time, but is close enough that he can ride his bike. We have the car most days, but no money to do much of anything exciting. Trips are limited to grocery stores and walks around the neighborhood. We were hanging out at the coffee shop some mornings for a bagel and coffee, but then I started working there again. Just weekends when Charlie is home, but enough that I don’t want to hang during the week.

To top it off, I found out after my second week back that they’ve been paying me like a new employee, not like someone who spent almost six years there. When the manager told me what I’d be getting paid, I just started laughing. “Oh, were you making more than that before?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Do you know how long I was here?” Granted, it took many months of badgering to get the raises I received, but it was still $2.50 more per hour than they apparently think I’m worth. So now I have to badger and argue to get more.

The manager at a nearby restaurant offered me a weekend gig waiting tables there. The tips sound fantastic. But the pay is really the only positive of working there. The employees are catty. The cooks are perverts. The owner is a bitch. The customers are wealthy, entitled assholes. I’d have to be on my feet ten hours a day just to make enough money to send Bea to preschool full time with nothing left over. People are like, “You should take that job. If Bea was at school during the week, you’d have more time to yourself.”

Except there’s now a newborn in the house. Despite being a great baby, she doesn’t really give me a lot of time to myself. So selfish.

So while I check job web sites in the hopes of finding something that pays more than Charlie’s working so that he can stay home, he’s studying for a personal training certificate. If he passes, he could go to work for his old employer and work 20 hours a week to make the same he’s bringing home now. If he doesn’t pass it, I have no idea what we’re going to do. There really aren’t any opportunities for advancement where he is now, and the pay just isn’t enough to change things at home.

And while I’d found positions at local universities that I wanted and for which I felt qualified, I was turned down twice in a row. Once was on my birthday. Ouch. But I know these are the kinds of jobs I want. And if I’m not qualified, how can I be? I started looking at other graduate programs and settled on one that I think I’m actually going to apply for, for next fall. If accepted, they require graduate assistantships, which means a guaranteed job related to what I’d be studying, a paycheck, tuition remission, and a practicum later on. Right now I just need to get the letters of rec and write the damn personal statement (300 words! Ugh). It at least gives me something to work toward.

If I could, I think I would just stay in college forever. If I can’t, I at least want to work for one. Not as an adjunct, though. I’m making more working 15 hours a week at the coffee shop, which is terribly sad and ridiculous. And if the grad program or university-job-finding doesn’t pan out, I have no fucking clue what’s next.

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Chronological Concerns

A major part of the reason I’m allowing the landlord to give out my phone number to no less than four different apartment-hunting services (not including the guy we used to find this place and who we put in touch with our landlord weeks ago) is to show a good faith effort in renting this place, which we hope will guarantee most of our security deposit be returned.

It’s beginning to get really annoying, though. I get calls all day long from a variety of different people who are rarely here at the time they claim they want to see the place. We’ve shown it as early as 9am on a Sunday and as late as 8pm on a Wednesday. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we didn’t have a three (almost four) year old who’s tired and ready for bath or bed, or if I didn’t have to leave for work by eight in the morning. Last night we had to rush Bea home from dinner within fifteen minutes to show the place, but it took the people almost an hour to show up.

It also doesn’t help that the apartment has ancient carpeting, is being listed as a three bedroom, and he’s asking $300 more per month than we’ve been renting it. The garage space is also jacked up–$100 per month when we’ve been paying $25.

None of that is really any of my business. I just hope that someone fills out an application soon so that I can stop having to either drag Bea into the backyard in order to stay out of everyone’s way, or sit politely on the couch while people stomp through the apartment.

We did sign the lease on the new place yesterday, as well as mailing in first month’s rent and security deposit. As far as that house is concerned, I’m really happy with it except for two reasons: 1. It is listed as a 1.5 bath. The full bath is on the second floor and the half bath is in the basement. This isn’t a deal breaker,  but I do remember post-birth with Bea how difficult it was for me to get up and down the stairs for a while. 2. It is directly next door to the woman whose high-strung rescue dogs howled nonstop at our windows in the last place we lived. (It also has no garage or fenced-in yard, but whatever.)

Because, you know, our last place is directly behind the new one.

One of my concerns has become (prioritized in terms of chronology) how early I can get out of work. Though we need the paychecks to cover Bea’s preschool (and I have zero options in Indy for her at the moment), we are moving before the last week of classes, which is also my last week at work. I’m pretty sure that my situation is unprecedented at work–not many pregnant writing tutors in their halls. I don’t think they know what to do with me.

My next worry is finishing all the assignments for my last class. It’s a pretty heavy workload. Then I’m worried about what’s going on with Charlie’s job. He’s supposed to be transferred but his phone interview didn’t go well (according to him). So now there’s a concern that he might get stuck in a branch that’s really far from our place and we’re only going to have one car for a while. The interview was for a branch that’s 1.5 miles from our new place, which means being able to walk, bike, or take the bus (if that’s even an option in Indy). If that falls through, I’ll be stuck at home a lot.

Apparently, the district manager rather casually mentioned that Charlie could “just take an unpaid leave of absence” until a position opened up where he’d like to be. How exactly that DM thinks we would cover our bills, I’m not sure. So now Charlie’s a little paranoid and has begun looking into other options, which would leave us without health insurance just a few weeks before my due date.

Add to all of that the fact that my student loans are going to be due soon and I’m surprised I haven’t just collapsed in a ball on the floor. I think I’m juggling everything surprisingly well. I’m managing the gestational diabetes, eating well, getting lots of walking in every day (I kind of have to), and drinking as much water as I can without exploding. No kidney stones thus far [crossing fingers].

I will be quite relieved when this is all over and we can re-situate ourselves. Then I’ll just have to become accustomed to having two kids and even less money. And I sincerely hope that all of our cheerleaders back in Indy are willing to step in and help us out when we do arrived. Everyone has said how thrilled they are that we’re returning, but will they bring over a casserole when I return from the hospital?

Two Years, Reversed

ImageIt’s official. After just two years in Chicago, we are relocating back to Indy. So close to our old place that the backyards of each house touch. I mean, yeah, I wanted to be in the old neighborhood, if at all possible, but I did not expect to end up renting a place that was literally around the corner. I’ve walked past this house so many times that I knew exactly where it was based on the address

Okay, it’s not 100% official. I had to send in the application materials today and will hear back if they accept us within a day or two. I don’t see there being a problem, though neither of us has the most outstanding credit anymore. We seem to take turns. One of us works a decent full-time job for a while, paying all his or her stuff on time; the other is in school. The plan is that, pretty soon, I will be the one paying the bills while he takes nursing classes.

I’ve been decorating the new place in my mind for a couple of days now, and the excitement of finding something within our budget (the landlord was willing to come down a hundred bucks a month if we signed a two-year lease and did the yard work) in our old hood has given me a renewed energy. I try not to think too much about the lack of transportation, the struggle to acclimate to a new baby, and the depression that eventually settles for a bleeding-heart progressive in Indiana.

Our current landlord called today to see if it was okay to pass along my number to potential tenants who wanted to take a look at the place. At one point he said, “You know, it’s not too late to change your mind. If you need someone to watch the baby, I’d do it for free!” It was so sweet that I almost cried.

In the car on Saturday, Bea asked about moving. I explained that, yes, we would be going back. I heard some sniffling after a moment and looked back to see she had tears in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“I’m sad because I’ll miss all my friends at school.”
I felt awful. But I explained that all her friends at school would soon be going to kindergarten and that many of them would go to different schools than she would. I then began listing off all the people in Indy who we would be able to see a lot more because we’d be closer. After a few minutes chewing on what I’d said, she announced, “Thanks, Mommy! That really cheered me up!”

I felt so torn about bringing her here so that I could go to school. And, sure enough, we finally got into a good program that she loves, where she’s made all sorts of friends. And now, we have to go back. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t yet been on the planet for four years that you just can’t afford to put two kids in daycare; that you spend more every year on  preschool than you did on rent at your last place; that you can’t imagine having to drop off a newborn for someone else to take care of every day, just to work a job that barely covers your kids getting that care.

I think she understands a little bit and I think she’s pretty excited to go back. I know she’ll make new friends and enjoy seeing her old ones. I hope that we’re able to find something that lives up to the expectations she has from her current preschool that we can afford, and that we’re making the right decision for everyone.

Pregnancy Panic

Just in case you weren’t aware (because I never blog anymore and you may not be on the book face), I miraculously got pregnant last year (right before I was supposed to go in and have an IUD placed) and am currently in my third trimester with our second child. This was most surprising to me because I was under the impression, after my plethora of female-related health problems last year, that this was not even a possibility. “Getting pregnant” did not seem to be a problem. “Staying pregnant,” however, did. Due to the nature and placement of my fibroids, PCOS, and other funky lady issues, a fertilized egg would not be very comfortable or safe in my uterus.

This one, however, has now maintained its residency for over six months. Every time I go to a doctor’s appointment and they tell me “Everything looks fine!” I say, “Are you sure?” Maybe look again. There has to be something wrong. I am plagued with doubts and fears and concerns that, while relatively normal for any pregnancy, tend to outweigh any sort of pleasure of joy I would feel for being able to give my daughter a sibling. In fact, most everyone I know or meet is significantly happier about this pregnancy than I am.

Maybe the constant nausea and barfing for four months–which I never had with my first, Bea–took its toll. Perhaps it’s the extra weight, the headaches, the sciatica, the frustration, the inability to walk as fast as I used to, the constant urinating, the inability to sleep well. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m now in the “advanced maternal age” category, or that my doctor wants me to consider going on antidepressants prior to delivery. Perhaps I am not looking at this as positively as I could . . . My scumbag brain won’t stop ruminating over the upheaval it thinks this child is bringing.

The plan was to finish school (I graduate mid-June) and begin applying for jobs here in Chicago right before that, probably publishing/editing. Since Bea is in preschool and very happy there, I planned to work full time in a position with benefits. Charlie could go to part time at work, and then begin taking courses at the City Colleges in order to start working toward his nursing degree. No matter what, we would be making more than we’re bringing in now.

Coincidentally, this child is due approximately five days after Bea’s fourth birthday. That would also be sixteen days after my graduation, two months before our lease is up here, and about three weeks after my job is over. This position is tied to school–I am employed by the school as a student and, once I graduate, my stipend is over and so is my job. Which means, between the time that I finish working and the time that our lease is up here, I am kind of at a loss as to what to do.

Do we continue living in Chicago? Do we relocate to Indianapolis (cultural void that it is), where we have more connections, friends, and family? Where rent is cheap and parking is ample and free? Do we sublet here prior to the lease finishing, and have the baby in Indy? How does that work? Do you call the landlord? Put up an ad? Ask friends to come over and start packing for us? I’ll be over eight months pregnant at that point, so not super useful.

It seems as though every time Charlie and I manage to get things on track, something comes along to derail everything. That’s not really the attitude I want to have about this child. I’m sure, once she arrives (yes, it’s another girl), I will think differently. For the moment, however, I am in a constant state of mild anxiety, trying to figure out the next, best step. Any advice or suggestions will be considered.

Free and Clear-ish

My endometrial biopsy was clear; no cancer. There was, however, some tissue remaining from a pregnancy I lost in January. The doctor would like to perform a D&C then give me an IUD. I don’t know what I want to do, but I sure as hell don’t have the time in my schedule to get a procedure like that done until well after the holidays.

Singularly Happy

About a year ago, I was invited to what I call a “secret lady group” on Facebook, prior to which I did not know these things existed. It has proven to be cathartic for me, though. Many of the women involved were members of the Unitarian church I attended in Indianapolis years ago. There are probably only half a dozen who post questions/comments/concerns with any regularity, and about twice that who comment frequently. They all tend to have pretty excellent advice, are really supportive and positive, and share a common bond — besides being women, we all seem to come from rather dysfunctional families.

I’m beginning to get the impression that “functional families” are much fewer and farther between than I may have otherwise thought.

Last week, I posted some concerns I have about pressure to expand our family. I’m quite satisfied with the way things are: me, Charlie, and Bea. In fact, if we had no other children, even adopting, I would be fine with that. I feel like the only person who is fine with a family of three.

At Christmas, I was asked multiple times if we were planning to have another child. On the way to Indy for our last two trips, Charlie mentioned how much larger a vehicle we would need “if we had another one.” He then began daydreaming about his ideal family-of-four car. He’s mentioned to me that Bea would be a good big sister, and that she would be helpful. When I balked at this talk, he mentioned his employer’s outstanding adoption benefits.

I feel guilty complaining about my pregnancy. Compared to other friends’ and women I know, mine was actually quite easy. Yet I was miserable. I was huge, bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable. I had sciatica, kidney stones, and my back hurt from Day One. I was and, even after going through it, still am scared of labor, delivery, hurting a fetus, or having a child with health problems. I’m terrified of the idea of a difficult birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage. I’m worried that we can’t take care of the child we have, let alone a second one.

I also worry that, if we “try,” I won’t be able to get pregnant. I know I wouldn’t be the oldest woman in the world to have a baby, but I would be at least 37 years old, and after the age of 35, they start all these additional tests and freaking out. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it all over again.

As my friend Annette put it, “What’s wrong with the one you have?” I love Bea. Of course.  She’s amazing and funny and smart and outgoing. It’s not so much that I don’t know if I’d have “enough love” to give a second child, so much as I’m not sure I could handle school, work, toddler, and no sleep for weeks on end. Charlie would have paternity leave, unpaid, but, let’s assume I got pregnant tomorrow. The baby would be born, assuming everything was normal, right in the middle of the first quarter of my second year in grad school. If I could somehow plan it right, then I’d have it right after the quarter was finished, in late November. But babies don’t always work that way. And, after your first pregnancy, they have a tendency to come out sooner.

So I’d posted all these concerns and fears and worries on FB. The women in the secret lady group were predictably supportive. One sent me a link to information on books that promote single-child families. Another suggested surrogacy, a third said adoption might be easier. They all said that if I wasn’t ready, I should be honest with Charlie.  So I was. But now I’m not so sure. After thinking things over for a couple of weeks, I know how much he wants another baby. I’m not worried he’ll leave me for someone younger, to have another kid.  He told me last that week that, on a scale of 1-10, he rates wanting a second child as a 7.5. I said I was about a 2. I guess I might be more like a 4 now?

I just don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. I’ve got a year and a half left of graduate school, an internship at the end of which may lead to a full-time, high-paying job. I don’t want to go into a new position pregnant or just getting pregnant, or even with a newborn. We can’t afford daycare, so what would we do with the baby while we were working? Besides which, Bea wouldn’t even be ready for kindergarten.

So I guess what I’m feeling is that it’s one of those now-or-never situations. I don’t particularly like that feeling.

 

Three Weeks Away

One thing I enjoy about other people’s blogs is photos, which really drives home how lackluster mine is in appearance. But since the battery charger we got to replace one that got lost in one move or another pooped out, I haven’t been taking photos with anything but my iPod Touch. Which, unfortunately, has a pretty disappointing camera on it.

And to be honest, most of the photos I take (I’ll be generous and say only about 95%) are of the kid. People on Facebook and Google+ have to see enough of her, and since I’ve run out of free space on my Flickr page, I’m not going to subject any readers here to more. Well, not in this post, anyway.

What I would like to do is get another battery charger and start carrying the camera around with me wherever we go. This is a somewhat frustrating idea because I already have to carry so much junk. I think one of the things I truly never understood about parents is WHY ALL THE CRAP? And then I became one.

Every trip out the door is an event. Struggling with her to just put on socks is sometimes exhausting. Then shoes, and, now that it’s colder out, mittens, coat, a hat, eventually a scarf. On really chilly evenings, I might bring a blanket and put it over her in the stroller. Then I have to check and double-check everything. Do I have an emergency diaper and wipes? Does she want a drink? Milk or juice? Do I need to bring a snack? Should I have a lollipop available for bribes?

The longer and more involved the trip, the more copious the amounts of junk. On our trip back to Indianapolis last week, our Toyota Matrix was spilling over with bags, shoes, pillows, toys, books. Charlie made a trip back home to work for two days and, when he returned, he brought even more stuff because, apparently, I had not brought enough shit the first time.

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. And I mean that in a good way. My dad did not show up to our family Thanksgiving. He never replied to any of his siblings’ emails asking if he was coming, what he might like to bring. He just called my grandmother Sunday morning to say he wasn’t feeling well.

It was a blessing, though. Once I knew that, my shoulders relaxed and I could breathe a little easier. Although now I wonder what the chances are of him coming for Christmas. My family always gets together on Christmas Eve, leaving the holiday open for “other sides” of your family. We would do Christmas Day at my mother’s folks’ house. These past few years, since things have begun to get sketchy in my immediate family, Charlie and I haven’t done much of anything. I really like that.

This year, barring any hideous winter storms, we will travel to Indy again, spend a few days at my friend Jill’s, spend Christmas Eve with my family, and get Chinese or Indian food on the 25th. We discussed the possibility of attempting to find The Muppets movie at a cheap theater and seeing how Bea handles it. I don’t know that she would like being inside a large, dark room with really loud music playing. Movie theaters give me a headache, so I can’t imagine how it would affect a 2 1/2 year old.

I do like the idea of having some sort of relaxed family tradition, just the three of us. I also like a new tradition that’s started on my paternal family’s side. Last year, when we picked names, we decided to do handmade gifts. I got the song “Beautiful Bea” from Will and Ben (no one can ever top that), I made my aunt Vicki a sugar body scrub and an apron, Charlie made a table for my cousin’s (now ex) husband, and so on. Since some people didn’t take too well to the idea, we decided people could do one of two things: either make a gift for someone, or absolutely keep the gift under $20.

I got my cousin Peter (on purpose. It helps to be the one in charge of the name drawing to ensure not getting someone who is impossible to shop for). I have had a plan for a couple of months now for something I’d like to make him. After mapping it out, I came across a second idea and now I don’t know how to choose between the two. I have neither the time nor the energy to do both, as much as I’d like to.

For the moment, I am working on my friend Maureen’s personal statements for grad school and trying to steer her in a direction that’s helpful. This weekend, I think I’ll buckle down and start on Peter’s gift. Our family Christmas is just three weeks away, after all.

The Importance of Making Lists

There’s a point in the beginning of every semester where I feel like sitting on the floor, throwing all my papers and books into the air, and pulling out my hair.
It’s like everything is whizzing past me and I’m just trying to catch up. But then, after a few weeks, there’s a certain rhythm that’s achieved and I can find some balance between the projects, papers, articles, readings, quizzes, homework, and exams.
Notice I said, “semester.”

Now that I’ve been in graduate school for three (or is it four?) weeks, it’s almost time for me to register for the next quarter’s classes. The quarter is almost half over.

Plug your ears while I shriek for a moment.

Okay. I’m done.

So it sort of feels like that rhythm, the balance you find when organizing the courseload, is just out of reach. By the time I get there, things will be wrapping up.

One thing I find very odd about this schedule is that there is nothing happening for over a month. Between November 22nd and sometime in early January, there aren’t any courses to speak of. I think some people can register for accelerated classes during that time, but not my program. During that period of time, I’ll have no financial aid, my CTA pass will be deactivated, and there’s nothing really to do.

Charlie has a week off in late October, which he is required to take in order to avoid taking time off during the holidays. Which means our trips back to Indy for Thanksgiving and Christmas might be extremely short — if they happen at all. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which mean if the bank is open on Monday, we won’t have much time at all. And my family always does stuff on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and, given his status as newest hire, Charlie will most likely not be able to take the previous or following day off in order to celebrate.

I will have time to work, though, which is good. I just learned the hard way that I can’t rush. Last week I was scrambling to turn in as many files as I could, to make as much money as I could before the pay period was over (we only get paid once per month). I took on a bunch of jobs that were two or three times longer than I have edited in the past. As a result, I got one decent review, immediately followed by a really bad one. The QA person was obviously irritated with me because I made the same stupid mistakes on both files, including some really glaring errors that could have been avoided if I’d just waited to turn the stuff in and reviewed everything one more time.

I just cannot balance work, life, and school very effectively right now. As usual, I struggle with the reality of bills and financial responsibilities, set against the knowledge that school is important and I need to do the best I can, paired with the fact that my kid and partner need me to stay present and focused.

I remember this period of time in my life when I was first working in social services, making something like $4.75 an hour. I had three major bills: a car payment, car insurance, and rent. I also began to take on a small mountain of debt in the form of high-interest, low-limit credit cards. Whatever someone would give me, I took. Each paycheck, I was able to take care of maybe two of those things.
I began to prioritize in order of importance. I had to have a car to work, but car insurance wasn’t something I could necessarily afford. So I let it lapse.  The credit card that didn’t have to be used at a store, I kept payments on so I could buy groceries and put gas in my car. The others fell behind and I honestly didn’t really care.

I ended up getting myself into a nasty credit situation and eventually went to a credit counseling agency where I managed to pay everything off in about 2 years. That was a good thing, but if I learned anything from the experience, it’s that I when I feel overwhelmed, especially with finances, I sometimes would rather pull the covers over my head and pretend I don’t hear any of it.

This is also an aspect of my personality that I have seen in both of my parents. And, if the past few years dealing with both of them has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to just stick my head in the sand. The reason they’re both in the situations they find themselves is because they refused to face the ugliness and reality that life sometimes presents us. Most of which is our own doing.

So, while I know that part of life is prioritizing, I also know that I have to continue to focus on the reasons why I’m choosing to make each decision in order of importance. Otherwise, I end up making choices in the heat of the moment that don’t pan out well.

As much as I’d like to bring in bigger and bigger paychecks, I’ll end up finding my contract terminated if I continue turning in sloppy jobs. So, while I have time off from school during this ridiculously long December break, I can focus on working more and doing a less shitty job at the same time.

Toddlers Are Terrible People

Today is my daughter’s godmother’s birthday (who also happens to be my aunt by marriage). I thought, since we haven’t seen her in quite some time — I think it was at Bea’s 2nd birthday party in July — it would be nice if Bea said “happy birthday” to her over the phone. As soon as Vicki answered and I started to hand the phone to her, Bea ran screaming from the room, and yelled, “Don’t want to!” My conclusion: toddlers are terrible people.

One of the most difficult things I find as a parent is attempting to instill some sense of decency and manners in a person who has absolutely no concept of the world outside of herself.

This is not to say that I genuinely believe she’s a jerk, or that she is self-centered on purpose. I totally get that she doesn’t understand that it’s not her birthday, and she doesn’t want to talk on the phone because maybe I’ve put too much pressure on her. Or maybe that refusing to do something I ask is the only way she can assert herself as an individual at that moment. But it still drives me crazy.

When we go to the grocery and she gets her little-person shopping cart then starts caroming off the shelves and wandering in to other people, I just want to yank the cart out of her hands and plant her in the stroller. I keep trying to redirect her and ask her to stand by me, because pushing that little cart makes her so happy and, I think, feel in control.

When we sit down at a restaurant and she starts yelling for the server to bring her food, I want to slide down in the booth and hide my face. I ask her to use her inside voice. I don’t hesitate to take her outside if she gets too loud. I might tap her hand to get her attention and ask her to stop. But explaining the concept of “rude” to a toddler is sort of a no-win situation.

One of life’s biggest annoyances for me is people’s lack of consideration for others. So I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for me to wrap my head around the fact that this kid isn’t really going to get that for years and years to come. For the time being, I’m trying to approach it like training a dog. Since she doesn’t have any reason to really care what other people think about her, I have to use Pavlov to get her to respond or act appropriately.

Critter Central

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of two different friends and Charlie’s dad (with the promise to pay them back within the next few weeks), we are able to put a deposit down on a better apartment.

Yesterday we went to look at it, had a “doggie interview” with the landlord, and I got to see the place. It’s big, freshly painted, just professionally cleaned, and has a dishwasher. A dishwasher! The landlord seemed cool. He really liked us, and dug my sense of humor. As cool as he may be, he doesn’t live anywhere near the apartment. So it seems like it’ll be a good fit.

The apartment is on the second floor which, in Chicago, is actually one and a half flights up, because there is a garden apartment partway underground. It’s in an older building, so it’s got its pros and cons, not the least of which is the size, which most likely means more expensive utilities. But whatever.

There’s a Polish woman who lives below, two 20-something guys on the first floor, and we would get the top, complete with 10-foot ceilings, a newer kitchen, and two extra rooms, one of which will be a guest bedroom.

Off the back of the apartment is the kitchen, which you have to pass through to get to the additional room; a sunroom that could also be used for storage. Off there are the many, many stairs that lead down to the basement and the free laundry. That aspect alone is fantastic, except that we’ll be sharing it with three other people. I’m not sure what the deal is with that kind of a situation. I’ve never shared a washer and dryer with other people in an apartment before, so do you work out a schedule with them? Does each person do laundry on certain days? Do you get priority in order of move-in date?

It even has a garbage disposal, which, as a renter of old, old homes for many years, is not something I have had the luxury of using since, probably 2001. I don’t have a habit of stuffing food, willy-nilly, down drains, but being able to grind up anything that might get stuck in there is something I really miss.

We also thought there was a free garage parking spot included, but that does not appear to be the case. However, the neighborhood is not close enough to any of the large Chicago attractions to require permit parking. When you live near Wrigley Field or close to downtown, a museum, or certain parks and restaurants, the city has zoned parking so residents at least stand a chance of getting to park near their place. Tourists have a habit of randomly taking up spots in an effort to avoid the ridiculous charges for garages.

I am really glad we’re going to be above ground because, this morning, Bea woke up with huge, red, hot welts all over her arms and legs. Our first thought was, ohmygod she has to go to the hospital. That initial parent panic faded as I tried to remain calm and assess the situation. Her mood and behavior were exactly the same as they are on any given morning. She didn’t have a fever. Though the swelling and redness was pretty severe when she first got up, it began to fade within a matter of a few minutes. By the time we’d been up for an hour, it wasn’t nearly as freaky.

I did send an email to a friend on Facebook who’s a pediatrician with a photo of a large bite on the back of her thigh, just to see if he thought we needed to take her somewhere. Charlie told me that a guy he works with woke up one morning in a similar situation and thought his daughter had chicken pox. As it turns out, there were baby wolf spiders in his kid’s room that were gnawing on her in her sleep.

So I got out the vacuum and a flashlight and sucked up no less than 8 tiny spiders in her room and closet, plus four or five other unknown bugs from under the bed and dresser. I got several webs and a lot of hair, which I worry speaks more to my lack of housekeeping skills than anything. And last night, I must have smooshed at least four different kinds of beetles and multi-legged creepy-crawlies. Shudder.

All the more reason to get the hell out of here. This place is such a dump. There are holes and crevices and hiding places and cracks for any manner of critters to hang out and reproduce. We now know there are rats in the walls. The other day I was cleaning under our kitchen cart and found dirt kicked out from under the baseboards. Charlie mentioned this to Anne, who didn’t even respond verbally. She just sort of moved her head around in an acknowledgment of the fact that he was speaking and that was it.

The landlady knows we have been searching, but she doesn’t know that we’ve definitely found a place. Yesterday morning, she spoke to me for the first time in over a week. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that we may not be able to get out before Labor Day weekend (when we’d initially planned on heading back to Indy for a visit), to which she responded, “Well, if you can, TRY to be out before the first. You guys are really putting me in a bind here.”

At which point I bit my tongue so hard to keep from exploding at her that I think I might have drawn blood.