20 hours of alone time

Hi, I’m Brooke.
I used to live a relatively stress free life with lots of fun and a part-time job and no kids.

Then last week hit, and I had this epic adventure where the conflict was not, like, dragons or slaying or finding love, but babysitting a ten-year-old whose mom was flying standby and kept getting bumped and bumped and bumped for days.

My little miniature obstacles were things like death defying field trips to the Eagle Marsh—which is a never ending expanse of grassland with pockets of deep mud and murky water along the 102 exit on I69—dragging along a troupe of 7-year-olds in the 90 degree heat behind Miss Nancy, the Ultimate Journey lady, who loves this type of thing. Miss Nancy forged the way, while I jumped around because a spiky caterpillar was on my shirt and a mouse ran over my shoe. The kids were poking along saying things like: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

I should have said something like, “Well, sugar, it’s almost over. We’ll get a nice long drink. Just keep going. One more step.” But instead, I was like, “I know. I hate this field trip too. How about if one of you guys pretends to faint?”
Then there was the Old Fort—which might seem like a fun trip, but it was with that same poor group of 7 year-olds who I had to beg and bribe and convince to come, with the promise of playing in the Headwaters Fountains at the end. Of course that day the Fountains were closed, and all heard was: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

You can be sure that anytime I show up with the van these days, kids run screaming and crying from the Club.

And, finally, there was the zoo—wherein a bird shit on my head. I had to take all the girls with me to the bathroom to wash my hair. I kept saying over and over that I was going to sue the zoo, which I thought was hilarious (get it? Sue the zoo—it rhymes). I just kept laughing and saying it and laughing and saying it, and none of the girls were laughing, which was so strange seeing as how I am so hilarious, but then I turned around. A zoo lady was behind me waiting to wash her hands. I had to tell her that I wasn’t really going to sue the zoo, but that it just rhymed and all.

Other hardships included occupying the 10 year-old while trying to video conference a Belize meeting in Indianapolis from a coffee shop in Fort Wayne, fighting the dog-and-cat-allergies in a dog-and-cat-house, plus an extra high mold and ragweed count, and warding off an especially annoying encore of shingles, which felt—and this was horrifying for me—like spiders were crawling across my stomach at all times. We also had to defend ourselves against the bathtub in my apartment. Apparently, you have to clean those things. Poor Elaine came to visit and was forced to stand on a tiny little washcloth in the shower so that the tub didn’t eat her alive.

I usually keep a clean apartment. And by usually, I mean 40% clean, 40% of the time. But this month—well, this summer—has been unusually filthy thanks to the chaos of moving. It took $25 worth of cleaning materials and an hour-and-a-half of hardcore scrubbing to get this tiny little bathroom sparkly—the magic eraser shower and tub cleaner gets a gold star.

I gave the ten-year-old a $10 bill and a dairy queen blizzard for her bravery in the face of black mold, and we both learned a lesson. Her lesson, she said, is never to let her bathroom get like this when she goes to college. God bless her for still thinking I am in college. My lesson is that all of us are just too old and too messy to be living together. No one wants to clean up anyone else’s anything. I guess marriage is out.

Finally, the height of action here- the beginning of the end- was running a red light at State and Coliseum ten seconds after finding out the kid’s mom wasn’t coming home for another 36 hours. It was one of those miserable moments where I just thought I could not possibly handle one more thing. The lane next to me had a green arrow, which I mistook for a green light and pulled out. I realized in the middle of the intersection that I was the only one going.
I stopped cold and held my hand out to the scared old man and lady in the turn lane and mouthed, “I’M SORRY. I’M REALLY SORRY!” Then I looked around, totally embarrassed, and crept through the intersection to the other side where I could pull over. Immediately two police tried to pull me over. But I was already pulled over. Fort Wayne cops are just like that. I tried not to cry, but I really believed that I might die of babysitting and sinus pressure. I didn’t have any money left to feed me or the 10 year-old dinner, and everything else I was stressed about somehow made its way to the rim of my eyes and I just laid my head on the steering wheel and looked at Elaine.
“Don’t do it,” she said. “Be strong.”
I quivered and sniffled and swallowed hard.After taking my license and registration to the squad car, the police lady came back to my window and said. “Are you stressed out?”
I said, “Yeah.”
She held my license and registration behind her back and said, “Why?”
Elaine gave me the eye and I didn’t want to scare the kid.

I said in my best strong and shaky voice, “Um, well, it’s just been a long day.”
“I’m going to give you a verbal warning for this,” she said. “You have an excellent driving record.” Thank God.I gave the kid back on Monday at midnight, then had another 12 kids plus the original one all day yesterday at the zoo. One kid accidentally rammed his foot-high soft serve ice cream cone into my elbow.

Today I called in and was like, you guys? I’m taking the day off. I need about 20 hours of alone time, some coffee and a nap.

It has been a spectacular 20 hours.
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