Tennis Balls and Cheerios

Neighborhood only post:
In four years of running a childcare center, I've never taken a sick day. Never needed to. I'm tough, right? Besides, I don't really get sick–no matter what viruses roll through here. I'm either really, really hygienic, or really, really blessed.
Not today. 
Sick. Sick, sick sick.

After laying there wishing I had the strength to moan, I rolled off the bed at five and made it to the bathroom feeling like I was going to turn inside out, tonsils first. Not surprisingly, nothing came up, as the Octopus in my head doesn't let me actually put much in my stomach anymore. (Great diet plan, btw. 10 pounds, so far.)
At five thirty, the phone rang. 
Grabbed it and muttered something into the receiver. 
Daycare parent–called into work early, she'll be here in five minutes, okay?
I want to explain that for her to come in, I'd not only have to make it down an entire flight of stairs, through a doorway, and cross approximately twenty-nine feet of tile, I'd have to then stand up and make sense of the locking mechanism on my door. 
This woman–I love her dearly–but she's old. She takes care of her drug-baby, now preteen grandchildren. She can't hear very well, and doesn't understand most of what I say. I figure the kids can pretty much fend for themselves, and then the bus will come. Saying yes will be easier than explaining.
I mutter one word. "Okay." And I make it to the door before she does. Her granddaughter eats her breakfast and then asks if she can go back to sleep on a nap mat. Please. 
I slump in a chair, watching her settle down, realizing I need to call the other parents. Beg them to keep their children home. 
Make it upstairs. (Highly illegal, I know: I am to remain on the same level of the building at all times with children. Fire me.) Crawl over to the bed and prop myself up somewhere near the Mr's head. 
He opens one eye. "Huh."
I explain the situation. Go through the list of families I think can probably easily find backup care on short notice. the ones who will panic. Fortunately six children won't be here anyway, what with the holiday weekend. He thinks he can handle the dire cases. 
I call the first parents. The ones with three children, one of whom is 15 months old, 35 pounds and fights me like a demon every time I change his diaper–which is really, really often; you don't get that big by not eating a lot. And his parents are health food freaks. Translation: lots of fiber, lots of fragrant diapers. Like ten per diem.
I can't handle him today. She's cool, especially when I tell her we will still take her oldest daughter to school, so whoever she cons into sitting won't have to wrestle the little ones into the car.
I examine my mental list of single mothers without family nearby. No easy back up childcare, and no paid sick days. I know it will hurt if they have to take a day off. Oh, and I happen to know, that whatever I have, if it isn't just some side-effect of the octopus, I got from them last week. I've been cleaning up vomit and diarrhea for days. 
One toddler that's so angelic that I should probably pay them to bring her here. And she's only here for four hours.
One eight month old who never, ever cries. Just crawls around, sucks her fist, and giggles. 
One family of two: a fairly easy-going three year old, and her demonic brother. Age six. But he leaves for kindergarten at 11:30, and the Mr. can handle him until then. 
Right?
One family of three: Two school aged kids that leave at 8:00, and one two year old that puts the demonic activities of the six year old to shame. This kid is two years old in every sense of the word. I really, really want to cancel on them. But I can't do it. I can't make the call. 
So I get dressed, wake up my kids, and hang my head over a trash can while I wait for them to gather for morning prayer. 
And then I wait for the onslaught. 
The family of three shows up at 6:30, closely followed by the family of two. The sleeping girl wakes up. 
Mr. has disappeared, so I have the older kids feed the younger kids breakfast. Get out the bowls, spoons, cereal, milk, bananas. Wipe up the spills. 
It's awesome. With responsibility comes incredible behavior. And the toddlers are so bemused at having their older siblings do my job that they are seriously docile. I make a mental note to hunch under a blanket on my rocking chair every morning. 
At 7:30 the Mr. returns. "Did you know our kids are all asleep?"
"Yeah, you have to wake them up again sometimes."
He gets everyone out the door. My six out the home door, and the three others out the daycare door, fifteen minutes later. 
Three kids left, two on the way. Not counting the two, who, I realize, with horror are coming at 1:30–right in the middle of nap time. I usually meet them outside and let them play so they don't wake everyone up. It's raining. But… by then my daughter will be home from high school and can help out. 
Right?
At 8:30 the other two will show up. I want to die. I want a drink, but I'm certain that water will not make it past my tonsils without coming back up. 
I remember seeing a packet of some nasty-tasting apple cider mix on the back of my cupboard that I meant to throw away weeks ago. I have no idea where it came from. I stagger over to the microwave and mix it up. Drink it slowly while the Mr. lets himself be human jungle-gym.
Surprisingly, the cider helps. I my mind clears and my stomach settles. I hate cider, but I might have to get some more of this, for emergencies. Like not being able to say no, ever.
The next two arrive. The mother of the 1:30 kids calls and says she isn't coming today. Thank you, God!

By 9:30 I'm up and walking around. I have a splitting headache, but I can lift my own feet. I eat some toast. The kids have not tired of torturing a man ten times their collective size. We make it to 11:30, and then 12:30. Two leave, one kindergartener arrives, all four fall asleep. The demon toddler face-first in her plate. 
I read an entire novel while they sleep and while the parents pick up. I sweep nothing. Clean nothing. Let the socks gather dust under the toy shelves. When my kids arrive home, I offer to take them to the store and give them $30 to buy dinner if I can sit in the van and they go in to buy it. They look at me like I'm nuts and refuse. So I turn around and go back to bed with a second novel.  
Let them eat Cheerios.
At 7:30, the second book is done, and the rain has stopped. I can think–if not see–clearly enough to blog maybe. Write this post. Accidentally erase it. Write it again, out of sheer madness.
9:30. Ranting: done. Dishes? Not so much. Caring? Not even a little bit.
I suppose I should harass my children to brush their teeth and go to bed…
If only because should my seven-year-old ask me the same ridiculous questions, or accidentally bounce his tennis ball off my monitor even one more time, I might summon up enough energy to smack him. 
Kidding. 
It's definitely bedtime…

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13 responses to “Tennis Balls and Cheerios

  • Freedom Smith

    HOW ON EARTH DO YOU DO IT????????? That is amazing. The cider helped??? Just hearing the number of children coming in and out of your door each day makes me feel like hyperventilating. I don't know how you did it today but I am so glad that somehow you did and you even got to read and get in bed at one point. I just sat here and shook my head as I read your post!!! You are one of the hardest workers I know…..even when you are sick!!! I hope you get some much needed rest this weekend. Do you get to sleep in ever? I sure hope you do tomorrow. You have more than earned it 😉

  • Flamingo Dancer

    Oh you poor baby! It is so unfair to make you suffer when you helpso many people. I do hope that you feel better soon. I hope someone takes care of you.
    Otherwise I might have to use my stick on your behalf !

  • Emjay

    Oh no – how awful for you and you battled on like a real champion anyway. I'm glad you got some reading done and hope that you are feeling much better by the next daycare day.

  • Ladywise

    [this is freaking awesome!] Oh my God! I love it! Oh, I'm sorry, I hate that you had such a bad day, but this is awesome because I'm saving a copy of this post to my desktop and every time I just think I'm having a bad day, I can read this and know that I have a wonderful life! Awesome!Kids, vomit, kids, headaches, kids, early mornings, blah! I don't like any of it, don't like them, don't like all that. Couldn't do it, wouldn't do it, you shouldn't have to do it. How do you do it for heaven's sake? Why do you do it? You are a highly intelligent woman with tons of education and you are killing your mental state with kids! I love you Kimber! I think you are absolutely nuts, but I love you hon! Hope you feel better today!

  • Emmi

    OMG, crazy. I hope you feel better soon. Good vibes to your stomach and head. I've had viruses like that, it's brutal. Some people just love kids, I guess. Me, I really like angelic kids. That's about my limit. If I'm that sick, no one is allowed to speak to me and kids are definetly banned from the house!
    I bet the parents really appreciate what you did – now rest and get better so you don't take this hardiness thing too far.
    Otherwise people will start calling you a Mainer. 😉

  • Kimber

    We all do what we have to do, don't we! Yeah, the cider helped, weird, huh? I'm wondering if it was some kind of blood sugar thing–and the sugar helped? I don't know. As far as sleeping in today–I have a seven year old! Are you kidding?? That species gets up with the sun! (Too bad it's not December, right?)

  • Kimber

    Oh, you are so welcome at my house with your stick, any time!

  • Kimber

    Thank goodness for long weekends, eh?

  • Kimber

    Ha! I love that you can say that–Waterbaby once assured me that I was "destined" to be a caregiver, and the sooner I accepted that and gave up on my "childish delusions" that I was put here to do anything else, the sooner I would find happiness. I actually snorted yogurt out my nose I was laughing so hard. Or crying. Can't remember. Because as much as I love my own kids–and teaching other's children at times, childcare is NOT my destiny. It's a way to earn money so I can pay the bills! End of story.

  • Kimber

    Ha. The sad part is that most of the parents can't see past the end of their nose–the only ones that can, who truly care about their kids and their children's caregiver–are the ones I could actually call and say, hey, I'm sick, and they stay home. The ones here, are struggling so hard to keep their minimum wage heads above water that they can't see past making it to work on time. Totally clueless. By the way, I've never heard the term Mainer before–what is that?

  • little white whale

    Oh goodness. Sometimes, I feel like pulling my hair out with my three, but…WOW. There has been one time so far that I've been sick. My husband came home early and took our kids out for awhile, fed them, etc. so that I could just sleep and sleep. You're a trooper. Hope you're feeling much better!

  • Ladywise

    It really is sad I know. I was a stay at home mom most of the time my kids were growing up and I just about always had mine and someone else's too. That's why I feel the way I do today I'm sure. I did my time believe me. I knew a lot of mom's that kept having kids and didn't want to raise them after they had them. It used to really upset me. Don't they know what causes that?I think you should write book after book Kimber on whatever subject you want to write about. You are an excellent writer. I always look forward to your posts no matter what they are about.

  • Emmi

    Not surprising you haven't heard of it if you're not from New England. A Mainer is simply someone who lives in Maine but it also implies extreme toughness – think chopping your own wood in the dead of winter (at all stages of life – younguns to the elderly).

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