"Oh, craps!" I stare at my planner. No respite scheduled for my Bunko game tonight. I call Oma, who graciously agrees to watch him and feed us dinner. On the way to her house, I stop to buy a roll of refrigerated biscuits. Punkin is in a decent mood, and so I make the rookie mistake I've made a dozen time before--I skip the cart. He's into holding hands, which is fun for me, and it goes pretty well. Until we approach the express check-out lane. Which is not expressing me out of the store. It is holding me captive; Punkin's coat, my purse, and two packages of biscuits (they were on sale) are smashed between my chest and my left arm as I desperately grasp at his sweater with my other hand. I pick him up; he flings backwards, the dough precariously perched atop my purse, ready to drop and POP all over the crowded floor. My back spasms. Punkin breaks his moaning to scream in agony against my oppressive hold. The man in front of me invites me to go ahead of him; I accept. His groceries are already on the counter, and he is picking out cigarettes, so the cashier begins ringing up his things. He finally finds the ones on sale, asks her to retrieve them, pays, and leaves. By now I am sweating, but still smiling. If everyone is going to stare, then I am going to smile. And besides, it really is funny to see the contortionist moves a three year old can render on an adult. As I pay and we leave, once again hand in hand -- his demeanor flips like a light switch once we pass through the doorway-- I decide that no matter what we adults think, the kids always have all the power.
We arrive at Oma and Opa's, only slightly scarred. To my horror, I realize I've forgotten his pacifier. I trudge back out into the arctic blast and buy two new ones. When I return, my cell phone rings. Punkin has already been giving his sweet Oma a hard time, and I am anticipating receiving The Look (or at the very least an eye roll) after I explain why the blood is rushing to my cheeks. The respite service called. Someone is waiting at my apartment. But she is kind to me, and I decide to keep Little Man there rather than rush through the transition of returning home--without dinner--and abruptly parting ways. The drive to Bunko this month is a little long and very unfamiliar. About half way through, I reach for the directions and immediately realize that they are still sitting on the counter. No big deal, I'll call Oma and she can tell me. Can't find the phone. Now what? I can't turn around; I will be dreadfully late. I guess I will resort to pulling into a shady gas station to use a pay phone. A pay phone. An antiquated, germy, stand-outside-where-everyone-can-see--me-- piece of technology that costs 50 cents for 4 minutes. I don't dial correctly; I need more change; I still don't dial correctly; It's ringing.
"You forgot your phone and the directions."
"Yes, say the directions fast. I'm cold."
"Erika? I can't hear you."
"Dad! Don't hang up!"
"Hello? Can you hear me?"
"I'm here! I'm here! Read the directions! Read the directions!"
"Okay, I don't think you're there, but I'll read the directions just in case."
"Yes! Yes! Yes! Brilliant!"
I get to Bunko. I win most losses; I get my $5 back.
Fast forward to today. Laundry day. I want to wait until tomorrow when I have respite, but then I'd have to wear a skirt to work. Did I mention it's going to be 6 degrees tonight? Doing laundry is gratifying but physically exhausting for both of us. We have to drive to the office, which in nice weather and with limited amounts of dirty clothes is within walking distance. But it is snowing hard. This means getting Punkin in and out of his carseat a minimum of six times. I don't know how parents with more than one kid manage. A parent with 3 kids. That's 3 carseats times 6 in and outs--that equals 18 times. 18 opportunities to sprain back muscles. Anyway, he's doing awesome in the laundry room--eating his cookies and mostly minding his own business as I sort the clothes into four washers and fill them with soap. Now comes the snafu: the coin machine refuses both of my $5 bills. So we drive to the bank, sit at the drive-up window for a while, get the quarters, drive out of our way back home because the bank is on a ridiculously busy corner where it's impossible to turn left, go back to the laundry, start the washers, drive to get gas, go to the chiropractor (the biscuit fiasco has caused damage), pick up 2 cheeseburgers for Punkin (you didn't think I was going to cook, did you?) drive back home, put the clothes in the dryer, go home and eat, and eventually go get the dry clothes. Later, I will wrangle the kiddo to sleep. These days, patience is at a minimum when the end of the day arrives. Speaking of which, the sleep clinic sounds like it will be consultative/evaluative at this point; they will save any electrodes, if necessary, for another visit.