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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ricks

Return of the Queen

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Last Sunday was probably the most physically taxing day for me as a single parent, what with the dishwasher's breakdown, the dyeing and subsequent hiding of Easter Eggs, the meal preparation, and the leveling of the playset. I was up late finishing dishes and sorting laundry in an attempt to keep up with all that would be going on for the week, although I was not prepared for the onslaught.

During the night, Hakan woke needing medication for his runny nose. Then, Merritt got me up at 5:30 in the morning because he saw a spider downstairs. I didn't find it, and so that's been interesting. He said that it went quickly and that they could hear its legs on the hard floor. I assumed it had crawled into a crevice somewhere and we wouldn't see it again, but then one night when we were watching TV, I was in the kitchen and saw something go very quickly across the floor into our furnace area. I didn't get a direct look in the dim light, but my first thought was that it was a very small mouse. I didn't find it in there, and Apollo doesn't seem to smell any rodents in the house, so I don't know what it was. Then, a couple of nights ago, Avey saw something similar dash from under a curtain behind the TV stand, but we looked and didn't find it then, either. If something happens to us this week that can't be explained, I bet it's whatever that thing is...

Anyway, after Merritt woke me up, I didn't get back to sleep. Hakan seemed bad enough that I kept him home from school, although I was not happy about it because that meant I had to supervise his remote learning assignments instead of doing all of my normal jobs I already had. His symptoms were not terrible, but not mild enough to avoid freaking out everyone at school. Luckily, he did a good job focusing on his work and got through it pretty quickly. I graded in the morning. After sleeping on the problem of the dishwasher, I decided that I should probably try to fix it myself rather than wait a week for the repair guy. It seemed most likely that it was the second of two switches that was fried. I replaced the one on the right a while back, and the one on the left this time still clicked on and off, but it had some discoloration as if it had partially melted inside, so I ordered the part and figured it was worth my mental health to have it arrive the next day. Sure enough, that fixed her right up, to my great relief.

With the two boys home, I took them on a couple of errands to a landscaping supply place (for gravel), then the library, then the grocery store. Once home, I fed them lunch and moved the gravel to the playset area, and then moved the car out of the way so the mulch could go there. I joined a phone meeting once Hakan was all done with his remote learning, and the mulch guy came while I was on the meeting, but he was gone in about 5 minutes.

While still in my meeting, I loaded the boys up into the car so that we could go pick up Carver from Robotics Club. We then dropped off Apollo for a play date, went to the park for an hour, and then picked Apollo up, got some milkshakes and picked up Avey from track. Her ankle has been giving her trouble, so she didn't run all week, but she's been helping out with other things. If it's not better, we'll take her into the chiropractor this week to see if he can help. We moved some of the mulch to the playset area that evening, because Hakan was dying to do something with it. I did just a little bit of work on the play set, and got everyone in bed. I tinkered around in the garage for a while, putting together parts I would need later, and then Hannah came over for some TV. We watched the first episode of Muppets Now, and were not impressed. She went home, so I tinkered some more in the garage.

Merritt Hauls Mulch

Tuesday was dumb. Hakan was on the edge with his symptoms. He felt much better, but had a little bit of a cough. I didn't think I could handle another day of remote learning, so I sent him anyway, half expecting him to get sent home later, but nothing happened. I did some cleaning and got set up to do library class with Merritt. That was exhausting for me, and I was worried I would fall asleep in the middle of teaching my class later in the morning. It was fine, though.

In the afternoon, I had two phone meetings with students, and I sat at the desk near our large front window. I left the door open so that Apollo could look outside and lay in the sun, and while I was in the meeting, I heard a sound like someone had dropped a stack of newspapers in our driveway, and saw a car slow down right in front of our house. It stopped for a couple of seconds, and then drove off. I didn't think much of it, but Apollo was going crazy barking. I paused my meeting to calm him down, and saw that our mailbox was lying on the grass.

I thought to myself, "What else could go wrong this week?"

I sat down and tried to finish my meeting, but was interrupted when our neighbor across the street came to tell me about the mailbox. He said that he saw the car hit it, pause, and then drive off. I was upset that someone would do such a thing, but I figured we might be able to catch them. After all, there are only 3 ways into the neighborhood, and that car had to come back eventually, and surely had some damage to the mirror. I called the police to make a report and they said they'd send out a car. I went into the front yard to wait for them, and an older woman walked by, looking like she was just out on a walk, but she came up to me and told me that her husband had just called her to say that he had hit my mailbox on his way to pick up their grandson from school, and asked her to come and work it out with me. I was so relieved that she had come - otherwise I would have spent too much energy on exacting revenge. She was very apologetic and offered to pay for the replacement. We exchanged information and I taped the damaged one back on the post just as the mail carrier pulled up and I explained what had happened.

It was very warm that day, and so I found summer clothes for the boys, and then Hakan and I took a few loads of mulch to the backyard. We all left for a park again, dropping off Apollo for another play date, and then getting milkshakes again. I learned that that was probably not a great idea to keep doing, because then they didn't want their dinners. It's a nice incentive to getting them in the car in the first place, and then they can enjoy waiting for Avey at track, but maybe we need to find something else.

After the dinner routine, I added a little more to the play set, and then did more mulch, leaving the mower in the garage (that's important later). I ordered our address decals for the new mailbox, and plotted to go buy the new post cover and mailbox the next day.

That night, Merritt was showing clear symptoms of the cold that Hakan had just finished. During the night, I got him up to give him medicine for the cough and stuffy nose. He was very out-of-it, and got mad that I forgot to bring his water bottle into the bathroom, and in his chewing me out, he spilled the cup of medicine all over the floor. He woke me up again during the night, needing more medicine, so it was another rough night for us both.

Because Wednesday was e-learning, I got to sleep in a little. I got notice that Hakan's glasses were at the eye doctor, so we did breakfast and went to pick them up while Avey kept the other boys from burning down the house. Hakan was so excited to get his glasses, he could hardly stand it.

Back at home, I did my best to supervise e-learning while also doing my job from the dining room table. I had a faculty meeting (of course, the worst possible week), so I joined that while feeding everyone lunch. As soon as that was over, we made a mad dash for the hardware store to get a new mailbox post, but they didn't have the right color of mailbox in the right size. I ordered it online later. We went to Walmart in the same trip to get birthday presents for a girl who invited the boys to her party on Saturday. Avey got some clothes and running shoes, and then we made a mad dash back to the car to get Avey to track on time. We dropped off some milk for Hannah, dropped off library shows that were due, and picked up Apollo for his play date. The boys played at the middle school park, and had a blast with the warm weather, but cool breeze.

After dinner, Hakan and I put in the floor boards to the play set's second floor, but there was a gap, as apparently they wanted them spaced out instead of snug against each other. I made another floorboard out of scraps I had, and put that in later that night.

At 2:50 the next morning, I awoke to sounds of Merritt yelling at Hakan downstairs. I went to see what the fuss was, and Hakan had thought that his clock said "5:50" instead of "2:50," so figured he must not be tired anymore and got up for the day. I explained that he was still tired because he was 3 hours early, and got them back to bed. I had trouble falling asleep again, of course. My alarm felt like a death sentence that morning, but I got up and got everyone to school. They were finally all relatively symptom free, although Carver had a little bit of a runny nose by then.

Merritt and I went to the library to pick up a book he'd requested for several days, and then we read a few books at home before it was time for me to teach my class. Avey texted me later saying that she was sick enough that she would not be going to track. In between my other two courses, I got a little more done on the play set. I had my two afternoon and evening classes watch lectures I had recorded last year, and then we met only briefly for a quick review and any questions they had. I felt so tired for the evening one that I wasn't sure what I was saying half of the time.

In the evening, Hannah stayed home with her sore throat. She seemed to have what the kids here all had. With Avey feeling crummy, I decided to take the baby monitor and a work lamp out to the play set, and I worked on it for a couple of hours in the cool night, rather enjoying the quiet and calm. I made good progress, and then Kira and I chatted over the phone. She reminded me that it was her mother's birthday, and I kicked myself because we had planned to call when we picked Avey up from track, but then of course we didn't pick her up from track, so I'd forgotten. She assured me that they were all so busy over there that it was no big deal.

I was so very tired, but I thought that if I could just make it to Friday, all I had on my plate was a morning meeting and then I could take a little break...

Carver was much worse during the night, and he woke me up for some medicine to help him get back to sleep. In the morning, I called to keep him home from school, but the nurse said that because his sister had "been sent home" (which she hadn't, exactly), we all needed to quarantine until we had either a doctor's note that it wasn't Covid, or we had a negative Covid test. So nobody went to school, and I just lost my whole day. Avey had already taken the bus to school, so I texted her to tell her we had to go pick her up before school started, and then loaded the kids into the car. We were the only car in the drop off line that was actually picking a kid up - weird. I called the kids' doctor to make appointments for Carver and Avey, hoping that we could just get her to say it's a cold. They made us telephone appointments for later. I finished feeding Merritt breakfast while I joined my meeting and got the kids checked in for their doctor appointments. The doctor called us 15 minutes late, and basically said we still needed to get a negative test. Thanks for nothing, doc. I registered them for the test, and got them in the car immediately because it was a 15 minute drive. We had no wait at the test site, at least, so that was painless.

I was pretty crushed by how the morning had gone so badly, and so we ate out for lunch. As we passed out the food, I got an email that I had been granted tenure and been promoted to associate professor. The way the week had been going, I half expected that the email would say they were canning me at the end of the week, so it was at least some good news in the hurricane of the rest of the week. I still don't know what my raise will be, but I should have a new contract sometime this next week.

At home, I fed Merritt lunch, because he didn't want anything from the restaurant. The new mailbox arrived, and so I installed it, along with the new post cover.

It was time to cut the grass, and so I hopped on the mower in the garage, with the key still in it, and I turned it and nothing happened. I couldn't believe that yet another thing was going to blow up in my face. I took out the battery to see if it needed charging, but the charger blinked once and turned off. I cleaned off the terminals and tried again, but the charger said it was fully charged. I didn't know what else to do, so I took off the ignition switch and took it to a small engine repair place. He tested it and said it "might" be bad. He didn't have a replacement, so I tried to look it up online. An auto parts store had one that looked like it might work, but it didn't give the specs, so I drove there and saw that it was the wrong one. I then looked up a different small engine repair place in town, and the guy said he would give me a used ignition switch. I came home with high hopes after having lost a couple of hours messing with it. I plugged it in and nothing happened. I was defeated. I was so tired, and so sick of everything going to crap. I was also getting sick with the cold going around, and so I gave up on the mower and started working on the play set so that at least I could feel like I got something right that day.

Hakan played with our new neighbors, and had a great time. As far as I can tell, they are the only Black family in our neighborhood, and so I'm glad that he's helping the kids to feel welcome.

I got the roofs and the swings put onto the play set. That was tricky, because it called for 2 adults. I just used my ladder to hold the beam in place while I got it all bolted in, and felt good about it once it was done.


The play set is nearly done. I just have a couple of bells and whistles to install, and then the tube slide is the last big thing. Then, once the mulch is all spread out, it will be all set.

Getting Close!

Hannah came over for some TV, and listened to my woes about the mower. Before going to bed, I decided to try one more time looking at the mower to see what might be wrong. Otherwise I would be up half the night wrestling with it in my mind. I'm glad I did, because I sat down and started back at the beginning: it was working just fine for days as I moved the mulch. Then, it suddenly wouldn't work at all. The last time I used it, I parked it in the garage and left the key in it... Then it hit me. I had just stepped off the mower, which shut it down, but I left the key in the "on" position, which apparently drained the battery for the two days it sat there. That's why it wouldn't work. I don't know why my charger said it was fully charged that first time, but I tried it again anyway, and it started charging the battery. I left it there for several minutes and it was still charging, so then I went to bed simultaneously glad to have figured it out and feeling like a total idiot for having wasted so much time on the ignition switch.

Saturday was rainy. I picked up donuts for breakfast, and then we got to cleaning up the house for Kira's return that evening. The kids were pretty good helpers, although Carver still felt pretty bad, and Avey was feeling her symptoms pretty badly, too. I took the two younger boys to the birthday party, but Merritt flipped out and decided not to stay. He joined me for a couple of errands instead, and then I put the battery back in the mower and it started up.

I got the grass cut, which it needed badly, and then it started to rain on me in the last few minutes. I picked up Hakan from the party, and brought Merritt a cupcake that he'd missed. We did some more cleaning and laundry sorting, and then Hakan was bored and asked me to make a cardboard fort again. This time, we had enormous boxes from the play set, so we used those.

Those things go all the way to the ceiling, so I made two rooms with doors, and then later I cut out two windows.

The boys had fun with that, and then I was so exhausted I had to lie down for a bit. I then showered and did some last cleaning before leaving to get Kira from the airport. Avey fed the boys and got them in their pajamas.

I got to the airport just at the right time after Kira got her bag, and then we were on our way back home. She told me more about the funeral and what all went on back in Colorado, and we made it home to find that Avey had put up a "Welcome Home" sign.

We got the boys in bed and then all struggled to stay awake during the first part of a movie before going to bed, all so very tired.

We're glad to have Kira back, and I am very much looking forward to my spring break this week, although I'm rather behind on my normal job now.

Kira has been very impressed with how green it is here, especially compared to what Colorado looks like:

Pike's Peak

Oh, and this morning we got the test results showing that Carver and Avey do not have Covid.

Thanks for reading. Let's see if we can have a dull week this time...

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