I love my commute.
In the morning, I quickly leave behind my town and find myself in a new development, then rolling hills and farms: fields of alpacas, horses, hay. After the farms comes the mountain, a small one, and the trees grow up and around me into a tunnel of red and yellow, until I reach the top, head back down past a few more farms, and into wide meadows. The last ten minutes of it is traffic lights and expensive homes, but by then I'm usually thinking about what I'm going to do when I get in.
At night, at this time of year I head home in the dark, up the winding roads with my high beams on, watching out for deer. If I'm lucky and it's not quite dark yet, sometimes from the top of one of the hills, I'll see a hot air balloon off on the horizon, beyond home. Even on the rainy days, the scenery is beautiful.
I hate my commute.
My husband is away on business. It's 4:30. There is a student in my office who needs to talk. He has trusted me to listen. It's complicated. We've been here since just after four, and he may be winding down, or he may not. I'm hoping this is helpful, but I am also watching the clock. My daughter's school closes at six, and it's a good hour and change drive from here, past home. That's not accounting for picking up my son, who is at a different aftercare program in our town.
It's 4:40. My student is still talking. I am trying to find a good way to close the conversation without making him feel cut off. I finally tell him, in a pause, that I don't want to kick him out, but it's an unusual day, and I have to pick up my kids. I ask him if he thinks he has a path forward now.
It's 4:45. The student has just left the office, I gently and slowly ushering him out, trying to continue paying attention to him. There is an email that requires an immediate response before I leave the office, because I will be off of the communication grid for the next three hours. I type a hasty response, hoping it's enough, gather my things, and run out the door, nearly running over the master of the college, who is amused when I mutter that I have to be in Lebanon. I suspect that New Jersey geography beyond the Northeast Corridor mystifies him.
4:50. I've started my car, pull out into traffic. It's moving slowly. I pray for lights to turn green.
5:12. On the hills where I look out at the alpaca and horses and balloons, now I am looking at the taillights of a slow moving vehicle. I am tempted to pull out from behind and cross the double line, but can't bring myself to do so, because I can't see around the frequent bends in the road. Instead, I tailgate. And then tell myself how annoying I'm being, and how unsafe it is to drive this way. I pull back.
5:30. I'm pulling into our town, but I still have to drive past it to get my daughter. I make a strategic decision at the last minute to take the loop road next to the river, avoiding the highway traffic, and pick my son up on the way back. I will have half an hour between her school closing and his, and I can make it if I don't hit any traffic on the way back.
5:50. My daughter's school parking lot. Ten minutes to spare. It's completely dark, and there are three children working with colored pencils on mats. I am trying to collect her calmly, but she decides she wants to put everything away. Her teacher tells her to leave it all there, but she is insistent. And careful. For once, I wish she was a little sloppier.
6:02. We're pulling back onto the highway. I have half an hour. I'm supposed to be feeding the kids dinner already, but that it is impossible on days like this. I make small talk with my daughter, who senses my panic and tells me to calm down. I mentally put another quarter in her therapy jar.
6:20. My son's aftercare program. I think we hit every traffic light on the southbound highway, and there is no way around it, except to go back on the loop road, and lose even more time. I extract my daughter from the car, claim my son, who is typically slow about getting his bag and jacket, and buckle everyone back into the car.
6:30. Home. Microwave. Leftover lentil soup for my son. Fish sticks. I toss the bag of carrot sticks on the counter. We have an hour to eat, bathe, and get my daughter in bed. Somewhere in there, I have to check my son's homework. I pull out some rice cakes for myself, and start mixing brownies for an event I promised to bake for tomorrow night. I am munching a rice cake, stirring brownies, and making lunches for the next day all at the same time. I am hoping I don't put brownie batter in the lunch boxes.
7:10. Kids are finally done eating. I usher my daughter into the shower, catching her as she's streaking down the hallway, completely naked, laughing at me. My son begins reading me his homework problems, which are half wrong, because he's done them in haste at aftercare, as usual.
7:30. My daughter is showered, I ask my son at least give times to get into the shower, knowing that I need to get this process started before I go upstairs to put my daughter to bed. I still have to do the dishes in the sink, run the dishwasher, do the laundry that has now overflowed the washing machine. The brownies are out of the oven, and my daughter needs her teeth brushed. I brush her teeth, tuck her in, sit with her until he breathing begins to slow.
8:00. My son is supposed to be brushing his teeth. Instead, he's playing his recorder. I ask him if he fed the fish that morning, because they are looking hungry. I go start the laundry, do the dishes, cut the brownies.
8:35. I shoo my son up to bed, after five minutes of nagging him to close his book. He asks me to stay.
9:00. The laundry is in the dryer. I pull the dishes out of the drying rack to make room for the ones that will come out of the dishwasher wet. I open my computer, and respond to email for another half hour. I think about blogging. I realize I'm starving, because I ate rice cakes for dinner. I think about eating the brownies, and put them away to prevent myself from doing so. I eat peanut butter right from the jar, and cranberries by the handful.
2:30. I wake up on the couch, where I've fallen asleep with my computer on my lap and the lights on. I brush my teeth, put away the dishes, think about blogging, and decide that I need to get to bed so that I can get up again at 5:30 and get the kids out the door by 7, so I can get back down to work on time after driving 40 minutes out of the way to get my daughter to school.
Thank goodness this morning looked like this:
1/4-1/3 c. quick oats (I use gluten free ones)
almond milk (1 1/2 times the amount of oats, or more, depending on how you like your oats)
Put your oats and almond milk in a jar, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, while you are goading your kids to eat breakfast, peel (if you want) and chop an apple. Dump liberal amounts of cinnamon over the chopped bits, and toss the cinnamon and apple together. Add the apples to the jar, and grab the jar on your way out the door with the coffee you also made while your kids were getting dressed. Stop somewhere on the road during your commute, appreciate the scenery, and take a picture of your lovely oats on the roof of your car with your iPhone. Eat your overnight oats with the plastic spoon you stole from your son's camping gear when he wasn't looking.