Since I’m sitting in the driveway in the front yard of my California rental house, and all the neighbors can see me, I’m not going to cry too exuberantly. I’ll have to keep it light and tight this time. I’m especially trying to impress the neighbor lady immediately across the street with my mental fitness, because sometimes my kids play together with her kid in her front yard and leave me the fuck alone for five minutes. She’s pretty much my best friend and favorite person. I’ve met her twice.

Currently, the whole of my family is inside, so I am outside. I can’t go inside to my living room/desk area because there is a loud child there. I can’t go to the back yard where there is a fence to keep out neighbor eyeballs, because there is a loud child there. I can’t go to the back of the house where my bedroom is because THERE IS A DEAD RAT THERE UNDER THE FLOOR BOARDS and the whole place smells like nightmares. The epicenter seems to be under our bed. Previously a sanctuary, now our bedroom feels like the river of slime sewer scene from Ghostbusters II meets the unearthed ancient burial ground scene from Poltergeist.

No, YOU are overly dramatic.

So here I sit, on the cement driveway. At least it’s really sunny and nice and my computer and I are baking to a healthy glow. I’d take a picture, but one of the kids has my phone. Or perhaps a rat took it? I don’t even know. I just hand it to whatever creepy little hand reaches up for it now a days, having just given up on everything. I don’t even care anymore if the kids (or rats) get too much screentime.

Something about the last few weeks of parenting/schooling from home has really done me in. Perhaps it’s the little tastes of freedom when other adults have been in charge of my kids the few hours they’ve been back to school in a hybrid model. Perhaps it’s that I got away last weekend for a night for my boudoir pictures and a consultation with a plastic surgeon about a breast reduction and I was all FEELING MYSELF for a second before returning to this mess. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re now almost 14 months into this pandemic horror and the pressure and stress has acumulated to a point of combustion.

— — — — — — — -

Computer went into coma from sun exposure. It is now the next morning. Husband and I have already had a “who slept worst” contest. I argue that I win because I was sleeping under the covers all night, preferring our rank live mammal smells over the rank dead mammal smell in the air, and when the kid showed up in the middle of the night- twice- she came to my side, and also the dog slept on me, and also said husband snored all night. He argues that he won because…something about stress and covers? I don’t know. He had reasons. I wasn’t listening. I WAS TOO TIRED. ;)

In positive news, I went to my new PCP yesterday for the first time and she was so kind and efficient. When I talked about my weight gain from eating pie, she said, “It’s ok, everyone has gained 20 pounds during COVID. We’re in a global pandemic, just work on surviving.” When she asked if I was working out and I asked if baking pies counts, she said that as long as I have a long-term (non pie related) plan, I’d be OK. Total relief to not be harassed, to be heard and understood. She seems cool. I asked her to check my thyroid anyway, since we were doing blood tests, just to confirm that my exhaustion and fluff weren’t hormones’ fault. They weren’t.

Establishing healthcare in a new place is an item on the checklist that seems small but can have large repercussions, and I’m happy with the providers I’ve found for all of us. I’m taking the win.

Speaking of essential workers- the exterminator came out yesterday on a surprise visit. Our landlord had indicated no one could save us from our king rat for a few days, but in the ten minutes the kids were home alone, a strange man with a truck full of murder gear showed up. So that was cool.

We have decided that the kids are old enough to stay home alone together for ten minutes while we walk the dog around the block. These are our date nights, minus the cocktails and plus the bags of poop. The kids have these walkie-talkie kind of devices that link to an app on our phones, so they can reach us.

Five minutes from home, my app pings:

Kid: MOM?

Me: Yeah, bud, what’s up?

Kid: There’s a strange man here who said he had to look around the house-

Me: Can you just ask him to wa-

Kid: — so we let him into the backyard. And now we’re just looking at him and he’s looking at us….are you coming home soon? I’m scared.

Me: Yeah, babe, we’re on our way home. We’ll be back in a few. He’s probably there about the rat. Can you ask him?

Kid: He has a mirror on a stick. I’m so scared.

Me: Right, Ok, if you’re not comfortable-

Kid: We’ll just go inside and lock all the doors. I’m super duper scared. Please come home.

Me: Good idea. Just stay there until we get home. We’re almost back.

One minute later, we arrive home and kids are waiting for us in front yard and the man is in the murder truck. After all that, turns out there’s nothing you can do about a dead rat in a wall except wait until it’s sufficiently decomposed so it stops smelling.

So we’re debating getting a hotel room, having a seance, or just staying here and crying until the rat and us are all dried up.

Frank and funny, Sarah writes the hard stuff of marriage, parenting, woman-ing. Ravishly, The Belladonna Comedy, Pregnant Chicken, & more. Twitter: @sarahzimzam