"How do you make time to write with kids?"
May 23, 2018
3:30 p.m. One kid is complaining of boredom, one kid is unfolding my laundry, and the baby is sleeping.
The ants were here before the kids were. They came with the house, which is built on a hill held up by block retaining walls. It's a veritable ant heaven.
3:42 p.m.. The children are now leaning over the arm of the couch, peering at my writing and asking why I haven't started dinner because if I don't start soon, they'll surely starve.
That first year, the ants came streaming through the back door in a tidy line. I kept vigil at the kitchen table, looking up from my freelance work every few minutes to suck them into the handheld vacuum we'd been gifted for our wedding just a few months earlier.
3:49 p.m. Baby is awake and toddler is throwing modeling clay at me. Time to give up for today?
May 24, 2018
9:20 p.m. Finally alone in the quiet . . . never mind. Husband just sat down and turned on TV. Will try to write anyway.
Back then, seeing the ants offended me on a personal level. Who were these tiny things to imply by their very presence that my house wasn't clean? I spent an entire afternoon hovering near the back door with the vacuum. No one could say I wasn't devoted to cleanliness.
9:35 p.m. I don't like this. Is writing about ants stupid? Yes, yes it is. I'm going to knit instead.
May 29, 2018
9:25 a.m. Literally watching the ants crawl by as I write this.
They appear in the center of the living room like our faded Target rug is hiding a vortex directly to the nearest anthill. "The sucker," as Hadley calls it, has become a permanent fixture in the room so that anyone sitting on the couch has only to lean over and push the button when they spot a crumb mysteriously walking across the floor of its own accord.
9:33 a.m. Paused for diaper change
It's a losing battle with the kids around. We Roomba daily, I sweep after each meal, and we've tightened up the rule that we only eat at the table. But still, the ants are marching on, and I'm losing my patience.
June 2, 2018
10:21 a.m. What am I trying to say with the ant essay? Maybe I can [This sentence unintentionally left unfinished. No idea what I meant to say.]
8:57 p.m. Just finished nursing the baby. He's not sleeping quite yet, but hopefully soon?
So when I spotted a steady line of ants tromping across the rug and disappearing between the coffee table and couch, I assumed one of the kids had snuck away from the kitchen to enjoy an illegal cracker or granola bar. I grabbed the vacuum, already mentally preparing the speech I'd make to the kids about how, no seriously, DO NOT EAT FOOD IN THE LIVING ROOM.
I followed the line of ants and discovered . . . a piece of popcorn from the bowl my husband and I had shared the night before, after the kids went to bed.
My mental rant died in my head.
Isn't that always the way it is with kids? I think things are their fault, that they're somehow interfering with my progress, when in reality the problem was me all along.
June 3, 2018
Have I written about ants before? I have deja vu.
[Flip back to the beginning of the journal.] Oh, here it is. I have tried to write this before.
May 20, 2017
5:02 p.m. Cooking dinner
Sugar ants exist to make you think you're insane. Their tiny, gross little insect bodies blend with everything so that you only catch glimpses of them out of the corner of your eye while you're otherwise occupied, bent over the open oven door with your hands full of a piping hot 9x13 Pyrex.
Do you sacrifice dinner to kill two ants? No. But it's tempting.
Instead, slam the casserole on the stove, ditch the oven mitts, lunge toward the vacuum plugged in in the corner. But by then the ant is invisible again, marching merrily out to tell his friends about this great floor with all the toast crumbs on it.
May 21, 2017
8:22 p.m. Kids are finally (finally!) sleeping. Is today's ant incident a better story than yesterday's?
I put "spray ant stuff" on my to-do list a week ago where it remained the only item not crossed off the list, taunting me from the fridge door. I figured I'd get to it. It stayed there for a week like a battle cry. And then, the rain came. Our ants always mobilize in the rain.
I should have seen them coming. I've lived here long enough to know their patterns. Instead, they caught me off guard in the bathroom. I was perched on the edge of the tub, once again waiting tedious minutes to tick by while Hadley's bladder weighed the pros and cons of going tinkle in the big-girl potty.
8:37 p.m. Hadley is up requesting water. What have I done to deserve this slow torture of children not going the heck to bed?!
Reagan crawled in during our potty-training session and immediately took interest in some tiny speck on the floor that was surely a choking hazard.
But no, it was an ant. My nine-month-old was chasing a sugar ant across the bathroom floor. The bathroom! They've never breached the bathroom before. This isn't good.
I scooped the baby up and deposited her in the hall so I could investigate and round up my poisons of choice. Where there is one, there are many.
8:51 p.m. Too dramatic for ants? What's the point of all this anyway, other than that I can't remember the last time I washed the bathroom floor?
May 26, 2017
10:00 a.m. Kids are at Nana's. Blessed silence. I should be working. Or at the very least cleaning my house so these damn ants go away. Where am I going with this? Try a new angle.
I've never been one of those people who doesn't believe in killing ants. Sure, they're God's creatures (say the Christians) and it's bad karma (say the Buddhists) and who are we to take a life out of the universe (say the New Agers)?
No one. I am no one. But ever since childhood, I've gone out of my way to step on ants. I guess that makes them angry or something, and word gets around the anthill eventually.
So now they are here in my house, and it's war. I'll turn a blind eye to our friendly spider colony, but never the ants.
I've battled them ever since our first summer in this house. They came streaming through the back door like I'd issued an invitation. I'd sit at the kitchen table, glancing up from whichever manuscript I was editing to suck up the whole line of them every few minutes.
10:18 p.m. Resuming while watching a bad movie
I tried everything: cans of poison that kill on contact, sprays that are deemed safe for kids and pets after it dries, and granules you shake out of a bag that claim to create "an unbreakable bug barrier." I hid the non-slip shoes I wore to work at the coffee shop, the ones with the layer of sticky flavor syrups adhered across the top.
None of it mattered.
10:34 p.m. I'm so tired. Is this why everyone tells you to do important work in the mornings?
May 28, 2017
1:40 p.m. I think I'm giving up on the ant thing. Are they a metaphor for something? Doesn't seem worth going after whatever thread this is anymore.
June 4, 2018
11:08 a.m. Rescued an old journal from my crayon-wielding toddler. I'll flip through just for fun.
May 27, 2016
There's a pineapple on the table, my hands are too clammy to knit, and the ants. are. back.
I should write about those stupid things.
June 4, 2018
Two years. I've been writing about the ants for more than TWO YEARS?! That's it. I'm done. This ends here.
June 5, 2018
8:17 p.m. Outside. Typing quickly in the hopes that this years-long essay will actually get written before the baby wakes up. Husband is trying to talk with me, like reasonable married people would. I'm half-listening, trying not to be annoyed because I'm this. close. to. finishing.
If you've read anything I've written in the past four years, this is probably how it came to be.
How do I make time to write?
I really don't. But this is the best I have to offer, and you can't stop me from trying.