A long, long, long time ago I mentioned that Trish was going back to work.

Finally, after many mortgage payments and Visa bills, it’s really happening. She goes in Monday for orientation, which will last through Thursday. Fortunately (for many, many reasons), Trish is a nurse, and she’ll basically get to work the hours and days she chooses.

That means we’ve been interviewing for nannies, or sitters, or childcare providers, or whatever they want to be called.

It’s an odd exercise, trying to find someone we think is fit to tend our child, someone who seems safe, responsible, fun, drug-free, speaks a little English, especially if English is her first language. Someone who won’t plant Ella in front of soap operas while she devastates our secret candy stash. Someone with reliable transportation, which does not include ATVs or come with farm implements. Someone with most of her teeth, who’s not going to invite cousins to our house for impromptu dog fighting. You know, someone reasonable.

(I can hear my friend John telling me to find someone hot. While I might agree that would be interesting, I am not a Kennedy.)

The last time we went through this drill Trish couldn’t accept a job offer because we couldn’t find someone to care for our darling little angle/demon child. This can be, I’ve learned, one of the highest hurdles to leap in the parenting biz. We’ve raised it by moving cross-country twice in two years, and being 500 miles from any reliable family (I’m not complaining!).

We put our names on a list at the best child care facility in the area … last August. We were told a couple of months ago not to expect a slot this year. Other places are equally full, or ridiculously expensive, or potentially rat infested.

So we put an ad in the local college newspaper and crossed our fingers.

We got responses right away: a grad student and an undergrad in English, a nursing undergrad, two pharmacy majors, a 23-year-old non-student and a 50-something preschool teacher. One or two I’m forgetting.

We interviewed four. Two people thought they were interested, then changed their minds. The 50-something was nice, but not exactly what we’re looking for. The nursing student is available, and seems nice, but Trish didn’t think she interacted with Ella enough.

When I drove home the other night and turned onto our street, I saw a car circling our cul-de-sac, halting at different houses each time. It made it around three times before I turned into our driveway, the first one in the circle. The car pulled in behind me. It was the non-student. She was 10 minutes late because she couldn’t find our house, the one with the big black house numbers on the light-yellow post of our front porch, one of the five she had to choose from.

Her car was five or six years old and was missing at least one hubcap. I thought I detected a faint smell of … something … from its open windows (it was 95 degrees! maybe she thought she could find our house easier with the windows down?). She was wearing funky low-cut jeans and a tank top, and she never looked me in the eye. She walked into our foyer and said, “whoa, this place is Niiiicce.” Our place is not Niiiicce. It’s OK. It’s just new. Relatively small, even. WE HAVE NOTHING WORTH STEALING!

She said she was taking early childcare classes at a technical college. She dropped out of high school when she failed history and moved to the beach; some undisclosed amount of time later she got her GED. She recently moved in with her fiance, who works at Radio Shack and who will soon begin retaking real estate class, because he failed the test the first time.

Something tells me we’re not going to hire this kid.

The English major came over on a Sunday morning (so she might be religious but she’s not fanatical about it, or maybe she’s Jewish). She was modestly dressed. Her Honda is a year old, and she has great references. She liked Ella and Ella seemed to like her — when she left Ella said to Trish, “maybe I’ll play with her while you go to the doctor.”

But, wouldn’t you know it, the English major can only work until school starts in four weeks. Trish needs to work longer than four weeks.

So, we’re pinning our hopes on the nursing student, the one who was supposed to call me this morning but didn’t.

There’s an outside chance one of the pharmacy students will be interested. Maybe. Hopefully.

Is there a better way!?