I'm in the final, foggy stage of sleep, knowing full well I only have minutes of peace left. The process of solid thought pulls me from the last fragments of a dream I can't quite recall. I don't mind really. Even though sleep is the most valuable thing I have, these few moments of peace are almost as precious.
Lying on my back, I stare through the darkness at the ceiling. I realize suddenly that no alarm has sounded since turning in the night before. No fires to put out. These breaks in the action are few and far between, but I'm grateful for each one. They give me strength during those fights when I seem to have no strength or will left. Usually, such thoughts pull me into unwanted flashbacks of previous battles fought and lost.
This time is different. I'm interrupted before that can occur. The all-too-familiar alarm pierces the early morning air. I sigh and rise from bed pulling on a pair of sweats. I wonder about Alex, hoping things are calm in the other house.
Exhausted as I may be, I hustle into Morgan's room, hoping desperately that she doesn't wake up Maddy or their brothers. In musky darkness I lift her from her crib and pray.
"Please, God, just one at a time this morning. Just this once."
I can feel Morgan's wet, bulging diaper beneath her footed pajamas. She doesn't care. She grabs on to me, bouncing with joy on my arm, babbling in stereo, while I blindly grab an extra diaper and the box of wipes. In four seconds flat I'm out the door and down the hall continuing my prayer mantra.
Laying Morgan down on the carpet, I begin the rapid-fire, sleight-of-hand process of unzipping, pulling down, and distracting with cute noises while pulling out the loaded diaper and slipping in a new one. About forty percent of the time I can accomplish this task before Morgan turns to her side, causing me to grab her leg, which means the only part of my daughter on the ground is her left shoulder while she flails in high pitched laughter, thus bringing visions of my daughter and I going on tour with Cirque du Soleil for some extra cash.
Immediately after disposing of the butt bomb from my blessed, yet nostril-staggering daughter, I hear alarm number two.
"Mommy! I wanna come out now! Mommy! MOM!"
Sigh. Our three-year-old daughter, Maddy. No matter how many times I tell her to just get up when she awakens, she refuses. She must alert me, our family, and our neighbors that, yes, she is awake and ready to tackle the day. Sitting there with closed eyes, a hand over my mouth, and nodding my head, I wait for it. It doesn't take long. Colby and Sam.
"Mom, Maddy woke me up again!"
"Me too, Mommy. I want pancakes."
"No way! I want waffles."
Deep breath, okay, here we go.
The day blazes by, yet seemingly in slow motion (how does that happen?) through laundry, attempted (and failed) naps, attempted (and partially failed) cleaning, skinned knees from bike accidents, three tantrums (per child), cries of hunger followed by half-eaten lunches, six sibling fights, seven phone calls and two doorbell rings (all during said failed naps) and countless near breakdowns from yours truly.
Shortly before six, I hear the garage door rumble open. The sound of salvation nearly brings me to tears and my soul soars. Even though he showers at the station house, I can still smell the smoke. In walks my hero, my husband, my back-up.
"Hi, Honey. How was your shift?"
Shaking his head, "One of the busiest twenty-fours in recent memory. Two car accidents serviced and three fires put out."
Before I can respond, Morgan makes her presence known from the kitchen floor. She shrieks and lifts her pudgy arms. Grinning, Alex bends and picks her up, seconds before he's swarmed physically and verbally.
Maddy runs in from the living room, "Daddy! We missed you."
Sam comes in from the back deck, with his brother quick on his heals. "Dad, Colby broke my toy fire truck."
"I did not! I didn't mean to."
Morgan bounces in Alex's arm and babbles, "Da-da-da-da-da-da," while smacking her own chest with one hand and pulling Alex's hair with the other.
Not to be out done, Maddy jumps up and down , "Daddy, watch me, watch me! I want you to come to my room and play blocks."
"No, Dad! See my drawing."
Walking carefully so not to stumble, Alex looks over his shoulder. Neither one of us can stop from laughing.
"I've been putting a few fires out myself."
Alex flashes me a knowing look, shakes his head and heads down the hall. I relish the calm and breathe it in. Okay, time to start dinner
Steve Uppendahl is a middle school teacher and coach. He has a lovely wife, Trina, and two beautiful, young and exhausting daughters. Steve loves to write whenever he can and loves those at FW for their inspiration and support.