Little boys with hot breath steaming out of their mouth and nostrils like dragons creep into my room. They nuzzle up close to me, face skin to face skin, and whisper with their hot breath, "Mommy?"
I don't answer right away, if I keep my eyes closed maybe they'll go back to bed.
A long pause.
The pauses are getting shorter. "Mommy? Mommy?" I mumble back, "Hmm?" My throat is still too dry and asleep to say real words. The baby got up five times last night, maybe six? I'm tired.
Get up mommy, it's morning.
It's morning, and I get up.
The boys are bickering and I snap at them. Not until I've had my coffee! And they give each other a knowing glance and scamper off. Then the coffee. Oh, the coffee. It's so cliché, isn't it? But it's not even about the caffeine. I drink decaf. It's the aroma, the frothy sheen of coffee skin at the top of my mug when I stir in the cream. The warmth in my mouth. It's about the familiarity of a drink that's been with me every morning since high school. It's just an old friend, a ritual, I love it. I get a few gulps down as the baby squeaks out whimpers, soon they are wails, I set the coffee down and head to the crib.
Good morning baby in the crib. Time fades away for a few seconds every morning when I take that first glance at baby in the crib. He is so happy, just that I'm there. I look at him and he looks back and his fat face can't even hold all of his grin. It's just a mess of dimples and chunk and cheeks and grinning gums. It's beautiful. He is happy because he wants to nurse, and I am happy because he is happy.
The older boys crunch cereal under their toes on the kitchen floor. I add a few squirts of whipped cream to their fruit and they gobble it down. I thought we were ahead of schedule but I blinked and now we should have left for school five minutes ago. I can brush my teeth when we get back. I catch a glimmer of my reflection in the mirror as I comb little boy hair flat to their little boy heads. Oh well, yoga pants again today.
The school is squirming with minivans and moms balancing in heels and siblings tugging on big sibling hands because mom made them promise to stay close. There are some moms like me, too. Avoiding eye contact behind huge sunglasses covering our makeup-less faces, pushing strollers, just praying a fat roll doesn't slip out of the top of our well worn yoga pants during that sacred have a good day, little kindergartener hug. He didn't cry when I left today, and I feel like a rockstar. Today is going to be good.
Mid morning, mid morning, mid morning. I could get a load of laundry folded or open the computer and shoot off a few emails, get some work done. Only two hours until lunch time. But someone wants to build a train track. A big one. The biggest train track ever. Can you help me? I snap the computer closed. I can. On my knees we connect wooden pieces, winding them around the living room floor, leading them into the kitchen, getting fancy with a couple of hills and bridges until we run out of track. He is happy and the timing is perfect because baby wants to nurse again. And again and again and again. And oh, by the way it's lunch time.
The laundry is still sitting in baskets, the wrinkles probably are really setting in by now. But bellies are full. We didn't fight about lunch today. I just filled a bento box with small handfuls of healthy choices and stood back while he picked them apart. He ate the apple slices, some of the skins fell on the floor, and all of the berries are gone. He doesn't like cheese today. Maybe tomorrow. I pour a basket of clothes out on the floor to fold, boxers and pant legs tumble everywhere. I leave the room for a minute because baby had a blow out again, more laundry, and the pile of clothes has become a leaf pile. Jumping and laughing fill the living room, the clothes go everywhere. I sigh but I'm too tired to chastise.
The baby is sleeping. Stirring, but sleeping. I take the other into his bed and curl up with him. He's so warm, a baby kind of warm with skin that's round and smooth with happy carefree heat. But he's not a baby! He's not a baby and he doesn't need a nap! I'll call your daddy! Go to sleep! Three minutes of silence and then the door creaks open, feet flop on the wood floor with a plop plop plop. I point at his bed and he scuffles off, the door clicking closed behind him. I can see shadow movement meandering across the gap of space under his door but I try to ignore it, maybe he'll go to sleep.
The house has been quiet for 10 minutes.
The laptop is right where I left it clicked closed, and there's my coffee from this morning. It's cold but I take a drink. I grab a handful of whatever from the fridge, cram my mouth full, chew some but not a lot, and prepare to work. Nestling down in the recliner, warm laptop heating the tops of my thighs, I really notice how thirsty I am but I'm too ready to work now to get up. Hands on keyboard, deep breath, it's go time. But... the baby is up. Click. We nurse.
It's time for after-school pick up. I have to wake up the sleeping one. Poking the bear. He stirs, nuzzles around in his favorite blankies and becomes dead weight in my arms. Sweaty, dead weight with a wafting scent of faint, faint urine. It's time to wash the bedding again. He's going to be so crabby but we're going to be late. I start singing ridiculous tunes with bizarre words to stir him awake, he's not amused. I shove his feet in boots and leave. I wonder what I can make for dinner tonight...
We're three minutes late to school and all of the little kindergartners are huddled around their teacher on the front pavement. The good moms picked up their kids three minutes ago. My sweet kindergartner spots me struggling to get the stroller around a clump of moms and races towards us. "I was waiting, where were you?"
We stop at a mailbox and the bank. I take a phone call while the boys banter in the backseat. We make a quick run into the grocery store but I forgot what we needed. So I buy milk, raspberries, and cotton balls.
Back at home, the nap I interrupted is taking its toll. The bear I poked is a raging grizzly. Be calm and consistent, I remind myself. He throws a toy, time out is a battle. Calm and consistent. I keep my voice as calm as I can but my dam of patience explodes open right through my fingertips and I fire off of a feisty text to my husband. "I'm getting a job, you can stay home." He doesn't respond.
The baby is hungry. We nurse.
Twenty minutes later, the baby dozes with the tiny pop-pop of baby piggy snores and I ease the bedroom door closed. I make it to the living room and collapse in a playful heap on the floor. The boys waste no time joining in. They like to lay on my feet as I hoist them into the air. They giggle in shrieks. One wants to be tickled. Oh, the giggles. They are sharp and ear piercing and with my eyes I beg them to giggle more. Their eyes beg back with giant gleams of be funny mommy, we want to giggle. My grizzly bear has turned soft with cuddles and when he lays his head on my chest and laughs I can feel the guffaws rattling around in my ribs. Then the door opens. Daddy's home. His forehead is wrinkled with worry about my day, something about a text message. "Oh that, that was nothing. Look we're having fun, " I say.
The baby wants to nurse and I get out of cooking dinner. Daddy slaves over a pan of Hamburger Helper, slumgoolian he calls it. That makes the boys giggle again, and we eat.
Kindergartner wants help with his homework. But not too much. I can do it myself! I get a little help cleaning the kitchen when I try to make it a game. The doorbell rings, no we can't play right now. Daddy asks where his binoculars are but I can't remember. Someone wants to take a bubble bath but someone else does not. There's a few bites of slumgoolian left on a fire engine plate and I eat it over the sink.
I squeeze in a few loads of laundry. The kitchen sink is empty now and the dishwasher is humming. It's soothing. The boys are winding down, the last of their energy dripping one pure drop at a time like saline in an IV. Steady. Steady. Steady. We all feel warm. We all feel happy. It's cozy.
The baby nurses.
The boys want to watch America's Funniest Home Videos before bed. We all sprawl out on the bed. Someone laughs so hard they fall off. It's bedtime.
Teeth brushing, potty time, let's read a story. Sing my songs, someone wails. I sing. I say last song three times. Everyone is covered up, my soul relaxes one breath at a time with each moment of silence. The baby is nursing with closed eyes, I lay him down as my own eyes start creaking closed and my mind starts to wander.
Isn't that permission slip due soon?
I wonder if I locked the door.
I'll need to schedule haircuts soon.
I guess I'll get to those emails tomorrow.
Do the kids feel loved?
I should cut down on carbs.
They feel loved but do I give them enough attention?
Library books are late.
Like, enough individual attention?
I hope I have enough jelly to pack lunch tomorrow.
I should really pack lunch the night before.
Wait, tomorrow is Saturday...
I hate going to the store on Saturday.
It's not long before the plopping of bare wandering feet are making shadows in the kitchen. But I don't open my eyes and Daddy sends wandering feet back to bed. Twice... no, three times. Until finally it's 10:00 p.m. and my mind and house are quiet. Everyone is sleeping, resting for tomorrow.
The magic of tomorrow is that it will be exactly like today, except everything will be different.
Midnight comes and baby nurses.
1:40 a.m., we nurse.
2:30 baby cries but I roll over and let him wail.
4:00 we nurse.
6:10 and we're nursing. I should just get up, there's so much I could do in this quiet house.
Soon little boys with hot breath steaming out of their mouth and nostrils like dragons creep into my room. They nuzzle up close, face skin to face skin and whisper with their hot breath "Mommy?" I don't answer right away, if I keep my eyes closed maybe they'll go back to bed. Mommy?
It's morning, and I get up.