The winds are howling outside my home office and the rain is pelting my window while I sit trying to catch up on work left over from the week. Hurricane Irene isn't scheduled to make her grand entrance in the nation's capital for 12 hours, but my patience is already gone. My three little terrors, uh, children are at it again.
It's the dirty little secret moms, and yes dads, are reluctant to admit. Kids can be a pain in the neck. It's especially true during snowstorms and hurricanes where going outside is not an option, and the excitement of dangerous weather catapults them into a five-chocolate-bar frenzy.
Don't get me wrong. I love my children. I do. Most days. (Kidding, kidding!) But, there's something about being trapped inside nose-to-nose with three children -- or even one for that matter -- that can be monumentally exasperating.
For those of you who are shaking your head and judging, just try walking five minutes -- make that five hours -- in my shoes. And for those of you who are secretly nodding your heads while reading this, I've got your back. It's okay if we're not perfect and it's certainly okay to say it out loud.
"Hey Mom, how do you spell penguin?" yells my seven-year-old from two rooms away. "Mama, can you read me a book?" says the three-year-old while simultaneously turning on and off the overhead lights. "No, not this book, that book. Mom, come on!" she says as she tugs my sleeve forcing me to release my mouse. And again yells my seven-year-old from the family room: "Mommmmy. How. Do. You. Spell. Penguin?"
On and on the demands escalate while cable news channel announcers with their scary, flashy over-the-shoulder graphics of whipping winds and palm trees dutifully tell me to prepare for disaster, stay inside and find batteries for my flashlight. Who can focus on that?
Paralyzed, I turned to Twitter as any in-over-her-head journalist would, and was relieved to find kindred spirits. When I admitted to my followers that I was a guilty mom who'd had it with my brood, another mom tweeted back to me: "Are you allowed to send just your kids to the evacuation centers?" A woman after my own heart.
My friend Steve Kearns, a former fellow reporter at WHP-TV in Harrisburg, PA, in our carefree pre-kid days, wrote to me in his patented ironic tone, "We told ours to go outside. Maybe we'll get lucky." There is even a greater irony in our virtual exchange as both of us stood for countless hours in hurricanes as wind and rain pummeled our slickers telling people like us to batten down the hatches. Those were the days.
Parenting is hard work and it's a job I wholeheartedly signed up for -- eyes open. Most times it is a delight. But, just like you buy a car knowing it's going to break down, being stranded on the side of the road is no picnic.
I've given up working for today, or for doing anything else alone for that matter, and have resigned myself to a day on the floor reading books, spelling words and eating peanut M&Ms.
Countless times I have been told by friends and neighbors that when the kids are gone, living their own lives, I'll look back on these days longingly. But it sure is hard to imagine today.
Follow Lauren Ashburn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurenashburn