Kyle's first haircut
August 1987

It is another muggy, overheated August morning. From his highchair in the kitchen, fifteen month old Kyle peers at me through shaggy bangs. Cocoa Puffs and milk cling to his sticky face. It's only nine o'clock in the morning, but already his hair sticks wetly to his forehead and to the back of his neck. He looks hot, messy, damp and uncomfortable. I sigh. For weeks I have been avoiding the inevitable, but now the time has come: Kyle needs a haircut.

Briefly I toy with the idea of cutting it myself. Beauty salons are expensive, and I'm low on money this week. Besides, he's such a little boy: a barber shop would probably scare him to death. I could probably manage to trim his bangs, and maybe even lop off some of that long hair in the back. But then I recall the last time I tried cutting my son's hair, shortly after he'd learned to walk. It was nightmare: I ended up sitting on the sofa with scissors in hand, waiting for him to come close enough for me to take another swipe at his hair before he dashed off again. He went around for weeks afterward, looking like he'd tangled with a Toro.

I love Kyle's hair. It is straight and fine, like mine, and as smooth as tinsel. In the sunlight it glistens like spun gold. No one else in the family has hair that color. In spite of the fact that he looks this morning like a diapered, blue-eyed sheepdog, I still feel a pang of sadness at the thought of cutting that glorious hair. It feels like loss ... like something ending.

Resolutely, I get the phone book out and make an appointment for him at a nearby salon. "Do you take one year olds?" I ask the receptionist doubtfully. "If they'll sit still long enough!" is her good-natured reply. Privately I think this is highly unlikely, but I go ahead and schedule Kyle for later that morning.

From his highchair, Kyle happily waves a dripping cereal spoon at me. "Ahhh-DUH!" he croons, signaling me that he's finished with breakfast. I wipe off his hands and face and unbuckle him from his chair, and then we go to wake up Daddy. Half an hour later, dressed in a pin-striped sunsuit and blue tennis shoes, Kyle and his Daddy leave the apartment. I stand at the open door and watch them go. "Bye bye!" Kyle says sweetly, turning to wave at me. I have a lump in my throat the size of a Nerfball. He is clearly thrilled to be going somewhere with Dad, and as I watch him toddle away clutching Ray's hand, I feel as though a chapter of my life is coming to an abrupt conclusion. My baby - my last baby - is growing up: here is the proof.

I vowed, when Kyle was born, to savor each and every moment of his precious babyhood. By the third set of birth announcements, a mother knows all too well how fleeting such time can be. I promised myself I wouldn't squander a single moment of it, but even so the time is slipping through my fingers. There is no way to slow it down, or take it back, or do anything except move forward. The baby will become a boy, and the boy will become a man, and all of the savoring and wishing and postponing in the world can't do a thing to change it. This haircut is just the beginning. Dinosaurs are just around the corner ... and He-Man, and Tonka trucks, and Underoos. Then will come school and Little League and black eyes and McDonalds. Right now Kyle's world is confined to the six rooms of this apartment; his universe is peopled by his parents, his sisters, the kids I babysit every day. A "big adventure" is sneaking into the bathroom and opening the drawers. But eventually, I know, will come friends and interests of his own choosing, and finally, a life's path that carries him far beyond this apartment and my protective embrace. Eventually I'll lose my baby forever.

For the next hour I am a textbook case. I spill my coffee, I snap at the girls, I chew my nails. I look at my watch a lot. How long does it take to cut a little boy's hair, anyway? I imagine all the things that could go wrong: a flat tire, a speeding ticket, terrorists, a severed artery. What if he comes home with a Mohawk?

Suddenly I hear the front door open. They're home! Heart in my throat, I peer around the corner, wondering what I'll find ... what horrifying change has taken place. Ray is standing in the doorway grinning. In his arms he holds a little boy I've never seen before. I catch my breath: who is this small person? He's wearing Kyle's striped sunsuit, and his little Nike tennis shoes. And there's something familiar about that devilish grin, and the three little teeth on the bottom of his mouth. But this little guy has eyebrows! And ears! And his hair ... well, his hair is neat and shiny and wonderful. This is no baby sheepdog - this is an honest-to-goodness little boy! Laughing out loud, I scoop him up in my arms and nuzzle his neck. He giggles, bats at my face, then struggles to be put down.

For the rest of the afternoon Kyle is in a silly, freewheeling mood, released from that oppressive mop of hair. I can't take my eyes off him. He is the baby I have known and loved for over a year, and at the same time he is someone altogether new. He giggles, flirts, grandstands, plays funny games of peek-a-boo, runs from me when I try to change his diaper. At bathtime it takes a microdot of shampoo and a minimum of rinsing to soap his hair clean, and it's dry by the time he's out of the tub. After his bath, he sits on my lap and drinks his ba-ba. I bury my nose in his scalp and smell the sweet smell of Johnson & Johnson's. I sigh with pleasure and hold him closer. OK. We've made it through this first step, and we're still intact. His growing up may be unavoidable, but as long as we take it one thing at a time, I'll be fine. And for just this moment, anyway, he is still my baby. I will savor this moment.




September 11, 1987

Cloudy, cool morning. The apartment smells of coffee and honey-date muffins; Madonna is singing "Dress You Up" on MTV. Jamie is in the tub, washing her hair for school; Kacie is sitting at the table gnawing on a muffin and talking to herself about the picture she's drawing. She addresses an occasional comment to me. ("When all your kids are in 'cool, then you say, 'I'm all alone,' and Daddy's at work, right MOM?") I hear little hammering noises coming from the girls' room - I think Henry's awake.

I was right. He was twisting the doorknob and laughing, so I opened the door and he came scampering out, like a hamster out of its cage. Now he's seated in his highchair, solemnly working on a bowl of Alpha Bits. He whacks his spoon against the side of the tray, grabs a handful of Alpha Bits and puts them in his mouth, chewing in slow motion while absently gazing out the window ...

I can hear Jamie singing in the tub. Today will be her fourth day of kindergarten, and so far she's washed her hair every morning. Last weekend my girlfriend Cindy cut Jamie's hair for me: just a bit above her shoulders, with short bangs. After Jamie washes her hair, I dry it and set in on electric rollers, and it comes out looking very cute. Jamie leaves for school every day looking like she just stepped out of a children's clothing catalog. She's as fastidious about her clothes as she is about her hair. The first day she wore her new school dress, a purple and blue plaid; the second day, it was new jeans and a clean, ironed blouse; yesterday, a turquoise and white pants outfit she "borrowed" from Kacie. And just now she emerged from the bathroom wearing a blouse, skirt and white knee socks ...

As I have predicted all summer (indeed: since the day she was born), Jamie P. fell in love with school the moment she first stepped into the classroom. There are three other little girls from our apartment complex in her class, including her best friend, Sandy Ruckman, and that helps. I went with her on the first day: Jamie's eyes lit up when she saw the big classroom filled with toys and books. Mr. Gallagher shook her hand and introduced himself, and pinned a name-tag on her blouse. Then she and Sandy ran around and explored the classroom. I sat on one of those teeny-tiny chairs in the back of the classroom, trying to look unobtrusive. Jamie was easily the cutest kid in the class. It'll only be a matter of time before her teacher discovers she's the brightest, too!




October 21, 1987

It's really foggy this morning. Fall is here, and I've barely noticed it this year. I miss Kirkland. I especially miss Kirkland in October. I wonder if the big tree in front of Mr. Pierce's house has changed color yet? There are no trees here in the apartment complex: no leafy trees, anyway, just a few anemic evergreens. Maybe that's why I've barely noticed autumn's arrival this year ... because the view from my apartment window is so uninspiring. Just evergreens, a swimming pool that's covered up for the winter, and more apartment. Nary an autumn leaf to be seen.

I don't babysit for Stephanie anymore: we had a personal falling-out. I have a new job, though, caring for Jerome, age four, and his brother André, who is a month or so younger than Kyle. Their mom, Erin H., pays me every other Friday, and so far the arrangement is working out fairly well.

Kyle is up now. He's sitting in his highchair, contemplating a bowl of "Ice Cream Cones Cereal" and kicking his feet. He woke up in a good mood. "Dih-dih-dih-dih-DIH!" he croons happily, milk dribbling down his chin.




October 22

The next day. Jamie and I had our first major skirmish of the morning: she threw a tantrum because I gave her Cocoa Puffs and she wanted oatmeal. Geez. Life is hard when you're five years old.


October 27

Tired. Sipping a late-in-the-day cup of coffee in a last ditch attempt to revive. Nearly 5 p.m., starting to get dark outside. Just threw some potatoes into the oven for the kids' supper: they'll have the potatoes with sliced hot dogs in BBQ sauce (I'm calling them "Hallo-weenies"). Terry W. just went home for the day; Jerome and André will be here for another hour. The kids are all sitting in the living room watching Donald Duck cartoons on the Disney channel. Kyle hasn't had a nap since before lunch, and he's crabby as hell. A few minutes ago he deliberately started a fight with Jamie over a bag of pumpkin seeds. When she finally managed to grab them away from him, he burst into anguished wails. Then he promptly launched a new attack, this time on Kacie, trying to get the nickel she was holding in her hand. When that didn't work, he ran and grabbed the broom out of the kitchen, lugged it out the living room and started swinging it at the other kids.


December 26, 1987

It is the day after Christmas 1987. Frozen sunlight streams through the windows of the apartment; Jamie and I are the only ones up so far. I'm sitting here on the loveseat with my first cup of coffee beside me; Jay is poking around the immense pile of toys under the Christmas tree, looking for pieces of her Barbie Rockin' House Party. ("I've gotta find the fruit and the bowl and the cups," she murmurs.) Any moment now the other kids will be up: Kacie will hear "Pee Wee's Playhouse" on TV and will come stumbling down the hallway, her hair a mess and a grumpy look on her face, asking "Has Jamie had brex-biss yet?" And then Kyle will burst into the room, wet diaper squishing between his legs, and will run to me with outstretched arms saying "Ma-MA" ...

... And then the noise will begin, and the fuss, and the work, and the whole crazy business of raising kids ...

... But for right now it's just me and Jamie. She got up before I did this morning: she slipped out of bed while I was still asleep and tiptoed out to the living room. I was wakened by the sound of Kacie's new remote control car being maneuvered around the living room. When Jay saw me, she smiled happily and said, "I was afraid when I woke up that I only dreamed about my new bike!" This year Ray's parents gave both of the girls a brand new Huffy bicycle. Every couple of minutes Jamie abandons her Barbie furniture and goes over to sit on her new bike.

Kacie just got up, and it's exactly as I predicted: her hair is such a mess, she looks like she's wearing a fright wig! And she's got the world's grumpiest expression on her face. This little daughter is definitely not a morning person.

The kids had a nice Christmas, in spite of a few minor glitches. Ray and I gave each of the girls a fancy new Barbie and a big Barbie "toy" to go with it - in Jamie's case, the Rockin' House Party, and for Kacie a remote control Barbie "four-wheel" cycle. Santa them gave them each a pair of roller skates, a battery-operated guitar, a set of fingerpaints and some Play-Doh, each. Kyle had a good Christmas. He loved all the running around going bye-bye in the car, although whenever we reached our destination (my Dad's, Grandma St. John's, the in-laws') he stuck close to Ray and me and didn't socialize much. Everyone thought he was cute, though. He's at a cute age. Mostly he received clothes (which thrills me, since he's outgrown everything). He also got some new "friends" ... a stuffed orange dinosaur, a Glo-Worm, a big soft teddy bear, a squishy green dragon (from his sisters) ... some Matchbox cars ... building blocks ... even a bright red sled from Ray's parents.

Henry's here now. He toddled into the room a minute ago, and now he's sitting next to me, pointing at my journal and saying "I? I? I?" (his abbreviated version of the alphabet). He usually wakes up in a good mood, and this morning is no exception. He's got new pajamas on, blue and red, and like Kacie's his hair is a tangled fright. (He just spotted the Christmas tree and the pile of presents. His favorite? Kacie's red remote-control sports car.)




January 1988

"I'm going to take my shower now!" I tell Kyle. He got up about fifteen minutes ago, sat at the table next to me and slurped a bowl of Fruit Loops. Now he's stomping around the apartment in blue p.j.'s, his hair askew, as always.

"Bleh-bleh?" he asks, pointing to the bathroom door.

"Yes, Mama shower," I say, and he follows me and fiddles around in the sink while I shower and wash my hair. When I'm done, he leans over the edge of the tub and splashes his hands in the quickly-draining bath water. I towel myself dry and slip into clean clothes, watching him. Unfortunately he leans a fraction of an inch too far forward and loses his balance, falling with a splash into the tub ... p.j.'s and all. He gasps in surprise and flounders for a minute or two, but remarkably he doesn't cry.

"Whoa! Man overboard!" I say to him cheerfully, then calmly lift him out of the tub dripping wet. I strip off his wet p.j.'s. Undaunted, he climbs onto the toilet, leans over the sink and points at his toothbrush. I pump a dab of toothpaste onto his toothbrush and hand it to him: he starts sucking the toothpaste noisily, watching himself in the mirror.

Now Kyle is out in the living room, hitting Kacie on the head with a toy truck and laughing. ("Cut it out, Henry!" I snap.) For some reason he loves picking on Kacie. She doesn't hit him back, for one thing - she just sits there and screams while he pounds on her. Jamie runs away from Kyle if he tries this stuff with her, or sometimes will clobber him right back. So he very rarely launches an attack on her anymore. But Kacie is another story. Sometimes he really hurts her. "Just get up and walk away from him when he hits you!" I beseech her, but fifteen minutes it's happening all over again ... he's hitting her over the head with a wooden mallet while she hunches over in misery, bawling.

Kyle has learned to "color." Right now he's sitting next to me at the table - and I mean RIGHT NEXT TO ME - he's got the chair pushed as close to mine as

possible - and he's coloring with one orange crayon in one of the girls' colorbooks. He sings to himself while he scribbles ... a nonsensical jumble of favorite words and sentences. "Ni-night, Da!" he croons. "Ni-night, Da. Ni-night, Da. Ohh, DA. Hi. Hi Momma. Hi gir-gir. Me. I. Get. Whoa." He bites his crayon, and it breaks into little pieces. "Uh-oh!" he says, throwing the broken pieces of crayon onto the floor. Jamie scoops them up and throws them in the garbage, and Kyle says "Genk-goo."

Henry's latest no-no's:

- Breaking plastic sunglasses

- Taking potatoes out of the bag and biting them, then putting

them back into the bag

- Mom's kitchen "junk drawer"

- Pouring juice on people for fun

- Spitting

- Taking his diaper off, regardless of what condition it's in ...



"Did you already write about my owie?" Jamie asks, sitting beside me at the kitchen table. She has a huge and painful scrape on her left cheek, acquired this past weekend as she was practicing on her new bike. She wears her wound like an Olympic gold medal, and proudly announces to anyone who asks about it, "I know how to ride a two-wheeler now!"



Kacie P.'s Interests

1. Food

2. Food

3. Riding her bike.

4. Food

5. Food



Kyle P. is now quite firmly ensconced in the Terribles. No question about it. Everything is "no!," "mine!," "don't!" He's into everything, he hates being told what to do, he has started deliberately picking fights with the other kids, and he won't eat anything but toast, Spaghetti-O's and candy. He likes to spit on people recreationally. He doesn't like his hands or face washed. We would all like to strangle him.



Jamie: (counting the days on the calendar) "... the twenty-ninth, thirtieth, thirty-WUNTH."



Here is something Kacie said the other night:

Kacie: "I hope I die tomorrow."

Mom: (horrified) "WHY??"

Kacie: (grinning slyly) "So you can't wash my hair ANYMORE."



Some new things Kyle says at age twenty months:

No no ni-night.

Bleh-bleh? (His way of requesting a bath)

Gee-goo (Thank you)

MOH! (More)

'Go! (Let's go)

Gay-gee (Jamie)



A day as clear, hard and dazzling as a diamond. Kyle is out on the playground with Ray and the girls, bundled up like a fat Eskimo baby, Jamie's knit cap on his head. I stand at the patio window and watch him. From this distance I can't see the expression on his face, but I can tell from his body language - the bouncy way he walks along in front of his Daddy - that he deliriously happy to be out in the winter sunshine.

I love him so much.



Jamie's ominous warning to Jerome: "Jerome, stop your blubbering or it's gonna be worser."



Dream

Ray and the kids and I were driving along a deserted stretch of road in the station wagon. It was winter, and it was dark and cold. All of a sudden the car broke down and we were stuck in these huge snow drifts, with snow piling higher and higher all around us. No one seemed concerned about it but me: the kids were delighted, playing in the snow and picnicking in the car, and Ray wasn't doing anything about getting us out of there. Finally, exasperated, I picked up a telephone I found laying in the snow and made a series of phone calls for help. End of dream.




March 1988

Kyle: "Ma-ma? Moh? Guh?"

"Gum" is his newest word ... and his newest passion in life. A few minutes ago I caught him pushing my big stool towards the kitchen, and when I questioned him about it he chirped "I get more GUH!" - his first real sentence.

Another new passion: pockets. He won't wear pants that don't have them. He gets downright indignant about it! He especially likes to walk around with one hand stuck in each pocket.




April 22

Kyle is wandering around the kitchen on his little yellow car. He holds half a Rice Krispy Treat in one hand, and makes happy little "car noises." Occasionally he talks to himself. "I DID! ... Ow! ... Hi, Do-Do." He spies a cat on the porch outside and rushes to the patio door, trying to yank it open. The door is securely locked, though, and he loses his footing and falls over. He doesn't cry, but in a rage he leaps to his feet, shouts "Don't!" at the door and begins pummeling it with his fists. Then he rushes to the living room, where his sisters are peacefully watching their My Little Pony cartoon, and tries to pick a fight with them. The ignore him completely. Frustrated by their lack of attention, he runs over to me and starts punching me in the thigh, hard.



Kacie: "Jamie said shit!"

Jamie: "Nuh-uh."

Kacie: "Did so! You said SHIT."

Jamie: "Liar liar pants on fire."



Kyle has started wearing Jamie's boots around the apartment. Of course they're miles too big for him -- on him they're more like hip boots -- but he clomps around the apartment in them all the time. He wears them at mealtime and at naptime. If I let him, I have a feeling he would wear them in the tub. "MY boots!" he announces happily, putting his feet up on the table and leaning back in his highchair.



May 3

It is the afternoon before Kyle's third birthday. In seven and a half hours I'll have an official two year old on my hands again. Maybe/probably for the last time. My baby is two years old. Imagine the incredible impossible fact of that.

There's the usual wistful, happy/sad pull on my heart this afternoon, a feeling I've come to know very well during the course of the last six or seven years. I'm elated that my child (in this case, Kyle) has reached another birthday healthy, happy and in one piece. I'm proud of his latest developments and accomplishments. I'm filled with love. The flip side is that I understand what they mean when they say, Enjoy it while they're little: it passes quickly.



Morning Conversation

Kacie: "Jamie. Know what, Jamie. I'm gonna needa use your scissors. In a minute. OK Jamie."

Jamie: "How's this, Mom?"

Kacie: "Watch this Jerone. JERONE. Watch this."

Jerome: "Well, I'm making something for Mom."

Kacie: "For my mom?"

Jerome: "YES."

Jamie: "OK, May 2nd ... is it May anymore?"

André: "Dah doh doh."

Jerome: "I don't scribble, I make nice pictures. Look."

Jamie: "Can I use a piece of your paper?"

Kacie: "Oh Jerone, you wanna keep this hat? You want it? You can have it cuz it will look pretty wif tape on it."

Jerome: "No. Lookit. Look what I'm makin. My bunny wants me to make a nice picture for him, too."

Kacie: "Too bad, too sad bunny, you hadda be LAST."

Jamie: "Maybe I should bring this book to school to show Mr. Gallagher today. Cuz WE GOT SHOW AND TELL TODAY!"

Kacie: "You know today is McDonalds day! And you're not goin!"

Kacie: "You're makin something for him cuz it's hims, cuz it's him's, cuz it's him's birfday?"

Jamie: "Mom, lookit."

Kacie: "All of us are makin good pictures, right?"

Jamie: "One crayon at a time, Jerome, I told you."

Kacie: "A ha-ha-ha-ha, JA-mie. I'm in the middle! You know, maybe when I'm five I will let you come to my birfday."

Jamie: "My birthday's comin up. What's my birthday again? Around Christmas."

MOM'S FAVORITE STUFF, 1988

TIME OF THE DAY: Early morning (before the kids are up).

DAY OF THE WEEK: Saturday.

LEISURE ACTIVITIES: Making tapes of favorite music; decorating the apartment with odds and ends; reading magazines and newspapers; writing; crossword puzzles; watching TV.

TV SHOWS: Kate & Allie, Designing Women, Head of the Class, Hooperman, All My Children, Cheers, L.A. Law, The Wonder Years, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Roseanne, Murphy Brown.

FOOD/DRINK: Pepsi (not Coke!), coffee, Manwich, turkey sandwiches with cranberries and mayo, Big Macs, potatoes, chocolate chip & walnut cookies.

COLORS: Blue, turquoise, teal, silver, gray, white.

CLOTHING: Levi's 501's, sweats, men's shirts.

READING MATERIAL: Parents, Redbook, The Seattle Times, celebrity autobiographies, mail order catalogs. STRESS-REDUCERS: Food, watching the goldfish, peeling off nail polish, housecleaning.

GUILTY PLEASURES: A Current Affair (6:30 pm weeknights, Channel 13), sleeping with my baby, the daily horoscope, gossiping with Lori, big breakfasts, that late-afternoon pot of coffee.

BIGGEST GRIPES: The kids using my best pens without asking, cleaning the fish bowl, Sunday afternoon football.

FAVORITE CELEBRITIES IN 1988: Cher, Dennis Quaid, Roseanne Barr, Garry Shandling.

LEAST-FAVORITE JOBS: Changing poopy diapers, cleaning the girls' room, making salad, putting laundry away.

BIGGEST WISHES: A house, my car fixed or replaced, legal crap with DSHS settled once and for all, bunkbeds for the girls, a dining room set, a new set of (unbreakable) dishes, Stephen King's "The Stand," gold cross necklace, coffee table, studio portrait of all three kids together.

WORST HABITS: Forgetting to return library books, sleeping with makeup on.

FAVORITE SONGS OF 1988:

"I Hate Myself For Loving You" - Joan Jett

"Beds Are Burning" - Midnight Oil

"Tall Cool One" - Robert Plant

"Brilliant Disguise" - Bruce Springsteen




June 1988

Kyle in the Terribles

... The living room is swarming with kids ... the babysitting kids, Jamie and Kacie, and - last but not least - Henry the Horrible. I don't know if I'm going to survive his Terrible Twos, I honestly don't. At the very least I'm going to wind up completely gray by the time I'm thirty-one.

Already this morning he has:

... Woken the entire household (not to mention our neighbors) at 6 a.m. with his screaming, which was prompted by my refusal to put more milk in his bottle.

... Jumped on Kacie's sunburned back.

... Run stark-naked onto the playground; Jerome had to carry him back inside, kicking and screaming.

... Gotten into fights with Jamie over opening the refrigerator door ("BABY GET IT!!") and changing the channel on the TV ("BABY GET IT!!")

... Peed on the living room floor.

... Spit on everybody, including me.

And the day is only four hours old.



Kyle: (walking into apartment with tightly-clenched fist) "Hey! I got BEE! I gotta BEE!" (opens fist to reveal squished ant)

Summer has pretty much arrived. They opened the swimming pool over Memorial Day weekend ... Kacie has her first sunburn of the season (long sleeves and a sun-hat today) ... Jamie is counting down the final days of kindergarten ... our new next-door neighbors are barbecuing every night. I'm starting to worry about summer clothes for everybody. Everything on TV is a re-run, and the refrigerator is full of fruit, and the doors and windows are open until 10 p.m. every night.

Yep ... summer is here. Whoopee.




June 12, 1988

Saturday morning. Woke up at 8:30 to find my bedroom flooded with sunlight and the kids gone! We all stayed up until midnight last night watching horror movies on HBO ("The Gate," "Cujo"), and then we slept together in my room: Jamie and Kacie squished together into the crib for fun, Kyle in my bed with me. But when I woke up they'd all vanished. I lay in bed and listened for the usual Saturday morning noises ... cartoons on TV, cereal bowls clattering, the girls arguing ... but heard nothing. What the heck was going on? Had they broken my cardinal rule and gone outside before Mom was out of bed?

The calm and quiet were delightful, admittedly, and I would've loved to just roll over in bed and relish it a while longer ... but I am a mom, and as such I'm immediately suspicious of such oddities as quiet on Saturday morning. (The memory of two yr. old Jamie getting up and making herself "waffles" still raises goosebumps.) As long as they're screaming and killing each other, I at least know that they're alive: the minute a voluntary calm descends, though, my heat-seeking radar goes into operation and I'm right there, looking for the open book of matches or the broken heirloom vase ...

I double-checked the crib and discovered that Kacie actually was laying there, hidden beneath a pile of blankets, snoring softly. One baby chick accounted for. Where were the other two?

I tiptoed down the hallway and finally heard the TV, turned very low to The Muppet Babies. Jamie and Kyle were sitting side by side on the floor in front of their cartoon. Jamie was wearing a blue nightgown, Kyle was in a diaper and undershirt, and their hair was identically mussed. They looked so sweet, sitting next to each other (Kyle was holding a plastic race car in his hand and making those infernal "vvrrrooom-vvrrrooom" noises of his) that I stopped right there in the middle of the hallway, where they couldn't see me, and just watched them for a minute. It was one of those rare, unguarded moments in my life where everything in the universe is completely as it should be. For that instant, everything was as close to perfection as it gets. It probably sounds ridiculous, I know. I live with these kids 24 hours a day. I see them at their most unappealing: I've changed their crappy diapers, mopped their barf off the bathroom floor, stuck thermometers up their rear ends. I've gone without sleep and privacy and new shoes for myself. I've listened to 4.5 billion hours' worth of pointless sibling squabbles. There are times when the whining, the muddy feet, the Band-Aid consumption, the tattling, the toys on the living room floor, the mismatched socks, the stupid My Little Pony theme song are enough to drive me straight up a wall and through the ceiling and halfway to the moon. And yet, there I was, watching my children in the morning sunlight, grinning like an idiot. I felt as overwhelmed by love as a brand-new Mommy. Will this ever be "old hat?" I hope not. I hope it's always this way.

Kyle saw me first. "Hi Mama!" he chirped, and came racing down the hallway into my arms. Shortly afterward Kacie shuffled out to the living room to join us, and now it's noon and the day has resumed its normal Saturday orbit. Kyle and Kacie have fought over a sun hat, Jamie has tattled twice and been caught in one lie, Kyle has wet his pants, Kacie has asked for food twice since breakfast ... life per usual in P.ville, U.S.A.




Continued ...

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