I cannot sleep because my head hurts and at the same time a million thoughts are whirling through it. Perhaps the two are linked. I am finally drifting off around two in the morning when a friend who is far too young and doesn't realize that some people might need to sleep texts me and jerks me out of my doze.
I am still awake fifteen minutes later when my youngest son begins coughing and crying in his room. He has been suffering from the sniffles and his congestion is making him miserable. I lift him, his warm but thankfully not-feverish body solid in my arms, and take him to my bed. He falls asleep nestled against my chest, and then I manage a parenting twist on the classic hug-and-roll technique, depositing him safely beside me.
Half an hour later I am still awake, this time because there is no way I can sleep easily with a small sniffling person jamming his feet into my side. There is a noise from the doorway and I roll over to see my slightly larger small son shuffling in. Mama, I want to sleep with you. I can't sleep in my bed, he whispers. I sigh and open my arms, the signal for him to clamber over my body and take up most of what little space his brother has left. I rearrange both children and finally gain a precious ten inches of space for myself.
Slumber does not come easily when elbows and knees are being jammed into one's extremities with the occasional whack of a hand across one's face, but my children are kind enough to sleep in two hours later than usual, so I do not wake until almost eight in the morning. My bed is warm and full of snuggles.
I survey the catastrophe that is the house in the aftermath of three small people having a late-night playdate. For a moment I regret passing on my friend's offer to help clean last night, but it was already almost 11:30 when we got back and she still needed to drive home with her little girl. I am glad my boys had so much fun, but the chaos is a bit overwhelming.
Time to clean up the mess! I announce to my small boys. You can watch TV while you clean up, but all these toys need to be put away. All the train stuff goes in that box, and the Legos in their bin, and everything else goes back on the toy shelves.
Can we have a snack? DramaBoy asks.
After you clean this up, I reply, and they slowly start to pick things up.
I climb the stairs and face the four large baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded. With the boys downstairs working at a snail's pace while they watch Backyardigans, I am free to watch my non-kid-friendly shows like CSI and Cold Case and The Soup while I fold clothes. There's nothing like crime and gore and celebrity stupidity to make chores go faster.
The giggles erupting from the bedroom alert me to my children's lack of focus. Snacks of chips and raisins and a lunch of macaroni and cheese have kept them going all day as they worked through their mess, but there's only so long they can concentrate on the task at hand. I walk in to discover them wrestling on the floor clad only in underwear and pull-ups. Thankfully they have already picked up the toys that could hurt them in their rough housing. All that's left are the clean clothes still strewn about the floor, now performing the role of wrestling mat.
I cannot bring myself to be stern with them. Their giggles are infectious and I soon am on the floor with them, turning the wrestling match into a tickling match with some wet raspberries thrown in for good measure. Finally they conquer me and I end up on my back, two small bodies bouncing merrily on my belly. Worn out, I rescue myself and stumble from the room, promising them a treat if they finish cleaning the room. I still have a duffle bag to pack and two more loads of laundry to wash, dry, and fold. Their giggles are diminished but still bubbling as I walk down the hall.
Do you want to go out in our pajamas and go through a drive-through tonight, or do you want me to have pizza delivered? I ask the small Spiderman-clad boy in front of me.
I want to go to Lucky Duck Pizza and get pizza! he declares.
No, baby, I say. We're just in our pajamas and so if we go out, we have to go to Taco Bell or Arby's or somewhere like that.
We can wear our pajamas? he asks.
Yes, I say.
Mama? he asks, a twinkle beginning in his eyes.
What, honey? I say.
We have to wear our shoes if we're going to get our booty! he says and bursts into giggles.
I snort back laughter and hope he's referring to playing pirates.
I sink deep into the liquid heat, the bubbles rising up until my chin is covered. I breathe the sweet scent of vanilla and exhale, muscles loosening one by one. I wiggle my toes against the end of the tub and reach for my book. I hear the hushed murmur of my boys' voices from their room but relax in the knowledge that they are unlikely to emerge again tonight. I open the pages and submerge myself in another mind's world. Perhaps by the time I crawl between the newly laundered sheets my own will be soothed enough to allow sleep to come quickly.
Silence falls upon the house.