Hubby is out of town... again.
The house looks like it has been cleaned by a two-year old, the kids are home from school, and the crazy is in full swing.
I jump between the three older kids and help them with their homework while trying to keep the two younger girls from killing each other over the kindle. The baby, who has discovered how much he likes to be held while I'm trying to do things, refuses to be set down without letting me know how much he doesn't care for that plan.
Sign a spot here, time some reading there, tell one child to stay put and just (for the love of all that is sane) finish up their homework so we can both go do something else! Get stumped on other homework, call my mom, consult google and... finished!
I would never last on the "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader" show.
Five o'clock and the kids are hungry. After they all scarfed down half of the hot dogs, I kick them out of the kitchen saying that the next person to eat anything doesn't get dinner!
Realize I have to make dinner.
Bust out the dino-chicken nuggets and some salad.
At least they like salad.
Survive dinner while doing some wicked multitasking that involves rocking the baby in his seat with my foot, getting up and down from the table 27,465,124,876 times refilling drinks, getting more ketchup, grating more cheese, cleaning up spills, trying to convince the toddler to actually eat her dinner or she won't get treats tonight for Family Night, and in between it all, shoveling food into my mouth like nobody's business just so I can actually get some before it's gone.
Since tonight is suppose to be our family service night, I have a rare moment of brilliancy. I inform the children that we will be preforming a service project for their dad... by cleaning the house, even if he's not here.
Realizing it was already seven o'clock, I tell them we have thirty minutes to get as much done as we can so we still have time for treats.
Funny how when I put on a timer, the kids are far more willing to do the work.
I wonder if it would work on hubby's too....
Thirty minutes are up and you can at least see the living room floor and there will indeed be clean spoons for tomorrow.
And clean underwear.
Now the baby is hungry and the kids are wanting their promised treats.
I tell them to all get ready for bed and in their jammies while I feed the baby.
Finally, I melt down a bag of chocolate and slice up a carton of strawberries.
Getting each child a fork, I dip a piece of strawberry into the chocolate and hand it to the first child. One round of this made one thing clear.
It was a really bad idea.
Chocolate was everywhere!
All over faces, pajamas, the table, bench, and floor.
I started to get upset and even yelled at one point, then I took a deep breath and told myself, hey, it was your idea so calm down.
Finally (blessedly) the strawberries are gone. One by one I send them off to wash their hands and faces, and brush their teeth.
I take a few minutes to go through the daily routine of removing the baby's helmet, wiping it out and then washing his hair.
He smiles at me.
Then drools on me.
I can't help it, I laugh.
Turning my attention back to the other children, I start to get frustrated and upset. Some still haven't brushed their teeth, some are fighting, one wants new pajamas, and one soaked their hair instead of washing their face. The stress always seems to escalate that last our before bedtime.
I start to get loud and more forceful.
The baby is crying again, the girls are fighting again, the boys are running around karate chopping everything... again, and the oldest is calmly reading a book ignoring everything that is going on around her.
And that's when I quite literally take a step back. I inhale a deep breath, and tell myself to act and not react. I have been making a serious effort to be more conscious in my parenting, to relax in the heat of the moment, and to be okay if everything is thrown off schedule for a bit.
Who cares if they to go bed a few minutes late? I mean really, it's not worth getting mad over.
Saying a quick prayer, I step back into the fray.
This time, in control of myself.
Now I am not bothered by the craziness. I calm down the baby, break up the fighting and quietly stop the boys, asking them to settle down.
It takes a little while but eventually we are all calm enough for family prayer.
Savannah prays. I can't help but smile when she prays for the poor, and roll my eyes under my closed lids as she prays that "we kids can all be kind to one another".
Shooing them all off to bed is put on hold as they all insist on kissing and hugging both me and Jackson.
After hunting down lost blankets and sippy cups, they are all in their beds.
Before I can shut the doors I hear the expected call for a story and song.
Claira, like always, sets the precedence for what the story should be about and who needs to be in it.
Right now it's Claira, Alayna, Savannah, Joseph, Jacob, Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Freddie, Velma, and Daphne.
After telling some weird story about how the monster who was trying to eat all the chips and kidnap Claira was really daddy, goodnights and I love yous are called out and the doors are closed.
It ended on a fun, uplifting note.
And it felt good.
Five down, one to go.
I spend some time playing with my sweet little Jackson before putting his helmet back on. While feeding him, two of the kids came out, one insisting on a drink, the other needing to use the bathroom.
Jacob comes out and asks his customary question of the night. Usually something about God.
By nine o'clock, all six of my little monkeys are sleeping.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
I had done better tonight.
So, so many times I have merely reacted to situations. Usually not well.
I'm trying to be an active parent and not a reactive one. Slowly but surely, things tend to go smoother, and everyone is happier.
I still have a long way to go, and I will indeed mess up.
But tonight... I did good.