Bedtime– Family room–Sunset.
I’m feeding Everett– he swallows and slurps, his breath loud and content. Ellie is screaming. Cohen has taken her white shell necklace, and now he’s lying on the floor refusing to get up, refusing to change into his pjs, and refusing to give back the shells. Sophie is trying to hold a conversation with Papa Gary on the phone, telling him how her favorite part of art class was making water lilies like Claude Monet and how she’s excited for her Moline birthday party. She can’t really hear him over all the screams.
The call ends. Ellie has transferred into the land of the inconsolable, and getting upstairs is difficult (understatement) when Everett is eating and Mae prefers to be held as well. Jacob sucks it up and tells Ellie to grab his neck and to not let go. He will carry her up the stairs, piggy-back style, with Mae still in his arms. She grips his neck and her feet dangle.
I finish feeding Everett and find the havoc that is our upstairs. Ellie is still sobbing, her mouth stretched open so wide her bottom teeth are visible, crying that her nose is runny and she had to stop the boogers with her dress. Sophie stares at me, head-tilted and twirling her hair, oblivious to her sister, and asks me, “What are you most excited for mama? To decorate for my birthday or for me to go to art camp?” Cohen has taken all of his sheets off his bed in order to curl up on his floor. I convince myself that my decision to not brush teeth tonight is acceptable and does not make us savages.
I deposit Everett in his crib so he can listen to Jacob sing to Mae, and I return to Ellie, who refuses to wear my initial offer of a princess nightgown and reluctantly accepts a hello kitty top instead. She requests the pacifier we have been trying to give up for months now (but who can deny that wide, crying mouth?) and makes her way into our bed to fall asleep. I sing her “busy day” and Sophie stands next to us, clutching my neck in the middle of prayers and whispering to me, “What are you more excited for? Cheerleading practice or art camp tomorrow?” I answer her and pray some more and lead her to her room. “Put on some pajamas,” I say, leaving her to stare at her dresser which is somehow still standing even though all six drawers are hanging completely out, waterfalls of underwear and swimsuits, skirts and pants and mismatched socks. Another baby has started crying, and I pass Jacob in the hallway. He kisses me hard and his breath smells of coffee and he makes me look him in the eye when he says “The crazy is good.”
I find Cohen still in his clothes. “You’ve got to change into your pjs,” I tell him, “You crawled all over the dirty gymnastics floor in those clothes.” So he takes off his clothes and collapses naked onto the floor. He’s lying on a bunch of star wars figurines and I tell him he’s the opposite of the princess-and-the-pea. “Seriously, you want to sleep on top of all those toys? You can’t feel them??” And he giggles and says no and finally puts on his underwear himself. I start to leave his room and he says “Sing to me.” “Daddy already sang,” I tell him. “Sing me busy day,” he instructs again, ignoring my response. So I start to sing about ninja camp and the rain storm and eating macaroni and cheese for dinner. I start to leave and he says, “Now sing me ‘Love is Deep’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. So I continue to sing. I start Amazing Grace in a rush, like I’m stuck in fast forward, but then I’m somehow listening more than I’m singing and I slow down because it seems silly to sing a song about such sweetness when you are in a rush. Soph finds me, clings to my waist and starts to head-butt me in the back, and the moment is over.
I finally take Soph back to her room. She climbs into her bunk, still in her ketchup-stained shirt from dinner. I tell myself to be okay with this, too. We will bathe these barbarians tomorrow (Right?). I pass up a giant stack of books and she requests a few more. I leave her room, forgetting to sing and give kisses– but decide not to go back in, because she seems okay with that.
Now I’m back in our bedroom, Ellie already totally passed out while I type. Jacob has finished the last verse of his makeshift lullaby, and all are asleep.
For some reason or another, or perhaps no reason at all, it seems like this year has been rough on people– way more rough than the first-world problems of tonight. Death and depression, anxiety and sickness, boredom and busyness– sometimes strangely all at once. I’m not sure why. Kiss yourself in the mirror with your coffee-breath and whisper it: The Crazy Is Good. Then hum Amazing Grace until someone head-butts you.
It sure beats not singing it at all.