My oldest was at the computer. You know how sixteen-year-olds are. They plug into technology as if it were life support. Jackie also had her Ipod on its charger on her right and her cell phone at her left. She also had earbuds- not earphones, mind you- in and was impervious to the sounds and smells of our late dinner. Buddy lay curled up at her feet, his tail curled over his snout. Our Jack Russel's body language obviously said "do not disturb."
Rosie was nowhere to be found. My second oldest is ten and she recently discovered a whole new genre of fiction to feed her literary hunger. If I had to lead a search for her, she'd be under her covers, her rotund shape easily spotted. Most likely in her hand was a pilfered book from Jackie's bookshelf and most likely written by C.S. Lewis or Chris D'Lacey. So my two older girls were nice and peaceful, unless you tried to take their forms of entertainment away.
Matthew and Vanessa were a completely different story. At ten at night, they began to get that type of hyper you see before your kids go into crash mode. It was crazy. They moved in synchronized little storms, tossing toys at each other, running from the living room into the kitchen and back again, and laughing and screaming the whole time. No wonder most people thought they were twins (although Matt is three years older). There was just no stopping them so I turned back to the grilled cheese over the griddle. Josh was away at work so there was no heavy cooking this late at night.
Enter the invisible beast called Chaos. Matthew and Vanessa ran into the living room, laughing it up. Vanessa bumped into the side of the computer desk, sending precisely placed technology askew.
"Vanessa!" roared Jackie. "Knock it off!" It was odd. Jackie was normally the even tempered of the older two.
Rosie came downstairs, bleary-eyed from being in her imagination for so long. Her tummy is an amazing sensor for food. "When do we eat, Mom?"
I didn't bother answering. She of all people did not need food. My spatula lifted the sandwich and pressed its unmarked side into the pan. The sandwich answered with a reassuring hiss.
All four of my kids were together in the living room. I guess I should have seen it coming, but you know how cooking is. I was in my own little world while standing over that stove, reminiscing the good old days when Barney would have kept nearly all my kids content.
Screams interrupted my thoughts. Like the practiced mother I am, I set down the spatula, twisted off the heat, and pushed the pan with the last sandwich in it onto a cold burner. I marched into the room, preparing my authoritative "mad mother" face.
"What is going on?" I demanded.
Jackie was no longer on the computer desk. Her programs were all open, but she was actually trying to pry her younger siblings apart. Matthew held Vanessa in his new favorite move, the headlock. I was holding Josh responsible for that one. Rosie was the one making the most noise, yelling at Matthew and ordering the right way of extracting Vanessa.
I could easily outyell my daughter. "Matthew, get off Vanessa right now! Rosie, you need to sit down and be quiet! Jackie, that's enough, thank _you_."
They were all back into some semblance of order. Matthew and Vanessa were space between Rosie and Jackie on the couch. Everyone seemed to be glowering now that the fiasco was done. All four on the couch would've been a cute picture if not for their faces.
Jackie raised her nose to the air. "Mum, what's that smell?"
Rosie jumped up. "Mom! It's burning!"
Matthew followed up. "Maaaa-wooom, can we watch a movie yet?"
And of course Vanessa topped it off. "Mama, I'm hungry!"
I brushed them all off with a groan and sprinted to the kitchen. One side of the sandwich was a delicate chestnut brown. The other side was a most unholy black. Looks like this one was going into the dog dish. Immediately. Buddy caught the scent and trotted into the kitchen.
The other four animals were being awfully quiet. It was nearly ten thirty; they must be tired by now. I just let them be. I had enough. Thank you Mr. Quiet, the counterpart to Chaos.
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