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
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