It is the middle of winter. 6:30 am. My phone alarm plays a Coldplay song into my foggy dreams.
I toss instead of sleep, as my waking consciousness recalls that I did remember to set the coffee pot to automatic brew last night. Ok, fine. I’ll get up.
The house is dark and quiet. My husband left over an hour ago for his pre-work gym workout because he’s disciplined like that, while I am religious about sitting on the couch with my caffeine and my books before the sun and my four lovely children rise for the day.
Once my cup is half empty and there’s just enough light to see the words, I read a few pages and scribble some thoughts in my journal.
I still have time to reply to a couple emails and check our AirBnB calendar. I send out some details to our next guests and add a few things to my to-do list for later in the day.
I hear Big Sister’s steps above me, squeaking across our old wooden floors to the bathroom. A few minutes later, the silence is destroyed by what sounds like small elephants galloping up the basement stairs. Oldest Brother and Little Brother are up.
Grudgingly, I put my books away and wander into the kitchen to make some oatmeal. While it’s cooling, I run upstairs to retrieve “The Queen” (our loving nickname for our spunky two-year-old).
Diaper change wrestle. Check.
Four bowls served, one without raisins. Check.
Oh, I should probably eat too. I set a small pan on the stove for a couple of eggs and I put my coffee into the microwave.
As the kids leave their plates in the sink and start trying to sneak away to play, I quickly say, “School starts in ten minutes and I don’t need to remind you what to do!” Which, of course, is a reminder of what to do: make beds, brush teeth and get dressed.
While the kids are getting ready, I throw a load of laundry into the washer and quickly make my bed.
The big kids start taking out their books and pencils and Lego bricks and stuffed animals. They always try to sneak in contraband as if I’m not going to notice. We homeschool at the dining room table because it’s the most convenient place in our house but before we get into the books, the three oldest kids and I each share what we are thankful for this morning. Today it’s lightsabers, tigers, Lego and Everything Bagel seasoning. I will let you decide who said what.
Beep, beep. Oh, yes, the coffee.
Oh shoot. Where is The Queen?
Turns out she’s gathered her Panda and baby dolls and is “reading” books in the living room! For this every-busy toddler, that is a miracle I don’t want to ruin, so I tip-toe away back to the big kids.
They each choose what they want to do first from their school list. We begin with 4th grade english, 2nd grade math, and 1st grade reading. The Queen has rejoined us, interested in Big Sister’s pencil and then moving on to the school supply closet. Big Sister takes her pencil back, which results in loud protests from The Queen.
“Mom, I need help with this page,” says Oldest Brother.
“Ok, honey, read me the directions,” I reply over the noise of The Crying Queen, as I lift her up onto my hip.
“Mom, I can’t think with all this noise!” Big Sister whines.
The only thing to do is go find the pacifier, and the blanket, and Panda, and the sippy cup. Finally, silence again. Well, as much silence as you’d expect in a room with four children. Someone’s always humming, kicking under the table or giggling about something. Often whining too.
Eventually every child has been helped, The Queen has found interest in some washable markers, and we move onto the next subjects.
I sip my coffee. It’s cold again. I set it back on the table as I do a quick Pinterest search for dinner ideas while answering a question about the multiplication table of 3.
Suddenly, before I am able to process what is happening right in front of my eyes, The Queen decides to reach for my coffee cup and see what’s inside. Instantly a river of cold coffee runs over the table, some books and my phone, waterfalling down onto The Queen, my pajama pants and the floor. (Yes, pajama pants, I know.)
Shocked, The Queen wails while everyone scrambles to get towels. I was surprised, but also stunned. My thoughts raced: Help the baby. No, first dry off the phone. Or the books. Rice…do we have rice? I think you’re supposed to put a wet phone in a bowl of rice. Ridiculous. More towels please!
But The Queen just wants to be held and as I put her on my lap, I realize how wet my pants really are. Good thing I had planned to shower during nap time today.
Okay. Crisis averted. Phone in rice. Baby changed into dry clothes. Life goes on.
I am still wearing coffee pants, though, because there are predicate adjectives to help with, spelling words to dictate and snacks to distract The Queen with.
While someone practices their piano scales, someone else listens to their online math lesson, and the other one reads their story aloud to me, my phone keeps buzzing in the rice. It still works, so that’s good! But there’s a text about weekend plans and an email about a deadline. Put the phone down, it’s ok. You can answer later. I self-talk my way back to the present, where I need to be focused.
It’s only 10 am, but homeschoolers are always hungry, so it’s snack time.
After, as I help a child with their research report, I realize The Queen is suspiciously quiet. A peek around the corner verifies my suspicions with a trail of scattered toys and an impressive mountain of baby wipes being swiped out of their package. The meltdown that ensues over the confiscated wipes confirms it is nap time. With Panda under one arm, she nestles into her crib.
Phew. See you later, Your Highness.
Now back to the others. Surprise! They are hungry. “What’s for lunch?”
Snacky lunch: a cutting board piled high with cut up apples, veggies, cheese, sausage and whatever else can be found. We don’t even use plates, just forks. They love it.
The big kids are great friends, and sometimes mortal enemies. But for the most part, they spend lunchtime reciting their favorite movie quotes. Their snorting laughter and inside jokes make me smile. But I also give them a hundred reminders to “please be quiet, The Queen is sleeping!”
Finally, lunch is cleaned up and it’s chore time. With some groaning more than others, the trash is taken out, the dishwasher emptied and the clean laundry sorted.
Then comes a wonderful time of the day: quiet time. Everyone goes to their bedrooms to spend some time playing or reading quietly.
“But Mom, you forgot science!”
We gather in the living room and I read from our chapter on the skeletal system. After a few paragraphs, I realize they’re too squirrely to continue so I declare school is over for the day.
Now, it really is quiet time!
Thankfully The Queen is still sleeping, so it’s finally time for a long hot shower for me! Fresh clothes and make-up make me feel like a human again.
I let the kids know that quiet time is over, but they’re so engrossed in their Lego building and book reading that they just keep going. That gives me some time to communicate with a caterer for an upcoming event, answer text messages and quickly Facetime my sister in Nicaragua for a few minutes.
I hear the sound of a sippy cup being banged against the crib railing. That’s my signal. The Queen is back.
The kids are all freshly energized from their rest, while I could easily take a nap right about now. But there is much to do still in the remainder of our day–a flurry of errands, cleaning, laundry and dinner. But first, afternoon coffee drive thru run. Then we can do all the things.
In conclusion… The exact details of what I do on a typical day were so lengthy that I had to revise and summarize my paragraphs many times over to achieve a reasonable length. And yet, I would advise any mom to do it: write a whole day-in-the-life of you. The monotonous and unseen details that you magically achieve every day are an extraordinary accomplishment. Like a child learning day after day to (painfully) put letters together into words, those daily routines are the invisible words shaping the stories of these children’s lives. So, whatever expression of motherhood your day-in-the-life takes, you can do hard things! But definitely drive thru the coffee shop first.