The other four kids had gone to church and were dropped back at home by a friend. By the time we got home, it was after 9:00. They'd had 45 minutes to get a snack, to get ready for bed, and for Ruthie-5 to become hysterical.
I could hear her crying from the moment we walked in the door. "Mommy! I thought you weren't coming back!" This is my child who doesn't even look back when I drop her off in Sunday school? Soon the wailing progressed to, "I don't want you to go to Jamaica!" She was sobbing uncontrollably and hanging on me.
(Jamaica is the trip Dennis won to some fancy-schmancy resort that we suddenly realized is NEXT WEEK!! I guess I'd been talking about it too much in front of her. Did she think Dennis and I had left for Jamaica without telling her? )
Annie-7 meanwhile was picking out her clothes for the next day. "What do you think about this, Mom?" I spent the next few minutes trying to calm Ruthie down and to get Annie-7 to stop pulling clothes off hangers and get in bed. It's a school night, after all!
I left the hysteria for a moment to get something in the kitchen. Libby-11 was sitting in a chair and gave my arm a hug as I walked by her. She looked up, hopefully, oblivious to - or maybe just used to - the noise around her, my middle child: Allie researching Africa facts, Neal making himself some chocolate milk and doing homework - and of course, at the other end of the house, the ever-rising clothing pile and the crying. "Hey, Mom, how'd you like to come sit with me?" She patted the spot beside her. "We can make some hot chocolate and just snuggle!"
My heart sank. "Oh Libby, that sounds awesome!" Her face was so expectant! I hesitated. I never mean for it to happen, but it just seems that whenever Libby wants to do something with me, the timing is terrible. More often than I'd like to admit, things fall through. But I have also learned that I should never, ever say 'no' to an offer to sit and hang out with a tween or teen. More wails from the little girls' bedroom. "It may take me a while to get Ruthie calmed down. Just give me a few minutes."
"That's okay, Mom, I'll just read a little while and wait for you." It seems like she's always waiting for me.
I went back in the girls' room and finally just got in bed with Ruthie. She clung to me with a fierceness that showed me she was truly frightened. Remind me not to say too much about our trip this week, okay? We prayed and sang songs and she finally started to relax.
Libby poked her head in the door. "How's it going?"
"Almost there!" I whispered.
Just about the time I was about to leave, Neal-14 looked in. "Mom, do we have any more pillows? Cowboy just threw up all over my bed and some of it got on my pillow."
Ruthie was suddenly wide awake again. "Ewwww! Can I see?" Can we just have a little more going on here, people?
Dennis had stripped the bed, but by the time we got everything remade and everyone settled back down, I realized Libby had given up on me. She was in her bed, almost asleep.
"I am so sorry about tonight," I said. Here I go, apologizing again. "Things got a little crazy, didn't they?"
"It's okay, Mom. I understand." You always seem to understand. That's why I feel so bad.
"I owe you some hot chocolate and some snuggles," I said.
Tomorrow morning, come what may - doggie barf, Africa-bound and/or hysterical sisters or Jamaica-bound parents - we are going to breakfast, my ever-patient middle child and me. We'll have hot chocolate and sit by each other and snuggle, and NOBODY is going to interrupt us.
I can't wait.