I love lazy Saturdays.
My kids still haven't figured out how to sleep in, so they wander in my bedroom, one by one.
First, my middle child, carrying her Madame Alexander doll. "Can I snuggle with you?"
Of course. I scoot over.
Next, my young son. "Mom, I had a bad dream."
I groggily turn and pat the bed on the other side of me. There's plenty of room. He climbs in.
We cuddle, the three of us, somewhere between consciousness and dreamland. I don't know how many minutes pass. One? Ten?
Then my oldest child comes in. She's fully dressed, awake, ready to start the day. "Mom, can I play on the computer?"
"Mm-hmm," I affirm, rolling over to create some room for myself, resituating arms and legs that have streched across the mattress and wrapped around me, reducing my personal space in the king-sized bed to about ten inches. How can such small humans take up so much room?
I'm vaguely aware of the hall light switching on. The desktop computer playing its "powered-on" arpeggio. And the best sound of all: the gurgling of the coffeemaker.
I congratulate myself on what a great idea it was to teach my older kids how to make my coffee.
Soon, cuddles turn to conversation, and I resign myself to getting up. We make a game of it. I pretend to be dead weight as the kids scooch me over and grab my feet and pull me up.
We are a little parade of pajamas down the hall to the office, where my oldest is playing on the computer. The kids plop in the armchairs. I detour to the kitchen to pour my coffee.
In the two minutes I'm gone, the kids are already squabbling over the computer.
"Hey, it's MY turn! No fair! You've been on the computer forever."
"No, it's not! Mom said I could play it!"
"Hey, get out of my chair!"
My little guy, who had apparently climbed up beside his sister, wails in response.
I walk into the office, steaming mug in hand, and call a moratorium on the computer. "If you can't get along with electronics, then you'll have to get along without them." I shut down the desktop.
Three gripy children wander into the kitchen, variously accusing the others of it being their fault, reaching past each other to forage in the pantry and the fridge, aimlesslessly searching for food.
I twist open the blinds to a sunshiny morning and recruit them to help me make breakfast.
One turns on the music. Another stirs the batter. Another helps me flip the pancakes. The table is set. Vitamins portioned out. Apple juice poured. Jesus Calling for Kids devotional placed on the table.
Gradually, tattling turns to teamwork and breakfast is ready.
Between bites of blueberry pancakes, I tell the kids our plans for the day. I have to work today, so they'll be going to Gran's house. My younger sister is bringing her kids over so they can play.
My kids are eager to see their younger cousins, who weren't able to join us at the last family gathering. They can't wait to tell them all about their adventures in the big, country ranch house where we overnighted in Goldthwaite, graciously provided to us by a family friend as we gathered for my grandfather's funeral.
The kids remind each other of their stories--the "wild dogs" they encountered in the pasture (which turned out to be the next-door neighbor's pugs), the five cousins piling on top of each other in Keith's red truck as he took a bull out to join his cattle--and their mad dash to dive back into the truck once the two bulls met. Their "hike" to the windmill with their uncle. The time my little guy got to "drive" a pickup (atop the actual driver, of course).
The stories are interrupted by my ringing cell phone. My mom wants to know, would it be okay if she took my kids to see their other cousin's basketball game? If so, we'll need to be at her house a couple of hours earlier than expected.
The kids whoop in excitement. All the cousins! They'll get to see ALL of them!
Breakfast is hastily abandoned. I call them back to clear their spots at the table. And then I call them back again, reminding them for the upteenth time that "putting up your dishes" does not mean leaving them in the sink. I introduce them to the dishwasher. (Someday their spouses will thank me.) And I remind them that the pancake syrup isn't going to walk itself back to the pantry.
Three hopping, giggly kids quickly finish cleaning the kitchen and bounce off, Tigger-like, to get dressed.
One daughter insists on taking a shower first. Another wants me to braid her hair. Little guy is detemined to wear a "basketball outift" so he can shoot some hoops with his oldest cousin, who is twelve and, as the only other male cousin in our family, like a rock star to my son.
I wander up the stairs and into his closet. Basketball clothes? We settle for windpants and a T-shirt that reads "USA." He pulls out his only pair of Nike shoes, the ones with actual shoelaces.
A few minutes later, I'm in the downstairs office, editing a manuscript at my laptop.
My son, dressed down to his socks, carries his shoes downstairs. "Mom, can you help me tie my shoes?"
He passes his oldest sister, who is standing at the hall mirror, Stridexing her forehead.
"I'll help you, Buddy," she offers.
He plops on the floor, small legs extended, laces agape. She crouches down beside him and I pretend to be working... but I can't help listening as she shows him how to make the bunny ears and thread the laces. He can't figure it out. She patiently shows him again. And again... until his clumsy fingers can finally form the loops.
In the background, I overhear my middle daughter in my bathroom, belting out "How Great Thou Art" at the top of her lungs in the shower.
And I freeze-frame the moment.
This moment. This.
I don't want to cheapen it with a picture. That would turn the sacred ordinary into newsfeed fodder. Some moments are simply too precious for the mom paparazzi.
So I just hold the memory.
Snuggles and squabbles.
Tattles and teamwork.
The four of us have formed a new family. Our new normal. No longer feeling incomplete but whole.
All of us, finding our way amid preteen hormones and sibling drama and homework and manuscripts and school activities and book deadlines.
It's not perfect. At times, it's downright messy. But it's ours. Our little family.