A little boy comes creep-creeping into my room. Beside me, JoeyAndyDad snores lightly. My feet are covered by a warm kitteh. The boy crawls up onto my bed and flops in the narrow gap between me and JoeyAndyDad, created when I rolled to see who was creeping in- as if I didn't know. I cover him with the quilt, and he snuggles down with the half-dozen stuffed toys he has brought with him, and his beloved and now-repaired Blankie. I can feel his ribs. He's just grown again, so he's thin as a rail. He sighs. He's asleep.
Its three in the morning. Or maybe two. I have to get up, or fall off the bed. Besides, I need to toddle to the bathroom.
I return to find a boy spread out comfortably in my spot. He's resting, I won't disturb him. I take up my new regular position, reclined in JoeyAndyDad's big recliner, swathed in a quilt. I roll some of it under my chin so my mouth won't hang open if I fall asleep, and dry out my mouth and throat. I have enough trouble with my voice this time of year.
Note the "if." Now my brain is whirling. I try to derail it, pulling up a fiction story I've been toying with, one of the ones that never really get anywhere, because I am not terribly good at writing stories all the way through. My characters are too flat to get far. Perhaps its because the live ones in my life are so intensely interesting. My brain catches on one drama, and what might happen. It swirls to another. It follows a detail of it to thinking about school, about my own students, about some situations here, some there. I'm spinning wheels.
The alarm goes off. That's JoeyAndyDad's alarm. It is five o'clock? or six? I forget. I hope the time has come so quickly because I drifted off somewhere in the spinning. JoeyAndyDad climbs over me, trying not to wake either or the boy or me. He starts his routine. I hear my other boy creep in, climb into bed next to Andy. He's whispering to himself. I catch a few words, he's echoing an episode of Peep. I listen to the little voice, hoping again to drift off for the remaining... hour? Whatever.
The alarm goes off again. It's time to get up.
I fold the chair, remove the warm quilt, rise to my feet. JoeyAndyDad is still in his routine. I start mine, kissing boys who are awake, or letting them sleep is they are not. Today, they are awake. Andy giggles and makes silly faces. Joey repeats a phrase. Neither make any clear sense, other than being something to say. I sing to them, kiss them, tickle them.
Then it is time to get dressed. I take my meds, check my sugar, check my weight. The scale is going in the right direction, but slowly. I get ready, get dressed, get boys into the bathroom to dress and prepare themselves. A circus of boy-ness ensues, but we're through and dressed in clothes in about fifteen minutes, not bad at all. Having a new clothes organizer for each other them has definitely sped up the process. We tumble down the stairs. JoeyAndyDad has managed to escape to work without me seeing him, because his car is gone.
I track down socks and set the boys to the task of putting on their shoes. I toss food into their bags; breakfast, lunch, snack. I make sure homework is in the folders, along with needed money, forms, etc. Joey helps me feed the cats. I feed the fish. I'm not sure Quille is looking so good, but have no idea what to do for him. I ponder what to tell Joey if we find him bottom-up one morning. They have already lived longer than I expected.
I get coats on two boys, between the three of us we get them zipped up, bookbags on backs, and we're off to the bus stop. The boys run to the corner, then wait. We cross and are joined by other families. They talk about things with no relevance to us, after-school care and sports and sleepovers. The bus arrives, with Joey's bus now right behind it, because the schedule has changed again. I wave to both boys, and they are whisked away into their own worlds.
I am on the corner, the families drifting back to their own lives, or huddled together with me outside. We say goodbye, I walk back to the house. Today, I have about an hour and a half before I have to head out. I do some cleaning. I was doing painting, but its getting too cold for that. I take a shower. I check my lectures, make sure my memory stick is in my pocket. My brain is already on today's lecture. I think of small corrections I need to make, ideas they will need to connect to other material, problems in the new textbook. I pop A Christmas Carol into the CD player in the car, and whirl off. I hear some of the story, formulate some of the lecture in my head, but most of my concentration is the driving, the swift see-and-ID-and-gone of moving down the road. I note landmarks. I'm at the bridge. I'm at the light. I'm at the town.
I'm at the school. I park, wander in to the adjunct office, stopping to say hello to folks at the front desk. We banter in the office while I make fresh print-outs of my lecture notes. It's time to setup. I drag the video equipment into place, get it fired up. Some students straggle in. I'm ready to go, but tardiness seems to be the theme with this class. I start taking attendance, its quick with so few attending. I start the lecture. Students continue to straggle in, until the room is full.
The lecture goes OK. I bounce around, the students look bored, every with the spiciest story. There are a couple awake out there, I teach to them. I worry. Making Byzantine art relevant to students who have no idea where Byzantium even is? That;s a challenge. And unfortunately, it will take me several lectures to really do it. My voice is croaky. Not good.
They disperse, I get in the car and plot my course. I'm headed over to the office today, Mom and I have bookkeeping and stuff to do. I ride down the road, we're in Christmas Past now, Fezziwig is being described. My brain spins. Fortunately, this isn't my double-dip day, I don't have to comeback for another lecture. I have grading to do. The boys will need to be engaged this afternoon, and it looks like rain. I forgot to buy laundry soap. I need to change the fish water. I run through the plot lines of the several soap operas we have going with folks connected with the office. I worry about all of them. I wonder how Nik is doing. I forgot to send a birthday present to the kids of some of my friends. I plot out my grocery budget for the rest of the week, since I have the foresight not to burn through it on grocery day, because I always forget things.
I pull into the office parking lot, My stomach growls. I realize I forgot to eat this morning. I wander into the office and start getting caught up on the news, making lists of things I'm supposed to be doing, wondering if I will get around to opening up my eBay shop this year. It's November already, its really too late, but perhaps I could get a few things up. Or not. I forgot to toss my laptop into the car. She's freezing. I wonder if I shouldn't be writing the novel based on the characters that swirl about there, rather than the bland, banal tale I've been spinning in the dead of night to myself.
We finally decide we're hungry, and head over to my favorite Mexican place for lunch, at least a half hour, maybe an hour, to talk with my mom. We ponder the soap operas. More constructively, we talk about the boys. We plot out school. I complain about the students who are driving me crazy, and chat about the students who make me proud. But best of all, its my mom. I take a deep breath, and the lunch is done, I have to take her back to the office. I watch her go in. She's still cold. I'm worried, because no one will tell us why she's having spikes and crashes in blood pressure, or what to do about it.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come glides into the pawn shop, Old Joe is tallying up the ill-gotten gains. I pull into the driveway. I have a few minutes before the boys will be home. I turn on a video, even though I won't get to see the whole thing. I try to pick up the livingroom, which is scattered with paper, crayons, toys. I toy with the idea of getting out a game. It isn't raining yet. I pull out popcorn for snack. My time is done. I walk down to the bus stop, chat with the neighbors a few minutes. We lament the loss of some of the trees on the street, they complain about their grandson who is due off the bus. He gets let off first, and bounces down the street. I have no idea what they are complaining about. He's bouncy like Andy.
Andy's bus comes down the street. One of the other neighbors comes to get her child. She's got an older one with Asperger's, so we know each other better, but there's no time to chat. The bus is here, Andy is pulling off his backpack. He puts his hand in mine, chats about his day. Andy has a beautiful, ringing voice. The words may not be clear, but the joy is. He runs forward, kicking up leaves. Joey's bus turns the corner as we come up to the house. Andy jumps for joy, bobbing on the sidewalk at the edge of the street; he wants to "get Joey all by myself!" Joey hops off the bus, hugs his brother, and barrels to the door. I wave as the bus pulls away. They're home.
We hang the backpacks on the hooks. Andy wants to play with the child from the corner, so we go outside. The boys run with trucks and draw with chalk. I want to be knitting, but instead I take my laptop out and start answering student email and working my online classes. I glance up regularly, so it takes longer than it would later, but later I need to be putting together more material for the class I picked up for my sick colleague. The child from the corner comes over. I'm glad. He plays with Andy, and they even get Joey into the game at times, though he tends to wander off, talking to himself. They run; he sits in the grass, intent on his own play. It's still grey, but still not raining. Andy and his friend are playing something with pieces of cardboard, being bossy with each other as only young boys can be. Joey saunters up onto the porch, and I set my computer aside as he mounts the steps; he leans in to me, taking my face in his hands.
"I like you," he says, breathless.
"I like, you, too," I reply.
"Do you like Doritos?"
"Nacho cheese or Cool Ranch?"
"I like Cool Ranch."
"Can I have some Doritos?"
"Certainly. Bring some out for the others." He disappears into the house; I have to remind him to close the door. He appears with the snacks and doles them out. Andy sets his aside, he's too busy to eat. Joey sets his out, takes a chip now and again to munch thoughtfully as he draws- no, he's putting numbers into columns, dividing them by hundreds, tens, ones. He asks me for a three-digit number, and I give him one. we go through this several times before he wanders off to write something else, out in front of the garden. Andy and his friend are running in and out the house, fetching toys. I remind them to keep the door closed. I keep answering students, check the news. The inane headlines tell me nothing has really happened today. I close up the computer, just in time for JoeyAndyDad to drive up. Its time for the friend to go home and get ready for his mom; its time for my boys to go in and calm down before trying to feed them; they are tired. I realize I have once again forgotten to start dinner, now I have to come up with a quick something that requires little cooking, as Joey gets upset when I cook.
I get a brief from JoeyAndyDad on his day, and give him a run through mine. He heads upstairs to change and breathe for a few minutes. the boys beg for some TV, and I turn it on before heading to the kitchen.
I decide on chili, as Joey is eating that now. Andy breaks into his chip bag at last, I toss the dinner together as the boys watch Peep. Well, kind of. They are mostly chasing each other around the house. I offer the back yard as an alternative, but am turned down. I'm short a can of beans for my recipe, I dump in a can of corn instead. I get it into the oven. I check the fish. Quille is still looking small. Chris is looking strong.
Andy had fetched paper and markers from the art table I have still set up in the kitchen, he is drawing dinosaurs. Joey is writing times on paper and cutting it into strips. I ask him why, but the answer makes no sense to me. Last week he was drawing Buzz Lightyears and cutting them out. Oh, and cats. But today. its strips of paper with times on them. A fight breaks out between them. The Witching Hour has arrived, delayed by the outside play.
I serve up the chili, Andy makes "yuck" noises. Joey sits and eats, Andy wants his in the living room. I can't have chili out there, we all sit and eat, JoeyAndyDad joins us. we try to get the boys to talk about school. I remember that Andy has a homework sheet to do. Andy pops up to "go get something". He has eaten some of the cheese off the top of the chili. Joey is finishing his. Andy pops up again. And again. JoeyAndyDad tries feeding him, a strategy that often works, but he honestly doesn't want the chili. He wants Doritos. I offer apples instead, but that is refused. We get a few bites of chili in him, and he's off.
We have more Peep and more drawing of dinosaurs and time slips before bedtime. I check some blogs quickly, see what is new in my corner of the world. Its time for baths; I send the boys up to undress and feed the cats and fish. Quille seems to be eating fine and unmolested by Chris, but I think Quille's tailfin looks ragged. I can't afford a second tank.
I wander up the stairs, turning off lights as I go. I pop open the laptop again, trying to finish the blog check as Andy takes his bath; then I go out to hug Joey and see if he wants a story. He doesn't. He's busy with Stybirde and Stymegard, playing something with a flashlight. the flashlight batteries are dying, he starts to perseverate on the dying flashlight. I'm out of batteries. Andy is ready for stories, Joey is sent to take his bath, still upset about the flashlight.
Andy and I find some books. One he knows so well, he recites the lines with me. I have him try to read another book himself, this one is about spiders. He likes knowing the word "spiders" but gets tired halfway through. I put it away for another night, let him pick out another book. He is playing as I am trying to read, his bed scattered with small toys. Its time for sleep. I turn off the light and turn on the CD. I make a motion to leave, and he protests. Mom has to snuggle him to sleep. He tells me a story, I can't follow the plot, but he's very pleased with it. We play Piggie. He settles. By the time the music goes off, he's asleep.
I then go in to Joey, kiss him, tuck him in. He is telling me about his play with his cats. He is repeats some lines from Toy Story, and we sing the theme from Peep together. then I give him another kiss and leave him to his play. Dad must have found a battery, because the flashlight is working.
I have to run out to the store and fetch the forgotten groceries, by the time I get into my nightgown, it's nearly ten. I still have grading to do, and the finishing touches for a lecture. JoeyAndyDad is watching something on his computer, and I work. I take a brief break to finish my blog perusal, then work some more. Its after midnight again when I snap my computer shut. We settle in the darkness, my brain spinning. Evan has a new job, I wonder if he'll be able to come for Thanksgiving. I have a few students who need swift kicks to get them moving, or they are going to flunk. I think about the news from the blogs. I have to work in the morning before my lecture, I won't have that time to clean. I wanted to make a quilt for a friend for Christmas, but I haven't even started. I worry about my mom. I worry about my guys. The wheels spin.
A little boy comes creep-creeping into my room. I think, he won't be little long.