The kids came through the door at 4:07 with their familiar cry of, 'Daddy!' and began talking over the top of each other with a stream of statements and questions that they must have been memorizing on the bus ride. The precise rush of words and emotions tumbled over each other - Iz in particular looks away as she works her way through the last bit, as if she's concentrating very hard trying to remember all that she wanted to say - and I smile and nod, taking their heavy backpacks off their shoulders and claiming hugs, pushing bangs out of faces, and kneeling to their level to hear exactly what their getting at.
It is a rush of information and emotion that signals the beginning of my real day, the part that matters the most during the week. Yes, we were up before six am, yes we watched the dawn approach as we awaited the first school bus at 6:27, yes there was a second round of breakfast and preparation at 8:00 and a second bus pickup at 8:35, yes there was work accomplished, a house attended to, groceries purchased, leaves raked, laundry washed, and several hours of welding successfully completed, but it all feels like it was done a day or so ago. A new day begins as they come through that door.
It is now 6 hours and ten minutes later. Alex has been taken to soccer and back, a football game has been played in our front yard with many touchdowns scored. Kelly and I cooked a standing rib roast with twice baked potatoes. We steamed artichokes and I was pleased and secretly impressed that they liked them. I put an apple pie in the oven to warm as we ate dinner by the fire and watched Survivor and by the time the show was over, the girls were sprawled out on the sofas and Alex was curled in my lap.
Amy called to bid the children goodnight and I did the dishes, sliced the pie and poured myself a glass of wine. Tomorrow is a holiday - Veteran's Day - and I decided at that moment to just let them stay up late. I served them their pie and we ate on the hearth, me barely getting two bites before they had gobbled up every last crumb on their plates.
Sloth cat inspected the proceedings and decided that Kelly's spot was the warmest, and the pair of them drifted off to sleep. Izzie asked for a story and I pulled out the Roald Dahl Treasury and read several poems aloud.
As I finished the Flying Cow I realized that everyone was asleep and letting them stay up late was more for my benefit than theirs - just having their warm presence in the Great Room is nice. The college football game flickers silently in the background, the fire is dying down to a warm glow, and I have taken a moment to write here.
Tomorrow we will take the boat out and explore the lake and I will wade out into the cold water and look for smooth stones while they build in the thick, wet sand on a newly-discovered island. These are the thoughts that will guide me to sleep tonight after I carry each of them to their beds.