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I remember a time when Friday night lasted till dawn and the actual day part of Saturday didn't get going until sometime in the afternoon. I'd open my eyes and see, half a pillow away, the face of an adorable man I'd spent untold hours kissing the night before. Sometimes I'd look at the clock -- only 11:30! -- and sink back into unconsciousness. Sometimes I'd slide across the pillow and launch Friday night all over again.
Not anymore. Here's how Saturday goes nowadays:
12:25 a.m. Friday night still bleeds into Saturday for my husband, Haywood, and me, but now it's because of our son Sam -- the result of all that kissing 15 years ago -- whose busy social life has turned us into a late-night valet service. Luckily, Saturday is the one day we don't have school or church, so we can switch off the phones (the better to ignore all the 15-year-old girl callers) and settle in for nine straight hours of peace and quiet.
5:17 a.m. Well, not quite: In three-part harmony, Haywood is snoring, the robins outside our window are singing, and two young Jedi fighters -- Sam's brothers, Henry, 10, and Joe, 8 -- are training for a light-saber battle just outside our bedroom door. I roll over and grab my sleep mask (the black sash from Henry's ninja costume) and wrap it mummy style across my eyes. For good measure, I slam a pillow over my head.
7:22 a.m. Fending off storm troopers gives Joe and Henry an appetite. "Why not cook some eggs and toast?" they think in that primordial way of children with no skills, no training, and no sense that skills and training would come in handy. I hear them banging around dimly, but I play possum. Haywood, a schoolteacher, leaves for work before 7 most mornings; it's his turn to feed them.
7:32 a.m. An argument is being conducted in stage whispers beside my bed: "She's going to get really mad when you tell her about the fire."
"Joe, it wasn't a fire!"
"So why is the smoke alarm going off?"
"The smoke alarm always goes off when you turn on the toaster."
"She's going to get really mad when you tell her about it." Henry's right. We live in a house with appliances that haven't been deep cleaned since the Reagan Administration, and the smoke alarm in our kitchen goes off almost every day.
7:33 a.m. I sit up, pushing aside pillows and Halloween gear. I say, "Where's Dad?"
"I think he's playing golf," Joe says.
I consider killing my husband.
7:35 a.m. Sam stumbles into the kitchen, scowling, to find me standing on a chair in my bathrobe trying to turn off the bleating smoke alarm. "Who set the toaster on fire?" he shouts. I've detached the device from the ceiling, but I can't disengage the battery. I shove the whole thing under my arm, attempting to smother it with my sleeve. Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! goes my armpit.
"Mom, give me that," Sam says, expertly popping the battery out. (It's not even 8 a.m., and the score is already Teenager: 1, Mom: 0.) "Did you save me any eggs?" "We only had one egg," Joe says, "and it burned up while we were trying to put out the fire in the toaster."
"There was no fire!" Henry yells.
7:41 a.m. Haywood walks in carrying groceries. "Who wants eggs?" he asks. Then, sniffing: "Who set the toaster on fire?"
9:20 a.m. Everyone's eaten, and things are settling down. In the family room, Sam is engaged in an intense round of instant messaging with 43 people in exchanges that go like this: "cnt tlk nw, my parnts r watchn & wnt me 2 go strt my h/w, lik i'll rly do dat on s@rda! lol." Henry and Joe are building spaceships out of Lego bricks. Haywood and I have brewed another pot of coffee. Here's our chance for an actual adult conversation.
9:25 a.m. Haywood is heading into the living room with two steaming mugs, when our 20-pound mutt, Betty, dashes in with a dead chipmunk in her mouth. Our 70-pound mutt, Clark, is close on her heels. By the time they complete their circuit of our tiny living room, Haywood is wearing his coffee and mine is running down the back of our leather sofa.
9:26 a.m. The boys arrive, drawn inexorably by the sound of their father shouting words that they have been sternly forbidden to use themselves.
10:10 a.m. Clark and Betty, still damp with coffee and now banished to the yard, circle a tree trunk and bark ferociously into the bare branches. About 30 feet up, a kitten clings frantically to a limb. All three of my sons instantly volunteer to rescue her -- "We can climb that high without falling, Mom!" they swear -- but I have a better idea. Or what I think is a better idea. It turns out the Nashville Fire Department no longer retrieves cats from trees. When you call to ask, they laugh at you.
10:32 a.m. Back in the kitchen, I remember it's time to give the dogs their heartworm pills. Betty swallows hers -- and then snatches Clark's pill right out of his mouth. At four times the recommended dose for her size, Betty is now at risk of OD'ing. "Grab her!" Henry and I scream as she dashes through Joe's legs and bounds into the family room.
"Huh?" Joe asks.
"Grab Betty and stick your finger down her throat!"
Joe stares at me. "Stick my finger down her what?"
10:47 a.m. I consider the pile of pink, Heartgard-tinged dog vomit on my carpet while my children lavishly praise Betty for not dying of a drug overdose. Fifteen years ago I wasn't even awake by this time on Saturday. But as I look at my jubilant boys, hugging each other and their dog, it suddenly hits me: The measure of a successful Saturday isn't how late I get to sleep in the arms of my true love. It's calling the fire department about a kitten and not a conflagration; it's being married to an adorable man who fetches eggs instead of playing golf; it's waking up to a whole houseful of dear, beloved faces. And I wouldn't go back for all the unspilled coffee in South America.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2007.