"Mommy, it.doesn't.make.sense!" says Jewel, on the brink of tears, shaking her page of word problems in frustration.
I glance at the problem. In the answer space she has written: Not enough information. I chuckle.
"Nice, try, sweetheart. But you're going to have to work harder than that."
From the crib, Jorie wails. Gotta change Jasie, quick. I undo Jasie's diaper and remove it. She pees. Everywhere. All over her onesie, all over the changing table, all over my hands. Of course. She can't pee in the diaper before I remove it. It's so much nicer to spray mom.
"Mommy, are you going to just let Jorie scream like that?" James asks, covering his ears.
"James, finish copying your spelling words, please," I answer.
"Mommy, but HOW does it make sense? I.don't.get.it!"
"Jewel, you have spent a total of 2 minutes on that problem. I'm not going to help you until I see you really work at it. Draw a picture, make a table."
Jude has wedged himself between me and the changing table, holding up a pretend ice-cream cone, "I just caught a fish! Taste it, Mommy! Taste it!"
"Mmmm...delicious, Jude. I think it needs more salt, though."
I've got Jasie all cleaned up and in a new outfit. Jorie is still wailing. I return Jasie to the crib and scoop up Jorie. She hiccups and pants with exhaustion. Her face is all red.
Now Jasie starts crying.
"Mommy, I put more salt on the fish! Taste it now!" Jude proclaims, holding up a pretend frying pan.
"Mommy, I drew a picture. I made a table. And I still.don't.get.it!"
Holy cow. Overload! System error! STOP THE CAROUSEL, I WANT TO GET OFF NOW!
"Mommy, why are you breathing like that?" Jewel asks.
"Cleansing breaths, Jewel. Cleansing breaths."
Three children are looking at me strangely. Two babies are howling.
It is in these stark, gritty moments that I find myself closest to my Heavenly Father; for it is here, in the depths of my need that I experience His everlasting arms. I fall into Him and He always catches me.
It takes me a minute, but the panic passes, the world balances. One thing at a time. One step at a time.
To everyone who has said to me "I don't know how do you do it!" this is how: One step at time.