I wish my memory could record all these moments like a video camera. The cozy, dimly light room as Matt gets up to take a shower. Theodore's hungry little grunts. Pulling him from his rock n' sleeper into the soft, warm, comfy bed and snuggling up, nose to breast, his little legs, perfectly shaped, laying so cutely lethargic as he nurses himself into oblivion.
How, as soon as I get up, he makes a face and stretches before he falls back to sleep on the warm sheets that smell like mommy and daddy. Cat meows a greeting and follows me around the room, delight to be an only cat for a few minutes while the girls are still tucked away in their beds.
Quiet mornings mean I get to start the day with a nice warm shower, and when I'm finished, I follow the smell of brewing coffee down the snowflake-covered, Christmas light-lit hallway. The world feels safe and cozy.
But memories, in league with time, will fail us as we get older. One day everyone will have their own families and I will be by myself. I record these memories on paper. With photos, with words. They give me the ability to record my life and review it over and over again. The book I'll take with me to the nursing home when I am too old to depend on my body. It will tell stories of blinky-eyed toddlers with excited shouts of, "Mommy!" Messy hair styles and cute pajama-ed feet.
Of a sweet, little preschool voice reaching into the hallway from the Forbidden Bathroom. "No touching, boys!" I hear. But instead of trouble, she's merely lining up her diapers. "Abigail, 4," she says confidently.
But maybe it's better to record my life in this way. Video cameras catch everything, but with words and photos we can easily erase the bad moments. Only record the good ones - the ones worth remembering. Like her serious face when she drinks milk from an open cup - her eyebrows scrunched, her eyes determined, her two tiny hands firmly gripping, her pinky finger sticking out - just like daddy.
Or the days when everyone wakes up on the good side of the bed. When there is both bagels in the cupboard and cream cheese in the fridge. The morning jokes, the going-to-work kisses.
The way she tries to mother her little brother and sister when I clean up the kitchen and do the dishes. Giving gentle pats to the swing, adjusting the music so only the best songs play.
How she's always, always, always willing to hug her sister and hold her hand.
And how ridiculously adorable she looks in the fitted shirt and the ripped jeans. Her tiny body, her blonde hair. She looks good in everything.
And how Eleanor does everything Abigail does. Says what she says, goes where she goes, plays with what she plays with.
This way, I will only reminisce about the good mornings. When the sun rose, and we opened the curtains and the girls ran off into their room together, giggling cutely and taking turns nicely.
I get to read three pages before it's snack time. Then a half a page of my book and two renditions of Sparkling Princess ABCs and one of Curious George in the Big City, Curious George Goes Camping, and The Biggest Snowman Ever.
Before Theodore wakes up - he's a really good sleeper - we had a special lunch. A lunch with juice boxes leftover from Theodore's Baptism and Doritos. Two items mommy almost never buys. And we'll eat them with special "birthdays" (ie candles) on the doily I handmade. As I made it, I wondered if one of my kids would want it when they had their own house. If they'd tell my grandkids their grandmother made it after I die. If it will one day become a family heirloom. My legacy of crochet.
I want to remember how Theodore started fussing in his swing, that distinct newborn cry that makes clear his vulnerability - and makes my milk letdown - and Abigail turned on the music setting. And when I turned around, she was dancing. For Theodore.
"Eggcorn! Dance. Baby." She commanded Eleanor, who responded with a firm, "No." But Abigail leaves no baby to cry, so she kept dancing until Mommy arrived.
And for all the times they broke ornaments. And threw wooden cookies at my tree. And shoved each other. There were times they found the Jesus ornaments. And tried to pronounce angel. And peaked at me cutely between the branches while asking me to identify a zebra.
And beneath the gentle lighting of the Christmas tree, we played "Hippos." Theodore enjoyed tummy time, Cat purred on my lap, Eleanor lifted up the hippo's mouth and shoved the balls in manually. The rain fell softly outside, the furnace filled the room with a delicious warmth, and everyone felt safe and loved.
These are the times worth remembering. How Abigail always wants to hold Theodore and always wants me to take a picture when she does.
How Eleanor wants to take a turn because Abigail had a turn.
His karate chop kicky feet that Abigail declared, "Oh, cute!"
And the Mommy-Chica afternoons when Cat and Theodore and Eleanor all go down for naps at the same time and it's just me and my firstborn.
These afternoons are really special to her. She gets to play on the tablet while Mommy checks email, then we watch a show together, this time it was Shark Tank, while I crochet and she plays with her cookies. She wants to snack on whatever I'm snacking on, she takes a sip of her water whenever I take a sip of my water, and she periodically states, "Abigail," while pointing herself, then "Mommy," and points to me and smiles. She hits the pause button when I get up to refill our waters. The house is quiet and everything is good.
It's the time between the nap and dinner that my day is usually the most stressful; the Witching Hour. But when strangers at the grocery store say, "Enjoy this time!" They don't mean the stuff that gives the Witching Hour its name, they mean the stuff in between the toddler meltdowns. Like when they take turns nicely spinning each other on the chair.
And when they stop arguing about who gets which cart and just start racing up and down the hall together. "Eggcorn, 'mon!" The high pitched shrieks as Eleanor struggles to catch up with her sister, "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
The moment before they shove each other, when they are adorably in cahoots in the corner of the room, their tiny heads bowed, their messy ponytails high in the air.
Tucked deep into the Witching Hour are the good moments. The moments that are easy to enjoy and important to remember. The smells, the soft skin, his milky exhales against my cheek. The baby snuggles amidst the girly giggles while the rain falls gently outside.
As the sun sets and the night sinks in, the blankets and stuffed animals come out. The Roar (Eleanor named him) that Eleanor insisted wear bracelets.
The dinner I made that tasted amazing.
The cookies we surprised Daddy with when he got home from work.
One-by-one the kids sink into sleep and are tucked away in their beds. Mommy and Daddy scoop up the precious remaining evening hours and cuddle together on the couch to read a few good books, enjoying the gentle patter of rain, a soft, thick blanket, and the comforting safety of a wonderful life.