It was 5 o'clock. I was alone with the kids. The recipe required a stick of butter.
Baby A, 15 months, was building up to a tantrum. As I tread the floorboards back and forth from sink to fridge to prep island, she followed at heel, whining for me, wrapping her chubby starfish hands around my calves. The dog paced in circles around the island, a slinky black figure, nosing the floor for drops.
The recipe required a stick of butter. I untangled the baby from my legs to step over her and reach the refrigerator. There stood my preschooler, Mister J.
"I want a cup of water with some ice in it," he said.
I stepped back over the baby. Opened a low cupboard. The baby shrieked, humped over to the cupboard door, and slammed it on my arm. There will be no open cupboards tonight! She continued to complain about the open cupboard as I retrieved a plastic cup. I stepped over her again to the fridge.
"Excuse me," I said to J. He ignored me and continued to stand in front of the refrigerator. Baby A's behavior had him transfixed. He stared at her with his soft brown gaze as she reapplied herself to my legs. "If you want the ice, you have to let me open the door."
He didn't move, but allowed himself to be herded aside as I opened the freezer, grabbed a handful of ice, and chucked it in the plastic cup. I peeled the baby off me.
"Here, now go sit at the table," I said, and stomped back to the recipe.
The recipe required a stick of butter. I turned back to the fridge. I opened the fridge. I got purchase on the butter.
"Momomomomomomommakeherstopshe'stryingtotakemyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!" screeched Mister J. I looked down to find A smacking her brother's arm and grasping for his plastic cup. I put the butter down. I knelt and held A's smacking hands. "No hitting," I admonished. "J, go sit at the table where she can't get your cup."
"But I want to stand here."
Then A signed for milk. The dog, seeing that no food was actually being prepared, had retreated to her empty food bowl in the corner of the kitchen and was now whining and prancing in place. I got the milk. I fed the dog. I unwrapped the wax paper from the butter, halfway. Miss A grasped my leg again. I put the butter down. I gave her a pot and a wooden spoon. I opened the cupboard for a bowl to melt the butter in. SLAM it went on my arm again. I removed A's hands from the cupboard door. I snaked a bowl out. I finished unwrapping the butter. I dumped it into the bowl. I tried to open the microwave, which is under the counter. SLAM it went on my arm again. And there were fresh howls from the baby, as if she were protesting my opening the microwave when I knew how much it bothered her. Before I could set the cook time on the microwave, I had to attend to the problem of her howling. I sat on the floor and held her. But now Mister J was crying, too.
"Tell her to stop crying," he cried. "It hurts my ears!"
It hurt my ears, too. But the recipe required a stick of butter. And now the dog wanted out for a pee.
Not soon after, I morphed into one of those moms you see being trashed on Oprah because someone filmed her spanking the daylights out of her child in a Kmart parking lot. Luckily, I was in the walled kingdom of my house. It was winter. I am fairly certain no one heard the vulgarities that flew from my lips, the blunt four-letter words beiginning with F, the references to sons of female dogs, etc.
I didn't stop for two weeks.