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     I am suddenly aware that my life consists of little more than putting people to sleep. Day in and day out, I assist in nap schedules, bed time routines, and midnight soothings. We eat our nighttime snacks, we say our prayers, we remind short people to brush their teeth, we put on footie pajamas, we sing the songs and we read the books... Please, don't misunderstand... I'm not complaining! There are worse things in the world than making sure your family gets their rest - Afterall, without adequate sleep, there will be no learning in school. And without the learning in school, there will be no graduating from high school. And without graduation, there will be no college, and no job, and no moving out of my house someday. Trust me when I say that it is with the greatest of pleasures that I ensure bedtime happens and that it happens well in our home!
     My one question, however, is this: When do I sleep? A question that was especially difficult to answer on this particular weekend. With all 4 kids in tow and a husband that was sick and cranky (in a way that only a husband can truly be), I waded through a sleepless fog, trying to break up sibling spats and clean up toddler messes and change umpteen diapers. But despite my best efforts, it was apparent that naps were in order - for all of them. But you can't call them "naps" and get the result you want, oh no! This isn't my first rodeo, Friend. This is the time to pull out the psychology degree and convince the little ones to take a nap without them knowing they've been fooled into sleeping. Phrases like, "You don't have to take a nap or anything, gosh, no! Just take the tablet to your room and play real quietly, maybe on your bed, so that I can get the babies to sleep." Meanwhile, I spray the house with lavender-scented Febreeze and let Rock-a-bye Baby play loudly over the baby monitor. Ten minutes later, the big kids and Husband are down for the count and it's just me and the little ones left (although Benedryl works better for the Hubs than Febreeze, I gotta say).
      Getting all the other kids to sleep is a walk in the park, however, compared to the toddler. Isaac has developed an internal clock that tells him its naptime - yet, this internal clock fights with his internal need to not sleep... ever. These two battle it out all the while creating an increasingly grumpy Tasmanian Devil that runs amok, throwing puzzle pieces and screaming at the top of his lungs. I watch as my cuddly, funny, lovable little boy turns into Satan incarnate over the course of the battle, until finally, and blissfully, he surrenders to sleep. This comes with a price, generally for me as the Mama. This weekend, I chose to pay this bill with a little thing called creativity, Folks.
     Just as the terror of Sleepy Isaac was in full force, I laid down on his big boy bed and cuddled up with one of his stuffed animals. When Isaac poked my face, I pretended to snore. This made him laugh hysterically and, unfortunately, caused him to poke my face repeatedly and with increasing firmness. I learned quickly to tone back the snoring so that he would get bored, which he did. (Heh, two-year-olds are so gullible.) I deliberately rolled away from him and curled up once again. I heard small feet climbing on his truck to get onto the bed with me and I then felt his warm breath as he whispered into my ear, "Mama?" I whispered back that Mama was sooo sleepy and she needed a tuck-in. I asked him to get me the blanket, which he did. I asked him to cover me up, which he did. I asked him to kiss me goodnight, which he did. He kissed my lips, my cheeks, my hair, my leg, and my elbow. I then asked him to read me a story. He pulled his book over and said his 1-2-3's, which are part of a different book, but I didn't argue. And when I felt we had reached a level of calmness needed for the final stage, I swooped in with the big guns.
     "Isaac, come cuddle Mama to put her to sleep, ok?" And that little guy didn't even know what hit him. He cuddled up to me and patted my back over and over, saying, "A'night, Mama. A'night, Mama." I had my eyes closed, but I could hear the yawn, that sweet baby yawn that makes getting tired sound so amazing. His head began to lower onto my shoulder and I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I had won. With one final motion, Isaac crawled onto my chest, laid down, and looked at me with heavy, sleepy eyes.... and then he farted. Long and loud. He smiled at me sleepily and whispered, "I poopin." And then he put his head on my shoulder and instantly fell asleep. I laid there for a while, trapped, holding my breath as long as I could before the need for air overtook me. And then I realized what had happened. I had been dutch-ovened, toddler style. It was he who had won the battle, not I.
     Luckily, the baby is still too young to win battles with this Mama. Once I was able to weasel my way out from underneath Isaac, I took advantage of Wyatt's need to nurse, knowing that he would be out cold after 10 minutes. And naturally, I was right. That doesn't mean that he didn't get his win later that night when he and Isaac tag-teamed me by waking up seven times in seven hours. Seven in Seven. There was one point when I put a baby down and looked at the clock (Oh, us Mother's, we know that clock. We're addicted to that clock, aren't we?) only to realize that I had slept for a mere 4 minutes before the next baby woke up wailing. And thanks to the Benedryled Hubs, I was on duty all night. Well, all except for the 5th time. The 5th time involved me punching him in the back twice and whisper-yelling, "NO! I won't do it again! YOU! YOUR TURN!!!" And he did, waking up the other baby as he went. It was a magical night.
     But this I can say, no sarcasm involved, is that one of the brightest and most beautifullest gems in my Motherhood crown is rocking my babies to sleep each night. There is nothing more peaceful and delicious than smelling that freshly-bathed cherub aroma while they rest their chubby cheeks on my chest and gaze up with droopy eyelids at one last attempt to stay awake before finally giving in to sleep. And I love that look. It reminds me that these little ones just want to ensure that Mama's there - that they're safe - before letting go and sleeping peacefully, like only a baby can. It is actually a privilege each night to lull them into the best sleep that they'll ever have in their lives. A sleep that is Ambien-free, stress-free, nightmare-free, worry-free, and carefree. In a few short years they will be bogged down with homework, drama with friends, heartaches, jobs, bills, household chores, and babies of their own that will need their help to fall asleep at night. And in that moment of rocking their own freshly-bathed cherubs to sleep, they will remember me, just as your babies will remember you. And all our sleepless nights will finally be worth their weight in gold.