There is a waxy layer of chapstick coating the toy room window. It smells like strawberry.
And there is a lidless, flattened eos lying on the floor, covered in cat hair. The pink one. My favorite one. It smells like toddler rebellion.
There are Mega Bloks trucks flying through the air, despite my repeated shouts of “Stop throwing things!”
There is a goose egg on my youngest son’s head, and a shrieking so high-pitched, I think the chapstick-coated window might shatter.
There is a toddler in the time-out chair, screaming so loudly that it’s making my throat hurt.
And there is a bruise blossoming on my thigh where he kicked me as I wrestled him into it.
There is another toddler crying for Mama and chucking Hot Wheels at the wall, chipping away the paint—the fresh paint. The paint that we’ll be charged a million dollars for if we don’t touch it up, because this is a new apartment.
There is a stack of unpacked boxes sitting outside on the patio because we just moved in, and there’s not room for all our crap. (It’s mostly kid crap.)
There is a broken food processor on the kitchen countertop, its motor burnt out from the batch of homemade almond butter I attempted to make this morning (so much for being a “crunchy” mom).
There is an enormous clump of quasi-puréed almonds in the trash, and a $10 bill that might as well be. Almonds are fucking expensive.
There is an empty sippy cup in the living room, and a rubber no-spill valve sitting in the bottom of it, dislodged from the lid (probably from being thrown repeatedly on the floor).
There is a sour stench spreading throughout the house, and a toddler who just laughs and runs away when I ask him where he spilled the milk.
There are ants trekking along the perimeter of the bathroom, making off with tiny bits of furry granola bar. I don’t know how many times I’ve told the boys to keep their snacks in the kitchen.
There is an 18-count egg carton in the fridge with exactly no eggs left in it.
And there is a cookie recipe sitting on the countertop that calls for two.
There are two inconsolable boys shrieking hysterically because I promised we’d make cookies today.
There is a baby gate on the floor, and a toddler in the litter box.
And there is cat shit in the toddler’s mouth. In his fucking mouth.
There is kitty litter scattered everywhere, and it’s sticking to my socks.
There is a vacuum in the closet, but the filter is full, and so is the trash can.
There are “fucks” being muttered under my breath…
…a lot of “fucks” being muttered under my breath…
…and some above it.
There are fucking fruit flies everywhere, even though there’s no fruit left.
And there are toddlers screaming for “’nanas!”
There is a throbbing in my head, and I’m pretty sure it’s pounding to the beat of the Daniel Tiger theme song.
There are approximately 57 minutes left until Daddy gets home…
…56 minutes and 54 seconds…
…56 minutes and 48 seconds…
There is a burning in my eyes, and it feels like I’m at the optometrist, being subjected to that procedure where they puff air directly at your eyeballs. I just want to close them, but I’m not allowed to until the test is over.
And I am definitely being tested.
There is stress, and there is anger. There is chaos, and there is frustration. There is anger and resentment and total exhaustion.
There is motherhood, and there is life.
And there is no fight left in me.
So, finally, there are tears. There are a lot of tears.
There are tears clinging to my eyelashes and blurring my vision, until I can’t even see what a mess the house has become.
There are tears streaming down my cheeks, soaking the strands of unwashed hair that the kids yanked loose from my ponytail when I tried to read them a story.
There are tears dripping from my chin and pooling on my sweatpants, next to the glob of dried yogurt that one of the boys flung at me during lunchtime.
There are tears that should be cleansing but aren’t. Like the rains of a hurricane, they just keep coming, and the harder they fall, the more broken I feel.
Then, there are two skinny arms wrapping themselves around me (and not in that typical, toddler-chokehold way).
And there is a tiny, perfect set of lips puckered in my direction.
And there are two beautiful hazel eyes—my own eyes, reflected back at me—beholding my tears, shining with the tender concern of a child.
And there is a sweetly spoken, “I love you, Mama.”
And then, then…
That is all there is.