The kicks in my belly grow stronger with each day, the ripples moving beneath my shirt have my thoughts turning to summer. Our patio out back, the playhouse and garden casting bits of shade on the wading pool. I imagine how there will be another person, a downy head against my breast and tiny fingers at my side, while Briar and Avery splash and squeal in gingham sundresses and floppy madras hats.

The girls desires and demands have changed so much, even in the last couple of months. They each yearn for independence, while still reveling in closeness, weaving their fingers in the folds of my clothes, clinging to shirt tails and burrowing in my neck. “Uh huh” and “mmm” buy me nothing but sighs. The cold slap of my own bad habits hit me as I ask for help with things, “In a minute” and “yup, right after I do something.” My skin crawls thinking of how many times I’ve had to say that to them to have them be able to lob it back to me with such perfect inflection and off-handedness. And so it is that I try to be present, work to be aware of each request, each touch.

It’s tough living up to, and I often fail, sighing with frustration and speaking in clipped tones as I struggle to juggle the many balls I’ve tossed in the air in the interest of creating the best situation for my family. The balls end up being obscured by mango scented ringlets and Pirate’s Booty dust, stress and panic making me forget the motivation behind it all. Our girls, the blessing of keeping the ratio of sitter to mom falling strongly in my favor. Oh, the irony of trying to explain to a three year old and a 20 month old that you have to talk on the phone and work on the computer to be with them.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

“Mommy can get in trouble too.”

More blank stares and then timid steps toward me from time out, wide eyes asking to climb in my arms. I feel not unlike what I imagine a bear in a trap must feel; core-rocking remorse and a chew-through-my-own-leg-to-loose-my-bonds determination. I take them in my arms and turn from the computer, if only for a moment.

I am restored.
And guilty.
A mom.