Against the consistent beeping of the oven's timer, two children are yelling. The third child is cartwheeling in the narrow space between the kitchen table and the island where I'm trying to set down my hot dish, even though she's been encouraged (repeatedly) to curb her inordinate desire to use the cartwheel as her primary method of locomotion throughout our house.
Each child is louder than the next (which seems to be a technical impossibility except that it's true), and each is simultaneously needy, resulting in a ungodly spiral of noise and demands for my immediate attention and response.
They repeat themselves with increasing volume as if I can't hear, as if I don't notice the small person standing directly in front of me who's yelling about the coloring page that was torn crookedly from the coloring book. And the other small person who's yelling that it was her coloring book in the first place. And the slightly larger person who kicks the kitchen table, mid-cartwheel, and crumples to the ground in a hysteric wail.
I set my dish down. I regard the children warily and notice a certain crazed beadiness of their eyes. Time stands still, and in that frozen moment I'm utterly convinced that these children would be entirely capable of systematically pecking me to death like aggressive chickens. One deliberate peck at a time.
If at any point today you feared that your children just might be feral (despite having spent more than enough time with them during their early childhoods to know for certain that they weren't raised in the wild), recognize that you're not alone. I've visited that dark place more than once. This afternoon, in fact.
Considering that I've reached the day's end with enough coherence to still be writing, let me encourage you with this:
The chickens won't win. I tucked mine into bed, kissed their little heads, and watched their beady eyes close. Tomorrow is another day. (And, hopefully, a peck-free one.)
Photo compliments of Ami Bunker from Bunkers Down, a special blogging partner in crime. Those are her actual chickens. To my best knowledge, they would never systematically peck anyone to death, but I'd still keep my eye on the one on the right.