Another stressful day keeping order amidst chaos.

Little Timmy is angry at his father for breaking a promise - again. He cannot control his hurt and disappointment. It's been spilling out most of the day. Her efforts to rechannel his emotional turmoil work intermittently at best. He hurls a matchbox through her window, shattering what shaky peace they have found this afternoon.

"Aren't you going to yell at me?"

"Nope" She carefully begins picking up the jagged pieces. He hasn't seen his father in almost a year - his father who calls once in a while promising to come take him out for ice cream or to the park or to the movies, then doesn't show up. She makes a mental note to tell his dad not to call him here at daycare anymore with idle promises. Say it and mean it or don't say it at all.

"Here, color for a while with Jesse." She sets him up with crayons and fresh paper before returning to the clean up task. She dumps the dustpan of broken glass into the trashbin.

Jessica starts shrieking. Timmy is ripping her picture of her family to shreds.

"You've got to STOP hurting other's feelings!", she admonishes barely keeping her exasperation in check.

"Why? Nobody cares about mine!" He punches a pillow. She notices the picture he has drawn crumpled up on the table. A man with an arrow through his head in black crayon with a bunch of scribbles over the top of it like a scribble cloud trying to hide it.

Jessica's shrill screaming has woken Baby James who is now howling at his sister's distress. She picks him up rocking him and humming softly while stepping between Timmy and Jessica now in full wrestle mode. Joey runs in shouting.

"Tante come quick! Mark just fell off the hammock!"

Crisis on top of crisis, piling on fast and each one equally as important to each child. More wails wafting through the window merge with the cacophony within. She glances at the clock. Fifteen minutes to closing. She takes Timmy by the hand.

"Let's go" she says and leads the rest out to where the sobbing Mark is sitting right where he fell in the dirt wearing his wounded pride.

She climbs onto the hammock and lays down, baby with pacifier- cheek down on her chest.

"Come on up" she pats the rope next to her.

"All of us?" Jessica asks still sniffling.

"All of you" she smiles.

Timmy snuggles to the left head on her shoulder and lets his muffled sobs out into her armpit. She tightens her arm about him lightly. Jessica climbs in to the right, softly tracing her fingers along Baby James' back.

"Shh" she says to her brother, "See? I'm not crying any more"

Joey and Mark take up positions at her feet. She raises her right arm and starts shifting the weight of it back and forth using it's momentum to get the hammock rocking. The crying dies down.

"We're going to play a game"

"What's it called?" soft sniffle

"Listening to the silence"


"Shhh, tell me the quietest thing you hear"

"The car driving by"....."quieter"

"The dog barking?"....."no, quieter"

"The swing creaking?"..."even softer than that"

"I only hear Joey talking"

"Ok, five minutes. I'm timing it. No talking for that time at all. Close your eyes and listen carefully. We'll see who hears the quietest thing after that, K?"

Five minutes of peace and serenity decend upon the group.

"What did you hear?" she whispers. Joey: "A squirrel ran up the tree, I heard it's feet!"

Mark: "The wind shook the leaves around"

Jessica: "I heard Baby James sucking his binky"

Timmy: "I heard what no one else did. I heard Tante's heartbeat"

She hugs him close and kisses the top of his head. Then they hear tires crunching on gravel in the driveway. James smiles through his pacifier as he reaches up for his mother's arms.

"I don't know how you do it, but I'm sure glad you're here" she says as she bundles her two into the car.

One by one her charges leave until there is only her left, laying back on her hammock, closing her eyes, quietly smiling, and listening to the silence of the day.

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