Peace has descended on my happy home. My house has recovered from a full day of children running around, bouncing on beds and putting their hands all over the walls.
The air conditioner is humming, and I can hear the occasional creaks from a house that is well loved and well used.
No children are laughing, screaming or asking for bowls of cereal.
This is the time that dreams are made of.
Or more accurately, this is the time I should actually be dreaming, because everyone else is sound asleep.
Everyone but me.
I'm so tired during the day that I could fall asleep while standing with a cup of coffee in my hands.
My eyes have such black rings under them that it took me a whole two minutes to realize that it wasn't mascara underneath my eyes.
But I can't give up my midnight rendezvous with someone I don't get to spend much time with: me.
There is something about the middle of the night that is just too seductive for me to resist.
I don't have to worry about a call from a school nurse telling me someone is sick. No calls from my teenager, Tom, telling me that he forgot the book that he has to have for English class.
Not even a call from my husband, Joe, telling me his train is late again or asking me if we need milk.
All my chickens are present and accounted for.
I can breathe. A feeling of serenity comes upon me.
Some nights I just lay in my bed listening to music and the sounds of Joe breathing. Sometimes I catch up on a movie or TV show from the DVR.
But mostly I'm on the computer working or communing with other digital moms in blogger nirvana.
When I was growing up in the dark ages before computers and movies on demand, my mother used the hours after midnight to indulge her passion--cleaning.
As a young girl, I would go downstairs to get a drink of water only to end up scaring my mother half to death as she was scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees--too lost in her own thoughts to hear me approaching from behind.
My sisters and I bruised our shins more times than we'll ever count because we happened upon mom in the dining room or living room, with the furniture rearranged at 3:00 a.m.
I couldn't get over how much my mother was able to accomplish while we were sleeping.
I loved the times I would find my mother wide awake and engrossed in some household task. She would greet me with a warm, reassuring smile as she polished the sliver or cleaned out the fridge.
She was a willing and captive audience. I could tell her about my day, or what boy I liked without having to worry about being interrupted by one of my sisters or a call from her office. I loved it.
My mother was a great sport about it. Never once did she complain that I was interrupting her time or make me feel unwanted. For that I thank her.
She might even deserve sainthood for it because now I know how precious the hours between midnight and sunup are for a mom.
As tired as I get and as much as I may regret my lack of sleep the next day, I love and cherish my nightly solitude.
The chance to think a complete thought without a seven-year-old Peter asking to join the circus is hard to give up.
I also love to watch my children sleeping. It doesn't matter what Tom said to me hours before that had me contemplating boarding school, or the screaming fit from Lizzy, my special needs daughter.
Or the endless, yet entertaining questions Peter asks. At that hour, they look like angels. Their beauty take my breath away.
Memories of little babies lying in my arms fast asleep after a 2:00 a.m. nursing come flooding back.
Back then, when exhaustion takes on a whole new level, I would use my second wind to just hold and rock my baby.
I would will myself to remember the feel of the weight of a sleeping newborn, or the sweet smiles of a six-month-old dreaming.
The time goes by so quickly, every day moving faster than the next. One day, sooner than I care to admit, I won't need the quiet of a sleepy house to recharge my spirit. My children will be grown and gone.
I guess I'll sleep then.
For now I will enjoy my peaceful sleepy house. And remember to buy a better concealer for those under eye circles.