It's 5:03 a.m. and Carmen is barreling down the hallway holding a metal whisk in one hand and a plush baseball in the other. "Bruh bruh! Bruh bruh!" All the white noise machines in the world won't be able to stop her shrieks from waking up her brother, but still I try. "He's still asleep. He has to get some sleep, he has camp today." I redirect her to the living room. To the doll house. To the play kitchen. To her bedroom. To a pantry full of crackers and a refrigerator full of cheese and anything else she wants, oh my god, just take anything, as long as I can get five minutes to put on my pants and let Ethan sleep until at least 7. But she won't put down the whisk or the baseball. Not for anything will she put down the whisk or the baseball or give up her determined trek to the end of the hallway where her big brother (somehow) sleeps with the quiet humming of his white noise machine permeating from underneath the closed door.

Last week, Ethan invented a game called whisk ball where Carmen pitches him the ball and he whacks it with a whisk. The rules are still quite unclear, but they both run the bases (mulch, leaves and twigs found in our front yard) around the driveway together and then start again. Every evening in the lull after dinner and before bathtime, Ethan grabs the whisk and the ball and Carmen is right there at his feet eager to play. It's a little like magic, in those moments, even though the tired is usually burning at my eyes. Sometimes it still feels surreal to look up from where I'm sitting on the front doorstep and see these two playing their beloved game together, the laughter, the "I love you's," the nicknames. It's become normal, by now, the two of them and the chasing and the feeding and the chauffering and the classes and the naptime and the schedules. The newness has worn off and every day life becomes just that: every day life. At 5:03 a.m., as I'm chasing a wide-awake toddler down a hallway as she clutches a whisk and a baseball, it's hard to feel the magic over the exhaustion.

We made it to 6:50 a.m. without waking up Ethan, but soon he rolls out of his room with bedhead and a yawn. "Why is Carmen yelling?" He sits on the hall floor and wipes the sleep out of his eyes. She's yelling because she loves you, I think. She's yelling because she loves you so much and because her heart is so happy when she's with you and because she so very much cherishes the memories you make together. It's in the middle of these thoughts that I am able to feel the magic. These two. Despite the exhaustion and need for Starbucks and inability to find two minutes to put on a clean shirt, despite all of it, this is my greatest dream come true over and over and over again. Each time the whisk hits the baseball and two children collapse on the driveway in fits of laughter, it comes true again.

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