On Friday morning, December 14, we sleepily hustled Grace off to school. Meg had been in the ER the night before, getting home at 4 a.m. The morning was harried, everyone was stumbling through our routine. But it was pretty typical.

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With just minutes to go, hair wasn’t braided, shoes weren’t tied, and Grace still hated her winter coat. “I don’t LIKE it.” The kind of morning that always leaves me feeling a little relieved when Don pulls away with the girls toward the bus stop. I wave, and call “I love you, have a good day.” But mostly, I’m looking forward to turning on The Today Show for a few minutes and then hours of quiet, stretching before me, as I get ready to work.

But Friday morning, we kept Meg home and crawled back into bed. Two hours of sleep hadn’t cut it, and the morning news could wait while we did a little catching up. I’d pull together Freebie Friday when I woke up, I figured.

Instead, the news of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT was breaking. It didn’t sound that bad at first, if it’s possible to say that about a school shooting. Soon, though, I was thinking of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s words on 9/11, that the numbers would be more than we could bear.

We never showered, never dressed on Friday. Just turned on CNN when Meg was playing in another room, trying to get a handle on the climbing numbers. When the estimate reached 18 children, now 20, children the age of my children, it was too much. Unimaginable.

I thought of the terror those children must have felt in their last moments and the agony of their parents as they waited. How could any parent not think of their own children, too? I thought about how our morning went and wondered if any of the parents’ last mornings with their children were the same. If those had been my last moments with Grace, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

When the girls were six, mornings were actually worse. We literally had to drag Meg out of bed. It wasn’t for lack of sleep; she just isn’t a morning person. Every morning to-do was of the tooth-pulling variety and breakfast often went half-eaten as we dashed out the door. So I came up with a morning chart for each girl, because mine both do better with structure. Complete a task, check the box and earn a sticker if all tasks were completed without fussing. At the end of the week, a chart full of stickers earned a surprise, like a trip to Dollar Tree or the ice cream shop.

The routine worked so well, that it became habit, and we eventually dropped the charts. But we’ve backslid, and now with Sandy Hook on my heart, the charts are coming back. And I’m adding to them. The dinner rules that I’m tired of repeating are going to become the centerpiece of our table. And on the Pinterest recommendation of LaunchHer, I’ve ordered Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

I want a lot more peace in my house. More time to cuddle, more pitching in from the whole family, more calm because the house is less chaotic, and more sitting down with the girls at the breakfast table.

So maybe it sounds small, but that’s my takeaway. I can’t promise the girls they will be safe at school, or anywhere, which pains me. I can pray for their safety. I can pray for the children lost, and their suffering parents. How utterly impossible will the holidays be for those families? A twin was left behind, and that loss in particular, breaks my heart.

All I can do is try to make home better, so that every time the girls leave home, they leave not just knowing they are loved, but feeling loved, too.

Our dinner table rules are designed (I use that term loosely) to fit in a two-sided, 4 x 6 photo frame from Kara’s Party Ideas, so both girls can clearly see the rules.

Dinner Rules

The morning chart we tape to the bathroom door and provide each girl with a pencil and stickers.

Morning Chart

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