"Got your backpacks?" I shouted above the clamor of five children in the car as they prepared to go to school.

 

Yes!

 

"Lunches?"

 

Yes!

 

"Homework?"

 

Yes! and Um...

 

"Um? Did I hear an 'um'?" As "Drill Sergeant Mom," I glared at my seventh-grade boy and said calmly, "Go get it!"

 

He scrambled out of the car, while the others fought over who got to talk to Dad first when he called later that night from his deployment to Red Flag. And I quietly wondered how "roughing it" in Las Vegas constituted "serving your country." But as my homework cadet reported in from parole, it was time to continue the roll call.

 

"Permission slips?"

 

Yes!

 

"Water bottles?"

 

Yes!

 

"Shoes?"

 

Yes! and Um...

 

"Um? Did I hear an 'um'?" Once again the drill sergeant cast her steely eyes on the guilty party. This time I zeroed in on my youngest, our first-grade son (aka "Turbo Dude" for his ability to hustle, which of course comes in handy when he's so forgetful!).

 

"You forgot your shoes again?!" I exclaimed as he squirmed under my laser-beam stare. "And if I hadn't asked you about it, you'd end up at the drop-off zone at school like you did last week--Shoeless Joe Jackson! Now go get them, quickly!"

 

The little guy scrambled out of the car, grabbed his shoes off the shoe rack in the garage, and "turboed" back into the vehicle at record speed. I fondly observed my "baby" and mentally counted the days until his dad would return home to play checkers with the chubby-cheeked cherub. This was day one, and there would be 29 more days of this particular absence.

 

With the roll call complete, this temporarily single mom began to back the huge white Suburban out of the garage, when suddenly she heard a sickening scrape of metal on metal, followed by her children's screams:

 

Mom, STOP!