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Ali and Peyton are away on their anniversary date right now, leaving me with our two seven-year-old sons and almost four-year-old daughters. I am vastly outnumbered, and they know it. I’m hiding in the top of a tree while they all search for me, four against one in hide and seek. With my military training they usually can never find me even though I can see them the entire time – like now. Except Faith… the rare times I am discovered it is always Faith who finds me. Being deaf her other senses are heightened, I guess? But not today. I’ve been up here for almost twenty minutes and the kids are getting frustrated. Time to end the game.

“Surprise!” I shout as I jump out of the tree, shocking them all. Faith senses me and turns around, just as surprised as her siblings. I then find myself at the bottom of a group hug before we head inside for dinner. Everyone helps make the salad while we wait for the pizza to be delivered because even though Mom isn’t here, we still follow her healthy foods rule.

Nobody likes salad, but we eat it.

There always has to be something green on your plate, and by now the kids don’t even question it. Except broccoli – only Peyton will eat that crap. Blech. By the time our salads are done the pizza has arrived and that doesn’t last long either. Ali and I are both blonde with blue eyes, as are the boys so either of us could be their biological father. We’re not worried about getting a test done – they belong to both of us because we’re a family. Both boys are big for their size and promise to be tall when they grow up, but with me at 6’ 8” and Ali at 6’6”, that isn’t surprising either. Both boys eat three slices each. I should have gotten another pizza.

Our girls are another story, however. Their start in life was tough, both of them spending months in NICU after being three months premature. They were so tiny when they were born. My God, I still have nightmares when I think about it. I could hold both of them in one hand when they were first born – that’s how small they were. But they’re strong fighters, like their mother. Peyton always argues all three of us kick ass, especially with Ali and I being ex-military. We’re all fighters, that’s true. But Peyton is a true survivor and my personal hero. Always will be.

Faith is deaf but otherwise has no problems getting through life – if anything, she seems to embrace it more than anyone else I know, except for Peyton. Faith is the one who catches frogs but only long enough to pet them before she releases them again. She brings Peyton home a fresh bouquet of flowers every single day. Every. Single. Day. That’s Faith. She doesn’t seem to need to hear the world to appreciate it.

Hope is Faith’s protector and biggest fan. The two are inseparable even though they’ll often be doing different things. Both girls are small versions of their Mom which is incredible since Peyton is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen but it’s also horrible because when they’re older… it isn’t going to be good. Boys are going to come from miles around to date them and do other things – I used to be a teenage boy, I know what they’re going to want. Not. Happening.

And if Ali and I aren’t around – Nate and Noah will be. No random dicks will be hanging around the Olson-Leroy Homestead. Not. Happening. Both girls have their mother’s thick black hair and gray eyes, and because of their small size – they are Peyton Mini-Me’s. We still send Christmas cards to the NICU because everyone fell in love with them during their time there. They’re stunning now but they were beautiful babies too, just ‘bite-size’ as Ali says.

We play two games of Uno and I purposely throw the wrong colour down continuously which makes the girls giggle nonstop. I love that sound. The boys know what I’m up to but tolerate it since their sisters are having so much fun. The girls already have us all wrapped around their little fingers. After the games, everyone takes turns showering before going to bed. The boys each have their own room, but the girls are still sharing. I imagine I’ll be giving up my office soon so that can change, but hopefully not for a few more years. The boys read quietly to themselves while I read some of our favourite Eric Carle stories to the girls. I then make my rounds kissing everyone goodnight before I head to bed myself. I’ll watch TV until Peyton and Ali return, but I don’t expect them for awhile.

I imagine they’re having a lot of fun celebrating.

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