It started before the sun came up. I dragged my weary body out of bed. Before I could mentally process the fact that I felt physically unwell, one of my children was already calling for me.

I got dressed and carried the baby with me to wake up her brothers for school. As they slowly began to move, I headed downstairs to nurse my little one. That’s when I remembered it: today was picture day.

When my oldest came down with hair askew, I asked him to help with breakfast while I fed the baby. He prepared only his own breakfast and was soon engrossed in last year’s yearbook—because today was picture day.

His brother came down the stairs asking for help with the buttons on his shirt. Fine motor skills were still a challenge for him, especially in the morning. I reached around the baby to help him, then sent him to put his strap shoes on.

The toddler trailed down the stairs last, wearing no pants. I put the baby in her seat, changed my toddler’s diaper and reapplied pants, then rinsed a bowl of blueberries for my middle son, who reminded me that I had promised to make his lunch today so he wouldn’t have to be a buyer. As I reached for a lunchbox and began to plan its contents, I noticed that he still wasn’t wearing shoes.

Two children fought over a seat. The toddler threw pieces of cereal into the floor. A different two children argued over the color of a cup. My hyposensitive son headed for the baby, but I intervened. His engine was running too fast for him to be gentle with her this morning.

I finished packing lunch and glanced at the clock: we were six minutes past our normal leave time.

I called out instructions to put on shoes and grab backpacks. Our oldest, hair still askew, meandered over to play with the baby. His younger brother was spinning in circles on the rug. The hypersensitive one started screaming about dropping something or being sticky or someone touching him.

Hubby descended into a frenzy of activity and came to my aid. He guided one into putting on shoes and tamed another’s hair while I got the picture envelopes. Shortly thereafter, three boys were corralled in the van.

As they drove away I felt not relief, but defeat. I hadn’t read to the boys that morning or given them a calm, happy send-off. I could feel myself sinking in a cloud of accusations.

I tried to give myself grace. It’s OK to not have it all together, especially on days when I’m unwell.

That’s when I saw it: the carefully prepared lunchbox standing on the corner of the counter.

Even my win was a loss.

Jesus, help me. I’ll cling to your mercies today and we’ll try again tomorrow.