"There has to be a better way!" I gasp, as I charge to the car clutching an infant, screaming to the toddler to move or it will be Christmas before she gets to school, and tripping over one dog and two dog dishes.

"My hair," she wails.

Set baby and purse down. Grab a brush, any brush, the nearest brush: the potato brush. Inform her that she has a new hairdo. Push her into car seat. Return for baby. Dogs in, dripping wet. Check stove burners. Lock doors. Ready to roll.

No car keys.

Another mad dash through the still-quivering dogs and their overturned dishes. Back to the car. The 3-year-old is plastering gum on the baby. Gleefully.

"You're not organized," responds my husband that evening.

"There should be a time for everything. Here, I'll help you," he offers magnanimously. "We'll set up a schedule for everything you do in the morning. Before you know it, you'll be ready, fully dressed, and have time to spare."

"Time to spare, indeed," I mutter, glaring at him from the bottom of a two-week pile of newspapers, where I'd been trying to find out what had happened to Brenda Starr.

Putting his bureaucratic mind to work, my husband produced a beautifully typed paper, neatly headed "Mother's Morning."

It was all there, from letting the dogs out (7:34) to toasting toast (7:36) to feeding the baby (7:50-8). There was even a small square of time marked "make-up" (8:21-8:26). Could this be a subtle comment on the mascara rings which permanently circle my eyes?

I was filled with new resolve. I would work. Enthusiastically, I did the pre-steps assigned to the night before. Put on cereal bowls, make baby's bottle, lay out clothes, put keys, purse, diapers, grocery list on table awaiting leisurely departure.

I went to sleep dreaming of a new glamorous me dropping two bright, attractive children at the day-care center.

The first hint that the morning was not to be so calm came when the 3-year-old sauntered into our bedroom completely nude.

"What's the matter?"

"I had an accident."


Sure enough, sheets, pajamas, pillow: soaked.

"This isn't on the schedule," I announce, as I scrub her down, put her in a robe and strip the bed.

7:38 -- Not too far behind, I think, letting the dogs out. I pop bread in the toaster, turn Mr. Coffee on, stick the baby bottle in the microwave and . . . nothing.

"You've blown a fuse," yells my husband running to catch his carpool.

"But what about the schedule?" I shout after him.

Undaunted, I fix cereal for the toddler, pour milk for me and try to convince the baby that cold formula is yummy. He doesn't agree and throws up 6 ounces of formula over me and the nearest dog.

"Schedule!" I scream as I scrub, toss the dog outside and pray for rain.

8:26 -- I miss my make-up time. I run through the house dressing as I go, hoping my daughter's crayon is still in the car. I use her red crayon to color my mouth at stop lights.

This has to be the morning my daughter decides to be independent. Disdaining my selection of clothes, she rummages in her drawers while I try to change the baby. It was his morning to be independent too. After he flips over for the third time, I get a half nelson on him and succeed in finally getting his diaper on. Backwards.

I throw a scarf over my undone hair, decide the mascara rings make my eyes look bigger, and grasp my daughter, now wearing chartreuse and maroon.

I dash through the kitchen, baby under one arm, let the dog in, run the potato brush through my toddler's hair, and run to the car.

"Schedule!" I scream, as I gun the engine. The car lurches down the road. Dragging my daughter into school, where all the other children sit, clean and combed, I gasp a good morning to the silent teacher.

"9:10," she observes. "As usual."

"Yes," I stammer. "I'm on a schedule."