Amy Foley focused all her 6-year-old energies on the trembling spatula as she attempted to complete air delivery of the cheese-stuffed pasta shell.

Saturday night excitement has nearly peaked at the Capitol Hill home of Don Foley, a 35-year-old single father.

Seconds into its final descent, the spatula veered sharply to the left. The shell, slippery with tomato sauce, hesitated before slithering with a juicy plop into the milk glass of Amy's older sister, Leigh.

The milk took on a decidedly pinkish tinge. Don Foley's face took on a decidedly pinkish tinge. Two pink-cheeked girls burst into uncontrollable giggles.

"It was a mistake," Amy insisted repeatedly between snickers.

Six years as press secretary to Missouri Democrat Richard Gephardt have stood Foley in good stead for cleaning up leaks and spills.He whisked the by now vermilion milk into the disposal.

The combination of ice cream and a lackluster performance by Nancy Drew in the book The Mystery of the Flying Saucer lulls the girls. They troop to bed with only a token protest. Foley, who is divorced, has had 4 1/2 years of every-other-week custody.

Out front on Massachusetts Avenue, a man in a blue suit whizzes past in a silver Saab. Several blocks down the street, under the light-bedecked patio of La Brasserie, congressional aides in spring dresses share marquise au chocolat with congressional aides in skinny ties.

Foley, in khaki shorts, sits in front of his black and white television, folding tiny shorts, shirts and socks and watching the Orioles battle the Rangers.

He had stifled the flash of anger he felt when the milk spattered at dinner. "It's one thing when kids are goofing around at the table with arms flinging about and knock something over, but when they're really trying to help out, the last thing you want to do is come down on it and discourage them."

After finishing with the laundry, Foley attached a light to Amy's bicycle, tidied up the house and went to bed.