Our alarm clock finally just went fatally berzerk. It already had some issues, but yesterday it started advancing a minute for every actual second that passes. This is a disconcerting but accurate depiction of the way our summer is going. Happily, it gives me an excuse to buy a new clock. I hate this clock. Someone gave it to us, back when we got caught in the wrong end of a current of well-meaning charity from a group of elderly church ladies. They saw we had a lot of kids, and drew the only obvious conclusion: that I would be overjoyed to receive large quantities of random junk they didn’t want in their garages anymore. I gave away most of it, but we kept the clock, because — well, because we had a lot of kids, and couldn’t afford a clock on our own. (Even a charitable old church lady is right twice a day.) Does anyone else have such trouble with alarm clocks? I really don’t ask a lot out of technology, but it seems to me that it shouldn’t be so hard to find a clock which will reliably (a) show the time and (b) go off when I tell it to. Our clocks do this for a month or so. Then they don’t. Maybe! The main problem is that, when an alarm clock goes bad, you only become aware of the problem when you’re half asleep. It’s sort of like going to the doctor, and by the time he finally shows up, you’ve so nervous and tense, you actually do have high blood pressure: You just can’t make an accurate diagnosis in conditions like this. You set the alarm for 7 a.m. and drift off to sleep. A few hours later, you’re right in the middle of a sweet and gentle dream about being a nice little fish that makes cookies, and YAAAAAAAAAA! the alarm goes off, and it’s only 2:30. What? What? Did you set the alarm wrong? Or is the clock broken? And if you’re the one who made the mistake, did you actually fix it? Wait, did you press the button at the right time? Oh, you went past 7– now you have to go all the way around again! Is that dot for a.m. or p.m.? Do you dare to fall back asleep and trust that will wake up at 7? Or would it be more fun to crouch on your bed like a feral cat, unable to slow your heart rate back to normal? Until it’s 6:15, at which point you finally lose consciousness, and sleep through the alarm. Or did you just dream the whole thing? This particular terrible clock had some kind of fancy system with two different alarms, each with a choice of different sound effects, and it was nearly impossible to figure out which one you had actually set. Especially after some kid ripped the plastic face off, which meant that the various lights signifying “am,” “pm,” alarm 1″ and “alarm 2″ were nothing more than bald, unlabeled dots, signifying, “I mean something, and I’m on!” The only work-around was to set both alarms for the same time. So you would wake up in the morning, turn off the alarm, start to get up and think about what you–DAMMIT, turn off the alarm again. Or, if you’re my husband, you get up and turn it off in your sleep and lay yourself peacefully down again. Now, according to everything that is rational, and everything that I know about this man, he does this because he’s a heavy sleeper. It’s unintentional, unfixable, and actually kind of cute. But according to everything I know when I get woken up by his alarm and must lie there poking him until he grumpily rolls out of bed and I’m too annoyed to go back to sleep, even though I had only truly fallen sleep two hours ago because I had just accomplished several pre-dawn hours of worrying about school clothes, he does this because . . . well, let’s just stick with unintentional. Anyway, what this all goes to show is that we are in big trouble this coming school year, with actual schedules and all. Why did we home school all those years? Why did my husband get into journalism? Well, the secret’s out now! We’ve arranged our lives around not getting up in the morning. Sure, so there was a dash of planning, a smattering of the determined pursuit of our desires and the cultivation of our talents. Maybe a whisper of answering our divinely-ordained vocations in life. But mostly, we are where we are because we can’t figure out our alarm clock.