THINGS are getting back to normal here in the Devereaux household - normal for us anyway - and I have proof.
"I'm going for a sleep," Tracey told me today.
This wasn't just a notification of intent, it was also an instruction.
What she was actually saying was, 'I'm going for a sleep, so you're not.'
Taking the win, I picked up a paintbrush hoping some physical activity might ward off a bad case of the nanny naps.
Plus, I know Tracey wants it done and I'm keen to impress her at the moment because she's wonderfully alive and still in my life.
"I'm painting!" I called out to the kids. "Who's helping me?"
I was hoping Master 10 or Miss 12, or even Miss 8, would jump at the chance.
Historically, they've always taken every opportunity to put their mark on the walls of my house.
Unfortunately, I only had the one taker.
"I help you, Daddy," Miss 3 told me.
Why not? I thought. She'd already 'helped' by using one of the new paintbrushes I'd purchased at lunchtime to spread orange juice all over the kitchen floor, so she had experience.
Jokes aside, I distinctly remember thinking, 'We'll be outside. It's only undercoat. What harm could it do?"
I. Am. An. Idiot.
We were only ten or so minutes into the job when the inevitable happened - she dropped her brush into the tub.
We were barely two minutes further along when the other inevitable happened - she dropped her brush onto the grass.
I confess I was thrilled.
I'd spent the entire time trying to simultaneously paint and watch over her. This would buy me a couple of minutes while she headed for the sprinkler.
You'll have to wash it now," I told her.
"Okay, Daddy," she said, eagerly running off and leaving me to focus on colouring in a couple more boards. thump thump thump
I dipped my brush into the tub and wiped off the excess paint on the side.
thump thump thump silence
And then the meaning of those thumps hit me.She hadn't stopped at the sprinker. She'd run into the bloody house!
"NOOOO!" I yelled as I dropped my own brush onto the grass and raced up. "Stoooooop!"
I caught up with her just as she was coming out of the bathroom.
"It's clean, Daddy," she grinned, holding up her dripping brush.
My eyes followed the milky drops to the floor - a floor which was looking more and more like the milking shed of a dairy farm.
The drops weren't just here. There was a trail.
There's a subtle difference between milk and undercoat. I know that now.
Milk, for example, doesn't have a glue like quality. It comes off, by way off example, with a gentle if firm interaction with a mop.
Undercoat does not.
Fortunately, however, it comes off with some old fashioned harsh bristles and elbow grease.
A lot of elbow grease.
Nearly an hour of it.
And knee skin.
Just on dusk I was standing in the back yard with Miss3 and my wife admiring our afternoon's work.
Well, I was admiring it.
"How long was I asleep?" Tracey asked.
"About two hours."
Tracey looked at the slats with almost the exact opposite of admiration.
"You didn't get much done."
I really didn't.
Miss 3, as she was keen to point out to her mother, managed to paint twice as much.
So it's all looking pretty normal here in the House of Devereaux - unfinished jobs and messy, hard to remove stains.
And despite red raw knees, I'm convincing myself I'm absolutely loving the mayhem.
That bit's pretty normal as well.
To read more of the Devereaux Bunch's exploits, go to bigfamilylittleincom.com
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