To say that my home has turned into a three-ring circus lately would be an understatement.

With the addition of two donkeys to the family, it seems there never is a dull moment. Add to that the aging pony, rooster, two hens, collie dog and cat, and it’s a regular funny farm.

The other day a friend left her two girls here to catch the school bus with my 6-year-old daughter. Lizzie was up at the crack of dawn. While she usually dilly-dallies all morning, taking an eternity to eat her breakfast, get dressed and brush her teeth, on this day she accomplished these tasks with lightning-quick speed.

Her friends arrived looking freshly scrubbed and coiffed and ran straight upstairs to play in Elizabeth’s room until it was time to go. Aside from the occasional floor thud or door slam from the second-floor, I barely heard a peep as I packed lunches and got myself ready for work.

But before long, the trio bounded down over the stairs, and asked to visit the pony and donkeys. Quick as a wink, they pulled on shoes and coats and dashed out of the house, screen door slamming behind them.

“Try not to get your school clothes dirty…” I called weakly after them. It was no use. I have seen these girls in action. This was going to get interesting.

With one eye on the clock, I realized it nearly was time for the bus. I packed my own bag, then gathered up the backpacks and plunked them down on the front porch, noticing a light rain was falling.

“Girls!” I called. Not a child in sight. Oh, brother.

“The bus is on its way!” I shouted. Nothing. Drat.

Pulling on my own boots and coat, I headed out into the misty morning. All of that flat-ironing for nothing, I thought, as the moisture in the air immediately started curling my hair.

That’s when I heard it. Screaming.

“WHAT?!” I yelled.

Muffled shrieks and cries drifted across the field behind my house.

“Girls! Stop that right now!” I demanded in a half-shout, half-whisper. I realized it was only 7:30 a.m. and their noise could wake the dead. My poor neighbors must be loving this. Just another day in paradise for them.

Stomping my way up toward the pasture, I strained to spy a pink jacket, yellow fleece, polka dotted boot…something, anything, that would tell me where they were. No such luck.

“GIRLS!” I said. The screams continued.

I wished my friend, their mom, would appear out of thin air. At least she would know if their urgent cries were real or imaginary. How many times had I stopped one of our coffee chats to ask, “Do you hear that? Is somebody crying?” She would listen for two seconds and decisively say, “Nope, they’re playing.” At times I was so convinced they really were hurt, that I contradicted her, saying, “Hang on, that sounds real to me.” At times, I even was so bold as to go and investigate. But it always would end the same way. She was right. They were playing. What can I say? A mom knows.

But their mom was not there to ease my fears this time, and their screeches and calls for help were sounding more urgent by the minute. Where the heck were they?

I circled out around our chicken coop, fully expecting to see them hiding behind it, playing some sort of dramatic game, but no one was there. The pony and both donkeys looked up from their hay as if to say, “You talking to us?”

Now my imagination was running wild. I envisioned them trapped down an old well, stuck under something heavy, maybe in a car that was speeding away? My friend was going to kill me. Why couldn’t I see them? I sure could hear them.

That is when something caught my eye. And the sound intensified. Through the window of the henhouse, I saw flashes of pink and yellow popping up and down to the beat of the muffled shrieks. What in the world? Why didn’t they just come out of there?

Going to the door, I slid the latch to one side and yanked on the handle. All three of the girls hurtled toward me at the same time, sucking in fresh air like they had been suffocating.

“Oh my gosh, we were locked in there!” one explained.

“THANK YOU FOR FINDING US!” cried another.

Lizzie threw her arms around me.

“We thought we were going to have to stay in there forever,” she said simply.

That made me laugh. Gotta love first-grader logic.

“We were getting ready to climb out the window,” the third-grader reasoned.

Oh, boy. Guess I did get there just in time.

Apparently the three had gone into the coop to check for eggs and when Lizzie closed the door, it latched behind them. Do not ask me how. It is nearly impossible. But it happened.

“I thought I was never going to see you again,” my daughter said, still hugging me tight.

Well, wasn’t I the hero?

“OK, well, everybody’s fine, so let’s get down to the house…” I started. Then I heard a familiar engine sound. BUS!

The big yellow bus was rounding the corner. The girls dashed to the porch, wiggled into their backpacks and lined up in the driveway as their chariot approached.

“Crisis averted!” I said, feeling all was well. Then I saw their pants. And shoes. And hair. And faces.

“I fell,” Lizzie said, as she saw me eying her muddy knee.

“Of course you did,” I said.

“My shoes are wet and my feet are FREEZING!” her friend said, her ballet flats soaked.

I nodded silently, completely helpless as the bus roared to a stop next to me.

The third girl just grinned.

“That was fun!” she said, pushing damp locks of hair from her face.

“Yeah, it was,” I said.

In an instant, all three skipped onto the bus. Then, just like that, they were gone.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.