The past few months have been strangely quiet for Valarie Davis.
No one to rustle from their slumber. No coordinating rides to and from school and work, often at crazy hours. No detailed itineraries on how the grade-school teacher would squeeze in day-to-day life with games, practices, triumphs and setbacks for her four sons.
But now that they've all graduated from Fountain-Fort Carson High School and moved on to the college scene, things aren't as complicated.
But too quiet? Well, she didn't say that.
"It's been nice, but they're still calling me every night, even at work," said Valarie, in her second year as assistant principal at District 8's Aragon Elementary School. "It's never quiet in this house. Some things will never change, but it is much nicer to be able to get up and not worrying about waking them up."
Life got quite complicated about 15 years ago. When Quincy Davis Jr., stationed at Fort Carson, left and didn't come back, Valarie suddenly became a single mother to four young boys - Quincy III, Chris and twins Al and Anthony.
"It's been a struggle," said Valarie, 45, sitting across the room at the kitchen table as she looked upon her four boys, reclining on the family couch. "Just because things didn't work out with their father and I, that doesn't mean they have to suffer. There were a lot of sacrifices, but I did what I had to do as a parent. They had to see it from me first, by working hard. Now, looking over there, it's all worth it."
This week, all four Davis boys returned to their childhood home in Fountain to celebrate Christmas with mom. In keeping with the family's resilience and unyielding will, Chris had to persevere through bad weather that canceled his scheduled flight from Topeka, Kan., missing the next two flights on standby before finally catching a break on the third try.
Quincy graduated from Fountain-Fort Carson in 2009 and will complete his undergraduate studies in May from Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D. Chris, his younger brother by only 14 months, is a junior at Washburn University in Topeka. Earlier this year, Al and Anthony walked across the stage at F-FC and departed for North Iowa Area Community College and Northern Colorado, respectively.
The first three played basketball at college and Anthony plays football after being named The Gazette's football Player of the Year and male Athlete of the Year last year.
Along the way, adversity reared its head at nearly every corner. Chris was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year in high school. Bills continued to mount. To make ends meet, Valarie picked up part-time jobs, from refereeing youth sports to finding more hours at Sam's and Kohl's.
By that time, the oldest two sons were able to drive, which meant picking up their mom at work late, and then hearing her alarm sound off at 4 a.m. so she could get ready for another day in the classroom.
In the absence of mom, Al had to try his hand at cooking, which didn't turn out so well at first.
"With mom working, I had to make dinner one night," Al said. "I had to make Easy Mac, but I forgot to put the water in there, so it burned. That was a bad experience then, but now I know."
Such experiences helped the Davis family appreciate what it has now.
"Mom held us all together," Quincy said. "She is the general of the family. We're all pretty tight, and that made it easier for us. The journey has been tough, but easier with these guys."
When Valarie received an offer two years ago to move from fifth-grade teacher to assistant principal, the raise in pay meant she didn't hunt for extra hours to put food on the table, or to pay registration fees so her sons could play sports.
That might have been the greatest gift of all, one that continues to this day to make life much less stressful.
That promotion nearly didn't happen, if not for a motivational meeting, son-to-mother style.
"At one point, I gave up, and wasn't going to apply for that position," Valarie said. "Anthony talked to me. He said 'I know it's hard, but you've taught us not to give up, so I've got to give you the same lecture not to give up.'"
This week, it's not so quiet at the Davis house. And that's OK.
"It went from craziness to quiet, which is good," Valarie said. "It's back to crazy this week. They're good kids, and I'm glad they are respectable people who have ambitions and goals. I've been messing with them, waking them up early. Now, it's my turn."