In many houses, 5pm is the start of what is known as the Crying Hour. It's when, it seems, everyone comes unglued. Babies howl, toddlers whine, usually sweet school kids begin to growl and moms often begin barking back.
This evening, break the cycle by declaring 5pm to 6pm the Quiet Hour. Put aside thoughts of dinner or evening plans and turn on some soothing music -- instrumental jazz, New Age chimes or classical music, depending on your bent. Settle your crew all around you, holding toddlers and babies in your arms in a rocker or letting older kids pile around you on a sofa or big bed.
Then start the Quiet Game -- no talking (even Mom) and let the still of the house seep into everybody's consciousness. After about 15 minutes, when everyone is settled down, read a quiet story, or tell a favorite reminiscence from your own childhood. With older children, you might move on to a quiet game of cards or just let everyone continue to relax and listen to music. At 6pm, discover how very ready you all are to engage in busy family activity again -- without any crying, whining or howling.