Recently, I was posed a very serious question in which I have now decided to reply with a very serious answer.
“So tell me the truth — the honest truth. What is it like?”
“What is what like?”
“Your house — what is it really like at your house every day? I’m trying to imagine it.”
As usual, “the word” was off my lips before my brain could even finish contemplating what she had said…
“Chaos.” (Isn’t that stating the obvious?)
I am asked this question in some form or another all. of. the. time. For instance:
“Are they all yours? How’s that working for you?” Yes, and you know? Not so good today. We have a few going to auction next Saturday if you’re interested.
“You do know how that happens right?” Haha. Absolutely and we enjoy it so much we aren’t willing to give it up.
“How do you do it? Bless your heart!” Oh, it’s simple. We invested in strait jackets…for ourselves.
“All boys? No girls? I am so sorry!” Not last time I checked and really, it’s okay. God knows better than I do.
Of course, at that point during the exchange, both parties generally chuckle and I move on with my posse — but on this particular day — that didn’t happen. The lady was standing there staring at me…waiting.
“Never a dull moment around our house.” (Mentally adding another tally mark as to how often I have used that go-to gem.)
Oh, wow…she’s dead serious.
“Well, maybe you should just come over and observe for yourself.” Smiling I grabbed my groceries and hurried out with the kids before she had a chance to ask me for my address.
With a week-long vacation bringing an opportunity for my brain to actually process new information, I spent a greater part of my quiet time reflecting on our family.
What is it really like at our house?
After running through a long list of descriptive words, I have decided using television shows would probably be the best way to help paint a more accurate picture of our lives.
1) Billy the Exterminator. It never fails. Whether we’re at the dentist or talking to some random stranger, anytime my kids are around the conversation goes something like this…
What my boys hear: “Yeah yesterday I was out cleaning the yard and found a nasty black widow spider underneath my daughter’s toy lawnmower. I quarantined the area until I could get back with a full body protection suit and dynamite to kill it.”
Their response: “The other night we waited until it was really dark and snuck out onto the front porch with a flashlight. You see, that’s when all the black widow spiders come out onto their webs. We caught over twenty of them in a jar! It was awesome!”
What my boys hear: “I want you boys to come look at this five foot rattlesnake I ran over on the road in front of your house. The snakes are really on the move right now and this thing could swallow a man whole! I crushed her with my tires several times and she still tried to strike at me when I got out of the truck. It’s a good thing I’m in my armored vehicle. Those fangs could have punctured my door!
Their response: “Uh…that’s not a rattlesnake. It doesn’t have a rattle or a viper’s head. It’s actually a coachwhip, sir. They kill rattlesnakes. We thought we found one the other day, too. I grabbed the shotgun (rock, paper, scissors with mom…it was my turn to shoot) but when we got out there, we realized it was actually a huge hognose snake imitating a rattler. We caught it and after playing with it for a while moved it back behind the barn. It was so cool!
What my boys hear: “I hate to say it but I think we’re going to have to burn the house down. Last night we saw a mouse the size of a panther creeping across the kitchen floor. I was so scared I couldn’t move! We ended up sleeping in a hotel. My husband called an exterminator but I just don’t think I can live here anymore. I know it’s going to attack me in my sleep…those things chew people’s faces off.”
Their response: “I got this awesome live animal trap for my birthday. So far I’ve caught seven packrats in it. The other night it got too cold outside and one of them ended up with hypothermia after it was trapped in the cage. My mom put a heating pad in an aquarium for me to warm him up and try to save him. He didn’t make it. I felt really bad.”
2) Bizarre Foods and The X-Files. Truly, the goings-on of our kitchen deserve a post of their own. I should probably refer to this area as the “science lab” instead. It is the most used and abused place in the household. There is always something cooking around here.
Sometimes it’s actually food…
My oldest son (many times assisted by his brothers) prepares most of the dinners. Despite their fantastic (and very much appreciated) culinary skills, we are still working on the concept of cooking without having the surrounding area blowup.
It didn’t take long to realize they are just like me. We are creators — which means the end product comes with an explosion while the brain is mid-inspiration. Even though this method often throws our messy kitchen into what I have termed a “situation” (acute intervention level), new dishes like French toast eggs are born daily.
I am also — blessed — to have my countertops continually showered with gifts and valuable treasures. Our kitchen is special in that it exudes the aura of a safe-haven where hunters and collectors alike feel the desire to hide (or display) their booty within her endless spaces.
It is not uncommon to find things like a rotting coyote skull next to the Rice Chex box. (I was very appreciative the giver so graciously attempted to rinse away the maggots and decaying flesh first.)
Or the remnants of a grasshopper — dissected into several pieces with a butter knife — scattered lovingly across my granite surfaces. (How many times do I have to tell them to use a cutting board??)
I have even been left a dead tarantula; dried stiff with such perfection that he appeared to be alive.
Secretly stashed on top of the glass plates in my cabinet, this spider’s lifeless body was flung onto my arm as I was setting the table for supper. Thankfully, someone removed the tarantula and relocated him…to the towel drawer where I was again greeted by his hairy body as I reached in to grab my car keys.
(Unfortunately, I am sad to report that because of the recent untimely dea…disappearance of Snowflake, our solid white parakeet — guardian of our lab and blanket of sanity around my one-sided conversations while cooking — the bird cage hanging from the middle of the kitchen chandelier remains empty.)
3) Clean House. Mine is not. While summer allows me to actually see my floors more than once a week, I spend a lot of time cleaning and reorganizing in an attempt to stay afloat. Homeschooling means our house is very lived in and every room has a purpose. Some contain cesspools with things like mosquito larva and tadpoles. Others sparkle like diamonds from concoctions of glitter dust, glue, and paper. Still others are packed with thousands of books and collections of rocks, dead bugs, and homemade weapons.
Our house is also the unfortunate recipient of reoccurring plagues in the way of flies, moth puke, cat hair, and worms (pinworms, ringworms, inch worms…live or dead we’ve had them all).
And scrubbing the bathrooms? Just plain scary! Anyone would be crazy not to go in decked out in a hazmat suit but I boldly brave the elements. The smell is something akin to a port-a-potty mixed with a bubbling sulfur spring and decomposing carcasses. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not.
To little boys, the bathroom is a magical kingdom where the water runs freely and things flush. The tub can easily double as a large toilet and running out of toilet paper just means you’re off the pot that much quicker. Flushing? Why would anyone do that? We are all about water conservation around here.
My couches have morphed into a second pantry, dusting happens during Christmas when I hang the stockings on the mantle, and our yard…I think I’ll stick to just shaking my head.
Sure, I have been known to cry over an afghan that just will. not. stay. folded. no matter how many times I carefully spread it over the arm of our graffitied recliner (hey, we all know it’s not about the afghan) but as my dear friend Sarah often reminds me, “We are giving our children a good childhood.”
4) WWE’s Raw and Ultimate Fighting. I still don’t understand why it’s fun to be flung into the air and pinned with your arms and legs twisted behind your back but apparently, that’s exciting stuff. Yes, I’ve read the hype on gender profiling in children and no, I’m not buying it. God designed boys to be completely different than girls — that’s a fact — and if you don’t believe me, spend a weekend at my house sometime. Boys are just…well, boys.
Boys are intense — and wrestling is the same as sleeping or eating.
“You took my favorite stick.” — Let’s wrestle for it.
“You ate the last of the Choco Chomp cereal.” — Let’s wrestle.
“Your foot is one inch on my side of the couch.” — Let’s wrestle for it.
“You were staring at me three seconds too long.” — Let’s wrestle.
“You can’t sit in the front seat twice in a row.” — Let’s wrestle for it.
“Your breath touched my face.” — Let’s wrestle.
Almost everything is resolved by a wrestling match.
I have considered wearing a referee shirt as part of my wardrobe because that’s what I spend a substantial amount of time doing. Lots of dialoguing…lots of separating sparring bodies…lots of kicking them outside to work it out on their own.
Granted I often find myself, the innocent bystander, being unwillingly pulled into a mass mob of sweaty little boys by a grown man (aka, dad) and have learned some moves of my own. Unfortunately this type of behavior has also muddied the boundaries of how to treat girls so we had to set some ground rules:
— No “credit carding” mom (or anyone else) in public. (This has happened on more than one occasion.)
— No passing gas while sitting on girls.
— No sitting on girls.
— No shanking girls.
— No mooning girls for fun.
— No putting creatures of any kind in girl’s clothing.
We still have a long way to go in this area but after a lot of hard work have finally driven home the point that underwear (or lack thereof) and cowboy boots do not constitute appropriate play gear for outdoor baseball games or hunting lizards.
5) Saturday Night Live on steroids. I live with five comedians. Their sensei (who also happens to be their dad) is very committed to training them in this area.
— Scaring people is invaluable. Never let an opportunity pass…no matter what. Biting and growling in a split second must become second nature as is being able to move in stealth mode — in the pitch dark — bearing plastic snakes and spiders for unsuspecting victims pulling into the driveway. (Along with the ability to run…fast.)
— Dancing, singing, and loud music is a way of life. When you hear music (no matter where you are) you break it down and dance. Period. Shame is non-existent. If you don’t know the words to a song — fantastic — making up your own is much better anyway. Head banging to loud music (especially if it’s What Does the Fox Say?) is therapeutic and invigorating.
— Entertainment comes in many forms other than something that must be plugged-in. Having a catapult contest with contraptions made from Lincoln Logs and rubber bands is awesome — as is packing five giggling boys into a four by two foot horse trough to “swim”, intense Knockout games in basketball, impromptu talent shows, and seeing who can be bitten and whiskered all over their belly without even cracking a smile.
— “Becoming an adult” means simply getting taller…and wider. Growing into a responsible individual with integrity is important but around here, maintaining the ability to be easily amused, laugh at yourself, and act silly is touted as the key to lifelong happiness.
So maybe using the word “chaos” to describe our small world isn’t as accurate as I once thought.
Sure there are moments (upon moments) we sit there in a daze and think, “Just throw a tent over it and charge admission.”
But as I often say…
God knew what He was doing when He decided to bless us with five boys.
What is our home really like? Perfect — wild and untamed — designed with a brood of boys in mind and a mother who enjoys dirt and critters just as much as they do.
(Once again, I publicly apologize to their future wives.)