Maybe it’s because I’m the mother of six boys, but I am telling you what: Every day, when I come down from holing up in my room and writing a handful of essays, it looks like six tornadoes have ripped through the house.
Make that six F6 tornadoes.
It looks a little something like this:
One shoe is sole-up by the front door, and the other is halfway across the house in the kitchen trash can, because someone thought it would be funny to kick off his shoes as soon as he walked in the door from playing Four-Square outside. Sure, he saw his left shoe hit the trash can and slam dunk, but he wanted to show his daddy, who wasn’t around at that very moment, and then he forgot all about it, until someone dumped a diaper — that hadn’t been properly closed but had been, alas, properly filled — right on top of it. Now it’s a speckled brown shoe that needs to be washed, pronto.
A banana peel is face down on the floor, right inside the back door, so that when someone (who shall remain nameless) walks inside, her shoe will catch on it and she’ll go sliding like she’s a cartoon character, all the way to the counter on the opposite end of the kitchen. I think I pulled a muscle trying to avoid doing the splits. There’s also a neat little stack of orange peels mashed into the cushion of the couch, where no one is allowed to eat, and over there by the kid-tent that sits in our living room is what looks like a handful of almonds that was dropped in a trail along the carpet. At least I hope it’s almonds. I don’t really want to know if it isn’t.
But it doesn’t end there.
All around my house, you’ll see the pitiful sight of dying plants. This is not because I have a black thumb. On the contrary, if I didn’t have kids to feed every day, I probably still wouldn’t remember to water the plants. But that’s not the point. It’s really the fault of my children that all my plants have given up. You can tell who’s to blame by the shape of their leaves, which are Jagged Oval, or, if you want better specifics, Handprint Oval. It’s as if a kid slammed his hand against a leaf, and that portion of green, rather than holds its ground, tore out of the way. Which was probably wise, if you ask me. I’ve felt the force of one of those hands — accidental, of course — when I walked into a slap-fight, which is my boys’ idea of a fun game. My thigh is still sporting the handprint.
Only split seconds after I summon the effort to make my bed, which isn’t often, and then disappear downstairs to prepare breakfast, one of the twisters will come into my room and sneak beneath my covers, throwing all my pillows back off my bed. So when I come back upstairs to wake them all, I’ll see my bed and do a double take. Didn’t I make it up? I guess it was just my imagination. And as I’m standing there analyzing, trying to figure out if I’m crazy or not because I can’t remember whether I actually made up my bed, the twister will leap out from under the covers and scare me so efficiently I have to change my pants. Which isn’t saying much, actually. That bladder control takes a hit every kid you carry.
Every Monday, I do the laundry and separate it into neat little piles so boys can put their clothes away, and within a few minutes, they will decide they’d like to flip over the side of the couch, which is piled with laundry, remember, and all my work? That’s right. Undone. After which I turn away, pretend I haven’t seen anything and let their daddy deal with the mess of one pair of underwear hanging from the art cabinet, a lone sock dusting the top of the piano (thanks, lone sock) and another pair of skivvies on the 5-year-old’s head.
Most of the time my house looks like a paper explosion happened in slow motion, because six tornadoes and art don’t equal neat. Papers line our floor and the love seat no one wants to sit on (because it draws its lovers to the middle) and the top of our dining room table, which is, honestly, a better option than glass (what were we thinking ten years ago? Oh, that’s right. “We don’t have kids!”). Papers become towers, which become carpets, which become bags and bags of trash. It’s the same cycle every week. You’d think we would set up a system. But we’re too lazy for something that complicated.
My twisters destroy the home library (books are all over the floor), mutilate the kitchen when they try to get their own snack (the most recent mutilation: raw oats sprinkled on the floor, along with some drops of milk to create a nice sludge), and disfigure their room with one night of “I think I’ll clean up,” which, to them, means taking all the art out of their art folders and “reorganizing” it. Somehow, the papers never make it back where they’re supposed to go.
And then there’s what they do to a parent’s room. My kids are not supposed to come into my room. But they always do. They like to leave little love notes in my bed — like sticks they find outside or the remains of a flower they picked with way too many roots still attached, including the dirt that goes with it, or the bath toys they’re hiding from their brother, which are still so wet that when I get into bed, someone will have to pull me out of the puddle.
They take things out of my drawers — like the highlighter they left in the hallway instead of replacing it where it belonged, which means their 4-year-old brothers will pull off the caps and write all over the walls in fluorescent pink, saving me the trouble of actually painting the walls the color I always wanted them to be. They drop treasures into the hole in my husband’s guitar so the next time he picks it up he’ll be able to not only strum streams but shake a maraca. They walk right out of their clothes and pretend they don’t even notice. Or maybe they’re not pretending.
Well, I notice.
But you know what? At the end of the day, it’s actually not so bad living with six tornadoes — because at least the next time a tornado comes through this area, I’ll be more than prepared for the cleanup.
After all, I’ve practiced every. single. day.