I declare today "NO SHOWER DAY!"

Today is just one of those days. Blunder #1: I awoke to the sound of my 9 month-old singing in the baby monitor, and rolled out of bed after only 5 hours of sleep. Blunder #2: I looked at my "To Do List" at 8:30 am, and realized that I was already behind schedule, so some items would have to go! Blunder #3: Unfortunately for me, (and for everyone else), the item I chose to delete was my shower.

As a result of aforesaid blunders, other important and often crucial items began falling from the list as well. Brush hair? delete. Make-up? delete. Put on bra? delete. Seriously, what's the point?

Once days like this are declared "No Shower Days", there's even more reason to just stay home, so the announcement is often made to the entire household so there are no misunderstandings/misconceptions/miscommunications. On some occasions, the boys even join me in this declaration and we all enjoy our jammies together, therefore sanctioning such behavior as a monumental day... a family holiday, if you will. On days such as this, it is perfectly acceptable to watch cartoons until noon, play inside all day, take naps and talk on the phone!

The only glitch in this plan is the arrival of my husband when he sees my hair pulled in clips every which way and realizes that it was "one of those days"! He knows that to his demise, a steaming, hot meal was only a fantasy.

If only he knew what went on here! Along with a little laziness, another activity that is also permitted is CLEANING because you can get dirty and sweat without messing up your hair or make-up. In fact, it is on days such as this, where initially there was no drive to accomplish much of anything, that I often surprise myself and get more done then I would have if I would have simply taken a shower!

So rather then returning home disheartened, he should welcome "No Shower Days" with open arms and take note of that perfectly organized closet, or the fact that every single kitchen cupboard was wiped down and disinfected. As for me, I should add making dinner to my To-Do List!

I obviously need some help!

When Brooks was about 6 months old, running errands with 3 kids actually got a little easier. I even started to feel confident that I could go to more then one place before I would lose my sanity. It was on a good day such as this that we had to run into Ben Franklin crafts, and then hit the grocery store, all in one trip. I picked up a few "must-have" items at the craft store, and was walking next door to Ukrop's with a diaper bag over one shoulder, the baby seat hooked on one arm and 2 young sons trailing behind. Things were going so smoothly that there might as well have been happy music playing in the background, and cute little birds perching on our shoulders.

Then I hear a voice behind me. "Ma'am... Ma'am... you dropped this."

I turned around and saw a man holding out a burp cloth. I took it graciously, and he asked if these were ALL my children. I was stunned for a second and started counting to myself, "1-2-3... it's not THAT many, is it?"

The next words that were uttered, literally stopped me in my flip flops... "Wow, you obviously need some help... if you need any help in there, just let me know." (cue background music that screeches to silence, followed by crickets chirping.)

Is it possible that I looked more out of control then I felt? Is it possible that I needed all the help I could get as I casually walked from one store to the other with 3 children? Not 10 children... just 3! Sure, I had dark circles under my eyes, my clothes were a bit wrinkled and I probably had baby spit-up on one shoulder. But everyone was happy and content, and I guarantee that the first-time mom around the corner looked just as ragged as me. Whether you have 1 kid or 12... being a mom is tough. So, did I deserve any more special treatment?

Ever since this little "incident", I have noticed that almost everywhere I go, someone stops me to remark on the number of children I have. "Wow! You sure have your hands full, don't you?" ... "Three boys, eh?" ... "My, you're outnumbered!"

Now it's confession time... I have been guilty of giving a second or third look when I saw a woman in Target that was literally crawling with 8 children under the age of 10. They were all very well-behaved and were no more then 3 feet from her side at any given time, but the shear numbers made her very interesting to watch. But seriously, is 3 children the new 8? I didn't think so. But if that's the case, then I REALLY deserve a break!

Mini Van Gogh's

Last night I went to a girls' night out event, and we talked about understanding and appreciating art. One of my good friends gave an inspiring presentation on how to expose children to the arts. She had great resources, books, art mediums and more ideas to make art fun for kids. While she was talking, it was hard not to feel excited about the possibilities. But it was hard to feel motivated amidst the guilty fog that rushed over me as I reflected on my art teaching efforts thus far. I experienced a difficult reality check and realized that I was not anxiously engaged in providing learning opportunities involving the arts!

So this morning, after I skimmed the house straightening things here and there... dusting things there and here... throwing things away way out there... the kids emerged from the play room tired of their Legos and each other. They were literally on the verge of driving each other absolutely crazy, and I knew the peace in our home was on its way out the door. What is the antidote to such behavior you might ask? Easy. The answer was still fresh in my mind. Let's do something creative!

I proposed the plan to the boys, and they were eager to see what I had to offer. We opened up my laptop and googled "famous artists". Familiar names dotted the screen... Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo... but I was drawn to an image by Vincent Van Gogh. You all know the painting. "The Starry Night". It looked simple enough... 4-5 colors to start with... small dashes of paint amongst swirls of yellow and blue. I was surprised when Josh, my 7 year old offered up this bit of art trivia for the rest of us. "Didn't he cut off his ear?" Gotta love the tidbits that embed themselves into the soft brains of kids! It wasn't until after a somewhat gory question and answer session between Josh and my 3 1/2 year old, Caleb, about the "cutting off of the ear process" that we decided that "The Starry Night" was a good choice for our first piece.

I broke out the never-been used artists' watercolor paints. This proved to be a special treat, compared to the familiar Crayola paints, mainly because of the little tray with all the compartments. They really felt like artists with this "fancy" plastic equipment. I set my laptop on the kitchen table for them to use as a guide, and after a quick lesson on how to first dip the brush into the water and then into the paint, Caleb punctured that paint bubble with his dry brush and then doused it in the water! Typical. But eventually he got the hang of it, and our painting "class" was under way.

Hardly a peep escaped from them! They sat side by side discussing each other's painting technique and color choice. And miraculously, the peace between brothers returned, and not even at the expense of one ear!

Here are the results of our first "Artistic Appreciation 101" class.



Yours truly.

That was close!

Although the weather in Virginia has been rather mild this summer, we still have been spending quite a bit of time at the pool... and I don't know if it's the fact that my kids seem to behaving much better, or I'm suffering from "3rd Baby Syndrome" and so things don't actually seem as they bad as they really are.... but I have managed to trick myself into believing that going to the pool is actually relaxing!

I'm currently in the phase in my life where I spend most of my time in the baby pool with my 3 1/2 year old, and 9 month old sons, while my 7 1/2 year old is just beyond the fence in the "big pool", playing with friends and jumping off the diving board. I am also very fond of a little floatie for the baby that keeps him entertained and safe while he toddles around the baby pool. A few days ago, I was feeling especially comfortable and I stepped out of the pool while he was entertained, and started the "clean-up process". I had allowed myself to get distracted in a conversation, and took my eyes off him for a few seconds. Suddenly, I hear my 3 year old call out, "Mom"... and I look over to see the baby upside-down in his floatie with his little legs (one pool shoe on, one pool shoe off) kicking up in the air!

I bolt across the deck as fast as I could, but my rescue probably would have been quicker if I ran AROUND the circular baby pool and stayed on dry ground. But it's just like me to choose the most dramatic course and so you shouldn't be surprised to hear that I booked it through the knee-deep water, "Bay Watch Style", in time to see him arching his back to reach the top of the water, eyes wide open, feet still kicking! I snagged him from his floating trap, and held him close checking for breathing and signs of life. Surprisingly, there was a wide-eyed sputter, a cough and a little sigh. He was fine! I started sobbing... grateful that he was okay and completely ashamed that I let it happen! Needless to say, our pool excursion was done for the day!

Now, 3 days later, I am the only one showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I refuse to leave his side or take my eyes off of him while in the pool, and he continues to show no fear of the water.

Things to be grateful for: An observant 3 1/2 year old, and the under-water instincts of my precious little 9-month old... not to mention, my high-stepping rescuing abilities!

Over Stimulation!

As the hospital stay drew to a close, the feeling was bitter-sweet. I hated being cooped up in that little room, with the uncomfortable bed, thin pillows, and limited cable TV, but I did thoroughly enjoy the quiet, one-on-one time spent memorizing every feature of his miniature face, the snuggly afternoon naps, and meals being delivered to my bedside each day. Despite the one-on-one Mommy/Baby time that I craved, I was looking forward to bringing this little bundle into our home and introducing him to my other boys, Josh and Caleb.

My mom had flown in from Alaska the night before, and so I hadn't been able to see her yet... so when they all arrived at the hospital to bring me home that morning, I was overwhelmed with excitement. We loaded everything in the car and made our way home.

It was a warm, Sunday afternoon. The house was clean and it was refreshing to breath in the "smell" of our home. It's funny how you get used to it, but you realize it again when you come back after a period of time. It smelled good to me. It also felt good to just sit down and watch my husband scurry to put things away and get everything comfortable for me. I had learned twice before that I had to cherish his efforts while I could because that "just home from the hospital" state wears off way too soon.

Before too long, it was time to feed the baby... again. This was my 3rd time around with the nursing thing, but it takes a little practice to re-learn the art of being discreet. This time was especially intimidating because I had two sets of curious eyes on me... two sets of curious LITTLE BOY eyes, to be more specific. They were inching closer and closer. I could feel boney little knees and elbows digging into my legs and shoulders and side. I felt like my insides were a rushing river, and my body was the dam holding it all in... and with each breath on my cheek, stroke from their hands, and whisper in my ear, it was like one hole being poked into that dam! I felt like I was going to burst! I love all my children... but the state I was in was overwhelming! My hormones were raging, my body was sore, and my emotions were running over! I shot a desperate look at my mom, who hadn't noticed my ragged state of being yet, and whispered very quietly, "I feel like I want to throw them across the room!" She looked startled, as if a fog horn had gone off, and she jumped to action escorting the boys upstairs!

I was surprised, that almost as quickly as the anxiety had built up inside, the pressure had released. Washing away like the tide. What was wrong with me?

Thankfully, I realized I was not alone... and that my mom often felt the same way. And looking back, that "over-stimulation" feeling didn't last very long. The newness of the baby wore off, and I was able to go back to juggling things the way I always did with 2 kids... thank goodness! Life goes on!

Things could be worse... I know.

I know my life is pretty easy. I have heard countless stories of the early pioneers who trudged across this rugged land, over mountains, pulling their belongings in carts, leaving belongings behind, burying family members along the way... trust me, I get it! But one particular day, I wondered if MY life could get any worse.

It all started one morning when the alarm didn't go off. I awoke to my oldest son standing at my bedside asking if it was time to get up for school. I don't know which took longer, trying to see the clock through the slits in my eyes, or my brain processing the time of day. 7:37! The bus was passing our stop at that very moment, so I knew that I would be taking him to school that day. I knew I was going to have to book it like the house was burning in order to get him breakfast, pack a lunch, make sure he was polished for the day and get out the door. The dilemma came when I had to choose between getting him there on time, and getting myself presentable. I chose the first. I put on a bra and took one quick glance in the mirror... long enough to see the mismatched attire I called pajamas, mascara smudges under my eyes, and a serious case of stringy, flat hair! But honestly, it wasn't as bad as it could have been... and it was nothing that tinted windows on my husband's car wouldn't hide. So we were off!

The whole way I was praying that the Parent Drop-Off was still open... otherwise, I would have to take him in the front door and sign him in at the office. Luckily, there were a few cars still dropping kids off. However, he was in kindergarden, and although we were a couple months into school, I had never dropped him off at the Parent Drop-Off before, so I wasn't confident that he knew how to get to his classroom from that entrance. So I tried to forget about my appearance to jump out of the car and walk him to the Assistant Principal who greeted everyone and let her know that he didn't know the way to his classroom. She assured me that someone would show him the way, so I turned back around only to find that the car had stalled and died right there in the Drop-Off lane. I turned the key again, only to hear a faint click... and then nothing. I tried again... click... and then nothing. Again, I offered up a quick prayer and focused all my positive energy onto the key in the ignition. Although I knew nothing of the inner workings of a vehicle, I visualized (I heard this worked somewhere) the motor being triggered and springing to life with a roar. Still nothing. As cars were swerving around my idle car, I realized my defeat and trudged to the door of the school, preparing to face the world in my pajamas!

I walked as quietly as I could, but my heavy flip-flops echoed through the empty hallways. Thank goodness for empty hallways, although, every now and then I would pass a teacher or administrator. After all, I was an adult just like they were. The only difference was they were dressed nicely, hair combed, with a touch of make-up, and I was none of the above. So I had to force myself to walk purposefully with my head up, rather then hang my head in shame. With my head up and a slight hunch in my posture, I finally reached the office, to use the phone to call my husband. I called the house phone, but no answer. I called again... and again. I tried his cel phone... again and again. When they saw my predicament, the secretaries in the office were so sweet and offered me their cars to get home, but I just couldn't accept it. I had to figure this out for myself. So I walked back through the entire school to where the car sat in the Drop-Off lane. I tried to start it one last time, before I starting walking home.

We live fairly close to the school; it's only a 5 minute drive. I was sure if I cut through trees and parking lots, I could get home much faster. The sun wasn't completely up yet, so it wasn't that hot, but the air was thick with humidity. Water literally hung in the air and clung to my hair making it even more flat and more stringy then before. The grass was wet and my flip-flops were larger then most causing my arches to ache as I struggled to keep from slipping, and the straps rubbed growing blisters on the tops of my feet. All the while, my temper was rising as I thought about a comment he had made a few days before about his car battery acting up. Why hadn't he gotten it fixed? Why hadn't he answered the phone when I called. I was preparing my argument and revving myself up for a fight.

Eventually, I made it home. I walked in the door to see all three phone handsets in a congregation on the kitchen counter. I walked upstairs and found my husband and second son snuggled up in my bed watching morning cartoons. I told him the story of where I had been and how I had to walk through the school in my pajamas, and then walk ALL the way home. I turned to walk into the bathroom, and the only thing he said was, "You walked all over town with that hair? Check out the back!" he said.

I grabbed a mirror and held it up to see the back of my hair. The humidity had completely flattened the front and it was sticking to my face in places. But the moisture hadn't even affected the back of my hair... It was sticking straight up and could have housed a small bird! How could I have missed this? I stood there horrified, picturing myself as I walked through the school not realizing the mess I wore.

I know what you're thinking... the pioneers had to deal with much worse. And I feel terrible about the things they had to endure... broken wagon wheels, sick children, no food or water. But one thing for sure... at least they had a bonnet!

When did it begin?

I can't remember the exact moment... maybe it happened when I found myself favoring the color blue instead of pink. Maybe it was when I mistook the interior decorating term, "accessorizing" to mean little green army men and matchbox cars. Or perhaps it was when I found myself uttering the words, "You should get a kleenex instead of wiping it on the wall." But no matter when it happened... it's really not important now... the truth is, I can't imagine my life any other way. I LOVE BEING A MOTHER OF BOYS!

Not long ago, I babysat for a friend who had a son and a daughter. Both children came with their backpacks of treasures to keep them busy, but it was literally 1.5 seconds before the boys disappeared to play some version of kung fu star wars. Most days I rarely feel that we have a shortage of toys, and would rather kids not bring toys to our house, because it's one more thing that I have to keep track of and make sure it returns to its rightful home. But on this particular day, I was grateful for that little pink backpack of wonders, which bore hidden treasure of Polly Pockets, princesses, in essence, all things girly, for lack of a better word. It all felt very familiar... like I had strangely done this sometime before. But it all seemed so very long ago. Before long, we were talking about favorite princesses, and the color of her toenail polish, and about the different and distinct shades of pink and why they were all her favorite. I think we even spent time discussing her best friend's favorite color, which was no doubt, some shade of pink or purple. Honestly, I think I blacked out for part of the conversation, or rather pinked out. My head was spinning, and I found myself at a loss for words in the company of this innocent little 4 year-old girl.

What had happened to me? I expected that this "play date" would have filled a void for me. That it would quench the desire for things I thought I missed out on by having only boys. But to my surprise, I suddenly became very aware that I had surrounded myself with "men" who had very little to say, and I, likewise, had become comfortable with doing the same. My husband of, at the time, 8 years, spoke only when he had something truly worth mentioning, which on normal days was something that annoyed me. But on this particular day, I found myself longing for the silence.

This epiphany was welcomed, because I knew I had been trained or maybe even been created to be the mother of boys... my boys! Sure, I feel a knot in my stomach when I think of them branching out on their own, eventually in search of another woman to take care of their needs. Yes, I still cringe at the thought of them not needing me anymore... but, as I continue on day to day, I try to listen to the sounds that fill our home, and it's soothing to me to hear teasing and joking, rather then non-stop chatter; and jumping and wrestling, rather then twirling and spinning.

And when those tender, heart-felt moments occur, they are much more memorable because it doesn't happen every day. In fact, I cherish... and often search for... those precious rarities in our life. Thankfully, I have found some. Contrary to what the song says, I truly "thank heaven for little *boys*"... the boys in my life give me purpose, and for that I am truly grateful!

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