His little body bounces out of the car after school, shouting “BLAH BLAH BLAH” at the top of his lungs while simultaneously showing me how high he can jump (“almost as tall as Mount Washington! Sixty five fifteen forty high!”). He asks about 75 questions in 1 minute without waiting for answers… and then asks a few questions later, without pausing, why I haven’t answered him yet. He leaves the door to the garage wide open, icy cold air seeping into our cozy house, strips his coat off and throws it on the floor. Seemingly impervious to the cold air, he drops down to the floor right in the open doorway (blocking anyone else from entering the house, even the person carrying his chubby little brother in the astonishingly heavy carseat), pulls his shoes off without unvelcroing them and tosses them into the air in a celebratory fashion, laughing no matter where they fall.
That’s only kind of what I meant when I set the expectation that we all take off our shoes and coats right when we walk in the door.
He races through the kitchen in his paint-stained sweatpants and undoubtedly rainbow shirt (no matter how many other shirts he owns, anything rainbow is going to be the favorite) with a twinkle in his eye, asking “Do you wanna see how fast I can run?”. There is no answer other than yes.
He flings open the doors to the toy cabinet in the living room and starts pulling things out. “Do you wanna play Candy Land? …or cars? …do you wanna play with me? Who can play with me?”. The questions come rapid fire and I do my best to dodge the ones that will make him upset and distract him with the answers I can give remotely while I balance the baby on one hip and attempt to get dinner started on the stove as quickly as possible.
He shoots tiny toy cars all over the kitchen floor (“wanna see which one wins?” and “look how far they can go!”) and then abandons them to ride his plasma car around our first floor. Thank goodness that our house has a circle for running and riding. He whizzes past me making silly faces and silly sounds each time he comes through the kitchen. I echo them and a new game is born. I am relieved it appears to be one I can play while still using two hands to make dinner and keeping one eye on the baby.
I stick the baby in front of a cabinet full of water bottles and let him go to town pulling them out and sucking on them, one by one, before he tosses them into the middle of the kitchen. Ignore the fact that they will all have to be washed once this little display is over. I don’t want to put him down after a day spent at school (no, all I want to do is nuzzle my nose into his chubby neck and breathe in his delicious baby smell), but I have to capitalize on the rare calm moments when I can. Yes, this is as calm as it gets around here in the evening.
Making dinner is like an obstacle course, leaping over pointy cars and rolling water bottle tops. Owen has finished riding his car, leaving it somewhere between the front door and the kitchen to undoubtedly taunt the dog (who is terrified of the wheeled creature he is sure is out to get him — and with Owen behind the wheel, he might be right). He writes his name in scrawly, rotated letters on the chalkboard that sits in our front hall for whenever the artsy feeling strikes (“Mommy! Come see what I wrote! O-W-E-N!”). He wipes his chalk dust covered hand on my pants and starts building a maze to roll
little tiny choking hazards marbles around in. I run back in the kitchen to flip the salmon I have miraculously gotten in a hot pan with some oil and salt and pepper.
The baby bleats like a little lamb as he is stuck on his tummy, surrounded by water bottles and travel mugs and plastic cups. A miniature beached whale swimming in mid-air, his arms and legs flailing in a valiant attempt to move his body forward. He’s so close to crawling we can taste it, but he just can’t figure out how to get those knees up underneath him. Though I know it will open up a whole new world of challenges having a mobile baby, I think it will also ease some of the tension of having to carry him everywhere. The kid can’t stand not being in the action. And with a 3 year old as active as mine, the action is always a moving target.
In a blur of portioning salmon and microwaving frozen vegetables and stirring some rice I prepped before I picked the kids up from school, dinner is served. And after another 10 minutes of cajoling Owen to wash his germy little preschool hands, we sit. Everyone is calm and quiet for 1 minute while the first bites of food are keeping their mouths busy. Then Owen is popping up and down from his seat, bringing different toys to the table “to watch us eat”, the baby is frustrated that he can’t get the little green bean pieces I’ve put on his high chair tray into his mouth, and refuses the mashed up sweet potatoes I’m offering out of spite or stubbornness or just being done with the day after having spent the last 9 hours at school. We shovel our food into our mouths and before we know it, it’s bathtime.
Completing bathtime with two energetic little boys is nothing short of a miracle. It is like a hilarious comedy show meets Olympic-level fitness test. They strip down naked, clothes strewn around the room like crepe paper garlands, and we all laugh and sing during our night time routine of countertop dancing. Teeth are flossed and brushed. Feet are scrubbed and faces are washed. Boys are pajamaed. Baby is bottles and Owen is read to, and finally, it’s lights out.
I always marvel at the quiet once Owen is tucked into his bed. The silence is deafening. Benjamin does the dishes while I wander through our house, picking up the evidence left behind from the whirlwind that is a day at home with two crazy boys (or even the 2 hours between school and bedtime on school days).
The clothes hanging around the bathroom. The piece of chalk on the floor. The abandoned plasma car. The cars stuck under the kitchen cabinets. The errant marble hiding in the corner. The drool-covered water bottles strewn around the floor. The tiny little sneakers in the middle of the hallway. The coat, arms inside out, still on the floor.
Sometimes this evidence feels like a weight on my shoulders — the mess I am constantly cleaning up. But then sometimes I can see it for what it is.
Little reminders that my boys are still so little.
That I am lucky to have these shoes on the floor to clean up.
That I am lucky to have these little messmakers making my life so full and busy.
And I am thankful that I have so many reasons to be exhausted at night.