Not too long ago, one of our neighbors was selling his house. We saw the sign but didn't think much of it. It didn't involve us. At least that's what we thought.
And then one night, when we were out running wild in the cul-de-sac with our children, he followed his daughter out the door, presumably to watch her play. Except he headed straight for Husband and said, "Hey man, we need to do something about your bush."
No preamble, no how are you, no small talk. Just straight to the point. I guess I kind of like that. I'm not much for small talk, either.
Husband and I both knew what bush he was talking about.
This bush is not really a bush at all. It's just a plant. Every spring it blooms with beautiful orange flowers that brighten up the yard, and it keeps growing and growing and growing until it dies off in winter. Then it leaves its dried-out stems (that, by this time, look like trunks) in our little flower garden unless someone makes the effort to trim them. Every spring it grows back with a vengeance, offering its green and orange around all the dead parts that someone still hasn't trimmed.
The problem isn't that all those dead parts make this beautiful plant look ugly. It's that when the neighbors' trash blows out of their over-filled trash cans when they're sitting out for trash pickup, this massive plant likes to eat it. And whoever is supposed to be trimming the dead stems also isn't picking out of its clutches all the nasty pieces of other people's trash.
Oh, wait. That's supposed to be me.
There are some things you just give up on when you have as many kids as we do (Ok, many things. Lots of things. A whole life of things.). Like the yard. And a clean house. And spontaneously eating out for dinner. But that's beside the point.
At any rate, this neighbor needed us to do something about that plant, because he was selling his house, and this plant was making his home value plummet.
I totally understand. I know we can't control who our neighbors are, and our poor neighbors just happened to move next to the family with six boys and two parents who are
drowning doing just fine.
We planted this flower garden back when we only had one child and one more on the way and life seemed so easy. We thought (such innocent kids we were) that we'd be able to manage. We'd be able to keep up with weeding and trimming back and watering. We would keep our yard pretty.
Turns out six kids 8 years and younger keep you really, really, really busy, and one of the things that falls from the idealistic we-can-handle-this list is, unfortunately, yard work.
It isn't even because we're lazy. It's mostly because boys make it impossible to have a nice yard.
Case in point: The other day, my 5-year-old came to me with a digging spade, ready to dig a hole out front so he could bury his brother's favorite Hit Wheel's car. And then, when I was helping Husband save the grass from the gasoline my 3-year-olds dumped all over the backyard, my 8-year-old came out to the back deck and said, "I just planted some cucumbers and carrots out front. So we'll have a vegetable garden."
I now have renegade plants that are clearly not flowers growing in the flower garden I haven't weeded in at least two years.
Another part of the problem is that every time we plan on having a yard work day, something else comes up. Something else like two 3-year-olds deciding they're going to pull down all the clothes in their closet, even though they'd have to be Spider-Man to reach them now with all the creative safeguards we've put in their room. Something else like the 6-year-old deciding he's going to get into the art cabinet during Quiet Time to cut up some tiny little squares of paper he'll later put in a container and dump out on someone's head in the front yard because he thinks it's funny. Something else like the 8-year-old deciding he wants to find out if a pumpkin will grow in the old tree graveyard beside the house.
This is how we got to be the terrible neighbors whose house looks like an orphanage. Scooters crop up in the clearly dying grass; the herb garden off to the side is courting a weed tree, because I cannot even; and the boys ask to go gather wildflowers in our yard because it's a whole wildflower field ("I brought some flowers for you, Mama," the 3-year-olds say. "Thank you for weeding the yard," I say.).
I know what you're thinking. Why not just hire a lawn crew and take care of it the easy way? Well, my question to you is, have you ever tried to feed six boys who are always, always hungry? There's your answer.
Also, one of these days we're going to have a yard-working force, with six boys weeding and mowing and tidying up and trimming bushes and gathering herbs, and then our yard is going to be the envy of the block. But for now it most definitely looks like six children live here. Maybe more (because twins).
The thing is, when you're a parent, some things have to slide until you can get your head above water (which is probably never. We're all just lying to ourselves.). Our head hasn't been above water for quite a while now, because there are six of them and only two of us, and they're still young. That's ok. It's what we signed up for. I'm not complaining. I don't really care about our yard, truth be told.
If you accidentally bought a house next to us, I'm just warning you now, even though it's too late, that we're not going to be winning "best block in the neighborhood" anytime soon, and it's mostly our fault. Sorry if we're ruining hopes and dreams by being the weakest link. We just have better things to do. Like setting our kids free out front on a summer evening and playing with them an epic game of chase on scooters and roller blades, which your kids will want to join (you're welcome).
Chances are, next time you stop by my door, you'll have to step over a scooter obstacle course just to make it to the doorbell, because boys are really bad about putting them away where they belong. So just watch your step (and maybe take a couple to teach them a lesson in natural consequences).
We're really awesome people once you get past the trash cans that are perpetually left between our vehicle and our garage (lifting the garage door is just too much work when you've been wrestling six kids into bed) and the grass that's always just a little bit (or maybe a lot) higher than the two inches it's supposed to be and the bushes that look like bears might live inside.
If you're judging us by the state of our front yard, you'll never get to know that.
So thanks for cutting us some slack. I promise you'll be glad you did.