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The mice will play

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By: CHRISTY ELKINS

Dear husband,

Whenever you part ways with the homestead to endure training for any length of time, things tend to take on a different form around here. The grass grows taller, the laundry pile is smaller, and the children are at a level of crazy of which even the best of scientists and parenting experts offer no explanation. So, allow me to grant you a small window into life as we know it in your absence:
•I decided to take the kids to see Norris Dam in all its glory, releasing the floodgates. To ensure that no one even remotely attempted to give into the urge to chart such dangerous waters, I put the smallest child in a backpack carrier and the middle child in a small stroller decorated with robots.
This lasted all of five minutes.
When the middle child realized that he was not permitted to cross the bars and dive into the rushing waters, he proceeded to let out a scream that crossed Anderson and Campbell county lines.
People stared.
Children hid their faces in shame.
And when I tackled him in the floor of the van, used the strength of 10 men to buckle him in his car seat and gave a huge speech about the dam dangers, I realized my front window was rolled down and this scenario could be heard and viewed for miles. For the spectators, I apologize for my ill-fitting clothing that day. And let your kids know that there are indeed no sharks in Norris Dam.
Scare tactic attempt failed.
•In order to further the bond and enjoy time with our 5-year-old daughter while you were away, I orchestrated a “girl night,” complete with chocolate chip cookies, making hair bows, watching “Tangled” for the 78th time and painting each other’s fingernails.
I was positive I had nail polish remover.
Almost certain.
But I could not zero in on its location, so when I went to register her the next day for a homeschool co-op group for the fall, my nails looked like I had strangled a purple and pink unicorn. Streams of dried paint ran down my fingers as I tried to convince these adults that I too, was a totally responsible human being that can manage three small children on her own.
And that sharks are a salt-water fish and do not reside in the great state of Tennessee.
* Grocery shopping.
With three kids.
During naptime hours.
One of which wore a Batman mask the entire time.
Enough said.
*Went to visit your dad on his birthday, while you were away. He was spending time with your great aunt that afternoon. The kids dominated your great aunt’s small and very clean apartment, throwing around balloons, banging on her church organ and scattering peanut butter cookie crumbs everywhere.
Oh, and our son questioned your great aunt’s integrity after she went to the restroom, stating to her the following: “You didn’t go to the bathroom. I didn’t hear anything.”
Happy birthday, Papaw.
•The day you set to return home, all three vanity lights in the bathroom blew.
All at once.
And I could not see to find my contacts, or put on my makeup. So, there I was, rushing into the hardware store with three small children in the pouring rain with no umbrella, wearing giant glasses, no makeup and the clothes I slept in the night before. All to purchase these tiny $10 light bulbs. (Seriously — $10 per bulb. The only bulbs that work.) Arrived home to change them, they didn’t fit. And I couldn’t find the receipt. So I dragged the hallway floor lamp into the bathroom and forgot about it.
•Oh, and our heat went out.
That was cool. Literally.
Thank goodness summer is on the horizon. And two different vacuums in town took my quarters when I tried to clean out the van. Just step around those small gravels, kids. I’ll just sweep them out with my hands when we get home. And is that an old peanut butter cookie?
So, husband, just remember: whenever you feel like you work so hard and no one notices, your days and nights run together because of such little sleep, and you put your life on the line every day so we can afford to buy those ridiculous lightbulbs — you are loved.
And missed.
And life as we know it is not the same when you are gone.
When the cat is away, the mice will play. And cry. And draw on furniture.
 In other news, I have finally located that receipt, taken off that terrible nail polish, got a new pair of contacts, and visited Norris Dam a second time.
Without tears.
And we still did not see any sharks.