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There were twenty-five bouncy balls.

Today I was making another futile attempt at organizing toys in the kids' rooms. (I started out my day doing laundry and mopping the kitchen floor, and normally I wouldn't combine this many hellish activities in one day, but I had to take advantage of the fact that my mom had Bryce at her house for a visit. I can get ridiculous amounts of work done when I only have one of the two kids with me on the weekends, and only with minor whining from whichever kid I have making annoying requests for things like sustenance or motherly attention.) Because the kids have a ridiculous amount of toys, we started trying to curb some of the chaos around the house by using that "rotating" trick where you keep certain toys put away for a few weeks, then take them out and put the old, familiar ones away. Every few weeks when the box comes out, it's like all new toys: Yippee! The thing is, as with every other scenario around here, our attempt to use this method of keeping things tidy has actually created more problems.

John, not having the anal tendencies I have (but having his limit on the number of toys he's willing to be injured by while walking from the office to the bathroom) tends to run through the house with a big box and dump everything he steps on into it, then shove it haphazardly into the dark abyss of Bryce's closet, which will already happen to have three or four similarly stuffed boxes, all with toys that would make the kids squeal with delight if any of us would ever take the time to use this "toy rotating" method correctly. He is not, however, willing to sort through all of the mismatched sets of blocks, cars, Little People, bouncy balls, pirate ships, castles, and fire trucks to determine which pieces / characters / parts go with what. As a result, Bryce's closet is full of boxes of completely random pieces of toys, and every few weeks, when I think about pulling one of those boxes out and putting some old, familiar toys away, I am overwhelmed by the thought of having to pull ALL of the boxes out and ensure that every construction site, zoo, and farm have all of the appropriate animals and feeding troughs and cranes in their respective sets while the two kids are jumping around me and sneaking pieces away to play with (to PLAY with! What are they thinking!? I'm trying to ORGANIZE HERE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!), so I usually open the closet door, look at the multiplying number of boxes with bright plastic randomness sticking out every which way, and then promptly close it again. What extra toys? We don't have rotating toy boxes, no sirree bob. Luckily you have all these great toys you're already using!

Today I faced what I've been dreading, and it was definitely as bad as I'd thought it would be. Piles, piles everywhere! An old toy pile for the rotate box, a broken toy pile for the trash, a new toy pile to put away in each kid's room, an old, non-age-appropriate book pile to put in keepsakes or give away, a not-yet-ready-to-face-the-rigors-of-Bryce's-page-turning book pile to put on a higher shelf, a bouncy ball pile for my own amusement and curiosity (how many do they actually have?), a matchbox car pile, a massive Generic Plastic Crap pile out of which all other piles have been created. Madness, I tell you. Sheer madness.

The highlight (for Quinn) was when I took one of the last boxes to his room to distribute each action figure and matchbox car to their appropriate stations, and a huge roach-like bug (let's just call it a roach, because even though it's not really a roach - and let's be thankful it's not, because if it were, then that would mean that there'd be a lot more, which in turn would mean I'd have to evacuate and blow up my own house - it looks exactly like a roach and has a very roach-like crawl) (John says it's a "water bug" but that makes no sense to me - wouldn't a water bug be near water? Someone should really explain this to me.) scurried out from under a happy meal toy right towards my hand, eliciting my famous involuntary Horror Movie Scream. The Horror Movie Scream usually results in John sighing, rolling his eyes, and walking into whatever room I'm in (inevitably frozen in fear) with a big, heavy shoe in one hand and a paper towel in the other. Today, though, it was me and Quinn alone in the house. The roach was stuck in a fairly small box, but was rapidly approaching the edge, over which I knew it could effortlessly climb and THEN it would be mere nanometers away from my bare feet. Quinn was lounging on Bryce's bed (and relishing the fact that Bryce wasn't there to feign genuine shock and betrayal while screaming, "Noooo, Quinn, that's MY bed!") but the Horror Movie Scream did make him curious enough to call from the other room, "What, mom?!" I tried to stay calm. I failed. "Oh nothing...well, IT'S A BUG. AAAAAAAAA!" (This time the scream was a little more guttural and growl-like, in case you were wondering.) I frantically looked for the biggest, heaviest shoe I could find, but the only available one was a lightweight toddler-sized sandal on Quinn's dresser. "DAMMIT!" I grabbed the pathetic weapon, knowing I was heading in to a battle where my foe was almost as well-equipped as I was. I let out another growl and my sandal-covered index and middle fingers struck the roach and then reared back in fear of actually having to touch it (ohmygodI'mgoingtothrowup). Either I missed, or this roach was a lot stronger than I'd given it credit for. I growled, "AAAAAAA!" and struck again, this time harder, and waited 1/10 of a second longer before retracting the tiny shoe. Now the roach was really up for the challenge, and apparently unfazed by the sandal. It ran faster, under the plastic pieces of crap that still lined the bottom of the box. "Stupid toys," I thought to myself, "why didn't we just throw these away months ago anyway?" I briefly lost sight of the scurrying legs and shiny reddish-black exoskeleton; my heart raced, I balanced on my tiptoes, my eyes darted around the perimeter of the box to make sure the roach hadn't escaped. A hair-like antenna peeked out from under the fuzzy green ear of a party favor bunny rabbit, but only briefly before the roach was sprinting across the box towards me again. Another growl, and now I threw my whole body into the effort, and wielded my sandal-weapon like a samurai sword. This time the sandal made swift, direct contact with the roach's body, and in my warrior mode, I kept perfect track of the enemy's moves, ensuring every one of them would be compromised by my blows. Finally, I killed it. It had to be dead, because it was in two pieces. "AAAAAAAAA!! OHMYGOD HOW IS IT STILL MOVING?!" Quinn was standing behind me now, watching the battle unfold, half-concerned, half-amused by his insane mother, the roach samurai: "It's still moving?" "YES! AAAAAA!!" More sandal thrashing ensued, only now I was dragging the roach's carcass across the cardboard bottom of the box. "IT'S LEGS ARE STILL MOVING! IT'S LOOKING AT ME! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING?! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, QUINN! RRRUUUUNNNNNN!!!"

When I came to, there were roach bits all over the box, Quinn was asking me, "did it growl at you?" and I was saying, "Yes. Yes it did. And that's exactly what we'll tell Dad when he asks why I threw away that box of toys." Then I dumped it in the trash can and never looked back. Hey, it was a few less toys to have to distribute into piles, so something good came out of it.