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Labor Day is not one of my favorite holidays because it marks the symbolic end of my favorite season, summer. Here in Springfield, it also means the end of summer vacation for Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie.

It’s about time.

This has definitely been their wildest, loudest, most out-of- control summer ever. It was also extremely fun, but now I need a vacation from our summer vacation!

Once the boys are on their way to school on Tuesday, I plan to take a shower again in peace without having to worry who’s teasing whom downstairs.

Since school let out in June, I’ve come to expect to hear anything from “He pinched me!” “He kicked me!” “He called me a bay-beee!” to all-out screaming and crying.

Those are the sounds of the brothers Zich engaging in an indoor sport that can best be described as living room brawling. It is a lot like barroom brawling, minus the beer and broken glass.

And it is definitely a forbidden activity in this house, which is why the boys wait until they think I’m out of hearing range to go full-force into battle.

Their battlefield of choice is the family room, for a variety of reasons. First, it is the one room downstairs that has carpet on the floor.

That makes it convenient when a shove or punch escalates into three boys rolling around on the floor until someone cries loud enough for me to hear what’s going on. Brawling on carpet might result in a bruise, but getting tangled up on a hardwood floor would hurt.

Another reason the family room makes such a convenient place to brawl is because the kitchen is just a couple of steps away. They can take a break at any time to grab some sodas and chips.

The family room provides cable TV for such breaks in the action and for the boys’ pre- and post-brawling entertainment.

If something exciting happens on “SpongeBob Squarepants” in the midst of a brawl, instant peace is declared among the combatants. I guess that means they would actually listen to me if I were a cartoon character.

Sometimes the answer to redirecting all that energy into something positive is as easy as taking the three of them to the pool. It’s always a wild time there, so we blend in better than we do in most places.

Even if none of their friends from school happen to be at the pool, the boys behave much better when three lifeguards are watching. I like to think of them as backup.

After going to the pool, mall, post office, commissary or anywhere else in the summer heat, the four of us return home with less wind in our sails than when we headed out the door.

The boys head straight for the kitchen to refuel while I usually return to my never-ending load of laundry. Before I have even poured in the Downy, the faint sounds of their latest brotherly brawl will drift up the stairs my way.

That’s when I take a deep breath and instead of counting to 10, I simply count the days left until school starts. As much as I hate to say goodbye to summer, I’m ready to do so in the name of peace and quiet for a few hours every weekday. Let the homework begin.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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