February 28, 2017

throwing in the towel

It's my goal to try to get our kids to help more around the house.  I'm assuming I'm not the only parent facing this never-ending mission.

Last night as I left the house to drive to Irish dancing, I asked Reggie to put the towels in the dryer.  I reminded Tank to drag the garbage cans and recycling bins in from the curb.  They both faked me out by nodding.  To further grab their attention, I shouted 'NOW' over my shoulder as I raced out the garage door.

Dragging these bins in from the curb is a chore.
Hours later, I stood in my kitchen just in time to hear Coach congratulate Eddie for bringing in the garbage cans . . . NOT.  I interrupted him instructing him to direct his sarcasm to Tank, not Eddie.  Retrieving garbage cans each Thursday is Tank's job.  Just one of many examples why Coach struggles to enforce the kids' chore responsibilities.  He doesn't know who is expected to do what on any given day. 

Reg and Tank were dropped at basketball by Eddie while I was at dancing.  The dancing location is far enough from home, I typically wait for class to finish before we head home.

After dancing the girls and I booked to the gym to watch the end of Tank's game before finally driving the gang home.  On such a splendidly long evening of chauffeuring, I appreciate the kids' ability to pitch in and get SOMETHING DONE. 

It makes perfect sense that a kid should drag in empty garbage cans so Coach isn't faced with that annoying task after working until after 9 pm.  Since Coach actually beat me home, I was dumbfounded to learn that it was Coach and not Tank who handled garbage bin duty.

While I stood there processing Tank's epic fail, I turned my attention to Reg.  'Did you put the towels in the dryer?' I quizzed him.  'Oh, I'm going to do that right now,' he mumbled.  Damn it all!!!! 

I was collapsed on the couch when Reggie appeared to say good-night after his shower.  Were the towels handled?  He nodded.  I doubted him.  'What did you do with the stuff that was already in the dryer?' I grilled him.  'Put it in a basket,' he replied.  Hmm, good answer.  I had my doubt.  Maybe he dumped the clean clothes in a basket full of dirty clothes. 

Lots of towels!
Coach apparently remembered a prior issue that Reg had loading towels in the dryer.  He followed up my question by demanding where the towels came from that Reggie stuck in the dryer.  Our 11 year old looked confused.  Bad sign.  'Um, from the laundry room floor,' he informed us.

Aha!  Coach remembered, but I had completely forgotten that a over a month ago Reggie grabbed a few dirty towels from the floor and gave them a good drying.  Practice makes perfect, but how many times do we need to dry dirty towels before he catches on?

Rarely am I able to squeeze all of our dirty towels into the washing machine in one load.  Therefore, there are always a few rogue towels scattered across the laundry room floor.  I guess Coach and I are to blame for having a kid who still doesn't understand the concept of washer to dryer to basket.
 Reggie (4 yrs) in full Bears gear plus pink slippers!

As a preschooler, Reggie was addicted
to wearing his favorite Bears jersey.  He would stick it in the dryer, but wouldn't turn on the dryer because he was too short to reach the buttons.  Then he would ask me if he could wear his jersey.  If I responded that he couldn't wear it because it was in the laundry, then he would race to the laundry room, pull the jersey from the dryer, and tell me that it was clean because he 'found it' in the dryer.  Many loads of laundry were stalled mid-cycle thanks to his sneaky, I-must-wear-a-jersey trick.

I will press onward in my quest to educate this guy on how laundry actually works, although I admit it is tempting to THROW IN THE TOWEL!!!!!

February 26, 2017

living with towel bandits

It's been years since I regularly stood in the kids' bathroom directing bath-time traffic, scrubbing chubby tots, and ducking big sock-drenching splashes.  No more fogged up bathroom mirrors and refreshing breezes as I exit the steamed up space with my squeaky clean offspring in tow.  Now they handle showering on their own.  Let the rejoicing begin.  

Since I've recaptured the minutes once devoted to our bath-time evening ritual, I've stumbled upon a new, unexpected frustration.  The accumulation of used, damp towels in odd places makes me scratch my head, holler profanity, and witness kids feigning cluelessness.

I suppose I should threaten to join them in the bathroom once again as they get clean, so that I can instruct them as to where to hang their towels.  No one wants that to happen, and I'm opposed to idle threats - so I continue to suffer through the mystery of why it's hard to hang a towel.

I stack piles of clean laundry in my room on a regular basis.  A few of the kids have adopted the habit of dropping his/her wet towel directly next to said laundry pile while he/she searches for something to wear.  Captain Obvious usually leaves his/her adjacent laundry pile toppled over in order to grab something from the bottom of the pile.

The more confusing towel bandit maneuver is pulled off by a kid who utilizes a towel and RETURNS it to the cabinet under the sink.  I've reached in the cabinet to grab a fresh towel and discovered a wet towel that has now caused the formerly dry towels to become damp.  My only guess is that a kid wanted to mop up puddles following a drippy sibling's shower and then stuffed the mop-towel back under the sink.  Odd, but true.  (This little gem made it into my annual Christmas poem where I typically spread Christmas cheer by revealing clues about how we really live).

Excerpt of annual Christmas poem referencing the misplacement of wet towels and other issues. 
A few years ago I hatched a brilliant plan.  For Christmas I wrapped up two personalized towels for each kid.  I mistakenly believed that this towel labeling would solve our 'whose wet towel is this?' issue.  No one would be able to shrug and look at me blankly when I accused them of grabbing a fresh towel for each shower.  Abandoning wet towels on bedroom floors, hallway banisters, or bathrooms would cease, right? 

Towels embroidered with kids' names for Christmas, brilliant!
With three double towel rods installed in the kids' bathroom, they each have an assigned spot for their monogrammed towel.  More brilliance.  Unfortunately, if they don't return their recently-used towel to their assigned rod because they prefer to drop it in a heap on their bedroom floor, they instinctively grab a new towel after their next shower.

My ingenious idea was foiled.  My kids make no bones about using a towel with a sibling's name on it.  Silly me.  Back to square one.  I am still unable to assign blame to a kid for leaving a wet towel on the floor or for using a fresh towel every day.  This ongoing towel dilemma results in additional laundry as I scoop up towels for the laundry that were most likely only used once.
Three of these double rods are mounted on kids' bathroom wall.

Adding to the problem, last weekend Tank puked his guts out for over 12 hours.  I was away for the weekend with the two girls at an Irish dancing competition.  Coach created a towel sidewalk leading from Tank's room to the bathroom.  I felt guilty for missing the entire puke-a-rama weekend especially because Coach had very little empathy for our 14 year old patient.  Apparently Tank was difficult to nurse back to healthy because when he was allowed to sip a tablespoon of water, he chose to chug a gallon.  More puke.

Since I wasn't home, I had a hard time deciphering which- if any -towels were legitimately in need of a wash.  Between life with towel bandits and dealing with possible puke-dribble on temporary towel sidewalks, I faced an unusually huge mountain of towel laundry when I returned from Irish dancing. 

February 20, 2017

unexpected gift that keeps on giving

The mailman delivered a large box addressed to me on Friday.  My birthday was in late December.  Since I didn't remember ordering anything, I was surprised.

Inside the box was another thinner box, a packing slip, and a catalog to Country Door.  I glanced up and down the packing slip until I saw a message that sort of blended in with the other information.  'Have a good day! from, Aunt Patricia.' 
Note how huge- compared to can of corn.

My mom's sister doesn't usually send me gifts for my birthday.  She isn't my godmother, and in our large family buying adult children a gift is typically reserved for godparents.  Not that it was my birthday anyway.  To my knowledge I've never received a birthday gift from a godparent.  Compared to my siblings, I totally lost the lottery in the godparent department, but that's a whole other story. 

I ripped open the thin box and discovered a wall hanging shaped to resemble a wooden cutting board.  The center of the fake cutting board was replaced with a faux chalk board.  The message printed on the faux cutting board read:  'Good moms have dirty ovens, sticky floors, laundry piles, and happy kids.' 

Magnet jobs just removed from command central to make room for more activities on the calendar. 

Cute, right?  Or was I supposed to read between the lines? 

To call Aunt Patricia a neat freak would be a major understatement.  She's more over-the-top than that.  Grand-kids are forewarned not to touch her walls.  Guests fear repercussions from dropping crumbs.  If it was socially acceptable to leave plastic on furniture, she wouldn't hesitate. 

I'm not one to hang lots of cutesy messages in my house.  We manage to survive without reminders like:  'Our family rules:  laugh often, love always' or some other generic load of crap.  Not really my style. 

Magnet jobs were posted here until recently.

I'd rather reserve precious wall space to post legitimate chore reminders as opposed to run-of-the-mill upbeat family catch phrases.  I tailor my job lists to our slob-like children in hopes that someone remembers to clean something up someday.  No wooden frame in the shape of a cutting board.  No faux chalk board.  No chance of adding aesthetic value to our kitchen. 

I called my mom after I unwrapped the gift.  'Any idea why Aunt Patricia sent me this gift out of the blue?' I grilled her.  After I read her the verbiage, she admitted that her sister had shared her plan to order me the decorative wall hanging (with a bit of bite).  She assumed that Aunt Pat just thought of me when she saw it.  Awesome.  Just as I suspected.  A woman, who wasn't searching for a gift for me, purchased a cute 'don't-fret-about-being-messy' wall hanging for me because it had my name written all over it.

Sweet.  Nothing says 'I love you' like a gift that points out your poor housekeeping habits. 

Older message was blending in.
And 'Happy kids' - I don't know about that.  They are happy at times . . . like when I'm not home and they log unprecedented hours on Xbox.  Or when I drag in $400 worth of provisions from the grocery store so they don't starve.  My absence also creates a blissful environment because no one is around to remind them to tackle a chore off their list.  When the coast is clear of their large and in charge mother, they are overjoyed to feast on food or inhale limitless snacks in rooms where munching is typically off-limits.

Just before I hung up with my mom, I reminded her that years ago Aunt Patricia gave me a small ceramic wall hanging.  'It said something about having a messy house,' I explained.  'I don't know what happened to it.'  Mini was standing behind me, and she burst out laughing.  She tapped me on the shoulder, 'It's hanging right there, Mommy.'   I spun around and saw that she was pointing at it. 
How fitting that pasta sauce is splattered on the wall behind it.

The original messy-mom house warming gift Aunt Pat sent me about 9 years ago was hanging smack dab in the middle of the kitchen wall under the cabinet that holds our dinner plates.  It reads, 'Pardon the mess, my children are making memories.'  I guess it has been there so long, I no longer notice it. 

Good think I received a new LARGER reminder of what pigs we are - or more specifically, what a pig I am. 

February 15, 2017

cold shoulder 'look'

After I drop the girls off at their Irish dancing class, I sometimes run to the mall.  I carefully plan my sale rack scouring so that I make it back in time to pick them up.  I justify these little trips by reminding myself that it's a waste of gas and time to drive all the way home.  Of course tossing moo-la around at my favorite department store would never fall into the wasteful category.  I hunt for bargains, and I rarely come home unsuccessful.  That doesn't sound wasteful. 

My speeding ticket track record works as a deterrent.  It steers me away from excess driving.  I try to avoid racing back and forth from dancing . . . or anywhere.  If I don't hit the mall, I manage to utilize my time by parking near the dance studio, whipping out my iPad, and writing a post for my blog.

Although I'm under the weather and not feeling my normal 'shop-till-you-drop' self, I wasn't thrilled about camping out in a chilly car for two hours.  I needed to return a pair of jeans I bought for Mini, so I chose the mall as my dancing distraction. 

It has been a few weeks since I dropped by my favorite hangout.  Many new items greeted me from the sale rack.  I swear some were taunting me:  'pick me, pick me!'  I did buy Mini ANOTHER pair of jeans.  The girl is impossible to shop for.  She is very tall for a 12 1/2 year old and her waist is super small.  She requires a belt even when she wears a size 24.  Such a dilemma, 'I can't buy jeans because my waist is SO small.' 

I got fed up watching her hide her crazy-town floods with her boots when she left for school everyday.  Now I find myself scooping up any pair of size 24 jeans that arrive on the sale rack.  Oh, to make matters more interesting, my search criteria include jeans with no rips or weird pearl or shiny stone or funky writing embellishments.  She's totally not into that.  (thank God).

There were a ton of cold shoulder shirts, blouses, and sweaters taking up real estate on the sale racks.  I don't live under a rock - just under a blanket of dirty socks, wrappers from eaten-on-the-sly food, and drop-where-you-disrobe (or unpack your basketball bag) clothing.  So, I know the cold shoulder look is a thing now.  Here's my reasons for not purchasing this latest fad:

1.  I'm always cold.  I don't need to add a shirt to my wardrobe (regardless of how tempting the reduced price is) to add to my difficulty-regulating-my-own-body-temperature-in-the-windy-city issue.

2.  I try to steer clear of fads.  I don't expect them to last, and life on a budget means I can't afford to stock up on items that will be so 'last year' by next month.  (OK, I am great at finding deals, so I can probably pull it off financially, but I have a hard enough time eliminating clothes from my closet that I feel haven't been through my wardrobe rotation equally.  I would not do well tossing something out that wasn't worn enough just because the trend died).  I do so hope this trend will die. 

3.  Slouchy posture.  I am tall.  Growing up I hated being tall, standing out, and drawing attention to myself.  Thanks to this lack of self confidence, I ended up adopting bad posture.  My best friend was really short.  While I longed to be short like her, all I got was a mom who nagged me to constantly correct my shitty posture.  My shoulders aren't offensive looking, but imagine how goofy I would look highlighting my rounded and sad shoulders.  Yuck.

4.  I'm just not that cool.  No one will accuse me of being a trendsetter, although I do like to tell people that I created the knickers rage in the early '80's.  Jealous?  I was stuck wearing my older but shorter sisters' pants.  Can you say flood?  I blame this childhood scar for my need to keep Mini in clothes that aren't ill-fitting.  Nowadays, I struggle to pull off cute outfits.  Better to be overly matched or add in the right amount of contrast?  Better with leggins or skinny jeans, how do you know?  Will I be comfortable sucking in my belly fat all day?  Don't even expect me to know when and how to top my whole look off with the right scarf.  I don't accessorize.  At all.  My clothes often scream 'mom' (as if my minivan and my gaggle of kids weren't a dead giveaway).  If I donned a cold shoulder sweater, I'd definitely look like I was trying too hard.

5. Timing.  By the time I would stumble upon an affordable cold shoulder shirt on the sale rack, the moment would have passed.  It's the curse of being stingy with my money.  There are an awful lot of mouths to feed in this house. Bare shoulders - not a priority. 

February 12, 2017

a new look

In case you are  new to my blog . . . I'm in the process of updating my look and my name.  I just recently purchased the domain name 'nosmallfeetblog', which I intend to link to my blog.

Technical wizard, I am NOT.  So, until I figure out how to link the two together and how to select other fonts, colors, etc. -this is what the blog will look like.  Thanks for your patience.

If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear from you - so drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

February 8, 2017

Our trip to Arizona: Ernie goes braless and no one will notice

Later that evening, after a torturous landing thanks to the fluid in my ears, I experienced a moment of clarity.  I looked at Coach.  'I have no bra packed.'  He looked at me confused.  'What?'

I explained, 'I'm not wearing a bra, and I forgot to pack one.  I'm wearing a cami with a built in bra.'  Coach is no undergarment expert, so even after I described my situation - to him it was as clear as the difference between underwire and lightly lined.  

If I was Oprah, this bra-cami combo deal would be on my 'favorite things' list.  Hands down.  I have it in two colors.  They are my staples.  In the winter, it serves as an added layer of warmth on my always-cold torso and I enjoy a day without bra straps rubbing on my dry skin.  I was sporting one under the tie-dye top because I needed a cami under it anyway.  A more voluptuous person could pull off the tie-dye flowy shirt without a cami, but it sags in all the wrong places on me.  Why not eliminate another undergarment and wear the combo bra-cami?  So freeing!


I'm a flat chested chick.  I make no apologies for wearing a size A cup.  It's never been a dream of mine to be more well endowed.  If I could upgrade any part of me, it would be my thin, awful hair - for sure!  My crappy head of hair is a constant source of angst with me.  My tiny boobs, not so much.  

Still, who the heck forgets to pack a bra?  On a short trip like this, I would normally be able to get away with the same bra I wore on the plane, especially since I hoped to be sitting in a bathing suit most days. It didn't help that with all of my running to doctors and grabbing last minute naps, I hadn't decided what to war until a moment before we walked out the door.  

I recounted the outfits I believed that I had packed.  My wardrobe for the week was kind of a blur.  Between the boys needing to be picked up by Gretta, inhaling a dinner during lunch time so I could just get by with a salad at the airport, the threat of clown killers, and a ten minute verbal instructions conversation I neglected to give Coach's office-manager-morning-babysitter in advance, I scrambled.  Big time.  

The short sleeve dress had black in it, donning an exposed black bra-cami would work.  Check.  The soft pink sweater with the cut-outs in the back would not work with the black bra-cami.  I recalled stuffing a stretchy cream colored tank top in my bag to layer under the pink sweater.  I imagined that I could stick the removable thin cups from the black bra-cami inside the tank top.  The other casual shirts I brought would need to be layered with the tank-top plus bra lining inserts as well.  

I texted a friend, 'Ernie goes braless and no one will notice'.  (What can I say, I'm Irish and some version of the Erin go braugh bit has always served me well). 

Our trip to Arizona: Curly's emotional afternoon

During the week, I had laid out a few outfits to pack for our long weekend in Arizona.  No final decisions were made as I kept getting pulled away from my packing task.  Now the Uber car was being summoned and it was time to pay the piper - or at the very least time to toss something inside the bag instead of arranging neat little 'maybe' piles in a semicircle around the bag.

All toiletries were on the bathroom counter.  Since Coach was wearing business casual on the plane, I opted to do the same.  Choosing to pack it instead of wear it, I stuffed my workout dry fit outfit and warm up  jacket in the suitcase.  I opted to dress in a flowy tie-dye shirt with a black cami bra under it and black skinny jeans.  Knowing the evenings would be a little cool, I opted for long pants and shirts that layered under my jeans jacket.

Curly arrived home from school relieved that we were still home.  I had assured her that she would see us for a minute after she got off the bus before we left.  When Curly turned on the tears, I initially thought she was emotional about our departure.

Turns out, some ass hole kid scared the shit our of our youngest child on the bus ride home.  This was ill timed considering Curly would be home alone for an hour until her friend's mom came to get her.  This fellow bus rider a.k.a. devil-spawn-kid convinced Curly that bad clowns were going to attach the school and kill all of the kids.  I trace this back to bad parents.  Idiots.  

Coach came unglued.  He hollered at Curly for believing such crap from dumb kids.  She really had no choice but to stop crying and admit that it was all nonsense.  Apparently the stress of trying to walk out the door and have a kid reduced to tears about possible clown killers while anticipating traveling with a wheezing wife reared its ugly head.  There wasn't an opportunity for a calm soothing conversation.  Just, 'How dare you believe that kind of crap?  Those kinds of kids are stupid, don't sit near her on the bus again!'  After Daddy's verbal unleashing, a few hugs from mom sealed the deal.  Curly put on a brave face and wiped away her tears.

Just as we pulled up to the airport in our Uber car, Curly called me.  More tears.  I could tell she was trying to keep it together.  'Where's Mini?' she whispered.  Mini was supposed to walk home from school with her brothers.  Curly is the only bus rider because she isn't yet at the junior high.

I glanced at my watch.  Why hadn't she come home?  The boys had walked home, packed their overnight bags, and been picked up by their friends' mom as planned.  Eddie had run in the house, snacked a bit, and jogged back out to his car to get to his away basketball game.  No Mini?  That didn't make sense.

Now Curly was home alone.  That didn't add up.  I told Curly I'd hang up and call her right back after I figured it out.  A quick call to the mom who was supposed to be picking up the two girls for their overnight cleared things up.

Mini had decided to stay for art club with
this woman's daughter.  Still not sure how the friend's mom knew this and I didn't.  Since I don't do cell phones until high school, there was no way for me to call Mini.  Just as well - I probably would've hated myself for delivering a tongue lashing just as I was going away for the weekend.  Even though I felt like Mini, a characteristically excellent rule follower, deserved it. 

I called Curly back.  Mini was at art club.  She should've gotten in touch with me when she chose to adjust her afternoon, but she didn't.  I would deal with her last minute decision to change plans later.  In the meantime, I assured Curly that her ride would be there in less than 3 minutes.

Once again, all was well in Curly's world.  A very key detail allowing this mother to head out of town. 

February 7, 2017

Our trip to Arizona: packing not a priority

Coach and I boarded a plane for Arizona on Friday.  The hours leading up to our departure were not-surprisingly hectic.  After spending the week preparing meals, cleaning the house, and arranging rides for the gang, I had a short list of tasks to accomplish before I could leave.  

On top of my last minute to-dos, I was babysitting.  Two little guys, Theodore and Gilbert, were at our house until we were supposed to walk out and climb in our Uber car.  I don't normally sit on Fridays, so I was less than thrilled when the mom, Gretta, asked me to switch Monday the 30th with my travel date of Friday, Feb 3rd. 

Cleaning up before we leave town.
As luck would have it, I caught a bad cough from Theodore and Gilbert six days before our trip.  Although I hoped I could kick it before we headed out of town, I required a second visit to the doc on Friday with the two tots in tow.  I was slightly alarmed when I ended up retching in the sink on Thursday during a crazy, hard-to-recover-from coughing fit.  

Imagine my excitement at having to squeeze in another doctor visit and trip to the pharmacy while I was scrambling to have all of my ducks in a row hours before our trip.  I really didn't want to be sick on this rare occasion when Coach and I get away, so I hoped that the oral steroid that the doc was prescribing would loosen my cough and sort me out.  The doc explained that I might have pneumonia, but the antibiotic I was on should cover both bronchitis and pneumonia. Bases covered - yippee.

I fixed the boys lunch and started gathering food that I intended to squeeze into my checked bag.  It has become increasingly difficult to travel since I was diagnosed with celiac disease.  Nowadays I am very territorial about my food.  Limited choices make airports dodgy for a hungry gluten free person.  
Lunch with Theodore and Gilbert.

With the boys in for naps, I was feeling like I had a good handle on the last minute stuff and I sat down to send one more email reminding my religious ed substitute teacher of her upcoming Sat. evening obligation. 

That's when exhaustion hit me.  I was unable to keep my eyes open.  My constant companion for most of the week, a.k.a. my cough, had been waking me each morning at five am.  Sleep deprivation was catching up with me.  A 15 minute snooze on the couch was in order. 

After a call with Coach's office manager, who was scheduled as our morning sitter on Tuesday when our overnight sitter left for work, I realized I was racing against the clock.  Time budgeting was failing me.  Shock.  Coach asked me to send for the Uber car, but I called out over my shoulder as I raced up the stairs those magic words he didn't really want to hear, 'I still need to pack!'

February 2, 2017

11 tasks to handle before heading out of town - a logistical nightmare

I leave town tomorrow.  Escaping Chicago's freezing temps for sunny Arizona for a long weekend sounds dreamy, doesn't it?  I'm still struggling to wrap my brain around the end result as I compress everything I would typically accomplish in the days when I am gone into the next few hours.  Then I will board a plane with Coach.  Here are a few of the basic biggies I need to handle:

1.  FOOD  In order not to burden our brave, grad-student sitter, Tim, I'm preparing most of my kids' meals.  I visited the grocery store last night while the girls were at dancing class.  Essential staples purchased Sunday night were dwindling, so I stocked up.  This morning I almost kicked someone when I noted that only a few bananas remained on the counter top.  I still suspect a renegade green pepper might be hiding out in the back of the fridge where lost items avoid my groping, searching hands.  Rather than empty my least favorite appliance, I added 'green pepper' to my last minute list.

Bananas anyone?
2.  LAST MINUTE GROCERY RUNS  So . . . in the freezing weather, I joyfully loaded the tots I sit for into the 'great white' (our 12 seater Chevy Express van) and hit my favorite hang out- the Jewel (our local grocery store).  Now there are enough bananas gathered in front of the toaster to satisfy a family of apes.  Before I diced up tot size lunch offerings, I chopped up the correct proportions of onions, green peppers, and garlic to brown with the meat for my crowd-pleasing chili recipe. 

3.  CROSSING FINGERS THAT EVERYONE DOES WHAT THEY ARE TOLD  I enjoyed this same trip last year when I tagged along on Coach's fellowship course.  Surviving the dizzying logistics necessary to peel myself away from our brood and all of my commitments was a challenge then, too.  I still recall the jarring phone call from my Mom when she suspected that Laddie's car was in the cul-de-sac after he was supposed to have departed for a friend's house.  Mom arrived at our house to lock the interior doors.  We hoped to avoid any teenager nonsense on the days when the kids scattered to friend's houses.  I whispered into the phone, 'Mom, he's still in the house!'  It was like a daytime thriller except no one's life was threatened.  Instead, Laddie risked long term house-arrest for hiding out in the basement and not following THE PLAN.

cookies and pumpkin bread!
4.  ARRANGING SLEEPOVERS  The kids begged to once again be allowed to sleep at a friend's house for one of the nights we are away.  After breaking my own self-imposed rule of never-invite-yourself-over, I feel compelled to bake treats.  Before I hop in the cab for the airport, I will arrange in plain view labeled, pre-wrapped tin foil packages of my infamous cookies and pumpkin bread for the sleepover-imposers to drag along with their overnight bags. 

5.  CLEANING THE PIT OUR HOUSE  Our sitter, Tim, used to sit for us when he was in high school.  As a toddler Curly was crazy about him . . . still is.  He's been around forever, but I still feel compelled to clean the abode before I ask him to sleep here for three nights.  Not everyone is capable of snoozing surrounded by stacks of unsorted laundry, baskets of mismatched socks, and boxes of well-loved books the kids recently agreed to donate.  Being able to relax despite the chaotic explosion that exists in most rooms of our home is a gift.

Crockpot of chili surrounded by extra milks. 
6. DINNERS  In my spare time, I've managed to fill two crock-pots:  one with chili (with a good portion of green pepper!), the other with  pizza casserole.  They are stored precariously at the edge of the shelf in the basement fridge.  Here's hoping someone remembers to plug them in on the necessary morning.  I will be sending up a small prayer that no one reaches in to grab a new gallon of milk and knocks one of them over.  Leftovers of other meals I prepared for this week will also be available 'just in case.'  Rounding out my menu plan during our trip is an envelope of cash that will provide the gang with a rare pizza treat during the Superbowl.  

7 layer taco dip - YUM!
How many minutes till they dive into this?
7.  SUPERBOWL SNACKS  Although the absence of parents is probably celebration enough, I have agreed to prepare my infamous 7 layer taco dip so that the kids, Tim, and Tim's girlfriend might still enjoy the traditional annual football experience.  On a chair in the dining room, there is a box full of other store bought snacks, drinks, and dips.  I labeled it, so no one messes with it until game time.  Yeah, right.  I crack myself up sometimes.

8.  ARRANGING FOR REINFORCEMENTS  Since Tim needs to get to his job before most of my offspring are out of bed, my Mom and Coach's office manager are taking turns playing the role of the sensible adult on the two school mornings when I'll be gone.  A revolving door of take-chargers ought to be interesting.

Basketballs and sneakers - everywhere!
Is that the laundry room floor?

9.  RIDES  Then there is the transportation dilemma.  In order to avoid having Tim crisscross the western suburbs of Chicago, I've scored the kids rides to most of their activities.  In a word:  basketball.  Between the five kids residing with us full time, they are playing on 8 different basketball teams.
10.  LAUNDRY  I may be squeezing lots of tasks into a small window to prepare to head out of town, but my washer and dryer have been working double time.  I refuse to hear about missing jerseys, favorite jeans, or a lack of socks.  My laundry room is clear.  Momentarily.  It looks as if we are preparing for an open house.  I cringe when I think of the heaps of smelly basketball clothes that will await my return.

11.  ANYTHING COACH DIDN'T DO  Coach has organized some of his own clothes to pack.  His 13 month old laptop that he needs during his fellowship course died inexplicably this week, so he had to contend with that.  Otherwise, he is anxious to get away and spend some alone time with me after his course ends at the end of each day.  Not surprising, he is completely clueless as to the organization that is required to keep this ship running in our absence.

Exhibit A:  he texted me today in a panic because he forgot to arrange for someone to take his place coaching Mini's basketball team.  I texted back:  'Remember, I already told you that I asked for parents to help out, and a few moms stepped up to the plate.'

Now, if I can just find some time to pack.