November 7, 2022

My happy place BAKING, COOKING, & PLANNING despite Finn's issue (don't mess with my plan)

The week between the tailgates I left
Gumby in the car, safe from Jaws
aka Finn. Every time I looked in my
rearview mirror, I spotted him
 lounging in the backseat.

Flashing back to mid October:  I spent the week after the tailgate at IU prepping for the next tailgate at ND. I made grocery lists, rolled up my sleeves, and cooked and baked myself silly. The chili endeavor was exhausting:  three large crockpots full, which was about 10 pounds of meat to give you an idea. Once it was done, I juggled stuff in the fridge to make room. 

I was also babysitting and getting the house ready to host four of Tank's friends. Let's be clear, my house cannot be whipped into shape for overnight guests very quickly. Heck, I'm not pleased that we are overnight guests in our own home half the time, but that's life. I knew these college boys wouldn't be in specific areas of the house. We focused our efforts on the visitor friendly spaces. 

Chili making in bulk. Pumpkin bread,
6 loaves, cooling in the background
The big boy room. The bathrooms. The basement. The kitchen and family room.

The kitchen was a mess all week with all the food making, but I did my best. Coach put sheets on the spare beds in Tank's room and cleaned the upstairs kids' bathroom - a room I try my best not to enter. Remember Tank was home this week, so he cleaned the kids' shower. "Well, it's better than our dorm shower." Way to keep the bar low. 

Also that week, my boys and a tot
and his baby sister, who stay till 5:00 pm,
cheered for Curly during her volleyball game.

Thursday, the day the college guys arrived, I had twin 2 year olds who we're trying to potty train plus other kids. One of the twins was standing outside the bathroom when she tossed her cookies. She had a nasty cough and she had a little gag reflex issue. Thankfully she was nowhere near the family room carpet. 

Minutes before Tank walked in with his friends, I was cleaning puke from the kitchen floor and cleaning the poor, overused-by-toddlers first floor bathroom. I was dripping in sweat. 

The desk chair in the boys' room is missing a wooden piece that connects the two sides. I tucked it into the desk and didn't think much of it. I assume my boys know to be careful when they sit on it. That room has three twin beds. Tank slept in his and two guys slept in the other two beds. We bumped Reg to Mini and Curly's room for the night. Two guys slept in sleeping bags on the floor in the boys' room. 

Before they arrived, Tank took photos of the toddler cot and the pack n' play and texted the guys to say they were sleeping there. Of course, I removed my daycare furniture from the room before they arrived.

Apparently the chair fell over on top of one of the floor-sleeping guys. He was afraid to push it in case it might land on another guy. Tank was relentless the next morning. 

Tank:  So you couldn't push a small desk chair off of yourself? You had to wake up another guy to help you?

I'm sure they'll be back for another visit what with our collapsing furniture and our river of dog shit. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. On Thursday night the guys left to go to a local bar frequented by middle aged men. They hoped their fake IDs would work and I hoped not to bail anyone out of jail.

While they were gone, I made cookies. I had a great stash in the freezer, but this is what I do:  I over-prepare. As I alone? I was putting cookies on sheets at the island. Reg was standing a few feet from me, sniffing. 

Reg:  What is that? It smells like poop.

I also whipped up some
shamrock cookies. Why not?

Me:  I smell cookies (I sort of hummed this as if my humming could make Reg's observation disintegrate).  

It was true - I was smelling cookies. I was also not looking for any poop. I'd spent a day cleaning up poop and pee and puke and I wanted no part of whatever he might be smelling. I was staying in my happy place, a place of denial.

Oh good gravy, when Coach and Reg found the source of the smell . . . there were some disgruntled family members, loud moans, and words said. 

Me? I never even wandered into the living room, which fortunately is hard wood - no carpet. I continued to inhale my warm cookie aroma and let the mess be handled by someone else. Lad was on his way home from working out. I called him, PLEASE HURRY. 

Lad:  It must be these (insert some dog treat or chew thing). 

Me (speaking  in a monotone voice with a chilling calmness, which I find remarkable. I attribute my inability to get worked up to my sheer exhaustion):  Well, figure it out in a hurry because we (including Lad!) are going out of town and Reg and Curly are not going to deal with Finn's diareha. You can use the newspapers over there to scoop. Open the windows on the first floor. Rags are kept in that cabinet and how do you not know where we keep the rags if you live here? 

I then texted Tank to alert him:  Assuming you got in the bar with no issues. Please let your friends know that the dog shit smell is generated by the river of dog shit that poured out of Finn a little bit ago. Lad is cleaning it up. We are airing the place out. Hoping it only smells like my cookies by the time you get home. 

CHANGE MY PLANS, WILL YOU? Coach realized that Reg and Curly are staying at our house alone Friday night and again AFTER the homecoming dance Saturday night. He was upset. I was confused. I'd mentioned 'the plan' a million times.

I don't think he didn't trust the kids. I think it's the epilepsy component. So, in the 11th hour, like at 10 pm on Thursday night when I really WANTED TO BE IN BED, I called our family friend and asked if Reg and Curly could crash at their house Friday night. Their son had to be at the high school in the morning, so he'd drop Curly there for volleyball. It was all settled. 

I left notes everywhere so that the kids would remember to bring a loaf of banana bread and a loaf of pumpkin bread to the sleepover house. At last, I collapsed in my bed.

Friday morning I was awake at 5:20 am. I made banana bread (see above), not needed but a nice touch. You expect this of me at this point, right? I cooked breakfast burritos and cinnamon rolls for the college crew. Coach came home and we started talking about how to load the cars and which car was going where. 

Stick to the plan:  there was no way
we were going to get there in one car.
Exhibit A. I've explained all
of this. Really, I have.

Well, this is when it became clear/clearer that when I open my mouth Coach hears white noise (also see above). I'd discussed my master plan MULTIPLE times. I'd drive the minivan with all the fixings for a tailgate, including Gumby, to the hotel. He'd drive the kid car. 


1. Heat the crockpots with the precooked chili in them overnight in the hotel room and hope that the aroma wouldn't disturb anyone's sleep.

2. Early Saturday morning, I'd load the warm crockpots into the minivan and hope not to wake Lad, Ed, and Ed's GF.

3. I'd drive to the parking lot when it was still dark out and wait for the lot to open at 8 am and get a great spot. 

4. I'd be unshowered, dressed in layers ready for a brisk 3 mile jog back to the hotel. 

Coach tried to come up with another plan in this, the ELEVENTH HOUR. Nope. THIS IS THE PLAN. I'M GUMBY DAMN IT, or in this case I'm Gumby's handler, and the tailgate orchestrater.

Do you speak in white noise? Do you have people try to change the plan on you at the last minute? Do you have pets that decide to stink up your home as soon as guests arrive? Do you cook for an army ever? *Colleen Martin, I already know your answer  ;) 


Nicole MacPherson said...

I just collapsed from exhaustion reading this. do you do all this, Ernie? Did they figure out what was wrong with Finn? A dog with diarrhea is NOT pleasant!
The photo with Gumby in the backseat cracked me up.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I have never, ever in my life cooked as much as you do/have. Never. You spoil those people with food. LOL!

You are Gumby's handler, and I'm laughing at him riding in the car with you. Do you do this so you can stay in the Carpool lane?

Dog shit smell is right up there with human vomit. Ughhhh....both of them tend to linger.

I'm a woman, wife, and mother; of course I speak in White Noise. What other option is there? 😳

Amy said...

You're amazing! The thought of cooking for a crowd is beyond my abilities (or at least I refuse, so same thing). My husband does all the holiday and cooking for crowds. And I think your plan is a great one - guarantees you a good parking spot, and it doesn't even put anyone else out! Plus, you're getting a workout in. Brilliant!

We have an old dog who will occasionally (often?) pee in the house without asking to go out first. So that's a fun surprise when it happens right when people are coming over, or worse - are already there. Right in the middle of a dinner with friends, we all watched the dog wake up from a nap in one of the dog beds, squat to pee, then start grumbling and pawing at the soaked dog bed. SMH.

Nance said...

I don't even know what to say. How in the hell is all of this worth it to you?
Aside from leaving a dog with diarrhea behind, I mean.

You are a whirlwind of busyness. It's astonishing.

Kari said...

Suz's comment made me laugh. I don't think any of us have cooked as much as you have. In addition, I've never traveled with a crockpot.

Now I'm craving banana bread....

Ally Bean said...

I'm with Nance. Why do all this? And what are going to do when you get to the point that you cook for two? I am fascinated, but exhausted, by all that you do. And plan.

Colleen said...

I cook for an army daily but I ONLY OWN ONE CROCKPOT. Not sure that makes me the crazy one or you?!? Heehee. You are a very generous tailgater and your mind must be exhausted from the mental load of it all.

Kara said...

I agree with everyone else that you cook for more people on a regular basis than I cook for once a year! I do own two crock-pots though.

We have fake turf in our back yard, and MAN does it dog stink sometimes. Before the graduation party this past summer, I actually had to hire someone to come out and replace the layer of sand that's under the grass, because it was so dog stinky.

Anonymous said...

Wow Ernie!! I have often cooked & baked for 20 but you make me look like an amateur. And I don’t babysit toddlers at the same time!!! Pretty darn impressive. And also - my husband hears white noise as well when I speak. Maddening.

Bibliomama said...

My former professor (Eve's current department head) stayed with us for two nights in August to attend her nephew's wedding. I said to my husband "we're putting her in Angus's room, right?" and he said exactly what I had been thinking, which was "yeah, there's no way the basement can be made habitable by then".

Ernie said...

Nicole - My big secret is my list. I make a list and then I mark things off as I go. I also have a partially working fridge in my dining room, fridge drawers in my snack bar in the kitchen, a full fridge in the kitchen and a working fridge in the basement. Anything that can be frozen in advance I freeze, so I pace myself. I also own a whopping 4 crockpots.

Lad figured out Finn was having trouble with some snack or chew thing that he was giving him. Thankfully.

Gumby was happy to be safe in the car. ;)

Bibliomama said...

I mean, husbands do have a habit of tuning out the plans that have been outlined for them many times, but in coach's defense, this is a pretty intricate plan with a lot of crock pots in it.

Ernie said...

Suz - My kids enjoyed sleeping over at my brother and Aunt Leprechaun's house when they were little, but they came home half starved. "Uncle made pancakes, but everyone only ate one and they were the tiny kind. I felt weird eating THE REST OF THE PANCAKES THAT HE MADE, so I just ate the one." I started sending them with granola bars in the overnight bag in case they weren't going to make it.

Coach's office manager told me when the kids were toddlers that she worried about my grocery bills in the future. I'm grateful I chose to live in the moment or I would have lost sleep with worry.

Not to brag, but I own 4 crockpots. I only used 3 that day. hee hee.

Laughing that Gumby helped me qualify for the carpool lane. Imagine the looks I'd get if I buckled him into the front seat? Tempting.

You're not kidding about the stench.

I just heard that white noise reference recently and I felt seen.

Ernie said...

Amy - I don't mind cooking in big batches like that, because then I know we will have leftovers. Much better than ending up without enough food. Not sure if you ever read my posts about the pasta parties that I host from time to time for my high school athletes. I go BIG. The leftovers need to be frozen and I occasinally forget about the pasta in the freezer. Then the kids get upset when I thaw it and serve it.

Oh, no. Dog with bathroom troubles. That's awful. When I vacuum now the DOG HAIR fills up the collection cup thing and it is mind blowing. How is this my life?

Ernie said...

Nance - Well, I love to socialize and we really don't get out much. This is my oppportunity and it doesn't usually involve whipping my house into shape. We do rely on decent weather though. Plus I really enjoy meeting my kids' friends and sometimes their parents. I also think that because I've always been on the outskirts of this Notre Dame scene, I am thrilled to do my own thing there without my family-of-origin's premission/blessing/invitation. I belong, damn it . . . thanks to Mini.

Honestly, this was so much fun for me.

Ernie said...

Kari - That is part of the reason that I now own 4 crockpots. I bought one because it looked like it was good to travel with. Honestly, I don't love it - but it doese have a locking mechanism. I've rearranged cabinets to make room for it, which was a lot of lengths to go to for a crockpot.

My kids are crazy about my banana bread. I started making it after celiac hit me, so I've never tried a bit.

Ernie said...

Ally - So, I do enjoy cooking for people. I'm guessing that's obvious. My chili is the bomb, if I don't say so myself. Fun fact, I never ate chili until I was an adult. Probably my chili is one of the first I ever ate. Tailgating is super fun in my book because I get to be social even though my house might not be in perfect order. I enjoy hosting my kids' friends and sometimes their folks. Good weather is key and there sure isn't a lot of control over that factor. Planning is my middle name, which is not always a blessing.

Ernie said...

Colleen - I could not make it on one crock pot. Here is my tip for you: I cook dinner in my crockpot and then I put the leftovers in the crockpot in the fridge. A few days later, bam - I plug it in and dinner DONE. I often have more than one crockpot in the fridge in the basement and I have to give specific instructions to a kid so they bring up the right one. I went a little crazy and bought a 4th crockpot specifically for tailgating. That might make me the crazy one. ;)

Ernie said...

Kara - Welcome to the multiple-crockpot owners club. I have so many crockpots, I might need to see if there's a meeting nearby, not a meeting where I can offer to do a potluck if you catch my drift.

First of all fake turf in the yard seems so low maintenance, but a dog smell associated with that has me shaking my head. Eek.

We just found out that Reg will be playing b-ball in Mesa one weekend in April. I called dibs on taking him. ;)

Ernie said...

Anonymous - Don't sell yourself short. Cooking for 20 is an undertaking. I lean heavily into my crockpots for these large groups. The crockpot might be the greatest invention ever. I say let the crockpot do the work.

Yeah, so the toddler factor wasn't my favorite part of food prep. Especially since so many of them were potty training. They know they aren't allowed out of the family room. I can see and hear them from the kitchen, so I dove into the chili making right around breakfast and took breaks as needed. I don't recommend it to everyone.

I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one who speaks in white noise. When my husband answers my questions the lag time between my question and his resonse is staggering. I'm often like HELLO? To which he will say I'M THINKING. Sometimes it's better to answer my own question by guessing at what I think he might say.

Ernie said...

Ali - Yes, there are some spaces that cannot be expected to be visitor friendly so quickly. My theory: all those HGTV shows have us all living in fear that people really expect that we all live with rooms in perfect order.

I agree, this was an intricate plan. BUT he really wasn't invovled in much of it. Just drive a car to South Bend. Simple. I think at this point he would know to just nod and stand down. "Sir step away from Gumby and that crockpot."