Every Monday morning I wake up exhausted and bewildered. I stumble out of the bedroom and lurch toward the pot of coffee with that same look that you often see on President Bush's face when he gets trapped in a room full of smart people.
It's the kids. My wife and I have a total of five of them in what is called a "blended family," a name chosen by sociologists because it describes the merging of many people under one roof and also because the name "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey" was already taken.
Here's the lineup:
Brittany -- she's 21 and recently moved to Nashville.
Maggie -- she's almost 19 and is a sophomore at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Brian -- he's a senior in high school.
Nick -- he's a sophomore in high school.
John -- he's a seventh-grader.
Here now, a look at last weekend -- a fairly typical weekend -- and why Susie and I wake up each Monday morning looking like our parachutes didn't open.
10 a.m.: Appliance repairman arrives, looks at leaking ice maker flooding our kitchen. Scratches his head, says, "It might need a new part," and leaves.
2:30 p.m.: Nick arrives home. Goes into pantry and eats the entire bottom shelf. Says he needs a ride back to school for evening football game.
3:30 p.m.: John arrives home. Eats middle shelf of pantry. Says he needs a ride to football practice.
3:45 p.m.: Brian arrives home from doctor's office. Doctor looked at his injured legs. Said legs "might need a new part." Brian has hockey game in Denver in a few hours, wants someone to cook a big meal before he goes. I tell him Julia Child is dead. He looks at me funny and heads for TV room.
4:30 p.m.: Take John to football practice.
6 p.m.: Pick up John at football practice. Eat burgers at Carl's Jr. Go home. Don't feel so good.
6:30 p.m. : Take 15 Rolaids. Give Nick ride to football.
7:15-9 p.m.: Sit on couch, watch beloved Boston Red Sox take horrible beating at hands of New York $%^&*# Yankees.
9 p.m.-midnight: Wait for Nick and Brian to get home. Go into pantry. Nothing to eat. Fall down on wet floor near ice maker. Boys arrive home safely. Wife and I go to bed hungry.
6 a.m.: Awakened by what sounds like intelligent City Council discussion of same-sex benefits on local cable TV channel. Turns out to be a fight in the living room between my cat and wife's cat, or step-cat. Break up fight. Can't get back to sleep.
6:15-6:18 a.m.: Read entire Gazette. Twice.
7:15 a.m.: Wake up John for his football game.
8 a.m.: Susie, Nick, John and I leave for football game in Memorial Park.
9 a.m.: Other team's heavily tattooed parents begin screaming obscenities at football referee. I am shocked by their behavior.
9:45 a.m.: Referee calls holding penalty on John.
9:55 a.m.: I sneak into parking lot, let air out of referee's car tires.
10:15 a.m.: Game over. Stop at clothing store to purchase necktie for Brian for evening homecoming dance.
11 a.m.: Home for four minutes. John says he needs birthday present for friend Conner. Birthday party that night. Back into car to get birthday present. Wife says while we're out we might as well get new bath towels and mattress. I want to say no but think better of it and bite tongue. Small piece of skin from end of tongue becomes first thing I've had to eat in 24 hours.
11:30 a.m.: Strap new mattress onto roof of car, head for towel store. Ask John if Conner might like a nice towel for his birthday. Head to second store for birthday gift. (Positive note: Car much easier to find in crowded parking lot because of mattress on roof.)
Noon-3 p.m.: Wife and I help Brian and Nick get ready for homecoming dance. I volunteer to iron their shirts and pants. Iron smells funny. Leaves big black marks on Nick's pants. Call iron "worthless piece of %$&*," throw iron in trash, race to mall to purchase new iron. Race home, scrub black marks off pants, finish ironing. Race to florist for corsages for Brian's and Nick's dates. Brian dashes to World Arena for hockey practice. Practice is cancelled. Brian miffed. Daughter Maggie calls, says she and new boyfriend have driven down from Boulder, will be stopping by.
4 p.m.: Nick's date calls. Two hours before big date informs him she's going to dinner and dance with girlfriends instead. Girl apparently raised by wolves.
6-6:30 p.m.: Brian leaves to pick up date who has social skills, returns home for photo session with date. Nick decides to go to dance with buddies. I give advice that might have included tips on how to spit in ex-date's punch. Maggie arrives with boyfriend. Boy seems nice enough. Make note to run police and FBI background check. Maggie says she wants to spend next semester at Victoria University in New Zealand. Room starts spinning.
6:35 p.m.: Bring John to friend's birthday party. John puts tiny tape recorder under his baseball hat, walks into party with music apparently blaring from his skull, wiggles finger in ear and asks stunned friend's parents, "Does anyone else hear that?" Make note to ask psychologist if this is normal behavior.
7 p.m.: Drive Nick to homecoming dance. Susie and I decide to spend quiet hour alone at nice restaurant rubbing our foreheads, pulling out clumps of hair and talking about how life is spiraling completely out of control.
Midnight: Brian arrives home from dance; Nick arrives home from dance. Nick has funny grin on face, almost as if weird ex-date drank the punch.
Day begins at 6 a.m. Things get hazy. Wife and I chug coffee and prepare for drive to Denver for Brian's 9 a.m. hockey game. Brian's team beats team from Vail, 11-0. Vail parents threaten legal action. Drive home from Denver. I go to grocery store, spend usual $325 to re-stock the pantry and begin doing first of six loads of laundry as wife and Brian climb back into car and drive to Denver again for late-afternoon hockey game. They return home at 10 p.m. Wife glances under kitchen table. Spots me. Says crying and curling up in fetal position "not very manly."