All hands are on deck for party preparations

By Lori Clinch

Normally, I view myself as an easygoing kind of gal. I let the little things go, don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t flip out unless the situation truly calls for it.

I don’t think my family appreciates my even temper enough, especially when it comes to housework. I don’t like soiled socks on the couch, dirty dishes on the counter or an empty Pop Tart box left in the kitchen cupboard, but I maintain my composure when I see those things.

I’ve got an even keel with house cleaning right up until the prospect of house guests looms on our horizon. These days I’m really in a dither as I prepare for the mother lode, the granddaddy of all shindigs — the proverbial in-home high school graduation party.

I started preparing for this auspicious occasion right after Christmas. I had just taken the tree down and laid the merry gentlemen to rest, when it hit me that I had lists to compile, crannies to dust and a boatload of work to get done if I were to make people believe we live in a clean and organized environment.

Naturally, my daily tasks were overrun with winter sports mania, and since the government is not good at being placed on hold, I had to work on taxes. The juggling of it all had me stashing Christmas decor while working up 1099s.

Somewhere in between reconciling the not-so-EZ forms and polishing off the last of the eggnog, I started gluing newspaper clippings and sorting photo albums.

Although I cleaned with frenzy, I did my best to postpone the household situation my family despises the most — Company Mode.

More ghastly than a pop quiz, harder than an extra lap around the track, Company Mode consists of family members placing their own dishes in the dishwasher, picking up their own socks and, in general, cleaning up after themselves.

Worse yet, I turn ugly in Company Mode. I snap at people for haphazardly dropping their shoes, leaving their wares strewn about, and I have been known to chew out my husband for having the audacity to use the bathroom sink.

Last weekend, with nary a week remaining before the big bash, the time had come to face the inevitable. The thought of involving the family with party preparations brought back the memories of our eldest and wise-cracking son Vernon who once said, “We live, we breathe. Why must we apologize for that?”

He was standing in the midst of a pile of dirty laundry at the time.

But there is little time for reflecting right now. We have floors that need to be swept, heavy things that need to be moved, and hey, the front stoop isn’t going to simply clean itself.

The celebration is just a few short days away and I’m running around like my hair is on fire.

At the prospect of getting involved in deep cleaning and the aforementioned Company Mode, my family will do anything to avoid it. Just the thought of dusting will send some members into hiding. Some will fake the flu and still others will walk into the room with a packed bag and announce they must take leave as they have been forced into the Witness Protection Program.

“Why do I have to clean?” our Charlie inquired yesterday when I told him the garage was on his “to do” list.

“Because,” I replied in my no-nonsense tone, “we don’t want family members and a couple hundred of our closest friends to know what big slobs we are.”

As the hands of time tick away, my mood sours by the minute. Our lovable puppy Sadie got a full-blown lecture for tracking in mud, Charlie walked on eggshells, and my poor husband, Pat, got the brunt of it when he walked in the door and put his lunch box on the freshly cleaned kitchen counter.

Alas, we shall survive. Company Mode will only linger a few more short days and then we can go back to our normal slovenly ways. We can relax, put our feet up and leave our dirty socks on the floor.

Better yet, we’ll be able to live and breathe and we won’t even have to apologize for it.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to