A Household Word: Chips and Flushes

By Carol Band

My husband likes to watch professional poker on television. Not me. Frankly, I think that watching people play cards is about as exciting as watching the shower curtain mildew. Maybe it's because the only card game I know how to play is Go Fish or maybe it's because the only flushes I deal with usually involve a plunger. It could be that watching poker holds no thrills for me because all my chips are on the good china or maybe it's because as a mom, I'm betting all day long.

For instance: I can buy healthy soy hot dogs instead of regular beef ones but what are the odds that my kids will eat 'em? Or I can let my son stay home with 99-degree fever or send him to school and risk having the school nurse call me to fetch him in an hour. It's a gamble. Sure, I don't ante up any cash, but everyday is still a high stakes game.

The deal begins when the alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. I turn off the beep ... beep beep and bet that I can close my eyes for five more minutes. This is risky business. Oversleeping - even 15 minutes - can mean the difference between my kid making the bus or me having to drive to the middle school in my pajamas; packing a sandwich on whole wheat bread or shelling out $2.50 so he can fill up on French fries and chocolate milk in the school cafeteria. It's a gamble that makes the World Series of Poker look like church basement bingo.

Odds are, if we're running late, that's the morning that Lewis will have to print out a book report, need to get a permission slip signed or announce that he's got to have $9.75 in exact change for a field trip to the sewage treatment plant. You can bet that nobody will be able to find a clean pair of socks or the sneakers that fit or will remember where they left their backpacks. While we are frantically rummaging through the laundry hamper for not-too-dirty socks, my neighbor will call to say that our dog is running loose down the street. While I'm on the phone, the cat will decide that this is a good time to hack up a hairball. Later, I will step on the cat hack with my bare feet. I'll put money on it.

When I stop at the grocery store, chances are if I haven't brushed my teeth or I'm still wearing my pajamas under my jacket, I will run into an old boyfriend or a mom who now has a glamorous job and a reason to wear heels in the supermarket at 9 a.m. Then, while I'm standing in the Express Lane (12 items or less), it's a sure bet that the person in front of me will have 37 items and need a price check or will pay in pennies or try to take out a mortgage.

Later, when it's time to make dinner I'll bet the pot that no matter what I cook - chicken or spaghetti or curried ostrich, my husband will come home and say "I had that for lunch." Maybe it's time to cash in my chips.

After dinner, I'll toss in a load of laundry and wager that if 12 dirty socks go into the washer, nine will come out. That seems to be House Rules. Odds are that if I remember to check every pocket of every pair of jeans, all I'll come up with is lint. But, if I forget to check even one pair of pants, I'll melt my son's chocolate bar, or drown my daughter's iPod.

There are some days when it seems that the deck (as well as the dirty dishes and piles of laundry) is stacked against me. Sure, I could fold and just walk away. But I want to stay in this game because I still feel lucky.