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I woke up this morning in a slight state of panic. Anyone familiar with my chaotic life would not be surprised at this news.

However, I usually wake up confident I can handle whatever the day might bring.

I don’t come anywhere close to the “panic” stage until four p.m., when all three boys have arrived home from school and I realize maybe I was wrong.

This morning, I knew something was amiss the moment I opened my eyes. For one thing, Ron was already practically out the door on his way to work and I was still in bed.

Usually, I’m up a few minutes after him, making coffee so I will be awake to get the boys ready for school.

Then it hit me: I was facing two teacher workdays. That meant no school for the boys and no holiday to celebrate and keep Ron from going to work.

We were on our own again, just like during summer vacation but minus the warm weather and pool membership.

While the boys slept in, I began a mental inventory of what absolutely had to be done over the next two days. Ron would have made a list, but I’m not a list-maker.

I have tried to be a list-maker, but I always fail miserably. My lists end up left at home, or vanish altogether only to reappear as soggy lumps at the bottom of the washing machine.

My solution to the problem is to keep the lists in my head where they will be right where I need them. If I still manage to lose the information, at least there won’t be a mess to clean up in the washer.

Laundry was at the top of my list this morning, followed by getting more flea drops onto my scratching dog.

I had the rare foresight to pick up milk, bread and dog food over the weekend, meaning we could survive without a run to the commissary. Sure, there is plenty of empty space in our fridge, but it will have to wait until the boys are back in school Wednesday.

My method of shopping is pathetically time-consuming when I don’t have the boys by my side begging for everything that contains sugar.

Having a “real” list crumpled up in my hand still does not stop me from forgetting something from one of the aisles I already breezed through or decided to skip.

Instead of lugging my cart halfway across the store, I park it in what I hope is an out-of-the-way spot. Unfortunately, I can’t help picking up as many things as my arms can carry on the way back and then forget where I parked my cart in the first place.

I have seen the looks on the faces of the other shoppers; they either pity me for being so disorganized or find my crazed, frantic method of shopping to be highly irritating.

That’s another reason I do my grocery shopping on weekday afternoons. Most of the other shoppers are either retired people or other moms who are watching the clock.

They usually are more sympathetic to my disorganized routine than the hungry shoppers who come in later on their way home from work. To them, I’m just one more person in the way.

Getting the flea drops onto Glory and doing laundry are tasks I can practically do in my sleep. After going over my mental inventory of what had to be done today, my panic completely vanished, like so many lists of the past.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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