The early morning empty nester routine at our house has evolved into a graceful dance in which each partner knows the moves and timing of the other. What was once a chaotic, unstructured series of events that included coffee brewing, showering, dog feeding and lunch making has settled into a comfortable pattern with all expectations fully known. I pre-program the coffee the night before and deal with the morning 'open'. This includes feeding the dog, getting the paper and making lunches. I also produce Teresa's perfect cup of coffee (three sugars, heated in micro for an extra 16 seconds). She waits for this in bed before tackling the day and hopping in the shower. My payoff for this is 15 minutes of quiet time with CNBC, two newspapers and an adoring Fox Terrier gazing at me less than 24 inches from my face. It's a good trade, though.
By the time I'm done with lunches, (of which I shamelessly ask for reviews every day on the ride home) the bed is made, the shower is completely free, the sink area all mine, and the fear of fighting for space, hairdryers or something similar, completely removed. Teresa moves on to tidying up the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, doing some laundry or some other task outside my area of expertise.
This waltz continues for days, if not weeks, without a hitch, until unexpectedly, and shockingly, I will walk out of the shower to find Cruella De Ville waiting on the other side of the door shouting something like, "HURRY UP, WE HAVE TO GET LIVER FOR THE PLANARIA!!!" This is normally voiced with obvious displeasure and frustration, and incredulously to me, a tone of accusation. Apparently I should have realized this or at least anticipated the possibility that our morning routine was going to be disrupted a microscopic creature's thirst for organ meat.
The ensuing scene at the grocery story would be pretty humorous if it didn't involve me. It normally finds Teresa race-walking up and down the meat and fish counter in search of the liver 'department'. Invariably, liver is never prominently displayed. I am normally 2 or 3 paces behind, and still 'in trouble'. On a recent search she employed the services of a willing shelf stocker whose accent indicated English was not his first language. I cringed as she took the time to explain what she wanted, and incredulously, WHY. Apparently, 'planaria' is not a common word in the Spanish language, and as Teresa started to gesticulate on how minute these worms are (and how small a portion was really needed--perhaps the size of a dime) I could see that somehow, the time take was going to be added on to my morning transgressions. Eventually she was presented with a three piece, cross sectional one pound frozen package of Safeway's finest. I was going to ask if perhaps the planaria would like some onions frizzled up with that, but thought better of it.
After hustling through checkout, we made it to school with minutes to spare. The planaria would have their liver, would regenerate again and again after being sliced and diced (as they do) and our routine would return to normal tomorrow. The morning dance would again be graceful, until the next call for elodea, perch (incidentally, there is a direct correlation between the stench a fish emits and it's usefulness in middle school dissections) or my all time favorite, an entire cow eyeball. At least these specimens all require an advance order....and I'll be fine if I can just keep track of what Science unit the 7th graders are studying.