The best laid plans ... .

My daughter, Claire, learned that lesson last week.

My wife declared Saturday was house-cleaning day, which my wife is prone to do without much notice.

It is like a fire drill. My wife announces the house looks like a pigsty probably smells like one, too, at times and we are to act appropriately.

I tell the kids to listen to their mother so I don't get in trouble, then I shuffle some paper around and pick up the remotes to the TV (I would be lost without them) in order to appear busy, while the kids are left to answer to their mother.

Hey, when my wife decides things need to be done around the house, I am no longer a loving, nurturing father, it is every person for themselves, and good luck.

This time, my wife put everyone on notice kind of. She mentioned to Claire that the house did not get cleaned while she was gone the day before, and Claire told her she would do it the next day.

Claire, being almost as clever as her father, knew my wife and I were scheduled to be out of town the next day at son Alek's baseball games.

A great plan until rain washed out the games.

So my wife first put Alek to work while I kept a low profile. At this point, I quickly align myself with my wife, agreeing the house is messy and the kids need to get to work.

"Listen to your mother," I tell them, then quickly disappear.

Despite his protests and my wife's threat, there would no baseball practice until he finished, he eventually finished and after a few redos, my wife approved his work.

Then it was Claire's turn. She actually managed to escape for a few minutes with a friend, came back with lunch, ate and listened to my wife complain she was not getting her cleaning done.

Finally Claire said, "I thought you were going to be gone today."

Like I said, the best laid plans ... .

My kids should know by now. Clean when Mom is out of the house, do your usual poor job, claim ignorance and move on with your life, which means leaving the house while Mom fumes.

Never, ever clean house when Mom is around because she makes sure the job is done well. She kept threatening to do the white glove test until I stopped acting like I was busy long enough to remind her we don't own a pair of white gloves.

Later, it was my turn. Figuring the work was done, I let my guard down, stopped shuffling papers and was watching a ball game. Next thing I know. I am ambushed as my wife starts going through the magazine rack.

In my defense, I only use the magazine rack as a place to keep a few magazines I don't want to throw away. I have copies of Sports Illustrated magazines that have my teams on the cover or a swimsuit issue in case my kids have to do a school research paper on swimwear.

Most of my magazines I keep next to my favorite chair to read at my leisure.

I didn't think there was a problem. But then again, it doesn't matter what I think. I cleaned out the magazine rack, which included most of my wife's magazines and old newspapers, and stored the magazines that were keepers.

Finally. we were off the hook. I think my wife got tired of following us around, making sure the work was done.

So the house is clean for now and the troops can step down until the next drill.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.