ODESSA — Sit at Cathy and Bill Weatherford's kitchen table and listen to them map out their plans for football season.
Their words twist and turn, and they talk about the obstacles and conflicts of following four sons with football careers. It's easy to drift off as the chaos sounds more and more jumbled and the images of the Grand Canyon on those place mats catch the eye.
The Weatherfords have done this juggling routine for the better part of two decades, so it makes perfect sense to them. Their goal is to be there for all of the touchdowns, injuries, hugs and high-fives.
That's not always possible.
The Weatherfords have eight children in all. Three play college football, including Seminoles quarterback Drew. Joe is a backup quarterback at Central Florida, and John is a freshman linebacker at West Georgia. Their youngest, Stevie, is the starting sophomore quarterback at Land O'Lakes.
"It hasn't been that difficult," Bill said.
"You just know what you're doing every night in the fall. We've been doing it for a lot of years, and we've got a few more. We'll just take it one day at a time. I don't look too far into the future."
The games start this week, and the chaos begins soon after.
All four boys have home games in Week 2, including the USF at UCF game that was moved from Sept. 5 (a Friday) to Sept. 6. That means mom and dad will miss at least one game.
Sept. 20 has Drew's Seminoles facing Wake Forest and Joe's Knights traveling to Boston College. October begins with consecutive weeks at Miami, first with Florida State (then UCF).
But that also is the weekend UCF hosts Southern Methodist, where Bill played quarterback. He's still struggling with that one because this is Drew's last season against the Hurricanes.
They've hardly even looked at November.
"You don't really think about it because there's always so many unknowns," Bill said. "(Joe) might not play a down this year, or he may play a lot. You think (Drew's) going to play, but he may end up sitting on the bench, too."
Watching games in person was easier when the boys lived at home.
Mom and dad still laugh about the old stretch Chevy Suburban — once a limousine at New York's LaGuardia Airport — they used to chauffeur the children.
"It's crazy," oldest son Will said. "You think it was hard now? Think about when we were kids and couldn't drive. It's like anything in life. You never really appreciate the sacrifice until you start having kids."
Bill refuses to believe anyone has traveled across State Road 54 more than he. He fondly recalls the 11/2-hour commute to drop off Sam at Land O'Lakes before the road was widened in some stretches to six lanes. He recently retired a car with 319,000 miles.
"Three hundred (thousand) of them was just chauffeuring kids," Bill said. "I work 3 miles from my home."
Seven of their eight children played sports. Getting to most of those games was manageable because they often played at the same venue.
"One year, three of them played baseball. That was the worst," Bill said. "We lived at Citrus Park Little League. We had two games a week and practices. We just lived there."
The investment is evident when you consider where some of the Weatherfords are today.
Will, 28, who played football at Jacksonville, is a Republican state representative in Wesley Chapel.
Sam, who played at Fordham, lives in China hoping to teach the Bible in Mandarin Chinese and works as an investment banker.
"I homeschooled these kids," Cathy said. "You can throw money at a kid, but it doesn't mean a thing to them. But whatever you do for them personally adds to their worth."
Employment conflicts are rarely an issue. Bill works in commercial real estate, and Cathy works part time designing the interior of a home furniture store.
Money, however, is an issue.
Sam and Drew played games outside of Florida sometimes requiring air travel, but mom and dad could usually find family or friends to stay with.
The Weatherfords learned quickly how hard and expensive it is to stay in Tallahassee. At one point, Will, Drew and sister Grace all lived in Tallahassee. So the family usually stayed at Will's townhouse.
Ask Bill how much he has spent on trips during the years and he says, "I don't even want to know."
Cathy says she misses the chaos. Only Stevie remains at home, and he recently got his driver's license.
"I've taken in three people since the kids started leaving," she said. "I hate an empty house."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.