Tuesday, September 30, 2008

10 Ways to Survive (and Enjoy) a Trip to IKEA

I love IKEA. To me, it really is the happiest place on Earth. A secret dream of mine is to be locked (by myself) in IKEA for a week and be able to buy anything I want during that time. IKEA feels like home to me - not so much the actual store - but the store experience is so very Swedish. And, being half Swedish and half Danish, I feel like a bird coming home to roost after a long trip. From the smell of Swedish Meatballs and Lingonberry Jam in the restaurant, to the practical, inventive, and funky designs, it says "home" to me.

But IKEA is not for the faint of heart or soul. IKEA isn't easy - it makes you work for the love. IKEA sets high expectations of its customers and, if you hate IKEA, you just haven't met these high expectations. So, I have compiled a list of 10 ways to survive and enjoy your IKEA shopping experience. How I am qualified to make such a list, you may ask? I have visited a total of five IKEA stores (Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, and both in Chicago) and have consistently shopped at the stores for the last 10 years. So, heed my advice. Or suffer the consequences.

(1) Some assembly required. If these three words scare you, stay away from IKEA. Please. We don't want your kind. I personally think assembling my own furniture is a challenge and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment every time I build another bookcase or dresser or chair or table. I like that most of the furniture comes flat-packed. That means that those of us who choose not to own giant SUVs or pick-up trucks can still carry furniture in our cars. I have been known to fit quite a bit of stuff in my little four-door sedan, with plenty of room for more.

(2) Only attend during weekday hours. I cannot tell you how important this tip is. Never, ever, never, ever go to IKEA on the weekend or on a holiday. I almost always go on a Thursday. If you go on the weekend or on a holiday (even worse, a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas), you are asking to be crushed in the mass of people entering the door. During one trip, my dad commented, "There are more goddamn people in this store than lived in my home town." (Of course, his hometown only had about 300 people, but still . . . that's a lot of people in one store.)

If you do choose to disobey this rule, you will suffer the consequences. For every hour you spend in IKEA on a weekend or holiday, it will take you two hours to decompress and become non-homicidal toward the GP (that's the General Public for those who have never worked retail.) I have a suspicion that most road rage incidents are directly linked to spending time in IKEA on the weekends.

And here's another tip - you can never just "pop in" to IKEA. No one pops into IKEA. The IKEA experience is one to be savored and enjoyed. It's not Target, for crying outside.

(3) Never go with a spouse. I don't care who you are . . . if you go to IKEA with your spouse, you will have a fight. I have never seen a couple in IKEA who weren't either actively fighting or stomping around glaring at each other. I personally like to shop alone or with one or two selected friends. And, before shopping with a friend, you should agree on your IKEA strategy and philosophy. If you don't agree, don't go to IKEA together.

Furthermore, even though IKEA is one of the most kid-friendly stores I have ever seen, do not bring your children. They won't enjoy it and you will hate them by the end of the day. IKEA has a children's play area called Smaland, allegedly where kids can play while their parents shop. I have my doubts. I think Smaland is actually the portion of the store that sells children in flat-pack boxes. I really believe that is what happens to children who enter the store with their parents. The parents can trade them in for a really nice end table, depending on how cute they are. Some kids may be worth an entire bedroom set.

(4) Enjoy the drive. No matter how far away you live from IKEA or how far you have to drive, you cannot get there from here without taking at least one wrong turn. Every IKEA I have ever been to is located in suburban hell. You can always see IKEA from the major highway, but you can never get there directly. One ill-fated trip to the IKEA in Los Angeles had my cousin and I yelling "Look kids, it's BIG BEN" for nearly 45 minutes because we kept circling in on the building, but never quite getting there.

The good news is that IKEA stores are bright blue and yellow and are impossible to miss, even from miles away. So, you can always see your destination . . . it's the getting there that is a bitch.

(5) Take the first spot. Don't bother driving around the parking lot looking for the "closest" parking spot. It doesn't exist. The cars that are in the first 12 spots are there permanently. They never move. They are display cars put there for marketing purposes only. You will never get a closer spot. Plus, you just wasted half an hour driving around the suburban perimeter of IKEA so take the first spot and get on with your life.

(6) Make a plan of attack but don't follow it. Have a general idea of the major item or items you are looking for and make sure you have measured carefully. However, do not fool yourself into thinking you will only get that one item. In fact, you may spend $200 and never even think of that item. For example, for the last 4 years I have wanted to get new curtains and shades for my bedroom. I have the measurements in my appointment book. In the last 4 years, I have probably been to IKEA 20 times. I still don't have new bedroom curtains. But I do have the rest of my house nearly completely decorated.

Once you enter the store, immediately pick up two catalogs, two measuring tapes, two pencils, and a cart. Believe me, you will need them. Why two catalogs? One to mail to a friend (I always mail one to my cousin in Denver who doesn't have an IKEA yet) and one to keep at home. And you will want to keep it at home. The IKEA catalog is like the bible, but better. I have every catalog from 1998 to 2009. I still look at them all. And no, you can't borrow them.

(7) Take a load off. I personally start every IKEA shopping trip with a meal, to get me in the Swedish mood. A sure thing is always the Swedish Meatballs, new potatoes, and lingonberry jam. Wash it down with a bottle of Kristian Regale and you are set for at least two hours of shopping. Plus, the restaurant is the only place in the store with windows, just in case you forget about the outside world.

(8) Follow directions. IKEA has the path of travel marked for you in every store. Don't try to circumvent their planning - you will get lost. And, when you take the escalator and you place your cart on the cart escalator . . . don't worry. You will get your cart back - no one else will take it. Seriously . . . you don't have to push people down the escalator stairs to get to the bottom before your cart does.

(9) Be prepared to wait. For a really long time in the checkout line. That's just the way IKEA is. Everything runs perfectly until the check out. So, bring a book or the latest New Yorker. Better yet, make friends with the other people in line.

Also - bring your debit card. If you use your debit card at IKEA, they will give you a coupon worth 3% of the total you spend that day. The coupon never expires and can be used at any time. Believe me, it adds up.

(10) You should take it with you. Be prepared to take all of your purchases with you that day. If they won't fit in your car, bring a bigger car. IKEA's shipping costs are extreme (part of the way they save you money is not to tie shipping costs into their furniture costs).

In the future, if you would like to bitch at me about how much you hate IKEA, you will be given the finger. No, not that finger . . . my index finger pointing to this blog post. If you haven't followed these directions and had a shitty time at IKEA, I don't want to hear it. You might have to face the fact that you are not IKEA material. Not everyone can be perfect.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eliminating the Need for Toilet Paper

Recently, my parents decided to make a very wise decision and sell their 100 year old house and buy a townhome. I call this a very wise decision because their current home, while beautiful, would not be livable if one of them were to have significant health and/or mobility problems. Their house had many wonderful quirks found in all old homes, but most importantly, did not have a bedroom or a full bathroom on the main floor. At 68 and 63 years of age, my parents needed to think about these things.

So, they put their house on the market and purchased townhome which was built in 2001. I saw it for the first time this weekend on their final walk through before taking possession later this week. It is much better for their needs - the main level has the living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, laundry, and a study. Therefore, if they needed to, they could live on the main floor.

When most people purchase a home in their 60s, they downsize. Not my parents. The townhouse has the same square footage as their old house. However, my mother was quick to point out one major difference, saying, "The new house has five bathrooms. But one of them is completely unnecessary."

One of the five bathrooms is completely unnecessary?

Yes, sometimes my parents' view of the world is a little skewed.

Anyway, I got a first hand look at these five bathrooms over the weekend. In the end, there are only three full bathrooms and two half baths. And given the layout of the house, it makes sense why someone would want a bathroom in each location. However, the fact that many people (such as myself) make do with just one full and one half bathroom, suggests that five bathrooms is a little excessive.

But there's more . . . these potties are not just holes in the floor with a nearby sink. Oh no. They feature the latest in bathroom technology and I'm not talking about double sinks and pool-sized bathtubs. I'm talking about high-tech toilets.

Now, from first glance, these toilets don't make a big impression. But, while we were touring the house, my daughter had to pee. So, I helped her sit on the toilet. Immediately, she said, "It's HOT, Mama!!" I looked at her and said, "Don't be silly, it's not hot." She insisted that it was and the real estate agent said, "Oh, she must be talking about the heated toilet seat."

WTF? Come again? Heated Toilet Seat?

It seems my parents have purchased a townhome with the latest in toilet technology - the TOTO Washlet Toilet. And yes, this toilet seeks to eliminate the need for toilet paper. How, you ask? Well, let's take a look at its features and maybe you will get the picture:

Auto Flush
Auto Seat Open and Close
Rear Cleanse (yes, as in your rear)
Soft Cleanse
Front Cleanse
Oscillating Cleanse
Pulsating Cleanse
Heated Water (for the cleansing)
Water Pressure and Temperature Control
Water Position Adjustment
Air Purifier
Air Jet Dry

I haven't tried it yet. My dad said he's afraid to try it. My mom tried it and she found it very "refreshing." I chalk that up to the fact that she was raised in Europe.

However, upon further consideration, I think a TOTO toilet would be the answer to my cat-eating-toilet-paper problem. On the other hand, I don't think I want my va-jay-jay "air jet" dried.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dance of the Helicopter Mommies

Last Saturday, my daughter attended her first "class" in her short three year old life. Up until this point, we have not had the opportunity to attend "classes," mostly because classes for preschoolers are usually scheduled during the work day, clearly geared toward stay at home mothers. However, one dance studio in town has a three year old dance class on Saturdays and I signed my daughter up.

The hour long class is 20 minutes of ballet, 20 minutes of tumbling, and 20 minutes of tap. I knew she would love the tumbling and I thought she could use the ballet and tap because she is not the most coordinated child in the world. Plus, she is a true girly-girl and loves anything girly. And, man . . . is this G-I-R-L-Y. The entire place is painted pink. My daughter was one of the few girls not wearing a pink leotard and tights (her leotard is lavender). The tap shoes are shiny black with big black ribbon bow ties. It is so cute . . . it brought back all of the girly tendencies from my childhood.

Anyway, this being my first experience of a child class as a parent, I was curious to see how the other parents behaved. I was excited for my daughter and found myself a little anxious as well. What if she didn’t listen to the teachers? What if she wouldn’t participate? What if she got scared? Was I pushing too hard by taking her to a class at three years old? Would the other girls be mean? Would the teachers be mean?

I brought the camera, knowing I should document this like a good parent would. As we sat in the waiting room with the other mini-ballerinas and their parents, my daughter got very quiet. She sat on my lap and just looked at the other kids. But when the teachers came to get her class, she went willingly with them and sat nicely with all the other girls.

Parents are supposed to stay in the waiting room, which is separate from the dance room. I was disappointed because I wanted to watch her a little bit to see how she would do in the beginning. I soon learned why the school wants parents to be separated from their children.

Helicopter Mommies.

But first, about me and my kid. I stood in the doorway at the beginning of class and snapped a few pictures. I admit, a got a little tear in my eye watching her do this on her own. She was so sweet and cute and a pretty good listener. The ballet part was first, which involved learning first position and some steps from that position. What struck me was how weird it is to see your children exhibit behavior that you recognize as your own. Flash! There I was - watching myself 34 years ago.

During the ballet portion, she was semi-compliant, but mostly just looked around and watched the other girls. She looked at them like, "Seriously? You want me to do what?" She didn’t resist when the teachers moved her feet to the right position, but she wasn’t willingly doing the steps either. She glanced at me a few times and gave me a half-smile, as if to say, "What have you done to me, woman?" It was like mini-me from gymnastics at the YWCA in 1975.

After a few moments, I sat down in the waiting room. I checked on her two other times - once during tumbling and once during tap. She really came alive during tumbling and loved it, as well as tap. She was even able to march in step with the music with her tap shoes on. I was so proud (although I will hide the tap shoes at home - that's the last thing we need.)

OK - now back to the Helicopter Mommies.

As I was standing in the doorway snapping my pictures, I became aware of a presence behind me. Close up behind me stood three or four other mothers trying to press their way into the room. I took my pictures and stepped back, figuring they wanted pictures of this occasion as well. As I left, the other mothers took their positions. Their permanent positions in the doorway. One mother sat on the floor in the doorway and watched her child the entire class. Another mother kneeled next to the doorway and also watched. The third leaned against the doorway and watched as well.

What shocked me was the look on their faces. They didn’t look proud or nostalgic or happy or anything like I thought I had looked. They looked analytical and stressed. They looked like they were taking mental notes on every move their daughters made. They looked like they would make their daughters practice at home if they screwed up at class. They looked like this was the freaking Olympics of dance. And they all manned their positions for the entire hour-long class. (Except one kept talking on her cell phone . . . what the hell is that about?)

I feel sorry for those little girls whose mothers are so concerned with their performance in a three year old’s dance class. Sure, I want my kids to be good at things and want to excel at whatever they are doing. But at three years old? This is supposed to be fun, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There's a Whole Lotta Sass Going On

Sass is a big issue in my house. I have a three year old who excels at being sassy and gets relatively frequent time-outs for her sassy behavior. I tend to define sassy behavior as inappropriate sounds or comments coming out of one's mouth, such as spitting, sticking the tongue out, back-talk, and the like.

Frustrated with her behavior, I searched online for some suggestions for dealing with the sassy stuff that didn't involve taping her mouth shut. I didn't get much of anything helpful from parenting websites (most of which tend to lean toward the "attachment" form of parenting, something I don't espouse.) But I did find a really interesting article for Sass on Wikipedia. Apparently, sassy behavior is much more broad than I previously thought.

Here are some examples of sassy behavior that would not make my list of sass:

Speaking in false tongues (or is that just creepy?)

Expelling flatulence in the presence of others (gross? Yes. Funny? Almost always. Sassy . . . no.)

Nose, ear, or belly button picking in public (again . . . gross.)

Cutting or biting finger or toe nails in public (gross . . . especially the toes. Who cuts their toenails in public?)

Scratching private parts (perhaps sass means gross in another language?)

Putting elbows on the table

Putting feet up or sitting back on a chair to "relax" (relaxing is sassy?)

Groaning when someone tries to speak (damn - I must be a real sassy bitch. I suppose eye-rolling is also sassy.)

Putting feet on a chair when someone is sitting in the chair

Sniffing your own armpits or crotch

Sniffing someone else's armpits or crotch (I guess the dog's name should be changed to Sassy)

Wiggling your bottom towards someone (I can't remember the last time someone wiggled their bottom at me. Next time I will be sure to call them on such bad behavior. After I stop laughing.)

Revealing your bare backside to someone (Yeah . . . you know who you are.)

Pointing towards a person (especially with one's middle finger) (Damn - guilty again)

Failure to use napkins

Licking the plate

Taking excessive food from a buffet, especially at a reception

Eating in the street

Waking up others when not otherwise instructed

Aggressive driving/road rage


Excessive honking

Gesturing at fellow drivers

Driving slowly while using a mobile phone


Smoking in public

Public urination




Staring at another person's bare private parts, especially when they are in the washroom

At least the article mentions that some of these things are illegal, as well as sassy. But, if these behaviors are classified as sassy, then it is not only my daughter who will spending a lot of time in time out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Family that Pops Pills Together . . .

As I discussed earlier, I have recently received a prescription for Vicodin. I’ve never taken Vicodin before and was concerned about how it would affect me. Needless to say, after taking it for six days, I decided I was better off without the Vicodin.

On the first evening of my injury, I took one Vicodin at around 6 pm and another around 9 pm. (The bottle said I could take 1-2 every six hours.) It was around 9 pm that I decided it would be a good idea to soak my ankle in a container of ice water, as recommended by my doctor. While trying to get the container off of the countertop, I knocked over a plate which promptly hit my good foot, bounced off, hit the ceramic tile floor, and shattered into a million pieces. I then abandoned my quest to soak my ankle in ice water and went back to the couch.

After a few minutes, I decided it would be a good thing to organize my bills/mail that had accumulated over the long weekend I was away. (Apparently, I have a hard time with the injury = rest & relaxation thing.) I sorted my mail into several piles - bills to pay, checks to deposit, and garbage. By this time, the Vicodin high was feeling pretty good and I thought it would be a good time to go to bed. I threw away the garbage and put the bills and checks in my briefcase.

Or so I thought.

Vicodin makes me very foggy, even when it is technically out of my system. I wasn’t taking it during the day, but even the one pill at night made me feel slow during the day. So, I decided this weekend to stop taking it. That was when I decided to reorganize my mail, including the bills and checks I sorted several days beforehand.

And that was when I realized I had thrown away a check for $800 from my dad, which was repayment for airplane tickets I purchased for him and my mom a couple of weeks ago. (While my dad loves to shop online, he has an inherent fear of places like Priceline or CheapTickets and will not shop at those sites. So when I told him I had found a good deal on tickets, he made me purchase them.) Not only had I thrown it away, I had thrown it away and the garbage men had already picked up the garbage. Damn!

So, last night I had to call my dad and ask him to send me another check. Since "The Closer" was on until 9 pm, I called them around 9:15 pm. It took my dad six rings to get to the phone, which is unusual because he always answers it as if he was sitting on the phone (because he usually is). When he finally answered, the answering machine came on and I had to identify myself three times (by name, I might add) before he realized who it was.

Dad: I can’t turn the machine off . . . could you call back?

Me: OK. (I hang up the phone, think that's weird and call back)

Dad: Hello?

Me: Yeah, it’s me.

Dad: I can’t turn off this god damn machine . . . hold on. (fumbles with answering machine for a few seconds.)

Dad: OK - what’s up?

Me: Oh, nothing much but I need a new check for those airplane tickets.

I then explained at length what had happened with the Vicodin and my stupidity, mistaking my dad's silence on the other end for irritation with me for being so irresponsible.

Dad: What check?

Me: The check for $800 you sent me for the airplane tickets.

Dad: I sent you a check for $800?

Me: Yes, for the airplane tickets.

Dad: To you?

Me: Yes!

Dad: Did it bounce?

Me: NO! I threw it away on accident. I need a new one.

Dad: For how much?

Me: $800.

Dad: Let me check my register. . . .

Long pause.

Dad: You haven’t cashed it yet, according to my bank.

Me: I know! I threw it away! I need a new one so I can cash it!

Long pause.

Dad: You know what . . . I just took my sleeping pill right before you called. Could you email me about this tomorrow?

Me: Sure, goodnight.

Well, at least I know he'll understand about the Vicodin-fog thing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"You're Just Working Part Time Now, Right?"

This is a quote from my lovely sister-in-law during our past family weekend.

I'm not kidding.

For those of you who know me, you know why that is funny and how freaking clueless she is. For those of you who don't know me, I'll explain how bat-shit crazy that statement is and then you will laugh . . . and perhaps want to slap her silly. (Seriously . . . would somebody please slap her silly? It violates family code for me to slap her, but if a perfect stranger did it, that would be just fine.)

Anyway, to know why this is funny, you have to know a little bit about me. First . . . yes, I am a lawyer and a mother, as are many other people. However, sometimes I have a really hard time truthfully saying I put my children before my job. I think I usually put my children before my job, but my priorities may be a bit skewed at times. I love my job. I am good at my job. When someone asks me, "Who are you?" I will say "lawyer" before "mother" in most circumstances.

Don't get me wrong, I love being a mother and I love my kids. But motherhood does not subsume my individual persona and delete all that I was before being a mother. I did not give up being an individual just because I had a family.

Second, I'm a very progressive person. I was raised by two working parents, both of whom loved their jobs very much . . . as much as they loved their children. We were not the traditional family where dad worked and mom stayed at home cleaning and caring for children. Truthfully, if my mom had stayed home with us, one or both of us would not have made it past the age of 11. In short, I was raised to value myself as an individual, as a woman, as part of a couple, and as a mother equally.

My sister-in-law is very similar in those respects. I know she loves her job as much if not more as her children. (She's not a lawyer, but some sort of wicked-smart statistician.) She never wanted to take maternity leave (until she actually realized it might be hard to recover from giving birth and take care of a newborn and work at the same time.) She gets pissed when my brother works too much and leaves her at home with the kids. I know nothing about her family (because she doesn't speak to them), so I can't compare on that front. But my point is that she should understand the working mother thing, but . . . as usual, she sees nothing of the world outside her own steel box of a brain.

The other thing about me that makes this statement funny is I'm a single mother. That means . . . . (shocker) . . . I parent alone. That means, there is only one income in my house. So, how exactly would I be able to survive with two kids on half my income and still be able to afford things like . . . my car, my house, my student loans, and family trips to Galena?


CLUELESS, I tell you.


When she asked this question, I must of looked stunned or confused or dumb-founded because she added, "Well, I mean . . . you know, because having the two kids and all. I thought you wouldn't be able to still work full time."

I responded, "Oh, of course I am!"

What I wanted to say, "And the alternative is . . . welfare?"

She responded, "I still don't know how you do it."

I responded, "Oh, thanks."

What I wanted to say, "Because I'm a better person then you are. That's how I do it."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Damn Nature!

For my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, I decided to arrange a family get together weekend in Galena. We rented a large four bedroom house in the Galena Territory, which was beautiful. The house was perfect for the nine of us - me, my two kids, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and their two kids. The house was down in a valley and surrounded by trees. Oak trees, to be exact.

There were two decks and a porch. The larger deck was half screened in and half open. We grilled almost every night we were there for the grown-ups' meal. We ate in the screened in porch-dining-room. The other porch was smaller and all screened it. It contained a hammock and was on the third floor. Swinging in that hammock in the middle of the oak tree forest was like heaven. There was a slight chill in the air and I took my kids up there and rocked slowly to the beat of a nearby woodpecker. I sang them every song I could remember while we snuggled under a blanket and rocked. We listened to the oak trees drop their acorns one by one on the roof of the porch. I could have stayed there in that hammock forever.

As is par for the course for any family gathering, there were ups and downs. Any family that says they get along with each other for five straight days is lying. Real families don't work that way. We all have our own quirks and habits, our own pet peeves and annoyances, and we all have old family-battle-wounds ready to be exposed for fresh blood.

But those old wounds are the subject of another post. I'm here to speak of new wounds . . . mine, specifically.

On Tuesday late morning, we were all packed and ready to go. My kids were crabby because it was right after lunch and time for their naps. My plan was to get on the road so they could sleep all the way back to Peoria in the car. I was in a rush. I was charging around like a madwoman loading the car. I was charging around on an uneven gravel driveway . . . covered with acorns. I slipped on a bunch of acorns, heard a loud POP from my right ankle and went down.

I'm sure I screamed FUUUUUUUCK!!!! because it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. As I lay on the ground, my son came to look at me saying, "Mama! Mama! Mama!" My daughter and my parents were right there too. The swelling in my right ankle started immediately and I couldn't put any weight on it.

God Damn Acorns!

I found some athletic tape in a first aid kit and wrapped my ankle. My parents offered to take me to the hospital in Galena or drive me home to Peoria. Both of those options sound like a colossal waste of time . . . and huge disruptions in my kids' schedule that would surely lead to screaming and fit-throwing. No. I wanted to keep on my schedule and . . . just . . . go . . . home.

The good news was I could still drive, after copious amounts of Advil. The pressure of using the gas and brake pedals was not that bad on my ankle. So I drove all the way home and then called a very good friend to come sit with my kids while I went to Prompt Care. After one look at the ankle, the doctor thought it might be broken.

But it wasn't . . . just a really, really bad sprain. So, I got a nice air/gel split, a beautiful set of crutches, and a three week supply of Vicodin. Yay Vicodin!!

The first night wasn't so bad. I took a Vicodin and thought . . . this will be fine. Sure - I'll hobble around for a few days, but it won't really slow me down.

WRONG. Having a sprained ankle sucks and sucks hard. Let me tell you the ways it sucks and sucks hard:

(1) My foot looks disgusting. It is all swollen and purple/red/green/grey/yellow. The black-purple bruises go all the way around my foot. The purpleness extends to my toes and my toes are swollen. Worse than that . . . I can't comfortably reach my toenails to paint them and the old polish looks like hell. And even worse than that . . . I can't balance long enough in the shower to shave my legs. Bottle of Nair . . . here I come!

(2) Walking on crutches is fucking HARD work. By the end of the first full day of crutches, my arms hurt worse than my ankle. So, I abandoned one crutch and am hobbling around using one as a counter balance to my gimpy foot.

(3) It takes twice as long to do anything (although that may be a side effect of the Vicodin) and certain things start to look impossible. I haven't done laundry from our trip yet because I would have to repeatedly go up and down two flights of stairs carrying laundry baskets and I'm just not able to do that while either (a) sitting on my butt and sliding down or (b) crawling up on my knees.

(4) The only shoes I can wear are Birkenstocks because my foot is so fat. This may become an issue when I have to go to court. Birks are frowned upon in court. Hell . . . exposed toes and heels are frowned upon in court.

(5) Because I can only wear Birks, my work clothing options are limited unless I want to look like an idiot. And since I already look like half an idiot limping at a snail's pace around the office, I don't feel like looking like a complete idiot.

(6) People have been so nice and helpful, but I have a really hard time accepting help. It was so hard to watch Katie wash my dishes last night while her daughter helped my daughter get ready for bed and her son pick up toys in my living room. I don't know how I will ever repay them, although I did promise to clean their house if Katie ever breaks or sprains anything.

Although some people think I am whining too much, I have actually found some bright spots in my current predicament. This injury has shown that maybe I need to take a step back from my Type A tendencies. Does it really matter that the house is not totally picked up? Does it really matter that there is undone laundry, as long as we all have clean clothes to wear? Does it really matter if we don't leave the house exactly on time in the morning? Will my children be permanently harmed by eating fast food every night for a week? No. (I really typed "yes" there first . . . I'm working on it.)

I don't know who said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger*" but I subscribe to that theory. Given the last year of my life, I should be really freaking strong by now.

*Here's the thing with that quote - if something doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger, right? But you won't know if something is killing you or making you stronger until you are dead. Then you will know what killed you, but it's not like you can go back and say, "Damn it - that thing really was bad enough to kill me" because you're dead. So, just assume everything makes you stronger until something kills you. If you don't die, then you know you are stronger!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Gravy Train Has Ended

When I was born, my maternal grandfather decided he would send each grandchild a birthday present equaling $1 for every year they had achieved. So, when I was 10 years old, he sent me a check for $10; when I was 21 years old, he sent me a check for $21, etc. Although I am his oldest grandchild, he did this for each of his 8 grandchildren.

This continued until I turned 30. When I turned 30, he decided to cap the birthday presents at $30. I think there were a combination of factors. First, it is probably hard to remember the ages of his grandchildren and make sure they all got the right amount. Second, he was a firm believer in adults being able to support themselves and probably thought that once you reached 30, you should not need more money from your family. (Of course, history in my family shows this is patently untrue - we're an educated lot, but not particularly savvy with money - but whatever . . . .) Third, I think he was worried about his own longevity and fairness. As the oldest grandchild, I was destined to benefit more from age-calibrated birthday gifts than my youngest cousin, who is 16 years younger than I am.

Most importantly, however, I think he began to worry about the amount of money he would be paying out in a year. The year I turned 30, his other grandchildren would have turned 27, 26, 23, 22, 19, 17, and 14. This equals $178 in birthday gifts. Now, my grandfather is not a poor man and has significant retirement savings. However, he also can be quite miserly when it comes to spending money on other people.

So, for six years, I received $30 every birthday. And then came this year . . . my 37th birthday was at the end of August. I got my card from him yesterday. The envelope contained my birthday card, the invitation to his 90th birthday party which is in October, and directions to his house from the Sea-Tac airport. No check.

Now, I don't expect my almost 90 year old grandfather to get me a birthday present. In fact, I know in his mind the lack of check is actually a compliment. He feels I am mature enough and able to support myself well and don't need his money. And, I'm pretty proud that my only surviving grandparent is able to remember my birthday, hand-write a birthday card, and throw a formal 90th birthday party. Believe me . . . two of my other grandparents made it past 90, but they wouldn't have been able to do any of that.

So, I guess the birthday gravy train stops at 37. I'll have to alert my cousins.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Come ON, WTVP!

Why does WTVP find it necessary to change the time of Sesame Street every now and again? Just when we got a nice little schedule going on weekday mornings that was really beneficial for me getting ready for work in the morning . . . WTVP moved Sesame Street from 7 am to 9 am. Not helpful.

Our nice little schedule hinged on Elmo's World coming on Sesame Street every morning at 7:40 am. I get up at 6:45, take a shower, and feed the dog. The kids get out of bed at 7 am, I get them dressed, comb their hair, and we all have breakfast by 7:30. This is perfect timing for them to have faces washed, teeth brushed, shoes on, and go to the living room for Elmo at 7:40. From 7:40 to 8:15 was my personal time. That was just enough time to iron my clothes, get dressed, do my hair, put on make-up, accessorize, and get my stuff ready for the day.

Elmo's World, followed by 15 minutes of Curious George, was my savior. Sure, after Elmo's World was over, my son would lose interest and find something else to play with, usually standing with me in the bathroom while I put make-up on. But my daughter would continue to watch Curious George, thereby eliminating the potential for disagreements between the two of them which take time out of my schedule to resolve.

But now, WTVP has decided to put Curious George on at 7 am, Sid the Science Kid at 7:30 am, Super WHY! at 8 am, Clifford the Big Red Dog at 8:30 am, and Sesame Street at 9 am. Why, I ask you . . . WHY? (And that's not Super WHY - just WHY?!?!) My kids have absolutely no interest in Sid the Science Kid and Super WHY - they just don't. They are 21 months and 3 years old. Sesame Street is their thing!

This 15-30 minutes of TV is the only TV my children watch on a regular basis. I realize there are other children's shows on cable at this time, but none that I feel like letting my kids watch. Or that they will actually watch. Or that don't have commericals.

In the middle of me having a fit about this today, it took me some time to remember I can get Sesame Street on On Demand. Unfortunately, to get to Elmo's World, I have to fast forward for 40 minutes of the show, which takes about 5 minutes out of my morning, so . . . just damn!

Damn . . . Damn . . . Damn!

I am sure that there are plenty of parents out there who love the 9 am Sesame Street time. Stay-at-home parents, parents with different work schedules, home day cares, etc. Well, good for them. It doesn't work for me, thank you very much, and I would like to know who they consulted before making this change. Probably no one who has children who actually watch these shows. So much for "public" television. This member of the "public" is pissed.