Sunday Scrapbook: If My Life Were An Ikea Store

I love Ikea. For those of you who don’t have an Ikea nearby, it’s basically a Swedish-based home furnishings and decor store (with a few cinnamon rolls thrown in) that gives you the ability to have very modern design at very affordable prices (we’re talking lower than a K-Mart blue light special). It’s a leader in environmentally-friendly business practices and has been named one of the top 100 companies to work for by Fortune.  Our huge area store feels like it’s having a grand opening all the time even though it’s been open for six years– still filled with customers, still long lines to check out. But in spite of all its sleek, inexpensive stuff, don’t the Swedish titles for everything sometimes bug you? I mean, at Ikea, it’s not a laundry hamper, it’s “Peva”. A measuring cup is “Fläckig”; bathroom mirrors, “Tranby”.  Which is all fine and good, but after awhile, especially if you’re tired and cranky from having kids in tow when they’re too old to go to Småland (that’s Ikea-speak for the in-store play area), it can all come across as a little snooty, a little bit much.  It’s like “let’s make our products seem fancier than they are by putting strange titles on everything, and remind everyone a billion times over, WE’RE SWEDISH, DAMMIT, AND WE’RE COOL– TOO COOL TO CALL A TOILET BRUSH  A TOILET BRUSH WHEN WE CAN PUT “GASGRUND” OR “LILLHOLMEN” ON THE TAG! (And who knows what those words really mean? They could all be playing one big joke on us doofus Americans– “Lillholmen” might just mean …well, you fill in the blank…) I guess it’s all just marketing genius, though, as Ikea is the largest and most successful furniture store in the world.

But still, sometimes I want to tell them to take their SLOM and shove it up their HEMNES.  Like one recent morning when I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and Andy got up early and drank all the brewed coffee before he left the house and I had to reach for our $3 bag of  BRYGGKAFFE MELLANROST and brew my own. ‘Hah!’ I thought. ‘I’ll brygg your kaffe all right, and then I’ll go see if my teenager has cleaned up her Krapandstuf (bedroom)…’

Wait…what if everything in my life was Ikea? Might look something like this:

                                                          (my dogs)

                                                                  (my desk)

                                                           (my 206,000 mile minivan)

                                           (my husband, the salsa lover)

                                                 (my darling daughters)

For more fun with Ikea, check out the “Swedish Furniture Name Generator” at
.  It instantly converts any word to Ikea-speak– and even generates a furniture drawing and item number to go with it!  Also, for an interesting look at the real why and how of Ikea names (almost as fun as learning about the hidden Mickeys at Disneyland), check out the section titled “Product Names” at

Kids and Forgetfulness: When Will They Stop Losing Stuff?

If you have children, do they lose things as much as mine do? Seriously, my elderly mother shouldn’t be as worried about her forgetfulness as her grandchildren should be about theirs. Sure, Mom will sometimes tell us things more than once, forgetting that she’s already told us.  But that’s really no big deal compared to the frequency and price tag of my kids’ forgetfulness (both the actual value of items lost as well as the time lost searching for the items!!!).  I read in the newspaper today that in a recent analysis of the Houston Public Library’s delinquency records, The Houston Chronicle found that 119,558 patrons have failed to return 325,000 items since 1999.  The article’s author gives you the impression that those patrons don’t return items because they want to keep them, but I had to smile and wonder if he’d never had kids before.  I’ll bet a bunch of those losses were related to kids’ irresponsibility and forgetfulness.   Been there, done that.

I decided to do a little “analysis” of our own kids’ losses (at least the major ones I can remember), both library and non-library-related, over the past 16½  years that Andy and I have been parents:

Item Lost                                                                                      Value

One pair of eyeglasses                                                                $80

Left on the school playground by Emmie within two weeks of her excitedly getting them.  They were dark brown with aqua accents, from the “oh-so-cool” High School Musical line of specs at JC Penney Optical.  She took them off to do an upside-down stunt and gave them to a friend to hold. The friend put them in the seat of a swing, and Emmie forgot about them until she got home an hour later.  The only consolation for her was that when she checked the Lost and Found drawer in the school office to see if anyone had turned them in, she found her first pair of eyeglasses, lost several months before…

A custom-molded, upper and lower retainer
(for teeth)                                                                    $600 ($300 each)

Lost by Allison within two months of getting her braces off.  She took them out and put them inside her paper lunch sack while she ate lunch in the high school cafeteria. She asked a friend to remind her not to throw the bag away. The friend forgot, and so did Allison.

Two library items                                                 $34 (about $17 each)

One a children’s book, the other a Jeff Dunham DVD. The book was discovered under Emmie’s bed, tucked under an old scrapbook, several years after losing it, while emptying her room when we moved out of our first house; the DVD was discovered under the living room sofa about a year after losing it. Not sure who kicked it under there but I doubt it was an adult.  We had long ago paid the “replacement fee” for both items so we now own them. (And we still haven’t watched the DVD!)

One American Girl “Bitty Baby” doll

Emmie left “Paulina” under the covers in a hotel room in Cameron, MO one summer while on our way to Iowa. Luckily it happened on the outbound part of the road trip, and luckily someone saved it, so we were able to drive there and retrieve the doll on the way home, even though we would have preferred driving back a different way.

One cranberry red Snuggie                                                            ????

A favorite of Allison’s which she left among the covers at a hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana (and which I mistook to be part of the hotel bed linens).   Again, it was while on a road trip, so we made a special stop to get it while on the way back.

One wallet                                      $40 (amount of cash that was inside)

Set down by Allison “just for a minute” while taking photographs at Mt. Rushmore while she was on a church mission trip in South Dakota. When she remembered to retrieve it, it was gone.

One freshman-year high school yearbook                                      $60

On the day the yearbooks were issued, Allison left it on a bench behind her in the locker room as she changed clothes later in the day, after drill team practice. When she turned to get it, it was gone (and had no identification inside or out, so it would have been an easy sell for the thief, no doubt, or could have easily been passed off as their own…)

This list could also include numerous sunglasses and makeup compacts; shoes, clothes and socks left at friends’ houses, and lost earrings, charms and necklaces never to be seen again—not to mention many more overdue library books that were found in the nick of time.  But I’ll end the list here so I don’t get too depressed. 

Do Andy and I always pay to replace lost items? No.  Emmie now wears those “original” glasses even though they may not be as stylish as the newer ones she lost; Allison didn’t get a replacement yearbook, and had to almost empty a savings account she’s had going since she was little in order to pay for the new retainers.  We think it will make them take better care of their stuff if they’re financially responsible for it. But will it really? 

Emmie took her lunch to school today in a brown paper sack because, while she had a pretty good “first day of Junior High” yesterday, she left her brand new lunch tote on the floor next to her locker after school, the same paisley lunch tote for which I’d helped her find a cute ID tag to tie on, and I’d written her name and address on it as well.  When I picked her up from school, she ran back inside the building after I asked her “Where’s your lunch bag?”, and it wasn’t there.  Let’s hope she can remember to stop by the school office today to see if some nice person found it and turned it in.  But I’m not holding my breath. Needs Your Vote

It’s been awhile since has been up for any awards– but the time has come once again! I’ve been chosen as a finalist in the CBS DFW Most Valuable Blogger Awards competition and I’d love to win this one!!!! But I need your help!!

Please click on the following link and then click on the “Vote for This Site” button, once a day through Sept. 9th, 2011, and feel free to share with your friends. There’s nothing you have to sign up for, no account password needed, etc.  I think the voting has been going on for a week already so we may have some catching up to do– but we can do it! We’ve done it before!

Thanks in advance for any and all clicks you can get your fingers to do!

Dieting With My Daughter: So Far, So Good

Looking back, I must say it really was genius.  To casually mention, in front of my teenage daughter, how interesting it is that my fitness instructor is doing the Atkins Diet to help lower her cholesterol and is losing weight as a side benefit– and my teen “grabbed it and ran”.  “Let’s try it!” she said.  She and I have now been following Atkins for about 7 weeks, and doing pretty good.  While I had a feeling that Allison would want to try it since she’s always wanting to do something different from the pack (last year she was a vegetarian and this year she bought clip-in hair extensions), and I knew she’d been wanting badly to shed a few pounds to get to a healthier weight, and I always thought it might be fun to diet together (my mother and I had tried a few diets together in the 70’s), and I definitely knew that if Allison was ever going to diet with me, her motivation would have to come from her and not uncool mom–  did I really realize, on that day back in June, all the possible positive outcomes of “lighting the diet fire” so that she could fan the flames? I’m not sure. But what a great decision it’s been, for several reasons:

1. A loud, persistent teen is a pretty good diet motivator.  For many years, I’ve been wanting to eat healthier, exercise more, and lose weight, but have always been “too busy”.  The energy of a demanding teenager is great energy to put behind starting a diet.  Once we decided to try this, I might still be waiting to buy an Atkins how-to book if not for her daily nagging: “Mom, have you bought an Atkins book yet?” “Mom, when are you going to buy the book?” “MOM– GO BUY THE BOOK!!” I bought it, and she read it first, on our road trip to Iowa in June.  Talk about having a personal trainer LIVING IN YOUR OWN HO– USE!!! Once she read the book, the next nagging I heard was, “Mom, when are you going grocery shopping?” “Mom, we need to stock up on certain things.” “MOM, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO THE STORE??”

2. When your teen really believes in the idea of a good diet, the junk food goes away and the whole family eats healthier foods.  I remember Mom and I trying jicama and brussel sprouts when I was a teen, and fixing some for Dad…this summer, there has been no junk food in the freezer or refined white flour and corn-laden, salty snack foods in our pantry– no chicken nuggets or onion rings, no potato chips, pretzels, or cheese puffs, and I haven’t heard any complaints from Allison…or Emmie and Andy! I make (or buy) a different dip, hummus, or cheese ball every week and keep it in a divided tray in the fridge with plenty of baby carrots and other cut-up veggies, and that seems to be working as a “replacement”. 

3. Your teen’s well-being, and your own, improve when progress is made.  She’s been getting a lot of compliments from friends and I’ve been getting them from my husband– and I went clothes shopping the other day and discovered I’d gone down a size, for the first time since…I can’t remember when!  (The only drawback is that soon I might hear her say, “Mom, I need a whole new wardrobe!!”)

4. Dieting together can be a good bonding experience. I remember my mom and I kvetching together over The Scarsdale Diet, trying to get our mind off the fact that we felt hungry all the time and couldn’t stop thinking about food, and could hardly wait until the next meal.  That is definitely not the case with Atkins, but Allison and I do get excited whenever I discover a new lo-carb meal idea or snack food at the grocery store, and one day we spent a long time at Central Market together looking at all the vegetables, marveling at the names we never see in other stores, buying a few to try.  Also, I’ve started going to exercise classes three times a week (remember that “destination walking” I was trying to do? The summer heat sapped my enthusiasm for that even before the thermometer reached the 100s) and so far Allison has joined me a couple times for a Zumba class (what a hoot).  Our teamwork and bonding can also be felt when we eat with others who aren’t doing Atkins– it would be much harder to watch Andy and Emmie get pasta, rice or potatoes with their meal if we were the only one not getting it. It would have been harder to be at the wedding reception last week or the BBQ on the 4th of July and be the only one not piling their plate with tortilla chips or potato salad.  “Mom, what can we eat?” she’ll ask me in those kinds of situations, and I’ll let her know.  And, I think it’s good to have a diet buddy as we go through the phases and transition into “maintenance”– for me, it’s not so much of a “diet” any more as much as it’s a way of eating healthier (basically, no refined starches or sugars, high fructose corn syrup is BAD and don’t be afraid of good fats), and I hope as school starts and life gets back to old routines that I can help her remember this new one.

So much media air time and print space is often devoted to being uber-cautious about “teens and diets”, telling us again and again on how moms better not push their girls to diet or harp on their weight or they’re going to send their daughters straight into the throes of poor self image and anorexia. While I whole-heartedly agree (I have never once pushed or harped on this issue and do not believe that magazine model sizes are the epitome of beauty), I do think a lot of teens’ eating habits, lifestyles, and waistlines could use some help, and I think all the anorexia press has made some parents scared to even talk about nutrition with their teens or pre-teens.  More voices need to be heard about how to do this in a non-threatening way– like letting kids help with the cooking or grocery shopping, putting interesting nutrition articles on the fridge for everyone to see, or even, heaven forbid, talking about the latest healthy diet plan, and then agreeing to try it with them.  Or, maybe just making healthy changes on our own, in the hopes that other family members will follow.  Enthusiasm (and good results) can be contagious.

When Your Child’s Email Gets Hacked: My Look Into the Evil World of Spamming

I guess our first clue should have been when our preteen daughter, Emmie, couldn’t get into her email account a few weeks ago– she said it wouldn’t let her in, and she figured that maybe she’d forgotten her password, even though it was the only one she ever used, and it always popped up automatically from our home computer, anyway.  (Her email service says that’s a sign that the account might have been compromised.)  But unknowing doofus parents that we are, we just went on about our business as she answered the security questions and reset her password (she chose to “change” it to the same one as before).  Then yesterday morning, suspicious emails, with blank “subject” lines, started arriving from her address, several every few minutes, into my inbox and into everyone else’s in her address book.  They contained a link to a “pharmaceutical” website, a site that contained descriptions of just how their products would help male enhancement and performance.  It’s bad enough we all get bombarded with those ads on radio and TV, but now kids are being specifically targeted for that message as well?

“How do they know it’s a kid’s account?” Andy asked me after I phoned him. I was mad and needed to vent. I think they have a pretty good idea, I told him.  I’d found out, after doing a bit of Internet research, that spammers often get into email accounts because many people use the same password for all their online accounts, and the spammers simply find a not-so-secure website where the person has entered their email address and password, and they figure that same password is good for that person’s private email inbox. Which had been the case with Emmie, and probably so for a lot of kids.  Which means that, based on her Internet presence, that spammers troll everywhere, even kid websites like Neopets, Webkinz, American Girl…and that’s just sick. 

You are probably wondering, as I did, why pharmaceutical spammers would want kids to find their website, since it’s doubtful a kid is going to beg Santa Claus for some Viagra. Why waste time going after kids? Well, it’s simply a matter of clicks– the more clicks their site gets, the more that spammers make money. (Even exiting out of an unwanted spam pop-up earns those spam vermin some cashl!)  And unsuspecting kids might just be the “perfect” audience to give their site a lot of traffic, especially those kids who get the giggles every time they see the word “penis” in print.  A 2008 study done by the University of California-Berkeley and UCSD showed that even at an average rate of only one response for every 12.5 million spam emails sent, spammers turn a nice profit.  For one large spam network, it was to the tune of $7,000 per day, over $2 million per year. 

Emmie was definitely upset when she arrived home, bleary-eyed and tired after a sleepover, to find out what had happened.  By that time, I’d emailed everyone to whom the messages had been sent to tell them not to open up any emails from her. Her mouth dropped open in horror every time she realized just who might have received the spam, as she remembered who was on her address list– “My teachers from last year?” she asked.  Yes.  “All my camp friends?” Yes.  “The gymnastics coaches?” Yes. And yes to the email addresses of music instructors, relatives, even some of her friends’ parents.  The more upset she got, the more upset I got on the inside, and the more I wanted to go after the jerks who did this.  I called up Andy again.  “I want to find out who did this, and I want to press charges!” I told him.  After signing in to Emmie’s email account, he found a list of the origins of the last 10 sign-ons, and called me back. “Well, I guess you’re going to have to send that lawyer to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Chile, and Poland,” he said.  Because someone, or someone’s computer, from each of those countries had gotten into her account that morning– one at 5:12 a.m., the next at 8 a.m., another at 9:43 a.m. and the latest at 12:06 p.m.  Creepy, isn’t it? He felt it was futile to do anything except make her account more secure (email providers usually offer how-to’s), but he underestimates the lengths moms will go to when someone messes with their children.

A few Google searches and a little more reading and I came upon a website called The Spamhaus Project. The Spamhaus Project is an international nonprofit organization whose mission includes tracking the Internet’s spam operations and sources, working with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam gangs worldwide, and to lobby governments for effective anti-spam legislation. It maintains a Register Of Known Spam Operations, or ROKSO, collecting information on “known professional spam operations that have been terminated by a minimum of 3 Internet Service Providers for spam offenses.”  The list is long, but represents a group of about 100 “spam gangs” that put out 80% of the spam we receive at any given time, most operating illegally and moving from ISP to ISP. It didn’t take long to find the name of the website to which all of Emmie’s spam emails had directed her friends–though each email housed a different address/link, they all led to one place:  “A long time running pharmacy spam operation. They send tens of millions of spams per day using botnet techniques. Probably based in Eastern Europe, Ukraine/Russia. Host spammed web sites on botnets and on bulletproof Chinese web hosting”.  Just as I was thinking it really was futile to bring charges against someone sitting several continents away, I decided to click on a ROKSO feature labeled “Contact info.” And there in black and white were the street addresses of the spam pharmaceutical company’s three “known” offices: one in Canada; their “warehouse” in India; and their “U.S. branch office”, located in… Austin, TEXAS. Yee-HAH! (Now I may not be proud of some things in Texas, but prosecuting criminals is something Texas does really well, so at that moment, I couldn’t have been happier to live where I do– even in this nonstop triple-digit heat…)  I double-checked Spamhaus’ address information with what was listed at the pharma website and it matched. 

SO- to make a long story shorter, I checked with the Texas Attorney General’s website (yes, spamming is illegal in our state, not to mention selling prescription drugs on the black market), and I called their Austin office, and was encouraged to file a consumer complaint– it’s easy to do and the form is online (see below for links). Maybe if enough angry parents complain, spammers will be put out of business, or at least put out of state. (Various state attorney generals have had success in prosecuting spammers.) The TAG’s office also encouraged me to phone the Austin police non-emergency line, who gave me a national link where people in any state can file a complaint against spammers (see below). I’m also thinking about a call or email to the Austin Better Business Bureau, and an email to the FTC (they take spam complaints at

A ridiculous waste of time, you may be thinking? Just get used to spam? Ah, but think again. Where one crime is being committed, usually others are, or will be, as well. Not only do website spammers often branch out into identity theft and fraud schemes (like bilking senior citizens), they’ve been known to be pedophiles and child pornographers as well. As responsible
citizens, we’ve got to treat any Internet crime just like we’d treat a hit-and-run or an assault, and report it, especially when it happens to our children.

Texas Attorney General consumer complaint form:

Internet Crime Complaint Center (run by FBI, National White Collar Crimes Center)

The Register Of Known Spam Operations:

Friday Freebie: iPod Touch!!!

Our biggest giveaway yet at Uncool Mom– in conjunction with their back to school promotions, Dallas-based Mattress Giant is offering one lucky Uncool Mom reader an iPod Touch, 8GB, valued at $229! 

To enter, just write to me at before 12 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9th  (a.k.a. Monday midnight) and let me know you want to be included in the drawing. 

If you don’t win, there are lots of other chances from Mattress Giant to win some great prizes. On its Twitter page (,  Mattress Giant is giving away an iPod Touch every weekday (Mon-Fri), until August 22, in its Back to School “Photo-A-Day” Giveaway (I like the ease of this one because you don’t have to generate and download any of your own photos, you just have to identify their photo-of-the-day).  Over on Facebook (, during the same time period, Mattress Giant is holding the “Back to College” Sweepstakes, with the prize being the winner’s choice of a twin, full or queen-size Simmons Beautyrest Eagleville mattress set (valued up to $1,200).  Mattress Giant’s social media offer tips on getting better sleep and other news about sleep, which can come in handy if you’re a parent (like me) trying to get your kids back on a better sleep schedule in preparation for school. 

Good luck, and I hope to hear from a lot of you!!

Kids and Summer Boredom: Should Parents Come to the Rescue?

I got screamed at yesterday.  Surprisingly, not by my teenager, but my soon-to-be teenager. And just what were those oft-repeated, often-heard-in-summer-words, this time uttered at the top of her lungs?  “I’M BORED!!!!!!!”  Followed by: “WHAT CAN I DO?!! FIGURE OUT SOMETHING FOR ME TO DO!!!!!!!  Followed by bedroom door slamming, and after that, crying.  Geesh.  I thought I was over those years of “Mommy, please fill my every waking void…”

So that I could get even a shred of work done during the summer, I used to do just that, at least two to three days a week: schedule day camps, mothers-day-outs, etc., planning far in advance to fill the summer calendar, beginning as early as late February.  But as kids get older, I think they need to be more responsible for filling in their time, to foster creativity, independence, etc., and so each summer for at least the last three summers, I’ve cut back on scheduling with Emmie, and it happened around the same age for Allison.  Yes, I offer suggestions and do help them fill in some of the time with planned camps/activities/volunteer work, but it’s definitely less scheduling than before.  As a result, I have seen some creative stuff happen– I remember a cool bulletin board collage Allison created one summer, and this summer, Emmie’s tried to do a lot of money-earning activities, like a lemonade stand with a friend, extra yard work, and last week she hand-rolled all the pennies in Andy’s 20+ year-old, giant penny jar, netting $30 for herself and $30 for charity.

Yet, why has this summer been christened by her, several times, as The Most Boring Summer Ever?  Is it because it’s the hottest summer since she’s been born? I don’t think so.  She still gets outside in this heat, whether it’s to jog around the block, or ride her bike to the neighborhood pool. Is it because we chose to take our vacation early in the summer rather than later? Maybe.  Normally, we’d be out of town during this late part of the summer, and it seems like a lot of her close friends have been out of town lately.  I keep telling her to “expand her friends list”, to not just call up girls from her school class.  What about from gymnastics? What about from Girl Scouts? What about the friends she made at past summer activities? Sometimes that works– it netted her a fun day out at an old friend’s house last week… but when no friends are returning calls, and your kid doesn’t know what else to do, and they’re tired of reading, watching TV and practicing their musical instrument, should a parent step in?

Before the screaming started yesterday, I felt sorry for her, so I stopped what I was doing and started looking up info on other city pools (our neighborhood city pool is closed on Mondays).  “I’ll take you to another pool,” I offered. I have yet to go swimming this summer, and thought it might be fun. But she said it wouldn’t be fun with just me, that she needed to have a friend go along, and no one was available.  And that’s when the screaming began.  I politely clocked out of my “boredom busters” job for that day. “You know, when you act like that, you won’t get any help from me,” I said.

I was relieved to get out of the house soon after, to go pick up Allison from a drill team activity.  When we returned, Emmie had gotten out a set of watercolors and was sitting on a stool, painting on a white piece of paper at a kitchen counter.  It was a book cover, with each word a different color.  “WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BORED!” it read.

I can’t wait to read what will go inside…