Some Assembly Required: The Doofus Guide to Trampoline Installation

I hated this thing. I gave it away just so I wouldn’t have to ever look at it again.

In our backyard, we have what is tantamount to a crop circle. It is an 18-foot circle where the grass hasn’t yet grown back after the Wal-Mart above-ground pool fiasco of 2014 (a story for another day).

I look out at that void and think two things: 1. I am SO, SO glad that the giant blue inflatable above-ground cesspool is no longer staring at me from the kitchen window, and 2. it does kinda look like aliens landed in our backyard and made a perfect circle of doom, right here in central Arkansas to send us a message of…what? My guess is that it’s the aliens laughing at my inability to prevent this abhorrence of nature from looking like the nastiest swamp thing ever.

I digress. The crop circle has been staring at me,

Yes, I know. It looks like a real Arkansas crop circle. With trampoline parts.
Yes, I know. It looks like a real Arkansas crop circle. With trampoline parts.

and this Christmas, the grandparent fairies decided to deliver a trampoline to our kids. I had mixed emotions about this, mainly because I am certain that my kids will find a way to injure themselves, other kids, our dog…and they will probably find a way to break it.

This Saturday was the first nice day in forever, so Jeff and I headed out back with a giant box from Academy Sports and some directions clearly written (and illustrated) by third world engineers who have a spotty knowledge of English.

Lucky for us, Jeff and I are no strangers to putting stuff together…as long as there is beer in the fridge and music in the background, we can go into Ikea and accept any challenge. We have, of course, assembled countless toys for the kids, but our coup de gras was our first project, a mammoth TV entertainment center (before we figured out that, according to Pinterest, anything except this crazy piece of furniture would be better to display our TV)… Anyway, we were just dating, but we drank beer, listened to music, and worked together…and we never yelled at each other.

Maybe it was because we were just dating and on our best behavior, but we have since completed similar projects and have very rarely lost tempers. If any mistakes occur, we inevitably blame the poor directions and even worse illustrations. So, we entered into Saturday’s trampoline project with the hopes that we would be finished in two hours and off to lunch with the kids.

Kiddie corral. I could get used to this.
Kiddie corral. I could get used to this.

We. Were. SO. Wrong. It started out fine…placing the lower railing parts in the crop circle. Check. Standing them up and making sure the larger hole on one side of the railing was facing in…no out…no in…out? I can’t read the damn directions. The kids are out here…minimal cussing please. Every time we messed up, we would have to correct the mistake five more times because we had followed the directions for each of the six pairs of legs. Grrr….

Then came the unholiest of unholy jobs…you would think this would be

Dante's 5th circle of hell? Nah, that's our trampoline!
Dante’s 5th circle of hell? Nah, that’s our trampoline! It has 72 springs for your assembling pleasure!

simple, but you would be wrong. This m-effer has 72…seventy-two, SEVENTY-TWO springs around the circle. But you can’t just go in order to attach the springs. You must count…COUNT 36 holes around the mat AND 36 holes around the silver frame and that’s your step 2. Step three is counting every 9 holes, so you install a few of those springs…but wait. What the? This doesn’t look right. It’s off…Jeff must’ve miscounted somewhere along the way. So we attempt to take the path of least resistance and pull out as few springs as possible, only to find that that’s the equivalent of the worst hardest math problem you ever did in the 11th grade. This is taking for-evah.

Okay, Jeff. Let’s just start the hell over. It can’t be any worse than that, right? Wrong. Spring removal…of incorrectly placed and unnaturally stretched springs…is a forearm exercise that no mere mortal should ever endure. F-bombs are dropping all over our back yard like it’s a war zone. He starts again, and incorrectly counts again…removal again.

We both have advanced degrees, and we can’t count to 36 or 9 or 72 or whatever the hell you’re supposed to count to. I was an English teacher, so using the multiplication tables I thought I’d never see again past 8th grade is making my head hurt. Where is the beer?!? Oh…it’s only 10am, and we aren’t at a tailgate, and our kids are watching, so no go. Dang. Music? We need music…that always helps. Fortunately, our iTunes account’s “shuffle” function has managed to shuffle between Christmas music and gangsta rap. Neither of these seems appropriate.

Freaking finally. What? There's more? A what? A net? Why do they need a net? We fell off trampolines in the 80's and lived through it!
Freaking finally. What? There’s more? A what? A net? Why do they need a net? We fell off trampolines in the 80’s and lived through it!

And then, the springs magically begin to go on correctly. I knew, also, that we couldn’t just be those parents who didn’t assemble the safety net because we were lazy and tired of this. We would be neighborhood pariahs…

What?!? Your kids have a play date at Jeff and Carrie’s?!? You might want to rethink that…their trampoline doesn’t have a net!!!

So, friends, we soldiered on and only had to build the cage…I mean net…1.5 times. I guess I’m glad that we spent the extra 40 minutes or whatever so all the kids will have a fighting chance at only breaking limbs if they land on each other instead of the ground.

Jeff: "Someday when we have any money at all, we will pay people to do crap like this."
Jeff: “Someday when we have any money at all, we will pay people to do crap like this.”

We will be hosting Wednesday night cage fighting after church if any of you want to send your kids over to play. You can also place Vegas-style bets on who will go to the emergency room first and what the injury will be. Jeff and I? Though this experience put a small dent in our “some assembly required” toy and furniture joy, we will live to fight another day.



Carrie On Housekeeping: St. Becky of Gladeville

Friends, I am many things, good and bad, but I am not, will most likely never be…a cleaner. I define the difference between “neat” and “scrubbed-clean” in very strict terms. Our home is neat. We pick up after ourselves (read: I pick up the kids’ stuff, or Jeff gets frustrated and does it, or I threaten the children with bodily harm until they begrudgingly take canvas shopping bags all over the house, picking up their stuff like an Easter egg hunt, complaining the whole time and dumping the bag, unceremoniously, in their rooms or the playroom). So, we are fairly neat. However, I have never been a good scrubber. Previous roommates, feel free to throw me under the street sweeper at this point…I deserve it, and this Carrie quirk goes way way back. Jeff can have some of your sympathy, but he also knew what he was signing up for. Just sayin’.

I will enter into evidence the “how we hired Becky” story. Jeff left to go on errands one Saturday and took little Sarah, our only kiddo at the time, with him. On his way out, he called over his shoulder, “Hey babe, can you clean our bathroom? I’ve done it the past few times, and it needs some attention.” In reality, he had cleaned it (the scrubbing kind, not the neat kind) way, way, way more than his share, so he was due to come home from Target to a nice, scrubbed-clean bathroom. I set to work. I even dressed the part, putting on a grubby sorority t-shirt and, for reasons I do not even fathom today but later turned out to be a good idea, a bandana as doo-rag.

The shower was easy. I’ve totally got this, I thought. Why have I been avoiding getting to know Mr. Clean all these years? As I moved to the toilet, my memory becomes a little hazy. I started externally, spraying and wiping surfaces, and I felt it. My gag reflex. This was not some horror movie toilet with disgustingness everywhere and you’d be afraid to sit all the way down. This was my home. My toilet. My business going on here. But, I just started thinking about everything that goes on in toilets in general, and I just…lost it. I gagged twice and threw up in the toilet I had just vowed to clean. (And the bandana saved my hair. Definitely the only win in this story.)

Shameful? Absolutely. And, I realized, I could never tell this story to Jeff. I would never ever live it down. So…..I soldiered on. I brushed my teeth and proceeded to the bathroom counter, a much safer-for-my-gag-reflex place. Friends, I removed every single thing from the countertop, cleaned the mirror, scrubbed the counters, and replaced our stuff. Just as I was putting the final toothbrush holder in its place, Jeff and Sarah walked in.

“Hey…I thought I asked you to clean the bathroom,” Jeff said.

Me: (totally not going for this jokester’s bait) “You’re hilarious.”

Jeff: “What? What do you mean? What did you do while we were gone?”

Me: “Excuse me? You had better be joking.” I have removed my doo-rag at this point (soooo not a good look for me), so he has obviously not seen me in costume and realized how I have just risked everything…even the contents of my stomach…for a sparkling bathroom.

Me: “I did clean the bathroom…see? Can’t you smell the cleaning products? Can’t you look in your gleaming sink and see your reflection?!? What is the matter with you, man?”

Jeff: “Um, Carrie, you missed a spot. Here…there’s a giant white streak of toothpaste.” I examined the offending spot, and yes, a residual streak of toothpaste remained after I had “cleaned” it.

Me: “Oh, that’s because I had to brush my teeth after the throw up. It must’ve dried and I didn’t notice it.”

Jeff: “The throw up? I’m not sure I even want to know what that’s about.”

Me: “Yep, probably not.”

And then, like a coincidence that can only be explained by divine intervention, we both said at the same time, “I think we need a cleaning lady.”

Enter St. Becky of Gladeville, the promised savior of our home’s cleanliness, our sanity, and potential preventer of my accidentally developing bulimia. Every other Thursday, we would pack the cars up, head to out the door, and leave a check on the table for the Becky brigade. Becky would show up, like a Fairy Godmother, and make it all better. Becky is a sweet, no-nonsense gal from Gladeville, and she knew every last cleaning trick. She and her assistants would clean our whole house, in what seemed liked an hour and mop themselves out the door…literally. People, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the world like coming home to a spotlessly clean house that you didn’t clean yourself. That is my definition of heaven, and sweet Becky, who bounced our babies when I was on maternity leave and drank coffee with me if she arrived while we were trying to get out the door, made that dream come true.

Eventually, Becky’s health prevented her from continuing to clean for us, and she sent St. Nikki, a lovely and sweet blonde, blue-eyed Cinderella herself, in her stead. And the joy of coming home every other Thursday continued, blissfully, for me until Jeff’s job swept us away to Arkansas.

And here’s the scary part. Jeff’s first comments when we discussed my becoming a stay-at-home mom when we moved to Arkansas were not “I’m so glad our kids will have you,” “I know it will take a lot off my plate not to have to…,” or “I hope that you won’t miss your awesome career where you were doing so well…” Instead, Jeff’s first comments were of the “You know, you’re going to have to clean our house” variety. “Do you think you can handle it, Carrie? We can’t live in disgustingness all the time…you’re going to have to step up. Can you do it?”

We have no cleaning lady. I’m the cleaning lady. And yes, that reality is terrifying to me. I would much rather hang out with my kids, go volunteer for the PTO, write snarky blog posts, or rip out my own fingernails with tweezers. But I do it. Is it perfect (read: up to Jeff’s *ever-loosening* standards)? Nah, but I’m getting by. I have come to terms with my fate and am resigned that, if I get to enjoy the benefits of having a front row seat to my kids’ lives, then I can, I guess, live without someone to clean our house. Friends who visit, please tell me if you’re about to stage a cleaning intervention.