Sugar & Spice

Surviving in the Desert

I don't talk about my in-laws that much. I mean, do I? I don't think I do. FUN FACT: I have probably deleted all of about...three or four blog entries, tops, ever, since I started this site (counts on fingers...oh my GOD) seven years ago. But I still remember the very entry I deleted. It was about visiting my in-laws, and despite sound incredibly tame and ridiculously nice compared with the kind of screeds you saw flying across the average anonymous Blogspot blog back in those Wild West days, I deleted it at Jason's request. 

So I've been good, right? Other than occasionally holding them up as a case study for the Advice Smackdown, I feel like I've barely mentioned them. So I'm due! I can talk about my in-laws for just a little bit. It's my Christmas wish.

DISCLOSURE: This post is brought to you by XFINITY from Comcast. Watch all your favorite shows from anywhere with XFINITY TV. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Comcast or its partners.

(Hey, so. I know. Two sponsored-content-type posts in a row. This usually never happens, and really wasn't supposed to happen this time either -- I committed to a couple campaigns several months ago, when the publishing calendars were very different and very far apart, but stuff happened and things got shifted and moved and bumped and synergized and I am pretty sure a high-stakes game of Tetris happened [at gunpoint, even], and here we are. Please know that this isn't any indication of content to come, like with every other post brought to you by FABULOUS LONG-LASTING AQUANET! and I'm Here Today To Talk To You About Sensible Retirement Planning, but just one of those hiccups in seasonal advertising. In the meantime, I'm still doing my best to be funny every day of your lives, for free, so WHAT MORE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM MEEEEEEE? THE PRESSURE IS TOO MUCH! IF ONLY THIS POST WAS SPONSORED BY SOME SORT OF BOOZE!)

Anyway. My in-laws. They are great. Really, really kind and generous and willing to do just about anything for us. Other than use the hand towels in our bathroom. They always prefer to bring their own. I've never gotten around to asking them what that's all about.

When we go to visit them, I am happy to use the provided hand towels, but I am admittedly less happy about the TV options. Because there aren't any. I think they get about five channels, half of which don't even seem to be like, actual TV networks that air anything from this actual century. The last time I was there I ended up watching an hour-long public-access infomercial for a self-help book on tape. Cassette tape

They own a couple old Disney VHS tapes for the kids, three or four 1980s comedies that we've collectively watched as a group approximately 435 times, and a lot of televised church sermons. And that's it. 

Fine. They don't watch a lot of TV. It's probably why their house is so clean and they have time to make a lot of fancy salads.  I get it, and I admire it, but many, many times our weekend visits have stretched out to include Sunday night. Which, historically, has presented a few problems. Problems like:

The Sopranos
Six Feet Under 
The Wire 
The Amazing Race
Big Love
Flight of the Conchords
True Blood
Nurse Jackie
Boardwalk Empire
Mad Men
The Walking Dead 

And probably many, many other series that 1) aired on Sunday nights, and 2) included a lot of cursing, sex, vampires and/or zombies. Oh! And Battlestar Galactica, back on Friday nights. And let's not forget weeknight visits and Top Chef and Project Runway and Lost and...okay, I'll stop.

Point is! Jason and I are giant-ass babies about our TV shows. We are. We get invested, they are important, and it's only through years of training and DVR ownership that we've developed the willpower to wait 15 minutes or so to "get behind the commercials" and watch things semi-live. Certain shows simply do not ever "sit" on the DVR until the next day. Watching episodes online is fine...for people with the patience to wait 24 whole hours, or whatever the hell, like SUCKERS. We rent seasons on DVD too, but it's to watch our favorite shows AGAIN, like ADDICTS.

All right, so maybe this post is more about us than my in-laws, but here comes the big confession: Whenever we visit my in-laws, one or both of us usually comes down with a Headache or an attack of the Really Tireds...generally sometime between 8:15 and 10:15, depending on what show we're talking about...and we head upstairs to the guest bedroom where Jason has set up a laptop to stream that show from our DVR at home. 

With headphones, of course, because those vampires on HBO like to use the FILTHIEST language, you guys.

We'll be spending at least a few days at their house for Christmas, but I think even if they read this post we'll be okay, because everything's pretty much on mid-season break right now. Oh, and I'm pregnant, which always requires an unquestioned number of naps and breaks and hours-long marathons of Hoarders and Man v. Food reruns anyway, so I'm good. 



Michele Rowe

I admire restraint...and your inventiveness. Many people look down on those of us who become invested in our tv shows. And, no, it's not us who have the problem!

Sprite's Keeper

15 minutes? That's very good. My husband hates to be behind on anything "what if it stops recording for some reason and we miss something?" Then wonders why he still can't press forward when he hits a commercial. Men.


Sprite's Keeper - That DID actually happen to us once, during LOST of all things, but luckily I noticed the little red "recording" light had gone off. Of course, we didn't know what to DO about it, other than start shrieking and hitting random buttons on the remote.

Correct answer: Hit Live TV button, then REC button to set up a second recording, all with your eyes closed so whatever is currently happening live won't get spoiled for you, then go back to the first recording and resume play.

(I swear to God we do actually like, read and stuff too.)


I'll admit, we're not tv people. I mean, we have one. And we have basic cable. So we can watch Mythbusters. But all of our premium show watching is either on Hulu or DVD several seasons later. (Even the network shows get watched on hulu, because all the good ones are on at 10 pm, and who can stay up that late? WHO?)

Life of a Doctor's Wife

It means the world to me that someone I admire so much is as invested in TV as I am.

Leigh Ann

Oh dear. I'm afraid I may be your in laws, and you may be on of my future children in law. We're toying with the idea of canceling our cable b/c we can't justify the cost vs how little we watch actual cable. We're paying more for the DVR. But what will I do when I can no longer pull up DVR'd Sesame Streets when I really need to? Cause you know we're not just getting up at 7am and watching TV.

Jan Ross

WHATWHATWHAT??? You can stream your DVR to your laptop!! Please, please share how to do this. We actually had to have our son delete some shows from our DVR while we were on our last trip because it got too full and it broke our hearts to miss our favorite shows. We,too, are TV addicts.


I recently tried to rewind a football game at my in-laws.I was confused then devastated to realize they don't have DVR. Why have a 70 inch HD television (with the HD package...) but no DVR? AM CONFUSED.


We must be a cross between you and your in-laws. We cannot justify paying for cable and DVR, as much as we'd probably use it. In fact, that's kind of what we are afraid of.. watching more. But then I go over to my parents, and watch all kinds of silly and wonderful things like myth busters and the history channel, animal planet, discovery.. Is there a package for us that's all about the 'learning channels'? (Funny thing is, I don't consider TLC to be on that list anymore!)
But anyway, we are invested in certain shows, we just have Netflixm the Roku box, and we have to wait whole seasons for the last one to come out. Which is why I totally FREAKED OUT when People's one-sentence bit about Dexter returning this fall included a SPOILER from the very last episode from last season. You know what I'm talking about.. Those a-holes! Ruined for me!
I think it's that we love our shows, we loath commercials, and we just can't afford full out cable.
That was a book, sorry.


We got a new television eight months ago and I still don't know how to use the remote. My husband, on the other hand, has shows and the DVR scheduled out like the troops storming Normandy.
This totally sounds perfect for the next vacation, where we will be in a house with ONE television set and people who like wrestling...

(waiting for the AquaNet post, because if it's anything like Antiperspirant Wars, I'll be rolling on the floor!)

Jessica V

I am so impressed that you guys have figured out such an awesome solution to this situation! I just have to relate a story - the other night my husband turned on our TV and started shrieking hysterically because the Dexter finale was on live and the DVR was recording two shows, which was keeping him from changing the channel (that's what he gets for setting up a series recording of Undercover Boss!). Not sure why the channel wouldn't change - but he was freaking out b/c the climax of Dexter was on right then (major spoiler). He ended up throwing the remote at me yelling "fix it!" while he put his head in his t-shirt and plugged his ears (wouldn't closing his eyes have worked just as well?). I ended up having to just turn it off b/c the DVR would not let us switch to the other recording and we risked losing the Dexter recording all together.

Whew. That was a lot of run-on sentences. Anyway, I just thought you'd appreciate that you and Jason aren't the only babies about your shows!


So...I need DirectTV to come up with one of these & then give it to me for free. Whee! Got that, Santa?


I can so relate. Except it's my parents! They don't even have Internet!

My mom *does* have a little netbook with built-in wireless internet now, but she is so militant with the bandwidth usage! Streaming our shows? Yeah, right. You're lucky to get 10 minutes for an email check.

ms martyr

Debbie Downer here. I too love my TV shows but can wait to watch them at a later time so that I can actually visit with people. How will you feel when your adult children would rather watch television (or whatever will be available in the future) than spend time with you?
And yes, I qualify as old enough to be your in-law.


OMG. My in laws also bring their own towels. Not just hand towels, but bath towels. And SHEETS. They bring their own SHEETS and PILLOWS and I have always wanted to ask if they think we have lice or something. My mother in law would probably claim she's "trying to save me work."

And they not only do not have DISH or anything like that, they do not have the Internet. Whenever my father in law visits, he loves to check out the National Weather Service website on our computer(s), where you can see the snow or rain or whatever coming at you on the satellite loop. He loves it. And if they're driving here in bad weather, they will CALL US AND ASK US TO CHECK THE WEATHER. At some point you gotta wonder when they'll break down and get the internet--my mother in law uses email at the library, at least--but I think they'll stand strong.


I'm always so happy to hear about other people with the kind of tv obsession I have. My husband and I are dvr waiters, though, letting some shows collect until we have the entire season. Then we have a marathon during a long weekend.


Over Thanksgiving? I was in AZ at my aunts house. Dude. They still have Dial Up Internet. So not only was there nothing to watch on TV, the videos they have are from when their grandson was a baby. Yeah...he's graduating HS this spring. BUT DIAL UP! Boing, boing eeeeeeeeeeeeee boing. Die.

I still have the shakes and it's been weeks now.

Some shows I will wait until the next day. But mostly I start it after 13 minutes. I've got it down.


@ms martyr - Amalah never said that her in-laws minded. Nor that they weren't maybe watching TV themselves. Maybe they watch the news. Maybe they sit and watch documentaries about Thomas Kinkade or something. Maybe they sit and do crossword puzzles quietly each night. You don't really know.

Part of being an adult is knowing that not everyone in your family is going to like the same thing. Nor does it mean every waking second of a family visit needs to be spent talking to each other.


OMG, you are guys are awesome to do this! Maybe it's the fact that I'm one of those people without cable and have like 5 channels but I would never have thought to do this. Smart! :)


We're always behind the eight ball. Lost, Dexter, Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, Weeds, Big Love....all watched on DVD AFTER many people raved about how amazing they each were. Problem is, there's no regulating how many in a row we watch. Case in point- last night, He and I (24 weeks pregnant), who had to wake up to deal with a very active 18 month old, couldn't drag ourselves away from DVDs of Dexter until 1am!! Ya know...because we have to know what's going to happen....It's a vicious cycle.


I'm glad you have sponsored posts. Because I like your blog and if people give you money it gives you one more reason to keep going. Shoot, I might even click some ads for you.

Amy in StL

So do you also get the desire to clean something after watching hoarders? It seriously gives me a craving for cleaning - which is NOT normal.


Jan Ross: Google "Slingbox". It's not cheap, but if you love your TV, you'll love this!


We were just saying that we have over 400 channels and there are days when there's nothing on TV; it's like being in a town with 5 channels. Thank God for Seinfeld DVD's - all nine seasons!

Kristine (Mommy Needs Therapy)

Very funny! There was a long length of time that I dreaded visiting my own parents for exactly those reasons. They did have a computer, but it was dial up. I finally told them if they didn't get satellite tv or cable internet I couldn't come back.

Amanda P

OMFG cool. Very good sponsored post because now I want one/it thingy...

Plano Mom

We've managed to turn Bones and House into quality family time.


My in-laws have the same TV issue...NO channels. It's horrific! Before my m-i-l passed away, she was stuck in the house (mobility was next to NOTHING) for days at a time with NO CABLE. I don't know how she did it. I would have gone CRAZY.

Katie Kat

I actually threatened people when it came to me watching LOST. I mean, nice, normal, RATIONAL people. Even though I was recording it, I just KNEW something would go wrong and then EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD would know what happened and I wouldn't, and my tiny mind just couldn't wrap itself around that! And one time the DVR cut off like ONE minute before the end - and you Losties know how important that ONE minute is - and I lost. my. shit. Seriously, I spent 30 furious minutes online getting the breakdown of 60 seconds from everyone I knew who watched the show. Just a leeeeetle psycho about that one!


Fist bump (or whatever the kids are doing these days to express solidarity) for TV addicts! I don't know how people had children and watched TV before DVRs. What if your kid started throwing up before you could find out who shot J.R.? Perish the thought.


What if you guys started getting them movie DVDs for Christmas or their birthdays or whatever? You could get them old classics that stand up well to watching over and over 1,000 times (think "Casablanca," "Lawrence of Arabia," etc.). That could be a win-win!


Look into Boxee and bring your computer to the in-laws. One should not suffer the loss of prime TV programming for the sake of family togetherness. :)


You know. I grew up in an environment that seems similar to your background (Christian school and all that), and I left the church during/after college. To this day the one question I most wish your blog would answer is how the boys got their names. I still can't really read Ezra without mentally adding Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms...

I suppose that was unrelated, but Jason's parents seem like they might be part of the reason. :)

Love your work.

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