I probably shouldn't admit this but...

Many months ago, a colleague at work was clearing out her kids' rooms and she brought a box of children's books that she thought we might like. Among them was a set of Sesame Street Alphabet books, one book for each letter. When put together on a shelf in the correct order, the spines of all the books line up to make a picture. In addition, they are each a puzzle piece, so the kids can turn the books all over to the back cover and put all the books together to form a puzzle. There was only one problem: the Q Book was missing. She hadn't been able to find it anywhere, but figured that we might enjoy the rest anyway and dumped them all into the box.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe how much this bothered me. Not in a way that "caused clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning" (Hey! I DID learn something from all those psych. classes in college, after all.) But every time I put a book back on the shelf or walked by or even glanced that direction, I Saw. That. Missing. Q. Book. And it BOTHERED me.

The greatest day of my life was when I was in a thrift store almost a year later browsing through used children's books there and I happened to see the D, F and H books from that same set on the shelf. I immediately started digging through books stacked on the floors and there, glistening like a diamond in the sun, was the coveted Q Book. I snatched it up like a bride-to-be at a bargain basement wedding dress sale and clutched it to my chest just in case anyone had seen me and might try to intercept it while I ran top speed to the cashier to pay for it so it would be Mine, All Mine, Wha Ha Ha Ha all the while cackling and singing the Wicked Witch of the West Theme from Wizard of Oz.

I have this Thing about having complete sets of things.

Not only was one letter of the alphabet missing spoiling THAT set, (already enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end), but also the pictures on the spines didn't work AND... there was a missing piece in the puzzle on the back. The planets had aligned to create a veritable trifecta of incompleteness. If my daughter hadn't loved them so much, I would have just thrown the whole set of books away. They were clearly useless.

You know that toy where you put the big ring on the pole, then the next smaller ring, etc. etc? I cannot have that in my house. Why? Because within 23 hours, one of the rings would be lost, thereby rendering the toy useless. And yes, I know that my daughter would probably be happy playing with it anyway, but really the toy would just be sitting in the corner, mocking me every time I looked at it. And I cannot be mocked by a toy.

I already have a puzzle that she loves with one piece missing. The puzzle was also handed down from a colleague's child and the Dormouse loves it and has no problem with the missing fire hydrant in the fireman puzzle. Each time she gets it out, I cannot help but think how the firemen will never put out the fire without having a hydrant to hook the hose up to and how they might as well just stay back in the fire house eating Ho-Hos because the building is just going to burn down anyway.

Similar to the ring toy, we have a set of multicolored cups that fit inside each other like measuring cups from your kitchen. Each is a differnt color and they follow the order of colors on the spectrum. It was a gift, obviously, because I would never so callously purchase nor would I allow my husband to purchase and bring into our sacred home something where one of the pieces could be lost, not only making the pieces fit together imperfectly, but also ruining the spectrum order and therefore rendering the entire rest of the set useless.

One day recently, after nearly 10 years of marriage, I confessed to KingofHearts for the first time about how I had this Thing about sets and order and having all the pieces. (The mentally ill often get awfully good at covering their illness.) I used those bath toys as an example. He laughed at me.

The next day, the yellow cup went inexplicably missing. I looked everywhere for it to no avail. I was certain that KingofHearts had taken the yellow cup and hidden it to mess with me. I called his mobile phone while he was at work and hissed "I know you took the yellow cup" into his voice mail. Later when he listened to the message, he had Not Clue One as to what I was talking about. He'd totally forgotten the entire conversation and had to have me explain the Crazy Person Message on his phone later when he got home. I think he mumbled something about my being "sick" and retreated down to the basement for a few hours, probably holding a wooden stake close by just in case. The yellow cup later showed up under the kitchen table... where Dormouse had dropped it.

Recently, a separate colleague gave us a new box of children's books. One of them is a spiral bound book, which apparently came apart at some point in time because two of the pages are out of order. We both noticed it while reading bedtime stories last night. Dormouse couldn't have cared less, of course. KingofHearts eyed me and I acted nonchalant while secretly planning to take the book apart later and rearrange the pages so they MADE SENSE DAMMIT!

Tonight I walked into the baby's room and found KoH sitting in the middle of the floor, taking the pages of the book apart and replacing them in the correct order.

Our children don't have a chance.