First of all – I am only up for a few minutes before I go crash, face first back into bed. Between going to work yesterday, picking Vic up from daycare, doing a little bit of grocery shopping, taking a spin by Target last night and Vic being up half the night screaming at the top of his lungs with teething pain, I’ve made myself sicker than ever.

Argh. Never mind. Vic just woke up. Back later. Maybe. If I can stay upright.

Okay … where was I? I’ve come back to write the rest of this entry no less than three times and been stymied either by a toddler demanding attention or coughing fits.
Ah yes, Target.

I have a love-hate relationship with Target. At this time in my life, it is the ideal place for me to go shop, because the prices are low and they have a wide range of things available in the “need” and “want” categories. I’ve been able to secure things like cheap new shoes and socks, Halloween costumes and other sundries at Target. By that definition Target is a good thing right? It’s a bit more complicated than that of course.

Every time I go to Target, I am usually looking for something particular. I’m not really much of a browsing shopper, (though I will, in the course of looking for a specific thing also spot things that I’ll then remember we either needed or wanted like most folks), I don’t like to linger in the shops. I like to go and get what I need and get out. Some would consider this to be very odd behavior for a woman, but I think I’m at peace with the idea that I’m not your average girl. Anyway, the point is that when I open those shiny red doors and wheel Vic’s stroller through the security checkpoint past the large dangling cardboard bulls-eye symbols, I have a goal.

I’d say that out of the dozen or so times I’ve gone to Target with a goal in mind, on half of those visits, I have either come out empty-handed because they didn’t have what a wanted/needed or with a baggie full of random little things (shampoo, envelopes, thumbtacks – that sort of thing) that are needed around the house or something that I didn’t go there for, but saw and thought would be useful. Sabs has fallen victim to this particular shopping issue as well. We went in there a couple of weeks to get gloves for Vic and a handheld carpet shampooer and came out with an answering machine and a crock pot on top of the things we’d gone in there to get. Now granted, since we didn’t pay for voicemail, an answering machine is very useful to us and with our crazy schedules, the crockpot has been mighty handy for taking care of dinner. But. We didn’t go into Target to get a crockpot or an answering machine.

There’s just something about the fact that the prices are so low that it’s much easier to justify buying things that we need but we’ve been putting off purchasing because we can’t afford them right away. I’m convinced that the store is also arranged in a way to encourage you to buy as much as possible in a single visit. I haven’t quite sussed out the psychology of the layout yet, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that wide open initial aisle and then the increasingly labyrinth43ine series of corridors slowly hemming you in, so that if you’re picking up detergent, for example, and you need to go get trash bags, you have to wander through three or four aisles before you get to the right place, unless you’re intimately familiar with your particular Target.

This brings me back to last night. My goals for the excursion: Mantel shelf for fireplace, Christmas stockings and potentially, stocking holders. I walked into the store with the stroller already heavily laden with food from our trip to the grocery store and a somewhat uppity Victor. We passed under the aforementioned dangly bulls-eyes, past an array of toys set there to catch the eye of every child coming into the store – pink cases of dolls and some superduper truck-car-all-terrain thing – right across from the Pizza Butt and Taco Hell where a lot of exhausted parents take their kids to ingest poor food choices in an effort to get five minutes of peace. The smell of the restaurants always turns my stomach, so visits to this Target also tend to leave me fairly nauseous during the entirety of my time there.

I turn the corner and eye the store guide, trying to figure out where the best place to look for the items I need might be. They’re all Christmas-themed, so there’s a decent shot I’ll find a lot of it in the Seasonal items at the back of the store. However, I know that the stocking holders are in the outer aisle of the Housewares section, so I start there, theorizing that stocking holders should be near the mantel shelves. I spend ten minutes walking up and down the aisles of Housewares without success and move on to Furniture. There’s a shelf with hooks there that looks like it might work, but it’s only 24 inches wide and our fireplace is 35 inches across. I pick it up and tuck it under my arm and continue to push about 40lbs of stroller, child and associated gear, one-handed through the store. The lights are already beginning to bother me, but I’m hopeful still that I will find what I want in the Seasonal section.

On the way to the back of the store, Vic decides to send his orange juice flying while I get distracted looking at silverware because we’re having a holiday party and I was thinking that we don’t actually have enough cutlery for all the invited guests, so maybe we should pick up another package of flatware. I set down the box I was carrying and bustle around looking for something with which to wipe up the spill. Vic’s diaper bag and wipes are buried under a couple of pounds of vegetables and fruit, so I can’t use the wipes that are in there without taking the whole stroller apart. Bonus point for Target: they provide paper towel dispensers at the ends of certain aisles. Negative point for Target: the nearest dispenser is empty and I’m feeling frazzled. I use the courtesy phone to call the control office instead and tell them about the mess and run off to Seasonal items feeling terribly guilty about the orange puddle slowly seeping across aisle D37.

In Seasonals, I find the Christmas stockings and pick out two each, one for Sabs and one for Victor. There are no stocking holders to be found though, (other than the ones that I already saw in Housewares) and mantel shelves are definitely not present. I’m getting warmer by the minute in my uberfluffy winter coat, but I’m determined to set up a mantel to give our place a little bit of a homey-festive feel. So I just start walking and peeking down aisles, thinking that maybe there might be something suitable in Storage. Nothing there, but just as I’m about to completely give up, we pass Hardware and they have shelves and brackets there. I pick up a pretty pine shelf and matching brackets, but I am not wild about the prospect of paying 13 dollars for the shelf and another 11 for the brackets, plus tax. At this point, I am carrying a box with a shelf and hooks in it, a shelf and a box of brackets and still pushing the stroller one-handed and I’m starting to sweat from the exertion, heat in the store and heavy coat. But I catch sight of some children’s furniture up ahead and go to check it out. I round a corner and what to my wondering eyes appeared, but the bathroom accessories, including a 30 inch wide shelf with decorative metal brackets – exactly what I had in mind – for $16. I pick that up too and make my torturous way back through the aisles to put the other shelf/hook items back where I found them.

With the shelf and stockings secured, it’s back to Housewares to eye the stocking holders. I’m a little irritated because the selection is poor and prices higher than what I would like, but I really want to set this up for Sabs to see before he comes home, so I settle on a set that spells out “Noel” in a dark brassy finish. Off to pay at last, completely wiped out, sweaty and thirsty. The cashier eyes me with a sympathetic smile. “Tired huh?” I laugh and tell her a little bit of my sordid tale of searching for a mantel piece. She grins and nods. “But you found it right?” I have to agree, because it is, in fact, just right.

Hence the whole love-hate thing.

It took me forever to find what I wanted, but I did eventually find it and for a decent price too. The shelf is up, the stockings are hung and there’s a pretty wrapped package for my mother-in-law to open on top of the shelf (I found her gift at the grocery store though, so take that Target).

I hate having to go to Target because it smells bad and sucks me into its dense pool of commercialism. But I love the fact that I can find things there that I want to make my home a more pleasant and welcoming place. I’ll probably get over the hate thing eventually and join the rest of America in its one-stop-shopping love affair with Target and Wal-Mart. After all I got over my distaste for Ikea in favor of having at least moderately attractive furniture without emptying our … err … my mother-in-law’s bank account.