December 12, 2008 09:21 PM by Lisa Stauber
Wife Swap features two moms who actually have something in common – they both live for thrills. In Utah, Heidi and Andy Kukta live to win contests. They spend hours each day entering contests and sweepstakes, letting Heidi’s two older daughters from a previous marriage take care of her new kids. Meanwhile, in the Florida Keys, Jim and Joanna Cooper party like there’s no tomorrow. They started a business doing videography so they can go to everybody else’s parties, too.
Meet the Wives
Heidi Kukta has ordered her life so she can enter as many sweepstakes as possible. Husband Andy also works as a sheriff’s deputy, but his real love is “sweeping”. He wakes up at 3 am in order to enter online contests, and she carries around several phones so she can call in to win at a moment’s notice. They even buy cat food to get the codes to win – even though they don’t have a cat.
Heidi and Andrew have two little girls together, Katie and Amy. Heidi’s older daughters, Miranda and Jennifer, must cater to them even as stepdad Andy ignores them. Heidi has a strict routine for the girls to clean the house and don’t believe in daycare or babysitters. Everyone must be in bed sleeping by 9 pm, and no one is allowed to have friends over.
Joanna Cooper lives the good life in the Florida keys. They gave up their day jobs to party all the time. “The party never stops,” Jim Cooper says. Jim’s a DJ while Joanna creates keepsake videos for weddings. The kids party, too. “The dishes can wait,” Jim says. They don’t wear watches and have a loose schedule. The Coopers think it’s important to spend time away from the kids in order to be adults together, and they take full advantage of Joanna’s live-in parents.
Meeting the New Families
Joanna thinks the Kukta’s home is plain and without personality. She can’t even imagine how they could possibly spend hours each day entering contests.
Heidi can’t believe the amount of clutter in Joanna’s home. She knows her husband would never tolerate such a mess. She’s in for a surprise when she reads the notebook. “Having parties in the house with your children around just wrong,” she says. She’s jealous when she reads how close the family is. She wishes Andy would talk to her daughters and get close, too. Maybe Joanna can teach him!
Andy Kukta fills Jennifer in on the sweeping rules, telling her she must save the labels and drilling her on the proper way to answer the phone in case it’s a winning notification. She is instructed to call him if any packages arrive, and Joanna is shocked at the amount the Kukta’s spend on postage.
Jim Cooper tells Heidi they’re going to have fun together, and that he’s planned a party with 50 people for her. Heidi doesn’t know how to be a hostess, and thinks that the mom of the family should be spending time with the kids. The next day, the house is trashed with dirty dishes still in the sink.
Joanna is told to take the kids for some quality family time. They go out with a plastic bag to collect whatever bottle caps and trash they can find that might have winning codes. She is also taught how to cater to the little girls, including separate silverware for each separate kind of food. The teens usually wait on the little sisters hand and foot, instead of spending time with friends.
Heidi doesn’t think Jim is a responsible father. “This is not how the world works,” Heidi says. She thinks the Keys are a terrible place for children. It’s after 9 o’clock, and Jim’s out partying. “Jim is still a child,” she says. She nags Jim about not putting his own kids to bed or spending time with them.
Andy comes home from work and walks right by stepdaughter Jenny. Joanna gets angry that he doesn’t even acknowledge their presence. “It’s just the saddest thing to watch,” she says. Andy insists that Joanna stop talking to the teens and come with him to the monthly Sweeps Support Group. “I’m so through with Andy and his sweeping!” she says. “Tomorrow, things change.”
Heidi tells the Coopers life is not a party, and they are going to be living in the real world for the next week. She’s going to teach them how to have wholesome fun entering sweepstakes. She’s going to teach Jim how to spend family time finding trash, too.
Joanna wants to inject some fun into the Kukta’s life. She eliminates the 9 pm lockdown and tells them she’s going to throw a big Florida Keys party. Andy’s going to learn how to listen, and is required to pay attention to anyone holding the special conch shell. Also, the little girls will be serving breakfast in bed to their older sisters, to give back a little of the love.
Andy has to wear a party outfit when he goes out to pick up bottle caps, so he can see how embarrassing it is for Jennifer and Miranda. “They should be doing this, not me,” Andy says. “This is unacceptable.” Jennifer and Miranda are banned from doing chores, and Andy’s mad that they are made to wear aprons.
Jim doesn’t think the kids should have to clean the house. “It’s so wrong to take up so much of a child’s time to do so many chores,” he says. Heidi requires him to work an 8 hour day like most of America. “Most men in the world work an 8 hour day,” she tells him, but he says he’s not going back.
Andy is banned from sweepstakes, and Joanna has hidden the mail so he can’t see what he wins. He sneaks into her room to peek. “That’s a man with an obsession,” Joanna says, but starts the Kukta house party anyway. It’s 8:30 pm, and Andy kicks everyone out so the girls can go to bed on time. Jennifer’s disappointed that her father is never there for her.
Heidi takes the kids to the grocery store to scope out contests on cereal boxes, then comes home and has a fight with Jim over his new work day. Jim confronts Heidi about her sweeping. “It’s an addiction,” he says. “I don’t do it when I’m on the toilet!” she snaps back. “I just want you to think about it, is my family happy?” he tries to tell her. She does promise to think about it, and then opens up to Jim about the problems in her family. Heidi’s sad that her daughters and her husband don’t talk or hug.
Joanna is having a similar talk with the other Kukta sweeper. She brings in an intervention specialist, who thinks Andy has a compulsion. “I don’t have a problem,” he says. Andy’s angry and thinks both the doctor and Joanna simply don’t understand him. Joanna has also arranged for a guitar player to come tutor Jennifer and Miranda, but Andy won’t join in or participate. “It was a missed opportunity,” she tells him. He goes in and tells Jennie that he would like to play music with her sometime, though. The girls do talk to Andy a little bit, and he thinks maybe it would be a good idea to find a hobbie that doesn’t involve sweeping.
Jim and Joanna both open the meeting with mocking the Kukta’s excitement over packages arriving in the mail. “Okay, thank you,” is all Heidi has to say to every comment Joanna makes. Then Heidi launches into a complaint that the Coopers leave their children behind to party. Andy tells Heidi that Miranda wants to have a connection, and Heidi is so happy she starts to cry. “I just want us all to be a family,” she says. “That’s awesome,” Joanna replies, and the couples part as friends for once.
Photos courtesy ABC.