The day we brought a circus to Ikea

Every two years we load up the van, hit the road and trek an hour away to our closest Ikea store. We do this for two reasons:

Number one, we can only afford to shop there every other year because it’s easy to drop $800 in one shot. Two, it’s not exactly a quick trip to get there, especially with loading and unloading a family of nine. Three, (I lied, there are actually three reasons) every other year “Crap Fairy” runs out of crap to haul out to the dumpster in the dead of night, so we head down to buy more cheap junk. This keeps Crap Fairy in business, and in this economy, I believe I deserve credit from Obama for creating jobs.

But this year we had an entirely different motivation. We needed mattresses.

After the recent bout of flu that hit us, it was the final push to purge the crummy mattresses we owned and replace them with new ones. This wasn’t hard to do, since the mattresses my kids have been using were hand-me-downs and over the years have encountered multiple nighttime accidents, various blood and guts and recently, several gallons of vomit.

We also needed another bunk-bed for the two youngest boys who are moving out of babyhood and into big-boy-beds.

So with all those reasons, Crap Fairy wrote a list of future crap she wanted to toss out and we headed south.

We unloaded the family and spent 20 minutes schlepping children on and off the public toilets and scrubbing everyone’s hands to death with soapy water. Then we lined everyone up at the starting gates. Arriving a bit early, we were roped into a small space among several European bedroom displays, along with 36 other people who were waiting for the store to officially open. We stood with our three shopping carts full of miniature humans, plus one stroller, while 72 eyeballs sneakily stared at us. Everyone stood quietly. Which was perfect, because our 12 year old daughter (who happened to be manning the stroller) took those quiet moments to loudly say things like “Oooh, that bedroom is soooo prettyyyyy! And clean! Oh, wow! Ohhhh! Look over there at that room, mom. It’s sooooo clean,” because apparently she’s never seen a clean, well designed room of any sort in all twelve years of her life.

She was nearly giddy- “Dad, LOOK at that bedroom! Wouldn’t you like a bedroom just like that? Imagine if you had NO KIDS! If you had NO KIDS you and mom would actually have a reaaaally nice house. Just imagine, Mom, you could relax in a beautiful bedroom and all your stuff would be super nice and organized. You and dad would be totally alone!  Nobody would ever bother you!” – which was followed by a few choking-coughs and quiet guffaws from fellow sardines packed in next to us.

Because who doesn’t love hearing the oldest daughter of seven asking her bedraggled parents to imagine life with no kids.

Finally the Angel of Mercy came and opened the small yellow chain that held back the Ikea cattle/shoppers and let us onto the store path.

Our first stop was MATTRESSES, where each child became permeated with desire to try out every single bed in sight. But I forbade them to leave their respective carts or strollers and they sat there hollering out pre-school curse words over the injustice.

Mr. Diaz wasn’t entirely convinced about the comfort of the thin Ikea bunk-bed mattresses, so he took it upon himself to remove mattresses from the display beds, throw them on the middle of the floor and force each of the older children to lay on them. Which wasn’t Red-nex-ican at all. Nah. It was entirely classy, and nobody stared at us while pointing and snickering. And if you can believe that, I have a Red-nex-ican bridge to sell you.

Eventually we strolled our loud, mobile carnival over to the Ikea cafeteria where we gave the overworked college student behind the prison buffet glass quite a shock when we announced we’d be needing 7 FREE Swedish-meatball-meals, plus two regular ones. Kids eat free on Tuesdays, which almost makes up for the $800 we spend on knick-knacks and gasoline, and we are certainly going to take advantage of those 2,450 FREE calories.

A lady with just one baby tried not to gawk as we seated our family around a jumbo cafeteria table. I caught her sneak-staring at us, and I’m fairly certain she pretended to text with her phone while actually taking photos of us. Right off I noticed she was well put-together; with make-up done nicely, a cute outfit, stylish hair cut and ONE sweet baby who was dressed immaculately. I’ve been there. Back when I only had one child to manage. Back when I only had one child to manage and the very thought of having more than one cherub was enough to make me sweat blood. I’m sure we were more than mildly amusing, and I figure all the attention is just preparing us for our future reality TV show. I would have offered to sign an autograph but I was too busy wiping small faces and trying to convince several young boys that free meatballs aren’t billiard balls and that forks aren’t pool cues.

Fifty-six minutes and half a mile later, it was on to the warehouse portion of the store where you collect all the larger items you wish to purchase. We stacked up six mattresses, a disassembled metal bunk-bed frame and various other things onto a flat dolly cart that nobody seemed able to manage. This is the exact same cart that the petite seven year old insisted she could push on her own, with zero interference. “It’s not workinggggg,” she whined loudly down the aisle, “I can’t control the wheeeeeeels. The front keeps spinning. NO, GO AWAY! DON’T HELP ME! I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” I caught the astonished looks of passerbys as we maneuvered our (now very loud) family of nine  -complete with 5 overloaded contraptions on wheels- through the remainder of the store, in and out of the check-out desk and off toward the loading zone.

Of course, as luck would have it, we strolled past a “last chance” food stand where Ikea expertly markets ice cream cones to weary parents and screaming pre-schoolers. This cruel marketing ploy meant we had to buy 8 soft serve ice-cream cones just to get out of the store. One man stopped mid-lick of his cone and stared at us as we passed through the exit doors. I’d like to think it was because we are just so sweet and good looking. But my better sense tells me that it was because one kid was flop-tantruming over the side of the cart while wailing at the top of his lungs. He did the wailing flop because Mr. Diaz, realizing the 4 year old could never finish an entire ice cream cone before entering the van, bent over and devoured half of it in one fell swoop. Apparently, said 4 year old was scarred for life and now has a reason to see a therapist as an adult.

After skillfully packing all the new purchases and 9 people into our giant party wagon, we were off toward home while youngsters drowsily slipped into sugar comas; vanilla ice-cream drool drying on their chins like slug trails.

All said and done, we made it home with 6 bed mattresses, a bunk bed, 2 pop-out circus tents, a clock, 2 “road” play mats, several rolls of craft paper, batteries, dish rags, a large candle lantern, 3 wicker baskets, colored drinking straws, fluorescent plastic silverware, a green spatula and several chocolate milk stains.

I didn’t end up signing any autographs. (Unless, of course, you include the receipt I signed for an amount that could rival the commerce of a small nation.) And since I realize I’m not likely to get a reality TV show, I’d better just stick to keeping Crap Fairy employed, which is easier now that the kids are sleeping peacefully in brand new beds.

Crap fairy is on the move.

 

*This post has been featured on For Every Mom

 

 

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That ain’t a puddle you want to jump in.

The entire career of Motherhood is broken down into two parts. 75% of motherhood is yelling instructions to children through a closed bathroom door. The other 25% is exchanging bodily-fluid horror stories with anyone else who has ever parented for more than 45  minutes.

Dealing with disgusting bodily functions quickly becomes a topic of interest wherever more than one mother is gathered. In fact, it becomes a BADGE OF HONOR, when you win the gags and open mouthed stares of other moms after exchanging fluid-filled horror stories. Every mom knows this. It’s a competition.

You would not believe what came out in Everly’s diaper,” comments Jessica at her park date. “I found a small pinecone, a medium-sized stuffed buffalo, a jade earring and a zipper.”

“Oh, you don’t even want to KNOW what happened when Lilith and Crispin had the flu last week,” responds Amanda. “Let’s just say that we are replacing the carpet and the wallpaper in the entire second story of our house. And then we had to pour gasoline on an armchair and ignite it on the lawn.” 

“I can top that,” says Lauren. “Brighton had a bloody nose, diarrhea, vomit, snot, and pee, and then he took off his diaper and finger-painted with all of it on the dining room floor. During dinner. While my husband’s boss was visiting.”

In light of that disgusting revelation, with gawks and stares and solemn looks, the moms concede defeat and pass Lauren the blue ribbon. A moment of silence follows while the ‘losers’ silently thank God they haven’t had the privilege of the same experience. Yet.

That’s the way it works. Motherhood is the quiet proclamation of everything that has ever been disgusting. And here is where I will make my own quiet proclamation. I deserve the blue ribbon for awhile, folks.

One moment, I was sleeping peacefully in my warm bed, the next moment I was schlepping sheets, bedding and pajamas down to the wash after my toddler’s entire load of guts exploded in his crib. All day long he continued to vomit, much to my dismay and silent cries of protest.

The next day I was praying that maybe, just maybe, this illness wouldn’t spread. It was not meant to be. Not long afterward, while I was knee deep in the baby’s diarrhea, my oldest son sprinted into the room and excitedly informed me that the 7 year old was actively spewing her stomach contents all over her bed. “It’s all over her hair mom!” He said with excited amusement, “And she just keeps going!”  I’m sad to say he wasn’t lying. There she was, sprawled out on her top bunk, covered in sickness, less than a foot away from the garbage bag she was instructed to use.

This is probably the perfect place to mention that there were no sheets on her bed. No mattress pad. Just a craptastic puddle of vomit in the middle of a bare naked mattress, which soaked up every bit of fluid like a sponge. The lone pillow that had been on her bed, was gathered into the (dry) garbage bag and hauled out to the dumpster.

By the next night, I was flat out exhausted. The laundry had been piled high, the dirty dishes were having secret rendezvous and breeding on the counter-tops and the house was a general wreck. I drank  two cups of chamomile tea, moved the baby to her very own room for the night and remarked that I was so happy to go to bed and get a full night’s sleep.

As I was blissfully dreaming about dark chocolate cupcakes, bubble baths and library books, Oldest entered my room at 1:47 am, hovered over my relaxed body and said, “Mom. MOM, [Tough Guy] just threw up all over his bed.” 

Of course he did.

Inebriated from the effects of strong chamomile and sleep deprivation, I staggered in the darkness down the hall and managed to clean-up the pathetic, puking dude and move him onto a pile of towels on my floor next to my bed. It wasn’t long before he was at it again.

I held his small shaking body as he horked up two vacuum cleaners, a cotton gin, lavender sweat socks, three broken kazoos, a smoke alarm and a rubber boot. Then, coughing, he finally laid back down on his towel and fell asleep.

For exactly an hour.

And then we repeated the entire process all over again, all night long.

Despite the torment of the week, there are still several pieces of good news:
This particular tummy virus only lasted around 24 hours per person, which is still nine long days of perdition, but better than a virus that lasts several days.
My husband slept soundly in a warm bed through all the bouts of nighttime illness, and I didn’t hurt him for that.
And lastly, he and I succumbed to the virus, but on different days, so our kids still had one parent who was able to yell the word “NO” repeatedly.

The bad news is that one of us didn’t make it. My daughter’s mattress died. She’s been camping on her bedroom floor until we buy a new mattress next week. We hauled the mattress out back and put it down, like Old Yeller.

And the fact that I had to kill a ‘Beauty Rest’ mattress might just make me the temporary holder of the blue ribbon.

 

*This post has been featured on BonBon Break

Swim-goggles and Ork bodies; The truth about the pumpkin patch

Over the years our family has trekked out to various farms and pumpkin-picking locations, but no matter where we go, the basic experience remains the same. If you’ve never hauled your brood off to a farm for family bonding let me explain what fun you’ve been missing. Ready? It will go something like this:

Your young child will wake you up before a sliver of daylight has appeared in the sky. He has figured out that it’s Pumpkin Patch Day.

It’s your fault he knows this, because you have the day circled in red pen on your calendar. Forget the fact that your cherub can’t even read, or that you wrote on the calendar using indecipherable Enigma Code, which required the best military minds of WWII to crack.

You thought writing on the calendar in code would be clever. Nah.

Your 3 year old will crack that code in a nanosecond, knock back whipped cream straight from the can and do a ninja dance on top of your oven. Naked. Then he’ll parade through the house waking up every single sibling shouting  “We’re going to the pumpkin patch todaaaaaay!” Every child can understand this announcement with perfect clarity although your tot can barely speak English.

Now you’re up at the crack of dawn, whether you like it or not. You give each child explicit instructions on how to dress and point them to where their pre-assembled outfits hang freshly pressed and labeled with their name. Socks, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater, shoes and coat. You’ve aimed for clothing colors that are coordinated, in hope of that ONE magical photo that you can use on a Christmas card to send to your ungrateful relatives who don’t even like you.

Despite your simple, direct instructions and well-thought preparations, be assured that one kid will come down in a Cinderella ballgown, pink rubber gloves, swim goggles and a tiara. You have a better chance of field-dressing a Sasquatch than getting that perfect and illusive family photo. The sooner you accept this, the better. Chug some coffee and get over it.

Into the van go three different name-brand baby carriers and a sling. For the baby you load a puffy orange pumpkin costume because your unrealistically optimistic mind can’t let go of a “Baby’s First Autumn” photo to place on your mantle so your Thanksgiving dinner guests can ooh-and-aah while choking down their yams. Also into the van go 8 old towels and 10 plastic garbage bags, because you learned from last year.

Outside it’s dark. It’s dumping buckets of rain, and the air is colder than Jack Frost’s snot. Everyone is bundled in attire perfect for skiing and yet you know by the time you arrive at the pumpkin farm everyone will be sweating in sunny 85 degree weather. The sweat will make them itchy and miserable, so you load 14 more shirt combinations to accommodate various weather outcomes, just in case. Everything is color coordinated, of course, except for your daughter’s light blue Cinderella ballgown and swim goggles. You’re basically screwed with that one. It’s best to load everyone in and move on.

Upon your late arrival to the farm, the kids will pour out and immediately want to run 13 different directions at the exact same moment. Force everyone to freeze and choose your optimum baby-wearing device. Now’s not the time to lose your wits. Keep it together, man.

Steer your brood into the line for the next hayride out to the Pumpkin Field. Dad will go into the barn-turned-produce-stand-and-farm-boutique and buy tickets to the corn maze because it sounds so fun at the time. The little kids spot a distant tractor that pulls miniature train cars painted like drunk cows and want a ride. You have to convince them that the time will come and that first they need to pick out their pumpkins.

Nobody gives a crud about pumpkins anymore because they are doped up on dreams of riding the tractor-cow-train and getting high off the smell of kettle corn, which is layered between the odors of wet hay and cow dung. Ignore their whining and point out the hay wagon that’s coming in your direction. It’s their turn to pick out pumpkins down in the field across the way.

Wait.

Is that a field? It looks like the stinking marshes that Hobbits trek through on the way to Mordor.

At a distance, you notice the “field” is covered in thick mud and shimmering with water from the morning rainfall. See those orange specks bobbing up and down…way…over…there…? Those are your pumpkins. Betcha didn’t know pumpkins can swim. That kid with the swim goggles on? Way smarter than you are. Apparently she learned from last year too.

Load into the hay wagon and hang on for dear life. You don’t want to know the details about this ride, so I’m leaving them out.

After exiting, one of the small kids will spot a Honey-Bucket nearby and become entirely obsessed with needing to pee. This will be a totally new experience and they will not leave you alone until they have peed while standing in a portable blue sardine can. Ironically, this will be the same child who is ENTIRELY UNMOTIVATED to use the toilet at home, for any reason.

Join the rest of the family and prepare to make the best memories ever. Choosing everyone’s pumpkins will be slightly uneventful…Unless you count the 80 minutes it takes to wade past all the dead Ork bodies in the stinking marshes and the wheelbarrow that won’t quite float or move no matter how strong Dad is. Not to mention the three kids who have slipped and fallen face-first into the mud, or the 4 year old who wants a different pumpkin about every 6 minutes. *REMINDER: Don’t leave all your ski coats out here in the field. You will have several of them laying in the mud at this point and you’ll need to carry them all from this point on. After all, it’s 85 degrees now.*

Pay the $139.76 for the pumpkins and head into the corn maze. Because it is incredibly fun dragging muddy, wet children and toddlers down a smelly path lined with rows and rows of dead corn stalks, for about an hour. Or is it three days? Nobody knows. Hopefully you can get everyone back out before the vultures circle.

Now that the baby is screaming, try and breastfeed holding her with one arm while simultaneously holding onto a Flop Tantruming preschooler who refuses to walk and is sitting criss-cross-applesauce in a puddle. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and nurse while leaning over and trying to yank him back up. I’m sure Google Earth won’t be photographing this day.

After emerging from the corn maze, it will be time for the tractor-cow-train, which is what your young children have really wanted all along. You never can tell how a small person will cope with sitting inside a barrel that’s being towed behind a John Deere tractor driven by a fat man in overalls. If your kiddies start screaming and crying as they go zooming past you, just smile and wave and pretend you don’t hear them. After all, you paid $11 bucks a piece to have this experience, so let them live it and love it. If they vomit, just pretend it was already there when they got in.

You spot a perfect photo op, so line up the muddy, dazed, motion-sick kids and force them to stick their faces into wooden cut-outs of sheep, cows, Indians and pilgrims. It’s nearly a perfect picture, except for the one screaming and foaming at the mouth. Never mind. You can scratch this from your Instagram album.

Last stop is at the barn-turned-produce-stand-and-farm-boutique, where you spend $85 on a home baked apple pie and a jar of apple butter. Control your impulses here because it’s very tempting to go overboard. Like on those LEAVES that are being labeled and sold as festive seasonal decor. Take it from me; don’t spend your money on yard waste. You’ll need that money later to buy wine.

Don’t even consider buying that charming, hand-sewn, red apron that says ‘I Love Autumn’ because it will cost you a kidney, and you need both kidneys to process all the wine you’re about to drink when you get home.

Dad will lay down towels and load the pumpkins into the van. Chilled and muddy kids will begin stripping off their pants in preparation to sit on plastic garbage bags in their seats. Despite all the extra shirts and all the previous years of experiences, you still made a classic blunder and forgot to pack extra pants. Don’t panic. Towels are perfect makeshift skirts. Load everyone in, buckle up, pull up Yanni on Pandora and try to lull the little cherubs to sleep with soft instrumentals and a snack.

Distribute kettle corn onto paper napkins on everyone’s lap and try not to think about the fact that your kids are consuming lap-food with no pants on. Haul everyone home, wake them all up and carry them off to baths and bed.

Next time you see a family of Jack’O’ lanterns gracing the porches of your neighborhood, pause and have a moment of silence for all they went through to get them…unless they cheated, and bought pumpkins at the local Walmart.

The Pumpkin Patch is the perfect place to experience memory-making adventures. Plus it gives you extra reasons to buy a truck-load of dark chocolate and wine; not to mention giving your children plenty of stories to tell their grandchildren. Or their therapists.