A Step by Step Guide to Shopping at Ikea

My daughter and I went to Ikea this week to buy her a desk. Although it wasn’t my first trip, it took a lot longer than I anticipated and when we left I felt like I’d run a marathon. We also bought considerably more than I had planned. In the excitement of the moment, it’s hard to imagine life without that extra bookshelf, those candles, 13 pot plants, memory foam pillow and other assorted household items. Upon reflection, I feel that an expedition to Ikea takes shoppers through these clear and distinct emotional/physical phases:

1. Energy & anticipation: You’re fresh, driving there dreaming of the possibilities awaiting you.

2. Wonder: Arriving and taking it all in. You’re in awe, with a distinct overwhelmed feeling, but in a good way.

3. Confidence: You’ve settled in and realised there’s a system here – you can do this 👊🏻

4. Vision & anticipation: You’re deep in the Ikea belly and are inspired thinking about how great your home can look.

5. Frustration: How big actually is this place? You should have worn more comfortable shoes, and been the to toilet upon arrival.

Ikea Map

6. Fatigue: Time to rest on a lounge/bed for a power nap.

7. Refreshment: Stop at the cafe and refuel with some Swedish meatballs and questionable coffee.

8. Excitement: The marketplace; shivers, they really do have EVERYTHING! You realise that to maintain an acceptable quality of life means stocking up on many of these items.

9. Fatigue: How big actually is this marketplace? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

10: Confusion: Try and find your flat pack items in the huge aisles. Go on, I dare you to not ask for help.

11. Extreme fatigue: Pushing the heavy trolley through aisles and into the crowded checkouts. You wait so long you would have had time to assemble the desk you’re purchasing.

12. Rage: You’re nearly at the front and a guy ahead of you has an issue – he’s brought the wrong flat-pack item, has to go back and change it, causing great delay. What a moron.

13. Relief: It’s your turn, finally!

14. Shame: You, also, have picked the wrong flat-pack item. Have to go back and change it. What a moron.

15: Relief: It’s all in the car. You’ve only had to relocate 2 child seats, a picnic rug, soccer ball and a coles bag full of garbage.

16. Driving mode: Zone out, drive home and try to forget the ordeal.

17. Creativity: Explaining to your husband why you spent $800 instead of $100 and assuring him that every cent was an essential expenditure. Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 8.27.34 PM

18. Contentment: Sit back with your glass of wine and watch your husband assemble purchased items. Assistance is neither asked for nor offered.

19. Bask in the glow of new furniture until it breaks in 12-36 months.

20. Continue to repeat process annually until death.

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What Women Really Want in the Shower

What Women Want

Every woman would love time in the bathroom where she can enjoy a long, luxurious shower without interruption. Ideally, the water will stay the same temperature for the duration and provide a cocoon-like environment. A peach and walnut exfoliating body scrub, or similar, would be nice along with a fresh loofah. The door will not need to be locked as no one will come in, knock or call out through the door. The bathroom has become a vacuum for the duration of her tenure. She can stand under the hot flow of water for as long as it takes to belt out Heart’s ‘All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You’ into the shampoo bottle, followed by the rest of the album. The acoustics in the bathroom make her sound like Adele. A fresh, sharp razor is at hand and glides up her leg like a yacht cruising sleekly over calm Caribbean waters. Through the steam, her long legs appear smooth as silk and bear an uncanny resemblance to Miranda Kerr’s. When she finally exits the warm waterfall, a hot, fresh towel is ready to engulf her toned and lithe body. 

She emerges from the bathroom feeling refreshed and invigorated, even sensual.

 

What Women Would Settle For 

Ideally, when entering the shower, she doesn’t trip on a bath toy but as it’s been known to happen, she really needs to keep an eye out. There will be just enough shampoo and conditioner left to wash her hair, even if they need to be given a curt upside down ‘tap’. The water is hot until someone flushes the toilet but returns to its original temperature rapidly enough to avoid chills and/or burns. Her legs are a little spiky so she reaches for the razor. It’s not too old and only mildly blunt. She gets 3 small cuts which isn’t too bad. She sings the first verse of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ before someone bangs on the door telling her to keep it down as they’d like to watch ‘Paw Patrol’ in peace and quiet. Humbled but not broken, she exits the shower cubicle and quickly wraps herself with a dry towel but not before getting a quick glimpse of her body in the mirror and vowing to renew her gym membership before summer.

She emerges from the bathroom feeling acceptably clean, sufficiently hairless and vaguely inadequate.

 

What Women Actually Get

Once the bathroom is finally free, she grabs her opportunity. It soon becomes clear that someone has had a very recent and productive toilet trip as the bathroom smells like a dead ferret. She lights a few matches and keeps a positive attitude. When she steps into the shower cubicle, there is a big pile of mouldy bath toys blocking the drain. She steps on the severed, mangled arm of a Mermaid Barbie and yelps in pain. She clears away the toys as she waits for the water to heat up, all the while in possession of two nipples that could cut through bathroom tiles. During this time, two children have banged on the door and yelled at her in muffled tones. The first child wants to know, urgently, how dolphins sneeze underwater and the second child informs her that he has finished drawing a picture of Darth Vader that is very lifelike and needs to be viewed immediately.

When the water is finally warm enough she sighs contentedly and reaches for the loofah to use as a microphone, ready to croon Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’. She notices suspicious short, wiry hairs sticking out of the loofah but endeavours to ignore them. Ten seconds into her performance someone bangs on the door and shouts ‘you suck’. Downtrodden, she continues her shower in silence. At this moment, someone elsewhere in the house turns a tap on, causing the shower to turn as frigid as the North Atlantic in January. She turns the hot up to compensate just as the other person turns their tap off and she’s scalded with moderately severe burns to her stomach, chest and neck.

Achieving the perfect shower – the struggle is real.

As she reaches for the shampoo, she realises it’s virtually empty. She must turn it upside down and bang on it with the combined force a group of circus folk may use when attempting to nail in Big Top tent pegs during a hurricane. She manages to squeeze out an amount the size of a pea and makes do. With leg hairs at a length acceptable possibly only for Dian Fossey, she reaches for the razor. It’s blunt and rusty. When she’s done the first leg, it looks as though it’s been caressed by an inebriated Edwards Scissorhands and will probably require a tetanus shot.

At this point she notices the family cat sitting in the corner surveying her naked form with a sardonic expression, which is strangely unsettling. Before she has a chance to react there is another bang on the door, accompanied by muffled sobbing. After a few minutes of shouting ‘what…what?’ back and forth, she deciphers that one child has flicked the ear of the other child. This, of course, causing significant psychological trauma and subsequently resulting in a household civil war taking place outside the bathroom door. Forgetting to condition, she sighs, exits the shower and picks up her damp towel, which has fallen into a suspicious looking yellow puddle. She manages to gently cover her scalded body but not before getting a quick glimpse of herself in the mirror and vowing to renew her gym membership today

She emerges from the bathroom feeling nothing, as this is simply her daily shower experience, and continues her day in the ignorant bliss of a woman unaware she is parading one unshaven leg to the world.

 

Cheap Thrills – Frugal Fun for the School Holidays

I had an epiphany recently – you can make kids happy without spending a lot of money. This epiphany did happen to coincide with the payment of a large credit card bill, invoices from several tradesmen and the onset of the school holidays.

A few weeks ago we went out to dinner then to Disney on Ice. Total cost about $250. The following weekend we met my brother’s family at a McDonalds halfway between our houses – 30 minutes away. We spent a couple of hours there having dinner and letting the kids go hyperactive, dominating the recently renovated three level playground. Total cost about $40. I asked my kids which evening they enjoyed more. Although they loved Disney on Ice, they unequivocally said Maccas with their cousins. My suspicions were correct –  kids can have a great time without a big spend. I now have permission to give them a fun-filled school holiday on the cheap! Historically, paying for shows, cafes and play/trampoline type centres means I can relax while they’re amused and relatively confined. I’m essentially paying for a break from parenting them so I’m giving up that luxury for this money-saving scheme. The ‘cheap thrills’ strategy will involve having to spend more quality time with them, supervise more and be more active myself but I can suck that up for two weeks 😉

Behold some tightwad ideas for your school holidays:

1. Board games

My older kids are at an age where they can play games I enjoy too, like the Game of Life, Cluedo, Monopoly, family Trivial Pursuit etc. Miss 4 can be a problem as she loiters around whining and often asks to be ‘on my team’ which is painful but we push past it.

2. Home ‘Movies’

For my daughter’s 11th birthday recently I told her I’d take her to the movies but on the day there was nothing on we wanted to see. We decided to get some treats from Coles and hire a movie online for a movie night. We watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ for much less than the cost of movie tickets and a box of $47 popcorn.

3. The Library

Get on board with free library activities. Check out the website for your local library to see what’s happening and take advantage of activities, such as craft, that you don’t have to pay for or even assist with. Or simply go and browse, borrow and then have mandatory reading time at home. My kids protest for the first ten minutes but after that are completely lost in their personal book world, which means I can get lost in my Netflix world 😉

4. The Beach

Our local dog beach has a big sand dune hill with bushes at the top. We’ve gone there many times with different friends. The kids run around like crazy, running up and down the hill and building cubbies in the bushes. We bring snacks and I relax on the beach while the kids and dog tire themselves out. Often I will get bored before they do but they beg to stay longer. Find your own beach happy place and enjoy some free fun.

5. DIY Treats

As a kid, we went to the Big Pineapple on a family holiday. At the cafe, they had amazing sundaes in tall glasses with ice cream, nuts, fruit salad, chocolate topping and whipped cream. My parents thought it was too expensive to buy all seven of us a sundae. On the way home, we went to the local grocery store, bought the ingredients and Mum made us sundaes at our holiday house. I remember them being incredible. I’m sure they were rubbish compared to the ones at the Big Pineapple but I was a naive child and enjoyed in ignorant bliss. My mother claimed then and still now that her sundaes were superior. Take inspiration from her and really commit to the illusion to get the kids on board. As George Costanza says “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

The vision for your kids…
6. Park Crawls

There are some pretty cool parks out there these days. We love epic ones like Stuart Park and the Botanic Gardens but little local parks can be fun too. If you pack balls, scooters, frisbees and snacks, you can kill several hours at a park for $0. You may even get to lie on a picnic rug with your coffee and an audiobook if you’re lucky (I’m really into audiobooks at the moment – get the ‘Borrowbox’ app and borrow from the library.) You can listen and supervise, indulging them when they constantly call out ‘watch me Mum’ and then proceed to do something unremarkable like simply sliding down the slide. Everyone wins. BTW Check out the best parks in NSW here.

7. Playdates

Get some friends over. With the right combination, an extra kid or two can actually be easier.  Miss 4 has a friend who she plays with so nicely that it feels like they’re not even there. It’s reverse synergy: 1 + 1 = 0. This is the kind of maths I like! Of course, you may occasionally encounter them hanging skipping ropes in the shape of nooses in the backyard tree or rifling through your underwear drawer with their friends to find the perfect stretchy bra for catapulting oranges into the neighbour’s pool. But that’s the price you pay for an afternoon of free fun.

8. Silly Stuff

I saw Cadbury chocolate on sale the other day, so we played ‘the chocolate game’ for dessert. You remember the chocolate game, right? The block sits in the middle of the table with a knife and fork. You need a beanie, scarf and a die. Roll the die. If you get a 6, you put the clothes on and start cutting the chocolate. You can only eat 1 piece at a time and you keep eating until the next person gets a 6. The suspense, the chocolate and the mad rushing make it an epic experience for kids. Total bill – $2.50.

9. The McDonalds Cone

Ah, the frugal parent’s dream. Forget Cold Rock. The Maccas soft serve cone is where it’s at. If you play your cards right and keep your kids’ standards low, you may get away with this 60 cent treat until they’re 18.

Good luck and may your cash stay with you. 

 

 

A Parents Guide to Decluttering

Step 1: Work hard to clean out cupboards, toy room and declutter junk.

Step 2: Decide it’s time to say goodbye to enormous stuffed reindeer toy that child has not looked at in 4 months and has forgotten exists.

Step 3: Sneak toy reindeer, along with other undesired items, to the car and stuff in car boot.

Step 4: Drive around with bag in boot for 4-6 weeks.

Step 5: Realise you kind of need to use your boot so decide to actually drive to the salvos and deposit the bag.

Step 6: Small child, who is unable to locate shoes right in front of them on a daily basis, somehow spots tip of reindeer antler through opaque garbage bag as you grab it out and has meltdown of gigantuous proportions, sobbing violently over loss of toy and related perceived child abuse.

Step 7: Feel more than a twinge of guilt about your kids devastation and apparent ruined childhood but stay strong and dump reindeer anyway.

Step 8: Come home, admire uncluttered home, congratulate yourself for standing your ground back there and kick back like a boss.

Step 9: Collect the equivalent of 10 stuffed reindeers of junk each time your kid has a birthday and live in a state of perpetual filth and clutter.

Step 10: Repeat all steps for 20 years and realise this is parenthood 👌🏼

 

The Top 10 ‘Mum Fantasies’

Before having kids, you may have found yourself dreaming about:

OR

OR

OR

But after kids everything changes and fantasies become a lot more straightforward. Here is my Top 10 list of ‘Mum’ fantasies:

  1. Magic Shoes

25% of parenting seems to be desperately pleading with kids to put shoes on. Then another 25% is losing it at them because either they haven’t done it or they’ve taken off their shoes from the last time and you need to repeat the process. Only a parent will understand this but I dream of a world where I never have to nag a child to put shoes on again: Shoes will magically appear on feet when appropriate and come off when appropriate. 

  1.  Convenient Toilet Trips

In the real world, regardless of whether a kid has peed like a racehorse minutes earlier, they will still need to go again at a very inconvenient moment. e.g. right in the middle of their swimming lesson or in the murky depths of Ikea. In our fantasy world, it’s a different story – a child will only need to go to the toilet when you are close to a clean and accessible bathroom. Hooray!

  1. A Relaxing Hospital Stay

You may dream about having a very minor surgery or illness that requires hospitalisation for several days. The ailment will not be painful but will nevertheless still require a delightful morphine drip, which you control. You are not expected to do anything other than rest, watch TV and eat food that is delivered to your bedside for 3-4 days. Oh, and flower & chocolate deliveries will be forthcoming each day, also brought to your bedside.

  1. Uncontested Bedtime

Imagine telling your kids to go to bed…and they actually listen and obey cheerfully. No complaints, no requests for water and no monsters in cupboards. They hit the deck like a tranquilised elephant and don’t wake up for 10 hours. Our dog will meekly walk into his kennel when I say, just once, “Go to bed.” The fantasy is that one evening the kids will be as obedient as the canine. 

  1. Eating Hot Meals

In reality, as soon as hot food is on the plate, a child will scream out to have their bottom wiped, a band-aid administered or to be rescued from the headlock of your other child. It doesn’t matter how many minutes are in a day, the 5 minutes that you want to eat your hot meal will invariably be the exact time a child needs you desperately. In this fantasy, all hot meals are eaten whilst hot and ice cream is eaten before it’s melted. 

  1. Uninterrupted Bathroom Bliss

It would be nice to go to the loo or have a bath or shower without someone banging on the door:

a) wanting to come in

b) asking a question or telling you something in a loud but muffled tone

c) asking you to resolve a sibling dispute

d) asking if they can watch you on the toilet (this happens)

7. Grocery Shopping ALONE

Mothers get excited when they get to grocery shop alone. And even though this isn’t a desirable activity in and of itself, when done alone after enduring it with small sidekicks, pathetically, it becomes very enjoyable. This is where motherhood takes you: to Coles, alone, on a Tuesday night at 8pm, where you kick your heels in glee and dance the trolley down the aisle, rejoicing in the solitude.

8. The Never Ending Wine Bottle

Having a bottle of your favorite wine that never, ever runs out so you can do this:

9. Free Babysitting

This is a serious fantasy of mine. We don’t have any parents living nearby so it doesn’t happen often and we usually have to pay a babysitter. I dream of, I yearn for, I covet the free babysitting that a lot of friends with nearby relations seem to have. I am also counting down the years until my eldest child can babysit her siblings.

10. An Uninterrupted Nights Sleep

The pinnacle; the ultimate fantasy: You lay your head down on the pillow at night and close your eyes. You sleep a full 8-9 hours, drowsy and tangled in the sheets and wake up of your own accord, well after the sun has appeared. There are no wet beds, no vomiting children and no bad dreams. Nothing could top this fantasy for any mother, anywhere, ever.

 

There. That’s my list and I imagine I am not alone. Feel free to add your own and we can daydream together…

 

Soccer Mums – the Good, the Bad and the In-Between

Last year I watched the film ‘Bad Moms’. It’s pretty hilarious: a formerly ‘perfect mom’ can’t cope anymore, has a breakdown and decides she will just be a ‘bad mom’ from now on. Check out how she loses it:

bad-moms

I’ve never aimed for perfection when it comes to motherly duties. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids, they’re awesome and I want the best for them with the stuff that really matters. I just don’t have the time or energy to do everything or do it perfectly. If I was so inclined, I’d have to shape up in these areas:

  • School: I’m the one who forgets to read the newsletter and never knows what’s happening, handing in money frantically at the last minute and harassing the office ladies for information I should already have.
  • P & C: I can’t seem to make it to the meetings despite good intentions. I either forget or the lure of the TV and chilled chardonnay are too enticing after a tiring day.
  • School parades: I can’t sew and I’m not crafty; buttons aren’t replaced in our house, they are simply mourned. The easter hat parade is my worst nightmare, followed closely by bookweek. An experienced mother of 5 told me a year or so ago “I’m done making costumes for book week. I told my kids they can only wear whatever they can find in the dress up box.” That woman is my hero.
  • School assembly: I don’t often go unless I know something is happening involving my own kid. I’d much rather enjoy the relative tranquility at home as it coincides with Miss 4’s rest time. And other times I actually have housework to do. Last week I asked “Kids, I’ve got a pretty busy day today. Do you mind if I don’t come to assembly?” Miss 10 said, incredulously, “Of course we don’t. There’s no point us all being bored!” Champion!
  • Sport: My kids do tennis, soccer, dancing, acrobatics and swimming. I’m not omnipresent so something has to give. Plus there are school sports carnivals, where I’ll make an appearance but then I need to move on for my own sanity and for my 4-year-old shadow. I just can’t put up with 6 hours of whining about boredom and hunger. I’ve learned that as long as I leave spending money, the kids are fine.
  • Chores: They’ve all got 2 arms and 2 legs so I don’t make their beds, unpack their school bags or pick up after them. The big kids get their own breakfast and put their own laundry away as well as unloading the dishwasher each morning. Even Miss 4 has a few jobs she has to do.
  • Food: Fruit first then if they want biscuits or muffins and the occasional donut, that’s fine. You won’t find organic bran muffins here. Home baking usually includes choc chips but never kale.

Despite my low boredom threshold at many kids events, my apparent inability to get a permission slip in on time, my lack of artistic talent and truly believing that school parades are designed primarily to torture parents, I’m not a monster; I love goofing around with the kids, playing games, having movie nights, buying too many gifts, reading to them and telling them they’re awesome every day.

So I admit it: I’m no Carol Brady. These women do exist, I know some and wish them all the best; no idea how they do it! Even though I’m not the ‘perfect mom’, I’m hoping I don’t deserve the title of ‘Bad Mom’ either. Am I allowed to claim a spot somewhere in the middle?

If so, I’m OK with that.

A School Holiday Tale Of Triumph Over Tragedy

The school holidays…what can I say? It seems I end up here, typing at my computer four times a year, either having a whinge about how hideous it can be or giving you survival tips. Facebook reminded me this morning that on this day in 2016, I posted this on my personal page:

Oh my word, I am so ready for the holidays to be over. I am at the point of pulling my hair out as I plead with my son ‘Don’t annoy your sisters. And don’t touch your sisters. And don’t touch the AIR AROUND your sisters!’. They are banished outside and I will now go and scream into a pillow until 9am Thursday.”

Usually at this point I am a broken shell of a woman, simply trying to survive each day. This time I don’t feel the same and I know why. I am now working 3 days a week so a mixture of babysitters, my parents and my mother in law have done the heavy lifting. I salute them. My kids haven’t had the chance to drive me crazy and I’m cherishing the time I have with them. We’ve enjoyed board games, playdates, trips to the movies, trips to Jamberoo Action Park utilising our season passes and general merriment.

Today that merriment was born from the most unlikely of circumstances. Let me share with you the tale of our Wednesday, 25th January. The backstory first – I haven’t been sleeping well lately. It’s been hideously hot and our bedroom is not air conditioned. Our fan has only 2 settings – the wind power of an F5 twister, or nothing. Last night I thought I’d give myself a sleeping pill and try and catch up on some Zs. It worked well, too well. I didn’t open my eyes until 8.44am, which is nearly unheard of for me. I relaxed and stretched for some time and generally basked in the glow that comes from having had 10 hours of deep & uninterrupted drug induced slumber. George, having also slept in, came in from the shower and informed me that our cleaner had come to the door at 8.30am. Apparently, Miss 10 had opened the door and informed her that Mummy was asleep and Daddy was in the shower. The cleaner took this as a green light to vacate our property and move on to another job, not to return until next week. Darn! When you have a cat, dog and 3 children whose hygiene habits are similar to that of a pack of wild baboons, the thought of the cleaner missing a week is cause for panic.

I gathered my thoughts and called a family meeting with the kids. “I have good news and bad news” I told them. “The bad news is that your sister sent the cleaner away and she now can’t come back until next week. This means we will be cleaning the house ourselves.”

I was greeted with similar levels of outbursts and protesting to what has taken place in Washington DC in the past week. “Wait!” I said. “The good news is that I’ve saved $50. We’ll spend it on ourselves, doing something fun that we wouldn’t have otherwise done today.” Considering this rate of pay, even divided 3 ways, was several times the rate of their weekly pocket money, I had their attention. I made a list:

  • General tidying
  • Vacuuming
  • Mopping
  • Dusting
  • Cleaning toilets
  • Cleaning showers
  • Cleaning glass stacker doors

I told them if anyone complained and didn’t help, I would be dropping them at Dad’s office while the rest of us went out and enjoyed the spoils. Impressively, my older kids really stepped up. Whilst no doubt imagining treats and exciting outings, they scrubbed, dusted, mopped and cleaned until their little faces were red. They actually argued over who would get the privilege of cleaning the toilet. I reminded them, quite majestically as I felt like King Solomon solving a royal conundrum, that we have two toilets and there was two of them, “do the maths, kids”. They were each allocated their own dedicated toilet to scrub and clean, which they did proudly. Miss 4 required a bit more cajoling but she did her part too, picking up the hair she’d cut from her Little Mermaid doll yesterday which was strewn around the house like fairy dust, among other tasks.

Keep scrubbing
Keep scrubbing

It took us one & half hours until the house sparkled. By this stage, I was covered in sweat but felt strangely satisfied. We discussed our options and the kids agreed that they’d like a trip to Flip Out and then lunch at McDonalds. We had a great day together and felt bonded by the experience and satisfied by our achievements and subsequent compensation.

But is this story just an amusing tale of triumph and reward over unspeakable tragedy? Well yes, there’s certainly that. But I have also learned:

  • The less I see my kids, the more I appreciate them. It’s hard to go to work when I know they are off school but the upside is that they haven’t driven me demented yet. This is unprecedented for this point of the holidays.
  • Do not underestimate young, unspoiled hands that have not yet experienced hard labour. Look deeper and see the potential.
  • Kids will appreciate something more if they have to work for it. As a natural ‘fun parent’ it is in my nature to want to give them stuff for no reason. I must try and resist this urge, for their own benefit. And for the sake of a glistening kitchen floor I could now eat off.

Normally burdened and oppressed at this point, I am unexpectedly victorious. I wish that the remainder of your school holidays may also be filled with peace, achievement, jubilation…and plenty of Spray n’ Wipe.