Do you ever feel that your life has become a comedy of errors? This pretty much sums up the last couple of days on a quest for some really CHEAP (well, hopefully not cheap, just inexpensive) bookcases. Since our move last August, my little friends – my books – have been languishing in boxes in the basement. A little heavy on the personification, you say? No, they’re my little friends, they’ve been languishing, and I’m pushing for their release.

Did you know that the Atlanta IKEA store is an astounding 15 acres? I do.
Firsthand. Amazingly enough, they have a free supervised play area. The catch is that you can only drop off the kids for 45 minutes before they page you. It is really difficult to cover 15 acres in 45 minutes while pushing a double-stroller containing your 2 children who were too small for the play area (Hayden and Christian weren’t with me). Once your 45 minutes is up (and I quickly learned that their clock was 5 minutes ahead of mine), they turn on your pager. This is the kind of pager that they give you when you’re on the waiting list for a restaurant. These pagers are LOUD and they vibrate; basically they announce to the world, “I’m a loser who has strayed too deeply into the 15 acres to return to my children in a timely manner.”

When I dropped them off the first time, it was time to nurse Lily. Panic set in as I tried to calculate how much of my 45 minutes she would consume. My only other option was to attempt to nurse her with 4 other kids with us in the family restroom. Not an option. The good news is that the family restroom had a comfy chair and amusing little play areas that kept Felicity entertained while our clock was ticking. After our first embarrassing pager incident, I checked in with the kids and set off for another trip through the maze that is IKEA. This time I arrived before the pager went off (no flies on me), and checked out the kids to hit the cafeteria. Can you believe I fed 6 people supper for $10.50? This included (edible) chicken marsala, chocolate milk, mac ‘n’ cheese kids’ meals, and even canned baby food (a lifesaver!).

Fortified, I was ready to begin round 2. When I went to check the kids back into the play area, I discovered that I had to fill out the paperwork again. Unfortunately, the kids were getting a little too comfortable with the place by now. While I was standing by the wall filling out the form (with my back to them), Sabra, Chloe, and Clayton started playing at the bottom of the escalator. Apparently the game was to ride up a couple of steps, then quickly walk back down to the bottom. The problem was that Clayton went a little too high and panicked. This was the point when I turned and saw what they were doing, and then I panicked. Imagine seeing your 4-year-old ascending into the 15 acre jungle while you’re below with a bulky double-stroller (NOT escalator-friendly) and 2 other kids.

A kind lady who saw what was happening asked me if I wanted her to go after him. “Yes!” I answered. Everything seemed to be happening so quickly, and I was so scared I couldn’t think clearly. She ran up the escalator and caught up with him at the top. Since there was no return escalator, she said that they would come down the elevator and meet us. You have to understand that the elevator does not come out by where we were. The only way I had a clue where to go was because I had been to both entrances of the play area. We raced through a door marked “Staff Only,” down a short hall, and around a corner to the elevator doors. I hit the button. The first elevator opened… empty. Then the second elevator opened. It was full of people, but no Clayton and no kind lady, and they’d had plenty of time to get there.

By this time I’d escalated to full-scale panic, and imagined that my child had been kidnapped by some woman who saw an opportunity to nab a cute little boy. I know this wasn’t necessarily rational, but neither was I. I grabbed the kids and raced back to the base of the escalator, where it all began. Two other ladies were standing there, who were either friends or family of Clayton’s rescuer. I had forgotten all about them, and was instantly comforted that I now had a tangible connection to the woman. They said that Clayton had stood at the top of the escalator looking panicked at losing me. I had raced to the elevator to meet him, but all he saw was that I was suddenly gone, and didn’t want to leave. That was why they weren’t on the elevator.

We turned to race back towards the elevator when I saw the top of Clayton’s head in the play area. The lady had gone to the back entrance and they let him in from that side. I thanked her, looking across from my side. The girls who worked in the play area said that they would have watched the other kids so that I could have chased down Clayton, but it all happened so quickly that it never occurred to me. I know I used the work “panicked” a lot, but that was the operative emotion at the time. Whew! What a scare!

At IKEA, the second floor is a huge showroom where you can see all of their products in room-like settings. If you see something you like, you write down the aisle and bin numbers where you can later pick it up in their self-service warehouse area. When I was ready to get my bookcases, I went downstairs to find this area. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to push both a double-stroller and flat-bed cart loaded with bookcases, so I checked Sabra out of the play area to help me. I smashed my finger loading the first bookcase, but then a helpful employee handled the others. Sabra and I got in the check-out line, along with everyone else in the store, since it was almost closing time. That’s when the pager went off again. I was stuck; I couldn’t abandon my cart and go get the kids, and I certainly wasn’t sending Sabra. I’d already lost one kid. The thing buzzed and vibrated for at least 5 minutes before finally stopping. Then the silence was ominous. Surely they knew I was coming, didn’t they? Finally we paid and picked up the kids. What an adventure, 4 hours and 3 bookcases in the making!

Unfortunately, that’s not the end. This morning I realized that the bookcase I bought for the girls’ room just wasn’t going to work. I’d picked up Jacob on our way home from IKEA and needed to drive him back to his apartment in Atlanta, so he helped me load the bookcase back into the van. When we got ready to leave, we realized that my diaper bag, Felicity, and Lily were locked in the van, and we were locked out of the house. I won’t bother going into the details of how we got ourselves out of that mess, or the other mishaps along the way–my encounter with a panhandler in the IKEA parking lot; how I bought a replacement bookcase which is too tall for the intended room; Jacob chasing us down in a parking lot; etc. What I will say is that Bryan called me just shortly before I got home to tell me that he was about to start assembling bookcases, and one of them was the wrong color. Can you guess why? Because I returned THE WRONG BOOKCASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am quite proud to say that I do have one assembled bookcase (the white one pictured above), and it’s in a room that wasn’t even supposed to be getting a new bookcase (that sort of thing happens when you buy bookcases that don’t fit in the rooms for which they were intended).

I can’t believe I still have a third trip to IKEA on the horizon.

If you have made it to the end of this story, congratulations – you do NOT have a short attention span!

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