Since they opened their lego-colored blue and yellow doors, a day trip to IKEA has become a shopping tradition. Once a year, we make the trek to this Swedish superstore to satisfy our cravings for meatballs and organization. In that order.

I appreciate how IKEA greets its customers with childcare opportunities. I mean, it’s not 12 months of maternity leave, but let’s not be greedy. When the kids were small, they would stretch up on their toes to meet the height restrictions for the coveted Playland, where a brightly colored ball pit and a collection of collapsible eggshell chairs promised sensory distraction while I enjoyed sixty minutes of uninterrupted Nordic touring.

Touring is what you do in IKEA. And like a tourist, slightly overwhelmed and displaced by new surroundings, I have learned the importance of staying on the dictated path. I repeat, stay on the path. If you happen to venture off into the bedding section of the store, and accidentally wake up under a giant palm tent with hanging stuffed Cobras and plastic monkey nightlights, please do not panic. Management is well prepared for this situation and encourages you to use the mini pencil provided at the entrance of the store to leave a breadcrumb of notes to the nearest passerby. “Bring me meatballs” is also an acceptable request.

If you choose to stay on route, the winding path brings you on an all-access tour of the Swedish lifestyle, including everything from silverware drawers to shower enclosures. Note: enter the bathroom spaces with caution as weary shoppers, disoriented by the sleek track lighting and brightly colored dishtowels, have confused these life-like examples with actual lavatories. The lack of plumbing is embarrassing for everyone involved.

The Swedes are talented engineers, and half the fun of walking through the apartment spaces is discovering the hidden storage opportunities, some more of a surprise than others.

“Mom, look at this!! This cabinet holds all of the Tupperware lids!!”

“Yes, what would that be like?” we collectively wonder.

“And here, behind the door, is a hook just for wet towels!”

“Um, yeah, we already have that….” Is it possible they have never closed the door to the bathroom?

By the time you reach the cafeteria, you have legitimately worked up an appetite and thank goodness, because any tourist knows the best way to experience a new culture is with a fork and spoon. Meatballs and cake - this is my preference. After a brief tour of Sweden’s finest cuisine, I have decided sampling meatballs and cake is how I would like to explore all new cultures for here on out. Maybe a dollop of Lingonberry sauce to keep me alert.

It is not until you are (hypothetically) found and fed that you actually begin to shop. Down below the showroom, guests wind between aisles of dishes, sheets, frames and area rugs, for what feels like Day 2 of the tour.

You know in Candyland when you get stuck in the Licorice Lagoon and lose a turn? The IKEA basement is the Licorice Lagoon. Surrounded by bins of red, blue or yellow throw pillows and shoe trees, time is passing you by and before you know it, you reach the cashiers with a cart full of nonsense. Last week, I spent 3 hours and $150 on frozen meatballs, a towel rack, a garlic press, and a pack of (darling) embroidered hand towels.

And, in an effort to acquire a more minimalist lifestyle, a potted cactus. Win.

On the ride home, we practice our newly acquired “Swede-lish”.

“Buckle your seatablaaden,” I say (poorly).

“Turn up the radifjordic,” my son replies.

“Can we eat …cake... when we get home?” my youngest asks.

“Ja. We can do that. Right after we assemble the towel rack,” I explain.

“Wait? It’s not assembled?” my son asks.

And just when you thought you were done with Candyland…enter, Grandma Nut (and Bolt).

“Locate [included] Allen wrench. Lose a turn…”

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a staunch believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy.

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