When I was going to move into my brand new home, I thought I would dare to dream a little.
I have always, always wanted to have cozy, white couches. The kind that you can just curl up in and read a book and it feels like you are in a magazine.
I have always wanted a matching set of something I actually liked.
I have always been unerringly practical regarding furniture with children. I have never bought a couch at full price, and never new. No, I always went to thrift stores or the classifieds for the perfectly nice used couches.
There was the one we simply called “RC Willey” because the people who previously owned it bought it from that furniture store, and they took a lot of pride in the fact that they bought it from there.
It was green and had pillows with elephants and tigers and stuff. It had really big arms, so the children could sit on top and pretend like they were actually riding an elephant or a zebra.
It came with a matching rug. And a chaise lounge.
It wasn’t really my style, but then, I really never had a style to speak of because I thought it was more important to have large arms on a couch so the kids could play pretend safari.
I decided I could live with it because the whole set was only $500. Also, it made me think of India, because of the elephants, and India made me think of Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility when he says,
The air is full of spices.
And that just makes me swoon, so…I decided to like the couch.
Then there was the Lazy Boy couch with recliners upholstered in a nice late 70’s floral print. I always meant to get it reupholstered, but that never happened. It weighed about 3 tons and John finally sold it for $100 to whomever was willing to move it out of the house.
There was the black ratty fake leather couch we picked up at a thrift store in Houston for $75 that Joy smeared Desitin all over. By the time we had loved that thing to death, the Salvation Army wouldn’t even take it.
There were some really awful brown microfiber couches and the sectional that was really nice and all leather, except for the part where the previous owner’s children had tried cleaning it with some sort of solvent and eaten part of the leather off.
(We still have that in the basement. John mentioned the other day that we could sell it and I laughed. I told him we’d probably have to pay someone to move it out of the basement.)
Then there were the $25 thrift store couches in the condo that went from the third floor to the dumpster.
So, I was kind of excited to buy a set brand spanking new and something I actually chose.
My cheap self got the best of me and I found myself in Ikea, looking at the Ektorp white sofa.
Yes, this sofa is the legendary sofa of all the cool moms who are really great at decorating and blogging and stuff on the internet. One of my bloggy friends has a set, and she lives on a farm with seven or eight children and I went over to look at them and they looked amazing.
Everyone on the internet said they would be easy to clean, because they have slipcovers that are totally washable.
All these women on the internet said it was like no problem to clean them.
They have posts about these couches called, “Having a White Couch With Kids Is Totally Possible,” and “I Have Pets and Kids and My Ikea Ektorp White Slipcovers Look AWESOME,” and then they write about how easy it is to take them off and wash them and put them in the laundry and then when they put them back on the whole house smells like clean, fresh loveliness and everything is perfect.
So, I thought I could do it.
I really did.
I thought I could finally do something that I wanted to do and it would be a breeze.
And it would always smell like fresh linen in my living room.
Most ladies said they washed the covers once every few months. One lady with a two children said she washed hers twice a month. I thought I could do that. Twice a month we would have a fresh smelling couch.
I bought the couches. They look beautiful. For the first month after we moved in, EVERY SINGLE CONTRACTOR who came in to finish up things or work on something in the house said,
White couches with kids, that’s brave.
Until I wanted to cry. Because, really, I didn’t want it to be brave. I wanted them to have read all those blog posts about how EASY it is and I wanted them to say,
White couches from Ikea? Oh, that’s brilliant! I heard they were really easy to take care of!
But no one said that.
We moved in the day after Thanksgiving, and we didn’t have a backyard. We just had a bunch of clay soil and sage brush. And the landscaping people said that they’d “probably” be able to get the sod in before it got too cold…well, this winter in Utah, it was cold for two weeks right before Christmas. It snowed. It was lovely.
And then, it melted.
And turned into mud and now it is 66 degrees in FEBRUARY and we don’t have a yard, because no one has sod in February in Utah.
But our trampoline is installed, so the children tromp out there half the time in bare feet and half dressed…and then they come in and JUMP ON THE COUCH.
For the first few weeks after we moved in, I would get on to them for climbing on the couch with their dirty little selves. I would sit there with a upholstery cleaner in one hand and stain remover in the other.
A few days ago, when my nearly two year old was goofing around on the couch with her brother, she banged her lip into his gargantuan, extremely hard head and busted her lip.
The first words out of my mouth were not “Are you okay?” No. They were:
No! NO! Noooooo!!!! Please don’t get blood on the couch!!!
I felt like I was turning into a monster. Also, because I am pregnant, I believe I actually am a monster at this point.
So, today I finally decided to wash the slipcover to the sofa + chaise Ektorp. Unfortunately, the last time we washed it, I think we let it dry a little too long or something and putting it back on last time was a little, er…tricky.
Also, I made the fatal mistake of asking my husband to help me with the sofa cover.
He is a practical, logical man. For those of you who watch Star Trek, or ever did, he is somewhat like a mix between a Vulcan and a Borg, with a smidge of Klingon passion thrown in to make things exciting.
He does not have any interest in anything that isn’t efficient.
To him, the color of the sofa is irrelevant. Unless, of course, he doesn’t like the color, then it is relevant.
But he is a practical man, a man who thinks there is no room in the world for slipcovers or washing them.
So, today, the sofa slipcover simply would not go back on. He was literally fighting for his life, as I gave him some “helpful hints,” like
Maybe if you put the top on first? Or maybe the bottom? Is there any way you could squish the arm stuffing into kind of fit over it?
But, sadly, it was like me trying to fit into the size 2 jeans I wore 17 years ago…now.
It just wasn’t going to happen.
So, there he was, sweating, gripping on to the white slipcover, flexing his very good looking arm muscles, and not swearing, which I think was admirable…
And then he just yanked and the whole thing ripped.
And I just decided that the white couch thing wasn’t going to happen.
I got in the car and drove to Ikea and sat down and stared at the white couch and realized that I was going to concede yet another thing to the barrel of mediocrity that seems to define my motherhood.
I had told myself that I was free, free of brown couches….FOREVER. So, as I sat in the showroom, sniffling, watching extremely thin pregnant ladies walk by in fashionable clothing (which made me feel even worse), I thought about replacing the ripped slipcover with another white one.
I reached up and touched the white slipcover sample longingly…and then I let it drop and dejectedly turned to the darker colors, and I saw the gray one.
Because I wasn’t going to do blue or brown. NEVER AGAIN.
And I walked over to the gray display corner sofa and I looked at it and thought, “It’s not a total surrender. Gray is classy. Gray is modern. Gray is…fabulous.”
And then I noticed that the gray was $100 more per slipcover than the brown.
I didn’t care. I was not going to let mud and clay and my husband’s fondness for efficiency turn me into someone with a brown couch.
And then I stood in Aisle 20 looking at Bin 19. I pulled the gray one down, and then the brown. I just stood there leaning over both of them, and I started crying.
Because I knew that no matter how long I stood there, I was going to pick the brown one. Because, I didn’t just have one couch, I had two, and I had an ottoman, and I couldn’t reasonably spend $270 more dollars just for the gray.
And I seriously thought that maybe those blog ladies were lying to me.
Maybe it wasn’t “a breeze” in real life to clean their couches. Maybe it wasn’t as lovely as they made it sound in their amazing reviews of the Ektorp couches.
Maybe their children didn’t have magnetic powers over clay and mud and snot and cereal and organic, non-fake-colored fruit snacks that only release in the presence of white slipcovers.
I don’t know.
I was hoping they were lying, because if they were honest and it WAS easy, why was it so hard for me? What was wrong with me?
I just stood there in Aisle 20 feeling like a complete and utter failure.
I felt like I was surrendering, giving up on excellence….after all, not only can I not keep those white couches white for more than 125 seconds after they are back on the couches, we don’t seem to do anything excellently.
Our scripture studies are less than stellar. I don’t even know if anyone can hear the actual verses we read.
We play the piano, kind of. But, we don’t perform…as a public service.
We sing…off key.
We eat kind of organic.
I was standing in Aisle 20 wondering what in the world I actually have accomplished to the point of excellence, and I couldn’t think of anything.
I don’t think anyone is ever going to call me up and say my child is a pillar of the community.
I am never, ever going to be nominated as “Mother of the Year.”
I can’t even stick to a menu plan.
But, I left Ikea with my brown slipcovers and I thought, “Well, you know, Misty, not everyone can be excellent. Some people are just average.”
And then I really prayed, because I really wanted to know if we were just destined to be excellent at being average.
And I think our family does do something well…we love each other. And we love each other fiercely.
We love books and good things and quiet nights and stars and the moon and the outside.
We love excellently.
Can that be a thing? I want it to count….
We have conflict, oh, yes. A lot of it. We are all passionate people. But we love–unabashedly and honestly and without any pretense.
I don’t even know if that counts for a lot in the world, but I am hanging onto it as I take off the white slipcovers and put on the brown ones…and I know I won’t care as much about the mud and the pencil markings and all of that, and I, for a moment, feel guilty at the relief I feel.
I was trying so hard to maintain excellence in that one thing, and I gave up, but as I sit here tonight, I wonder if it’s not the good kind of surrender…the kind of surrender that says,
I can wait for white couches. And while some people can handle it and are good at it, I can accept that I am not one of them.
And I wonder if in that surrender, I can accept it and ask God to show me where I can be more excellent, because I don’t think He is too concerned about me being excellent at having white couches. I think He wants me to work on other things.
I think maybe He wants our family to work on being excellent at being like Sam…
“Sam: I wonder if we’ll ever be put into songs or tales.
Sam: I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, Dad?’ ‘Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.’
Frodo: You’ve left out one of the chief characters – Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.
Sam: Now Mr. Frodo, you shouldn’t make fun; I was being serious.
Frodo: So was I.