Friday, December 7, 2012

I’m Not Leaving Facebook in Charge

The other day, a friend posted a funny story on Facebook about a thing their kid had said, and I laughed and made a comment.  Another friend posted first photos of her newborn son, still in the maternity ward.  Within an hour, there were over twenty “oooh, so sweet, just look at that little nose” swoons. And then it hit me: is Facebook the new baby book?  Has it become the central repository for all the memories that families a generation ago carefully pressed and preserved in treasured bound albums?  What happens if Facebook goes the way of MySpace or the Palm Pilot or Beanie Babies?  And is anybody curating the giant daily brain dump that is Facebook?  I mean seriously, here’s what my posts typically look like:

STATUS UPDATE: does anybody know how to cook a chicken?
STATUS UPDATE: hey, look at this chicken in the oven!
STATUS UPDATE: hey, look at this chicken on our plate!
STATUS UPDATE: Sure was good chicken
STATUS UPDATE: My kid just lost her first tooth
STATUS UPDATE: who’s going to do all these dishes?
STATUS UPDATE: What’s the going rate for tooth fairy payouts?

See? The only part worth reading is buried. I’m thinking Facebook needs a really ruthless editor if it’s going to be the keeper of memories.  Right now it’s a hoarder’s overflowing scary attic. And I don’t trust it to be around forever anyway, so I’m not taking any chances.  I know what I’m grabbing in a fire, and it isn’t a laptop.  OK, I’d try to grab my laptop, but it wouldn’t be first.
Breakfast of birthday girls!

Amelia turned five this week, and if you know me at all you know I’m a sucker for rituals.  Mother’s Day pavers, first day of school photos, meatballs on New Years Eve, cake for breakfast on your birthday, and absolutely, positively, extensive documentation of every birthday, in many forms.  Concrete, non-virtual documentation. This year I picked Amelia up from school early just to get it all done.

First, there is the photo.  Amelia was born on December 5, and for her entire first year we photographed her on the 5th of every month with a calendar and a baby instruction book, to show the date and how she’d grown. EVERY MONTH.  At the end of the year I put them together in a frame and hung it up.  Now we take the photo only on her birthdays, still with the same props. And years of working with museums has taught me that if you’re going to put a date on something it had better be accurate – so this photo can ONLY be taken on her actual birthday. 
Which leads to the next birthday project. A photo book. I take a lot of pictures, whittle “a lot” down to the best 50 or so, add witty captions, and send them off on the 5th  of each month to family and friends. And yes, I even post the album on Facebook.  Every month. But like Facebook, I can’t trust a photo sharing site to be around forever, so each year on Amelia’s birthday I curate the year’s photos even further, into a hardbound photo book that Shutterfly so nicely produces for us. Digital photos, printed right onto real paper. It’s a wonder of technology.  Anyway, this book includes the annual calendar and baby book photo, so it can’t be created until Amelia’s birthday…and in a stroke of excellent timing, it makes a great holiday gift for the grandparents.
Every year we also make something together. We started with handprints on tiles when she was one and two, and then we moved on to drawing and writing on tiles, which hang as a backsplash in our kitchen, carefully signed and dated for posterity.

And this year we added a new ritual – a birthday interview. Many thanks to my friend Kristen over at Motherload Blog for turning me on to this one, and from whom I stole most of these questions.  And to her friend, from whom she stole them. See, the internet isn’t all bad!
Without further ado…Amelia’s Five Year Old Interview
Me: If a genie would grant you only one wish, what would it be?
Amelia: To be a happy family forever (awwww….)

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Amelia: A mommy (double awww….)

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Amelia: Yes, of course I will

Me: Do you want to have children?
Amelia: Yes

Me: Do you feel different now that you are five?
Amelia: No

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Amelia: Rainbow, because it's my favorite color.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Amelia: Becca, Samantha and Nicole because they play funny games

Me: What do you think about world peace?
Amelia: Ummm, I don’t know about that

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Amelia: Peppa Pig

Me: What do you like to do in free time?
Amelia: Go to the playground!

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Amelia: I get to be whatever I want and I always calm down

Me: What is your favorite song?
Amelia: Happy Birthday! And Ariel’s song

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Amelia: To trap bad guys

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Amelia: Projects with mommy all the time

Me: What is your favorite thing about me?
Amelia: We get to do projects together

Me: What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Amelia: He does not do what girls do

What’s your favorite thing about Bubby?
Amelia: She’s listening  (Bubby is my mother, and she was indeed listening.)
I hope you enjoyed the interview in this potentially fleeting virtual format, but I’ll also be printing them in this year’s photo book.  You know, in case this conversation ever happens:

Jeff:  Hey, remember when people used to blog?
Me:  Yeah, didn’t I have one?
Jeff:  Yeah, you used to post those birthday interviews.  What was Amelia’s favorite color when she was five?
Me: I don’t remember.
Jeff: I don’t either. But I’m sure you had a blog.
I love birthdays.  Don’t trust them to Facebook.

Craving more crafty fun? Check out additional posts of A Crafty Mess over at Charlotte Parent. Or stop by my Etsy store, Made by Mommy.  Or better yet, leave a comment here...I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful, Topped with Pride and Awe

I ate the last turkey sandwich for lunch today.  Which means Thanksgiving is really over, but I’m still feeling thankful. And this year, so is Amelia…which was a delightful surprise.  

Amelia will turn five in a few days. In parent-time, that means about ten minutes ago the friendly staff at the maternity ward watched us haplessly strap her into her carseat and wished us luck. Seriously, it’s been that quick. Except for bedtime. 
This year we hosted Thanksgiving.  Cooking a turkey scares the hell out of me, so I put off thinking about it as long as possible with a few crafts. The thankful pumpkin knocked my socks off. I figured we could do some hokey family bonding and end up with a nice centerpiece. Only it wasn’t hokey at all. 
Note the doorknob in the middle!
The craft is pretty simple, although we improvised some because we didn’t have brads or paper fasteners. Who uses paper fasteners anymore? We don’t, so I substituted an extra cabinet doorknob with a short screw and a flat face at the bottom. If my sister is reading this, she’s laughing her head off that we have an extra doorknob but not a paper fastener.  But we did, and I figured the doorknob would give the pumpkin some weight on the bottom to keep it upright on the table. 

Never fully dressed without a crown.

Start with a dozen or so paper strips.  I wanted a larger pumpkin than the tutorial, so I cut larger strips.  Then use a hole puncher to make a hole on each end of each strip. 

Now comes the pride and awe part. Each member of the family names things they are thankful for, and their words are written on the strips of paper.  A year ago, even a few months ago, Amelia wouldn’t have distinguished between “thankful” and “thank you.”  She’d be thankful for a cookie or a toy or passing the mac and cheese.  But this year, somehow, she understood that thankful is bigger. Without a moment’s hesitation, she told us that she is thankful for our family. For her friends. For love.  
Awe.  And awwwww.

Once I picked my chin up off the floor, we threaded the screw through the holes at one end of each strip of paper, and secured it into the doorknob.  I can’t vouch for the paper fastener version, but a doorknob worked pretty well.

Last, gather up the other end of each strip, keeping them in the same sequence they are in at the base, and thread a pipecleaner (or a paper fastener if you have such a thing) through the top holes. Bend the pipecleaner to keep it in the holes, and for good measure we added a leaf.

That’s it!  A fine centerpiece, simple activity, and endless parental pride in the amazingly perceptive, kind, grown-up girl Amelia’s become in almost five years. Or ten minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Craving more crafty fun? Check out additional posts of A Crafty Mess over at Charlotte Parent. Or stop by my Etsy store, Made by Mommy.  Or better yet, leave a comment here...I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Made by Mommy!

That’s right, it’s sort of my birthday. Or anniversary. Or holy-crap-where-did-that-time-go day. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s worthy of celebration. One year ago today, I opened my Etsy store. I made a handful of aprons, took photos of them in my backyard and on the kitchen counter, and Made by Mommy went live.
The original batch, 227 aprons ago.
How do you measure a year on Etsy? Well, as of noon today, 5,792 people have viewed my store, 165 have been intrigued enough to “favorite” an item, and 79 have made purchases totaling 227 aprons, 6 puppet theatres, 2 sets of burp cloths and a quilt. I don’t know if these stats are good or bad compared with others’ experiences, but I’m feeling pretty great about it.
Seriously, I love Etsy. For a good chunk of the past year, I had a “real” job I didn’t love, and Made by Mommy was literally born out of creative frustration. Each sale reinforces that someone, somewhere, likes what I make. The feedback, thank you notes, blog links, and photos from people all over the country wearing my aprons are like little professional affirmations – which for a while there, I really needed to hear. 
Today, I don’t need the affirmations in quite the same way, but they are a reminder of something I take for granted. I tend to think that if something is easy for me to do, it must be just as easy for everyone else and therefore isn’t valuable. I’ve learned, and my customers have helped me see, that this isn’t true. It is possible to have a talent for something, enjoy it, and make a career of it. This is important to remember if you hope to love your job – doing what you love is possible, and definitely preferable. Just ask an actor. Or an athlete. Or a Mommy who gets to sew during the day, at least some days.  
Sew (haha) Happy Birthday Made by Mommy, and here's to many more!
And now I’m going to make a cake.

Are you looking for more craftiness?  Check out additional posts of A Crafty Mess over at Charlotte Parent!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Productive Procrastination?

I didn’t think this would be a problem.  I thought if I patched together a whole bunch of projects, I’d always have something interesting to do.  If you like what you’re doing motivation comes naturally, right?

Sort of. I like my new work/life balance. I love freelancing, crafting, running my Etsy store, and I really love having the flexibility to do everything else - visit Amelia at school, pick her up early, make lunch dates, volunteer, bake, etc, etc, etc.  So what’s the problem, you wonder?   
I decide what to do when. That’s right, it is all up to me. And my Type A personality gets in the way of realistic prioritization or real balance.
You see, a long to-do list makes me crazy. If there is something on the list that I can do quickly, even if it isn’t urgent, I do it.  I just want it off the list.  It’s list clutter and it must be gone. I have the same reaction to physical clutter. If I have a project with a lot of supplies that are sitting in a corner, just waiting to be used, that pile is all I see.  Even if the project isn’t at all time-sensitive, I do it first just to eliminate that waiting pile of stuff. Today, that’s what happened.
It is Sunday. I have 3 writing deadlines this week.  Job leads to pursue.  A self-imposed sewing schedule to keep my Etsy store stocked. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Not to mention a sneezing daughter and coughing husband who both need attention. So how did I spend most of the day? Reupholstering my neighbor’s sunroom furniture. 

Looking good!
Back in July, I promised her I would do this.  It’s a promise that’s been in the back of my mind, nagging me ever since. But there has never been any hurry, and we hadn’t even purchased fabric yet.  Fast forward to three days ago.  We bought the fabric.  I told her I’d try to get this done by Thanksgiving. She told me there’s no hurry at all. But since Wednesday, a large roll of fabric has been standing in the corner of my sewing room, and my neighbor’s patio cushions have been stacked in the garage.  We both knew this wouldn’t wait a minute longer than it had to.
I love this cushion fabric
And so it’s done. I spent the day cutting, sewing, and delivering patio cushions across the street. Amelia helped, carting cushions and throw pillows between the garage, the sewing machine, and the neighbors’ house. She pieced together scraps of fabric and watched me intently, asking why we make things for people. I told her it’s something we’re good at doing and she proudly agreed. 
So, was this procrastination? The neighbors are happy. Their sunroom looks great, and I checked it off my to do list.  It was cluttering both the list and the garage.
But other items on the list have deadlines. Long term projects that are harder to imagine completed, yet require steady attention. My “real job” is museum planning and writing.  Often there are months or years of work on paper before there is anything physical to see. It’s fascinating to me to delve deep into a subject, to research objects and stories and translate it all into an experience for visitors. It’s interesting and rewarding, and I work with creative teams. It also requires committees and reviews and edits and lots of patience. I think the appeal of sewing for me is that it is just the opposite.  As fabric runs through the machine, it literally creates a finished trail. Progress is visible and the product is tangible. And so it satisfies my Type A need to check things off and know how it ends. 
So…productive procrastination or work-work balance?
Speaking of checking things off, I needed to write a blog post. Check.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We didn’t break Amelia

Phew.  Because on Friday, we thought we might have.

Amelia came home from school and refused to walk, stand, or put any weight at all on her left leg.  Two urgent care clinics and a pediatric orthopedic specialist later, we’ve seen some cool x-rays of our daughter’s hips, legs and knees, and we’ve learned some new vocabulary: Transient synovitis.

Did she hurt her hip
falling off this bike?
It’s not serious – basically a virus that settled in her hip joint, causing inflammation. Painful but temporary, and the cure is a few days of Advil.  She’s back at school today and mostly back to normal.  But all weekend until we had a firm diagnosis, we worried. And felt guilty.  For what, you ask? Everything. First of all, we didn’t believe her. How could she have been fine all day and then, with no injury, suddenly become immobilized? Clearly she just wanted to be carried, right?  We thought she was just being lazy, and told her so.  We tried to trick her into walking.  We waited two hours before going to urgent care, we were so sure this wasn’t real.  Oy, the guilt.

And then, on the advice of our pediatrician, we took her in for x-rays.  What? Checking for broken bones?  How could our precious baby have broken a bone without anybody noticing an injury?   More guilt.  She’s out of our sight in preschool.  Is there enough supervision there?  She fell on her bike a week ago – could she have had a fracture all week and we didn’t notice?  Oh, how stoic she must be and how guilty we must be! I considered homeschooling.

Not fun in urgent care
Fun in urgent care

Seriously, this is the stuff that goes through my head in the middle of the night.  While sitting in urgent care.

Well, no break.  No injury.  No reason for guilt.  No need to homeschool. A head cold a month ago settled in her joint and for a few days she had a bum hip and got to satisfy her inner princess by requesting that we fetch things and carry her around…all 52 pounds of her.

hard at work
Once the drama was over, we entertained ourselves with a few days of sitting still projects. You know, to fill the time left in between me obsessively asking Amelia whether her hip hurt every time she moved.  Filled with residual guilt and general overprotectiveness, I planned projects to fill our days together at home.  But the most fun we had? Totally driven by Princess Bum Hip.  While I ran around in an overcompensating frenzy, Amelia picked up a pair of scissors left on the table and an abandoned ad from our lawn care service. She started cutting.  And she asked for glue.  And yarn.  I offered help, and she declined.  I asked what she was making, and she wouldn't answer.  She intently cut and glued for about 15 minutes, and then proudly presented me with a collage, of a woman with long hair and yarn fingers reaching for a perfectly triangular slice of watermelon on a table.  She knew exactly what she was doing and how to do it.

In an instant, Amelia's recent insistence that "I can do it myself" was proven. I may need to carry her once in a while, but I don’t need to watch her every minute.  

I hope she won’t break if I don’t.

Woman reaching for a snack on a table. Do you see the watermelon in her hand?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trying a New View

Amelia in the hammock.
It's hard to take a photo of
yourself in a hammock!

I'm writing this post from a hammock in our backyard.

No, I didn’t lock myself out of the house.  And my husband didn’t lock me out either (yet!). I’m just seizing the moment.

It’s gorgeous out, perfect fall Charlotte weather – warm, breezy and dry. Blue skies behind just the right amount of clouds. I can see this because, as I mentioned, I’m in a hammock.

The last time I posted I wrote about slowing down. Not lazing about, that’s not really my style (hammock notwithstanding). But recognizing the opportunities in each day.  I’ve decided to (temporarily) stop worrying so much about my self-imposed and ongoing to-do list, and just enjoy the moment.

In part to prove I could relax, Amelia and I spent almost a week on Cape Cod with my mother, my sister and her family a few weeks ago. And guess what? Relaxation is awesome! Worth 8 hours of airports and driving with an impatient four-year-old. Truly, it was wonderful. My nephews are probably the closest thing Amelia will have to siblings, and giving them – and my brain! – unstructured time to really know each other and play in a sprawling old beach house was just what we all needed. 

This is NOT our project.
But possibly even more fun.
If you hope to be invited back to
a beach house, do not pour
shampoo into the Jacuzzi!
And of course there was a project. This one almost didn’t happen, thanks to a little mishap in the Jacuzzi. A tip: never pour shampoo into a Jacuzzi with the jets running. Completely unrelated to our project, but I was nearly banned from all soap in the beach house.

And this project required soap. You may have seen a photo circulating on Pinterest lately of a kid holding a mound of foam, with a caption about what happens when you put Ivory soap in the microwave.  I’ve seen it enough times that I was curious. So, with three kids fresh from the beach and needing a bath, we figured why not? We had a microwave. In went a bar of Ivory soap.  On a protective paper towel, since the house was a rental.

Two cousins and their grandmother,
watching the microwave.
Within 20 seconds, the soap began to expand, growing in every direction into a billowy cloud. At the end of a minute, it had nearly filled the microwave. We were in awe.

We carefully removed the foamy blob, which was pretty hot (I’m not sure why were were surprised by this - we’d just microwaved it!). It cooled quickly then hardened, and then flaked apart into delicate soapflakes. With wet hands, we were able to tear off chunks and mold it like slimy playdough, and then, well, soap made a triumphant and bubble-free return to the Jacuzzi!

One bar of Ivory soap,
60 seconds later.
The project was simple, and surprisingly delightful. Just like so many things we’ve done since my relaxation resolution kicked in. There will be time for work, time for chores, and plenty of time to worry. For now, I’m going to enjoy what I have – a playful and happy family, ideas to pursue, and at last, time for both.

I could get used to the view from this hammock.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time to Slow Down

24 hours ago
Last night I made Amelia a dress.  No big deal, and actually not a particularly complicated or interesting dress.  As a kid, I imagined that one day I’d make clothes for my future children, like my mother did for me.  Other than a few Halloween costumes – which, full disclosure, my mother helped sew – this hasn’t happened.  I’ve just never had the time, or made the time, or perceived that I had the time.

Halloween 2010

Perception seems to be the key.  I’ve been "between jobs" for just over a week, and despite the high unemployment rate and statistically long average job searches, I’ve been running around like a crazy person doing everything I’ve ever said I’d do if I only had time, as though this time will end any minute and all opportunity to reorganize the pantry will be gone.  Yup, I reorganized the pantry. I also designed notecards, led a storytime, painted frames, made 12 aprons and 2 puppet theatres, wrote a proposal, applied for a job, went to an amusement park, got my car serviced, cooked, cleaned and caught up with the laundry.  All with equal urgency, and this is only a partial list.

So yesterday I received an invitation to interview TODAY for that job I applied for.  What?  Already?  In a panic, I had to make Amelia a dress.  You know, because I’d surely be employed again by this afternoon.

Are you wondering what happened?  Where to send the potted plant for my new office?  Or laughing because you know how this will end?  Right, you’re laughing.

Because with only six days between me and my last job, in the midst of a whirlwind of projects only a true overachiever could conjure, I’m in no shape to interview.  Not only because my interview suit doesn’t fit (it doesn’t).  Because I have no perspective.  I’m still too close to my last job to figure out what I’ve learned and how to describe it in a way that makes the experience valuable to a potential employer.   Until I have enough distance to look back with some objectivity, I sound like a rambling crazy person.  You know, the kind of crazy person who might spend every waking hour creating and completing a lifetime of to-do lists.

Needless to say, I do not expect a second interview.  So keep the potted plants for now.  There will be time for that later.  Really, there will.  And in the meantime, I’m going to slow down, drink a latte, gain some perspective, figure out what I want, and maybe make Amelia a more interesting dress. But this time I’ll enjoy it.  Quick, add that to the list!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fit to Frame

A few nights ago, Amelia was playing with two princesses and their toy castle.  Were they having a playdate? Dreaming of princes? Battling evil queens? Nope, they were redecorating.  Snow White was lamenting to Cinderella that she had to find room in the castle for all her pictures, because her job would soon be done.


It makes perfect sense.  And proves once more that everything I do is recorded, with telling translation, in that little red-haired head. You see, I finished my full time job today. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been stripping my office of the personal items that have adorned it.

A year ago, I moved this same office d├ęcor from my last job to this one, trying to recreate the comfort and familiarity I was leaving.  It didn’t work, the space never felt right. In hindsight, the office looked great and it was me that didn’t fit, but I made a valiant effort. I hung the pictures, did the work, smiled most of the time, but never really felt comfortable.  A friend recently described the office culture at her new job, and how easily and naturally she was finding her place in it.  She just knew, on her first day, that she was where she belonged. Listening to her, I had to accept that fit can’t be forced, and it was time for me to move on and move out.  With my office knick knacks.

This transition is a good thing, well timed and well planned. But change and uncertainty make me nervous.  Some people thrive on it, and I like to pretend I do too – until it’s here, and I catch myself frenetically organizing everything in my control, to compensate for all that isn't in my control.  This time Amelia caught me, urgently finding places for all those office items that will drive me crazy in an unsettled pile.  They must be where they fit, and so must I.
At least in the short term, I’m setting up shop at home – working on my Etsy store, doing some freelance writing, and enjoying the luxury of more family time.  And I’m turning my energy toward feeling at home while I’m there.  My home office needed a whiteboard, because if there’s one thing a newly unemployed person with a compulsion for control has, it’s a lot of lists!  I love turning something old into something new, and I remembered a pinterest project.  

Making the board was easy.  I chose an old frame, one of many ornate antiques I collected a lifetime ago for my first single gal apartment.  Instead of chalkboard paint, I used dry erase paper, which is similar to contact paper, and adhered it smoothly to the frame’s glass.  The glass is already a perfect fit, and makes a nice writing surface. Two quick drying coats of glossy spraypaint later, the frame shows no trace of its formerly gilded self.  I put the glass back in, attached some picture hanging wire, and left the room to get a hammer and nail to hang my new board.  

Voila!  And when I returned, this is what I found:


In a flash, my whiteboard wasn’t mine anymore. Without careful planning, I realized that my home office tools will quickly become Amelia’s office toys.  And unless she’s doing something unsafe, I’m not sure why I should stop this practice.  She was writing on the whiteboard, spelling her name, my name, notes to herself.  Exactly what it’s for, and what she sees me doing. I promised to make her one this weekend.  A bigger one, in any color she chooses. We have a huge frame from the closeted stash all picked out, and we’ll hang it in the playroom.  The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.  I may make a few extras, using masonite instead of glass, and put them on Etsy.  Why shouldn’t kids be able to draw on a whiteboard in an over-the-top fancy frame, giving their artwork the presence it deserves? 

I hung my new board, and it fits.  And the to-do list continues to grow, with projects like this one that exude possibility and opportunity, and engage me in work I’m proud to have Amelia emulate. 

Oh, and one more to-do item…the princesses will surely need a whiteboard too. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Neighbors Gave Us Their House

No, we don’t live in a zip code where people own more real estate than they can visit in a year.  But we do live on a street full of families. With kids older than Amelia.  Who outgrow cool stuff right as Amelia grows into it.

When Amelia was a toddler, our neighbors had a block party for all the kids, and the highlight of their backyard was their daughters’ brand-new playhouse.  Amelia was barely walking, and some of our earliest photos of her standing up were taken in that little house, clutching the windowsill for support, all proud and independent.

Fast forward four years. The neighbors’ kids no longer play with the house and they have other plans for the space it occupies.  The house has been neglected for at least a year or two.  Let’s just say it’s become, well, not so fresh.  And the neighbors were wondering how to get rid of it…at the exact moment that Amelia and I walked by their driveway. 

“Hey, do you guys want a playhouse?” 

Five strong neighbors and a few choice curse words later, the house moved across the street, over a fence, and into our yard.  After I retrieved all the pieces that had fallen off in the middle of the road, here’s how it looked:

My husband was not happy about our new real estate acquisition.  Not in my backyard, he grumbled.  It’ll kill the grass.  It’s hideous.  Now getting rid of it will be our problem.  Is it even safe?  I made every case I could think of – the cost savings over buying a new playhouse, the shared experience of restoring it and making it our own, the lessons in responsibility and carpentry this project holds for Amelia, and well, I always wanted a playhouse when I was a kid and never had one, so can’t we please, please, please keep it?

Right on cue, Amelia ran inside, squealed with delight, and that was our closing argument.  We got to work.

This was one of those projects that, in all honesty, was much more exciting to me than it was to Amelia, but I talked her into it.  I’ve long dreamed of building an elaborate treehouse or playhouse together, but my fear of – and lack of – most power tools makes that plan impractical.  This fixer-upper could be our last chance.

First, the house needed a good cleaning.  We removed what may have been a dead animal from the mailbox.  We sprayed away years of cobwebs, dirt, and pollen with the garden hose.  We probably should have used bleach or something, but I didn’t think of that until now.  Anyway, without dirt as a distraction, we assessed the damage:  missing half a door, missing a kitchen sink, missing most hardware, rotted baseboards, broken shelf, faded roof…maybe Jeff had been right. 

But I’d assured my Girl and my Husband that this was a great project, so there was no looking back.  Next we dissected the house, removing anything that looked removeable. 

Since our budget had been grudgingly capped at “as-cheap-as-possible,” we agreed to use up leftover cans of paint and miscellaneous hardware from other projects.  I bought one can of yellow exterior housepaint, but other than that we used what we had.  Amelia’s favorite colors these days include “all the colors of the rainbow,” so we had a plenty to choose from.  She set to work painting – the house, the loose parts, the grass, herself, and everything in between.

Amelia is an exuberant painter, but not a patient one.  She did the first coat and then lost interest.  She was hot, tired, and dirty.  Jeff rolled his eyes and gave her a bath while I kept painting.  The playhouse had unofficially become my project, and I had to finish it.  My pride was on the line.

I wish I could say that this turned out to be the family bonding project I’d envisioned, but it wasn't.  I repaired the broken pieces, replaced missing hardware, and finished the painting.  And I learned that Extreme Playhouse Makeover is too much to ask of a four-year-old. 

But happily, Extreme Playhouse Accessorizing was just Amelia’s speed.  Here’s what we did together:

  • ·      Found and fit the perfect mixing bowl to serve as a kitchen sink
  • ·      Chose the number 4 (her number) as the address and nailed it in
  • ·      Made chalkboards for the outside and drew on them
  • ·      Painted and hung pictures on the inside walls
  • ·      Hung lights for nighttime play
  • ·      Planted flowers
  • ·      Hung sparkly curtains

So, now that the house is ready for play, is it the hottest destination in the neighborhood again?  Um, yes…and no.  It’s hot alright. It's REALLY hot in Charlotte.  Too hot for much of anything in the backyard. So the house is currently vacant, if no longer abandoned.

I can’t wait until fall.  In the meantime, I think I may add a ceiling fan…