Sunday, June 24, 2012

Channeling My Inner Tootie

As I age, I find I occasionally need to prove to myself that I can still execute certain physical activities I performed regularly in my youth.  About five years ago, I attempted a front walkover in my parents' living room and nearly broke my spine. Last year, in my 40th summer, I found it critical to prove to myself and others that I could still slalom water ski (I could, but it was a short run).

I had the opportunity to try something old again today, when my son attended a roller skating/laser tag birthday party.  I was itching to roller skate.  Like most kids of my generation, roller skating was what we did with our time--first in our unfinished basements, then at the tween (before "tween" was a thing) mecca in my town, Skate World.  I had roller skated twice since those years--once during my freshman year of college (1989) and once during my third year of law school (1996).  Eighteen years later, on my twelfth wedding anniversary, with my eight-year-old son, I skated again.  I can still do it, and I had tremendous fun.

[Note:  I still roller skate old school.  No blades for me.  Two blades bad;  eight wheels good.]

Reflections upon my skating experience:

1.  Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

2.  Fortunately for me, age eight is still below the cut-off at which your mom's being the only adult in the building roller skating goes from fun to mortifying.

3.  I am much better at skating than stopping.

4.  Would someone just play some Toni Basil already?  Although all the adolescent girls were singing along, I didn't recognize a single song played.  I take that back.  I did recognize that song that was in the viral video about the people who danced into the wedding, which was then spoofed on The Office. My obviously cooler husband tells me this is performed by Chris Brown.

5.  Concepts I considered while skating that I had never before considered while skating:  viral video, YouTube, smartphone, email, Facebook, son, sprained wrist, lower back pain, sore tomorrow.

6.  Falling, which I only did twice in two hours, is much more awkward and painful when you are 41 than when you were 11.

7.  No one asked me to couples skate (which is probably good because I had about 35 years on any other male skater).  Actually, there was no couples skate, but I could have done it because I can still skate backwards.  Yep, I've still got it.

8.  We rarely get skinned knees as adults.  I never thought about this until I couldn't stop thinking about how much that little scrape on my right knee smarts.

All in all, it was a very satisfying experience, notwithstanding the skinned knee.  I managed to surprise and impress my kid, accomplished something I didn't know if I could still do, and had a great deal of fun in the process.  I think we may be revisiting the United Skates of America soon.  Who's with me?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A very young man, at that.  I caught my eldest "using a new drawing technique" early this morning.  I love to see him so intent (intense?), and I'm thrilled to see the new room being used for his work.  I envision him as a young adult, working from home in his pajama pants just like this.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sea of Pink

The little one had her first dance recital on the big stage this week.  I've never been one for girly things, but fifteen little girls in matching hair buns and pink tulle was astonishingly adorable.  I couldn't stop taking photos.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Imagine. Create.

Or, in my case, find a photo on Pinterest and copy.

Our new room needs some artwork on the walls. I intend to hang some of the kids' artwork and perhaps some of my photographs, but I was inspired by something I stumbled upon on Pinterest to create some wall hangings of my own (note intentional use of "wall hangings" instead of "art").

What I think the design folks call my "inspiration piece" can be made in Great Britain for a mere $329.58.  I'm too blog-incompetent to embed the photo in this post, but you can see it here. Instead of placing an order, I made two for $17.50 each. If my English major math is correct, that's a savings of $624.16, and all it took were two canvases and pre-cut wood words from Michael's, wood glue and a couple cans of spray paint.

Cheap, easy, and I got to use spray paint. A win all around, I'd say.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reading Dinner

You know those moments as a parent, when your children make your eyes well and your heart feel like it might burst with pride and love? Well, today was not one of those days.

The best thing I can say is that at least they waited until we were home, rather than starting in the car. I imagine it was the audiobook that saved us there. They were at each other from the moment we walked in from school--picking fights, poking each other, smarting off, and screaming. Lots of screaming.

I have to confess that, after a while, I was doing some of the screaming. I was particularly disappointed (with them and with myself), because I'd picked them up from school ready to be a good, interactive, playful mom. Not the dinner-cooking, dish-washing, no-I-don't-have-time-to-play-charades mom that I usually am. T-ball was cancelled for rain, and I thought we could all work on some project together, play a game, be together. Instead, screaming.

When we finally aborted our craft attempts and confirmed that the neighbor kids couldn't play, it was time for me to make (reheat) dinner. At that point, they each grabbed a book and a bean bag in the book corner, and the house was quiet. Blessedly, peacefully, sanity-returning quiet. The corollary to never wake a sleeping baby is never interrupt the kids when they are quiet and happy, so I struggled with whether to call them to dinner at all. Ultimately, I decided that we should eat while the food was hot, so I called them to dinner. Four times.

They both meandered to the dinner table, book in hand, trying to walk and read. Dinner usually is a time to talk about our day and try to get some sense of what is going on in their lives and their heads. Today, all I asked was, "Reading Dinner?" They both nodded, so I picked up a book.

We were joined at the dinner table by Curious George, Greek gods, and Anne Lamott. They were very quiet dinner companions;  not a word was spoken until plates were clean. When the kids asked if they were allowed to have dessert, I allowed each a popsicle, just so we could continue to sit in peace with our books.

Once dinner was over, mayhem returned until I declared the day over and sent both upstairs to their rooms, where they were allowed to stay awake longer as long as they stayed in bed and read. Quiet returned. Books are maintaining this mother's sanity.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Little Girl, Big Bed

The upstairs A/C isn't working and the little one was overheating in her poorly circulated room, so she's been sleeping in the guest room for a few days.  Such little girl things in such a big bed (so big that she had to bring in a step stool to avoid jumping up onto the bed each time).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The People at HGTV are a Bunch of Liars

Unlike every DIY or home makeover show on TV, in the real world, a major project takes more than a few hours.  In fact, it might take more than several weeks, especially if you are trying to do as much as possible yourself only during school hours while still making sure your household eats and has clean laundry.

Since we moved into this house five years ago, we have eaten in our dining room exactly zero times.  We are not exactly "dining" types.  We have an eat-in kitchen with a 10-foot table that seats all parents, children and grandparents in our family at one time, and we adults typically eat in front of the TV after the kids have gone to bed.

Other than to pass through or toss coats during a party, I don't think any one of us ever went into the dining room.  A few years ago, when my parents moved and gave me the player piano I learned to play on, the piano ended up in the dining room only because it wouldn't fit down the stairs to the basement and I had nowhere else to put it. That made the dining room full of one large piano, plus a contemporary buffet, table and chairs from our Chicago condo that, frankly, looked absurd in this (modernized) New England colonial.

On top of that, the dining room was ugly.  When we moved in, we deemed the dining room a Project to Be Done Later and tried to ignore it.  It had dark green walls that made the whole room dark and depressing, plus a chandelier and wall sconces that were an offense to lighting designers everywhere.  For five years, I shuddered at those fixtures every time I walked past.

Today, we no longer have a dining room.  Thanks to a great concept by my husband and, if I do say so myself, a ton of work by me, we now have a bright, cheerful homework/craft room.  After much debate with the kids, we have decided to call it the studio, which is pretentious and ridiculous but easier than saying homework/craft room.

Here are some before and after shots.  I didn't plan in advance to share, so the Before pictures are less than great.


This is the dining room before we moved into the house, as decorated by the previous owners.  We took down the window treatments and had the yellow ceiling repainted white before we moved into the house.

The depository of things that didn't go elsewhere. My contemporary table, floral Oriental-style rug, and piano.  You can't see them, but the beautiful light fixtures are still there.  Ugh.


Ta-da!  The studio:

But there's more:

Because replacing molding, repainting walls and trim, and laying FLOR tiles while shopping for new furniture wasn't enough, I also decided to tackle my first furniture restoration project.  I originally planned to put a wall of kitchen cabinets with a long counter workspace on the wall opposite the desks.  Over time, I decided that the cost and commitment of mounted cabinetry was more than I was ready to undertake, and then I found this beautiful piece of junk on craigslist.

I really wish I'd taken some close-ups, because it doesn't look half-bad in this photo.  In reality, the corners were severely dinged, the side had a giant scratch, and the top and back were ruined by water damage.  It had been used as an armoire, with a single small shelf and bar across the top.  It also smelled like an old lady's garage, which is where I found it.

I decided that, although seriously overpriced at $75, this fine piece of crap was destined to be our new arts and crafts cabinet and that I must have it.

I had never tried anything like this before, but I wanted to learn and see if I could do it.  (Plus, it was an excuse to buy some power tools and learn to use my nail gun.)  My dad helped me with the carpentry when he visited recently, replacing the top and back of the cabinet and adding shelves.  I stripped paint, filled gouges, and sanded and sanded and sanded.  Going into the project, I had no appreciation for just how long this would take.  Just removing the six painted over hinges took many hours, and I thought I'd never get rid of the red paint (or the white paint or the solid brown stain beneath it).  It has taken what feels like forever, but my husband finally can move his car back into the garage because the art cabinet is complete.

As you can see, the cabinet is chock full o' craft supplies, with room to spare, and I spent quite a bit of quality time with my label maker.  This makes me happy.

Future additions to the room will include artwork on the walls, a work table for me with drawers and room for helpers, and possibly wall shelves above the desks on either side of the windows.  I already have the work table, but its assembly awaits the sale of the old dining table (anyone need a new table???  please?), and I haven't found shelves of a style, size, and quality I find suitable.  The important thing is that the kid portion of the room is now fully usable, and they have wasted no time taking over the place.

Another room for Pokemon sprawl.

His and hers LEGO desk sculptures by our resident builder. 

I hope the kids are ready to spend a long time in their new work space, because it's going to take me hours to empty the garage and clean everything in it, all of which is coated in a fine red dust from the cabinet project.  It was fun, but I'm ready to move onto the next thing.  Just last night, my son asked, "So what's your next big project?"  It remains to be seen.