Friday, January 27, 2012

Project Playroom...

You may recall that back in December, I made reference to my quest to create a play area for my children. With that dream came great trepidation, for being crafty ain't way up there on my list of core strengths. (Please see I got skills post for more details on my lack of ability.)

The following picture captures the exact moment when I knew I had to create a stimulating space for my children to play in...I left the room for one minute to get my camera, and came back to find this:

a) Jack attempting to climb the bunk bed using only a skipping rope, b) Isla attempting a yet-to-be-named gymnast move, and c) James looked completely horrified at the thought of being crunched by a 30-pound carcass.

The time had come. I needed to take action. But what to do? We had a space in the basement that housed a majority of the toys. But friends, it was downright frightful. Hell, I didn't even to be down there, never mind sending the kids there to play. There was wall-to-wall debris; I hardly dared using the bathroom down there because that meant walking through the dreaded zone. It was all but guaranteed I would slip on a ball and/or crush my sole on an errant piece of Lego. I F***ING HATE LEGO. There. I said it.

And so came the genesis of Project Playroom, a term that my husband has come to loathe. I may not excel at execution of creative ideas, but friends, can I plan. I drew pictures, came up with spreadsheets, cut out ideas from magazines and built this wondrous display of stimulation and mind-blowing excitement in my mind.

First up? Painting old furniture. One of our neighbours recently moved to a condo and he left us a couple of old desks for the kids. They were perfect, although the old brown and teal on the school desk wasn't cutting it for me, nor was the paint colour on the other desk a shade that I would consider inspiring...shit beige doesn't bring out the best in me. I forgot to take a before shot, but you all know what those school desks look's the after shot:

Now let it be said, I had to leave these bad boys out on our driveway for a full week before the paint fumes subsided. You see, I had walked into the paint store with a very specific request, and it went as follows: "I don't scrape. I don't prime. I need paint that'll cover wood and metal and I need it to be in the most vibrant colours you possess. What do you have for me?"

I'll tell you what they had for me. Some oil-based chestnut sitting in the back room - a paint that no one had asked for in over five years. Paint that would give me the biggest rush I've had since University. I was higher than high. I felt no pain that entire week, which says something, cause I was crawling under those desks and contorted in some awful positions trying to paint those damn things, just weeks after giving birth. And just look at the result! How fun are those colours? (or am I still high?) If it was up to me, all schools would be required to paint their boring desks...I could even help pick out the paint. Not only would kids be more stimulated, but the little buggers would be so cut on fumes that productivity would surely go way up. Retention, maybe not, but at least they'd be quiet and pay attention.

Now where was I? Right. Desks, complete. Next up was ordering some fun stuff for the wall, specifically some letters to spell the following three words: READ, PLAY, LOVE. To me, that covers the basics of childhood - read to feed your imagination and be transported to new worlds, play like you mean it and love hard, knowing it's the most important thing you'll ever do. So I Googled wall letters, or something like that, and found this outfit in the States (sorry, totally forget the name on the place...) that created exactly what I was looking for. But all the fun was in that phone call. It went something like this:

Me: Hello! I'm calling from Canada. I'd like to order some letters however your website does not allow me to enter a Canadian address.
Him: Not a prob. I can hook you up. What are you looking for?

Important to note here that dude sounded way BAD. Still very polite but the voice said it all. Been there. Know it well.

Me: I'd like the word love in red, play in green and read in blue. All arial font, uppercase.
Him: That shouldn't be a problem. OK. I think I have this down. Let me read it back to you. Love - L.O.V.E in red.
Me: Yes.
Him: Play - P.L.A.Y in green.
Me: Uh-uh.
Him: Read - R.E.E.D in blue.
Me: What was that?
Him: R.E.E.D in blue.
Me: Ah, no. Not that type of reed. Although that would be extremely funny considering I'm putting it up over their library area. Hahahaha! Oooooh, hahahaha, that's good." snort.......(I have a sick propensity to laugh at my own jokes, even when, especially when, others don't find them to be funny.)
Him: So, OK, what then?
Me: Sorry. Read - R.E.A.D in blue.
Him: Cool. Done. (Did I mention he was really nice?) So now I just need your billing and mailing address. Let's start with your name.
Me: I'll just spell it for you. It's like, almost the entire alphabet. Capital J, a, n, i, t,a SPACE Capital V, a, n, SPACE, small d,e SPACE Capital V, e, l, d, e (I just had a flashback of having to call almost every single government agency back when I lost my wallet and all of my ID. You can imagine the horror on my co-workers face after round 57 of Capital J, a, n, i, t, a SPACE Capital V, get the idea. Michelle, do you still spell my name in your sleep?)
Him: OK. I got up to the e. Then you lost me.
Me: Which e?
Him: Uhm, not sure really. Let me read this back to you.

This continued for another few minutes until we successfully spelled my name. And then, somewhere between my city and my province, came his mewl of horror.

Him: OK, can you spell that for me?
Me: Regina, Saskatchewan. Capital R, e, g, i, n, a SPACE Capital S, a, s, k, a, t, c, h, e, w, a, n
Him: You're killing me here. (he actually said this...he made me laugh so hard I wrote it down.) You're really killing me. (he said again, and laughed...)
Me: No worries. I'm killing myself. In fact, you had better read that Saskatchewan part back to me 'cause I'm not entirely certain I got that right. For the record, I realize it sounds extremely funny but I'm not making any of this shit up. My name is real, the name of the city is real, and the province is real. I swear it.
Him: Oh, I believe you. It's just, WOW. Of all days.

See, I knew it! Hung-over. I was dying to tell him that I was actually a Dutch lap-dancer from a city that rhymes with fun who was hired to call him up to talk really slowly and breathe heavy. But I didn't want to confuse the poor dude with another one of my bad jokes. Clearly, as it was, he was hanging on by a claw, plus I really needed those letters.

With the letters on their way and the furniture starting to take shape, we had a small matter of excess to deal with. A serious toy purge was in order. We decided to get Jack to help choose which toys would stay, and which ones would be donated to charity. We starting doing this with him last year, just after he turned four. I figured that was old enough for him to understand how blessed he was in comparison to others, who have so little. The conversation last year went something like this:

Me: Jack. We need to go through your toys and you need to help Mommy choose which ones we're going to give away.
Jack: Why do I have to give some away?
Me: Cause. There's lots of little boys and girls who have no Mommy or Daddy, or any toys to play with, that's why.

He looked completely uninterested; like that wasn't a good enough reason to give his stuff away. Clearly, I had no choice but to up the stakes.

Me: Some of these poor kids have no arms, either. It's very sad.

Jack looked at me, shocked. I felt a little bad.

Jack: Well, if they don't have arms, then how can they even play with the toys?

But this point, Roddy's staring at me, shaking his head, and mouthing: "Why did you say that?"

Me: Jack. Mommy has no idea why she just said that. I'm wrong. They actually do have arms. And anyways, that's not the point. The most important point here is that Mommy will have a heart attack if I have to look at this pile of shi...OK, let's get busy sorting through this, shall we? (WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?)

Donations made, we were ready to rock and roll. The goal was to have Project Playroom ready to go for Christmas, so we could unveil their new space as their big present from Santa. It only took Santa a half-bottle of vodka and a litany of hateful obscenities to put the kitchenette together. Note: when the instructions indicate "assembly requires 2 adults, 4 - 6 hours", they are not joking. That means one clocking in 8. Hey, I was busy doing other shit. Santa'll get over it. Eventually.

The only other episode occurred when I was helping Santa space the letters to hang on the wall...I left for no more than four minutes, came back downstairs to find that he had hung the "Y" in play without my supervision. Here's a snippet from that lovely discussion:

Me: What the hell? Why is the "Y" so far away from the "PLA"?
Him: Don't know what you're talking about. Just looks that way because it's a "Y"
Me: What?
Him: The spacing is perfect. Quit being so anal.
Me: I'm not being anal. It looks like that two-headed monster from Sesame Street splitting the word to teach kids how to pronounce each syllable. However in this case, "PLA" and "Y" don't make much sense. You'll have to move it.
Him: You actually want me to rip this off the wall and move it? This is the same glue that you adhered to your skin when attempting to fix Jack's ornament. We all remember how that went down. Do you have any idea what that'll do to the drywall if I rip it off?
Me: I really don't care. It's gotta be moved. I'm going to look at that every day and it'll drive me wild.
Him: I have to be around you every day and you drive me wild.
Me: Stop with the compliments. We don't have time for sex right now. Move it.
Him: (as he yanked the "Y" off the wall, stripping a chunk of drywall with it, he uttered...) May this chunk of missing drywall always remind you of how anal you are. You're a freak.
Me: Ah, but it won't. Cause you're going to patch that up.

Oh, it was lovely. All joyful and merry and shit. But friends, the good news is that we came out the other side. I'm pleased to present you with the following before and after photos.


I can't even believe I'm showing you these photos...I'm a dirt bag. More importantly, Where's Waldo?

The backhoe to the princess tent: "I will eviscerate you! Die! Die!"
Stuffed bunny, to no one in particular: "Please, I beg of you. Pull me from this hole or shoot me. Now."
Truck to the red barn: "Your barn door's open. AGAIN. Do us all a favour. Tuck that shit in and zip up." 
And that's about all I can make out.


It is absolutely amazing what bright colours can do for a space, not to mention adding
stuff to the wall. Even when everything gets messy again, which it did within minutes,
your eyes are drawn upwards to the wall, distracting you from the carnage.
 (except for the drywall damage, brought to you by the letter "Y").
The trick is hiding everything in storage containers; those bright pails all over the place
house crayons, markers, Play-Doh and "food supplies"  for the kitchen.

And the Cars bed? It had to be moved somewhere when the bunk bed was required upstairs.
Rather than sell it, we decided to set it up in the basement for the kids to play on.
They love it. They love jumping on beds - who doesn't? It's one of their favourite things.

Red storage unit from Ikea; it was remarkably easy to put together and great quality.

Little desk given to us by a neighbour, chair from Grandma; both painted yellow.
Oh, did I find a flower knob and paint that green to match the other desk?
You know it. Peanut is currently obsessed with Olivia, hence the artwork over her desk.

The almost "REED" area; books are stored in baskets at the top with favourite toys in the bookshelf.
I framed a few photos of the kids loving on each other. Doesn't get much better than that.

Little Thomas the Tank Engine houses their favourite cars and trains,
and the little four-drawer bin that Thomas is sitting on has all their craft supplies in it.
It's the perfect size to store construction paper, scissors, glue, glitter, stickers - the works.
Spending $45 on a toy organizer from Costco may have been my best purchase...
the kids can now access their favourite toys from bins, rather than from a heap on the floor.
Boring, yes...but the chance of stepping on a small plastic ball and
landing on your back has been significantly reduced. Again, yawn.

The frames on Jack's desk are a family photo, a caption that reads "I love you just the way you are"
plus one of my all-time favourite Winnie The Pooh quotes:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet,
Taking Pooh's paw.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."

And yeah, you spotted him! Our good old elf-on-the-shelf named Sam Cooper (sitting on the easel), helped us out immensely in the week leading up to Christmas. "Oh, look what Sam Cooper did!
He must be getting stuff ready for Santa. Oh, what a cheeky little devil!"

I'm assuming as our family grows, there'll be changes to this area. But for now, we all love it. It was definitely worth the pain. And the look on our kids' faces when we showed them for Christmas? Priceless. I'll never forget their expressions of pure joy. That right there, made it all worthwhile.


Erin W said...

OMG!!! Laughing so hard I'm crying right now.....frick I wish you two video taped SOME of this stuff!!!! Lol. The room looks AWESOME!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!!! Xoxo

Kristin said...

I have mad affectionate feelings for this playroom! Care to contract yourself out? And you think you have problems with your last name... Try having all the vowels and a z.


Kristin (rob f's wife)

Jenny V said...

This post is funny as hell! You did an amazing job reworking your space. I'm always surprised at how good it makes me feel after reorganizing a cluttered area. And I would have been just as anal about hanging those letters! Well done, :)

Janita said...

Erica, Kristen and Jenny - thanks for the compliments! I'm really pleased with the results. It's like getting smacked by a rainbow when you walk into the basement now. Good times. And Kristen, I can only imagine the fun with all the vowels and a z...that's begging for trouble. And yes, I'd be more than willing to pop over to BC to harass you and Rob! Plus, I need me some cuddles with that adorable baby girl of yours.

Chelle said...

Totally laughed at the spelling of your name.... I can appreciate that. Saw the spread in the QC, great job Mommy extraordinaire, the best gift I received from my childhood was a healthy dose of imagination.

Anonymous said...

The room is AMAZING!! I too am a HUGE fan of the toy organizer from Costco. Life changer that one is. I was remembering my childrens adventure into charity but I always said, "let's gather toys to send to good will." I later here Alexis saying to Elle, "I don't know why this great Will guys keeps getting all our stuff." Kids are too funny sometimes. Congrats on the great space and thanks for the laugh yet again!!! (esp Roddy and your conversation...classic!)


Anonymous said...

Love this one Janita....I really was laughing outLOUD. PLus it gives us new parents hope that these toys that collect can be organized!!! Thanks for sharing.

Jodi Carmichael said...

Oh Janita! That is hilarious. I have to tell you what my 7 year old Sarah thought we were saying when we were doing a hellish cross-Canada driving trip this summer.

When we approached Regina, we were already late in the day and late for our next hotel stop in Calgary.

Drew and I pondered back an forth, "Hmmm, should we go right into Regina?"

"I don't know, shoud we go into Regina?"

All was well until Sarah blurted, "You guys are so rude. Granny's gonna' wash your mouths out with soap when we get back home!"

No lies. We laughed all the way to Calgary. And yes we went right into the centre of Regina!

Brian McCusker said...

The room looks great, Janita. But the "Y" in "PLAY" appears to be too close to the "A".

Daniele said...

did you do this in the summer (I was admiring the lush, green grass by the driveway!) ... I absolutely love it, I need to do a toy rehaul here myself. And that phone call was too funny!

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