Get ready for an onslaught of blog posts over the next couple of weeks (because it will take me that long to write them all!)
In addition to the regular stuff going on at home with the kids, I'll be catching you up on blogging our amazing week-long whirlwind trip to Israel!
I'll try and mix them all up, so you aren't overwhelmed with trip posts. I can't wait to share our adventures with you (and a sampling of the nearly 2,000 photos we took)!
Since I'm planning to back-date the posts for our trip to keep them in mostly chronological order here on my blog, I'll update this post with links to all of my Israel Trip blog posts as they're added:
- Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
- Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
- Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
- Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
- Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
- Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
- Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
- Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
- Israel Trip: City of David
- Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
- Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
- Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
- Israel Trip: The Food
The older our kids get, the more crowded our calendar seems to be. No longer is the day simply determined by naptime and bedtime (don't worry...when it did, I didn't think that was simple either).
Now, it's more of a week-by-week barrage of activities, carpools, appointments, responsibilities, and weekend trips. We've been trying to figure out how to make our week flow smoothly, stay on top of chores and housework, and still manage to pick everyone up on time at all 13 carpool appointments each week.
So, I thought I'd share some things that help our family stay on top of our schedule each week and see what others do as well.
The Sunday Sweep
Starting at about 4:00 every Sunday afternoon, we start the Sunday Sweep to get ourselves--and the house--ready for the week ahead. Here are some of the to-dos on that list:
- What's on the Schedule? I check our calendars for the next week and transfer each days' activities to our dry erase board calendar on the refrigerator for quick reference throughout the week. Ben and I have both migrated to using Google's calendars, and have access to each other's calendars, which makes it helpful for us to both be aware of what's going on for the entire family -- even from our phones.
- Weekly Meal Plan & Shopping List. Once I know what kind of activites we have going on for the week, we search through the kitchen and our deep freezer and come up with 4-5 dinners for the week and add them to our dry erase board calendar. When we have evening or late-afternoon activites, we plan for leftovers or crock-pot dinners. I also put together a shopping list for any random things we might need that I can pick up early in the week.
Put everything in it's place. This is usually something the kids do--putting away toys, clean laundry, shoes, books and anything else that has managed to get thrown all over the house while we were "relaxing" over the weekend.
Vaccum. I've found that vacuuming the carpets on Sunday night, right after everything has been put away is great motivation to get the kids to *actually* put stuff away -- especially picking up Legos off the floor! Plus, a freshly vaccuumed floor makes the house feel "ready" to tackle the week. If I was really ambitious, I'd clean the bathrooms on Sunday night too, but I don't. Instead, I try to clean them on Friday mornings AFTER all the damage of the week has been done. :)
- Lay out clothes. I've started laying out 5 outfits for both kids on Sunday nights, and then letting them pick a pile each day so they can get dressed on their own in the mornings. Paxton doesn't usually care what he wears, but for Ayla, this has been KEY to eliminating morning tantrums about not liking her outfit options. She and I come up with the outfits together, so they're approved by us both ahead of time.
- Pack Lunches. I like to pack lunches the night before, usually while we are making dinner. I've found that I simply can't do it as quickly in the mornings, and I can usually find 5 minutes while dinner is cooking to knock it out and have them ready for the morning.
The Morning Routine
Beat the beasts. I get up at 6 am. That gives me just enough time to get dressed, check my email, and wake myself up a little bit before the kids get up. I'm not "chipper" in the mornings. I need some time to myself before I can be civil. Most days Ben is up early too, and getting his run in before Ayla leaves for school.
Set an alarm. This year, Ayla (2nd grade) gets up on her own with an alarm at 6:25. She turns it off, gets dressed and puts her shoes on before coming downstairs. It often takes her until about 6:45 -- especially when she has to tie her tennis shoes -- but she does it all on her own and it is WONDERFUL. I think she's like me. She needs some time to herself when she first wakes up, so this way, we don't have to interact until both of us have had a chance to de-grumpify ourselves.
Paxton (4) doesn't wake up with an alarm, but he usually gets up shortly after Ayla does on his own. He comes downstairs in his underwear, with his puppy (and his eyes barely open). I usually say good morning, and then turn him around and send him back upstairs to get dressed and make his bed so that then he can have breakfast. Which he does...on his own. :)
- Breakfast. While the kids are getting dressed, I put their breakfast (usually cereal) on the table. While they are eating their 4 bowls of cereal each, I use that time to empty the dishwasher, put their lunches into their backpacks, make coffee and make my own breakfast.
Out the Door. Ayla leaves for school just after 7 and then Paxton plays with toys while I finish my coffee and catch up on blogs, facebook, emails, etc. Usually by 7:45 we're out the door too and getting started on our activities for the day (rec, school drop off, playdate, etc.)
- Check-In & Adjust. Since Ben and I both work from home, we're able to check-in with each other often throughout the day. Sometimes our plans change, or one of us gets busier than the other, and we can make adjustments on the fly to better fit each of our days. That also means we're able to share carpool duties, household stuff like laundry, dishes and cooking, and running errands, which is a VERY nice convenience of working from home.
The After School Shuffle
- Unload Backpacks. The VERY first thing the kids do when they get home is unpack their backpacks, hand over any important papers, put their lunch boxes away and hang their backpacks up on their hooks so they are ready for the next day (and out of the way!) Ayla's homework goes on the desk in our entryway - she usually works on it a little later in the evening-- papers are sorted and either immediately tossed, saved in a folder, or dealt with as needed. Getting all that stuff taken care of immediately helps move quickly on to whatever else is planned for the afternoon and evening and keeps the mess of their school papers under control. Plus, then nothing has gotten lost by the morning, when it's time to leave the house!
The Evening Routine
- Kitchen clean-up. After dinner every night, we make sure that the kitchen is completely cleaned up -- all the dishes washed, counters and table wiped, floor swept, and counters cleared of papers and miscellaneous objects. This makes waking up in the morning SOOO much more peaceful!!
- Empty buckets. On our way upstairs to take baths and get ready for bed, the kids carry their buckets upstairs and put those miscellaneous things away that had accumulated downstairs throughout the day (or past few days if it hasn't been much). They are usually full of shoes, socks and books!
Bedroom cleanup. If I have the time and energy to enforce it (most nights...but not all), the kids have to clean up their bedrooms each night before bed. Ben is better at ignoring it, but I can't concentrate to read them stories or put them to bed when their floor is an obstacle course of trucks, blocks, action figures, stuffed animals, dolls and blankets all of over the floor. It *actually* raises my blood pressure. Thankfully, during the school year, their rooms don't get trashed EVERY single day. And over the weekends, we let the mess slide till Sunday night.
- Enforce an early bedtime. Our kids are in bed by 7:30 with the lights out at 8pm as many nights of the week as our schedule allows us to enforce it. When we get them in bed late, it often comes back to bite us in the morning with crabby kids.
And then...we start all over again!
What works for your family?
Do you have any tips to share for keeping things on-schedule at your house?
Paxton has been sick with a cold this week, so we've been hanging out around the house, laying low. I promised Ayla if she cleaned up her room, we could do some sort of art project or sewing project. She was VERY excited about doing a sewing project.
Since I didn't have anything in particular in mind and she had never sewn anything before (nor am I very good at it), we started with something easy. I pulled out a scrap of denim, some embroidery floss, a needle and a hoop, and we decided on a simple rainbow with her name underneath it for the design.
I drew the design on the back, threaded the needle and knotted the end for her, and then showed her how to make straight stitches. She did the rest! She did an amazing job following the lines and had remarkably evenly spaced stitches for her first try!
The whole project took her about an hour. And she was REALLY proud of the results.
Plus, it happened to fit perfectly in a 5" x 7" frame we had picked out to use in her room.
Whew...a successful art project!
A local friend of mine has three boys, one Ayla's age, one Paxton's age, and one younger. As I've gotten to know this family, I've been blown-away impressed with the boys' manners, their willingness to be helpful, and their capabilities. The oldest first introduced himself to Ben and I by telling us his full name, shaking our hands, and calling us by name. He exudes independence and responsibility. The middle one can often be seen helping the youngest brother and doing little jobs. And even the youngest (who barely talks), is his daddy's little sidekick, helping with all the jobs around the house. They say please and thank you, they share with their brothers and friends without being asked, and they RARELY complain or whine. They call themselves a TEAM -- and they are one!
So I've been keenly observing their mom and dad and picking their brains about how they do it, trying to incorporate some little things in our house - things like setting and clearing the table, keeping their rooms clean(er), etc. Because, let's be honest. Ben and I were doing ALL of those things for A & P, *while* they demanded we do more for them! And they had no clue how to make a bed, or fill the dishwasher, or sweep the floor--skills they NEED to have in life. So, who's the sucker??? Us.
No more! Once I saw some other kids their age being responsible and contributing to their family -- I was done with being a hovering slave parent!
And then, I heard about this book -- Cleaning House - A Mom's 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement:
Is Your Home Out of Order?
Do your kids expect clean folded clothes to magically appear in their drawers? Do they roll their eyes when you suggest they clean the bathroom? By racing in to make their lives easy, have you unintentionally reinforced your children’s belief that the world revolves around them?
Dismayed at the attitude of entitlement that had crept into her home, Kay Wyma got some attitude of her own. Cleaning House is her account of a year-long campaign to introduce her five kids to basic life skills and the ways meaningful work can increase earned self-confidence and concern for others.
With irresistible humor and refreshing insights, Kay candidly details the ups and downs of equipping her kids for such tasks as making beds, refinishing a deck chair, and working together. The changes that take place in her household will inspire you to launch your own campaign to dislodge your kids from the center of their universe.
“If you want your children to be more responsible, more self-assured, and more empathetic, Cleaning House is for you.”
—Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family
While we were on our trip, I read the book. Usually in the backseat of my car, while my dad chauffered us around Chicago. It's pretty good, not exactly profound, but it's a good catalyst for recognizing different areas of life where kids need to learn how to be more responsible, and she gives a realistic response to how well that went over in her family (not always so well received...) The biggest thing I learned from her was START EARLY. She had the most trouble with her teenager...
I've tried to incorporate some of her ideas, some of what I'd seen my friends and their kids accomplishing together, and did an *ok* job of giving my kids some responsibility in the middle of a 3-week long vacation. In some ways, since we had less stuff to take care of, it was a perfect introduction to being responsible for their stuff.
So, while staying at my dad's house, we gave them jobs. They made their "beds" every morning, got themselves dressed, cleaned up their own dishes, wiped up spills, helped with the garbage, cleaned up their toys, carried their own bags, helped load and unload the car, etc.
Then we came home. So far, it's been a good transition into having more responsibility at home too. It's a work in progress, but I can happily report that it's going well, and though they complain about it some (mostly they're excited about it), they ARE contributing to the family, instead of creating more work for Ben and I to do. And I call that SUCCESS.
Ayla is 7, Paxton is 4. Here are some jobs they've recently added to their repoirtoire of responsibility:
- set the table for dinner
- clear the table after dinner
- put away silverware from clean dishwasher
- replace garbage bags in garbage cans
- clean up his room and put toys away
- make his bed in the morning
- get himself dressed
- wipe down kitchen table & chairs
- feed the cat
Ayla (in addition to the jobs Paxton can do):
- wash dishes & fill up dishwasher
- vaccuum kitchen floors
- clean mirrors
- wipe down counters in kitchen & bathrooms
- make & pack lunches
- put food & condiments, etc. away in refrigerator
- straighten bookshelves
- go back and get something we forgot at Target (while I was in line checking out)
- strip sheets and remake her bed
- take dirty laundry to garage
They are lists we're adding to every day. Not only has it been good for them to learn to do all these things, but they're actually HELPING and making my job easier. Once I have seen that they're capable of all these things, I'm much more comfortable saying "YES! You can help!" and trust that it will be helpful. Because they WANT to help. They always have, I just wouldn't let them. It wasn't their fault they didn't know how to do anything -- it was mine!
So here's to raising responsible, capable, contributing kids! Expect great things from them and watch them happily strive to do even more...
While the kids and I were out of town for three weeks, you might think Ben would take the opportunity to get lots of sleep, watch movies, and relax in the quiet of an empty house.
Not this year.
The day before we left for Chicago, we were picking out new carpet for the bedrooms and hallway upstairs and the basement playroom (all of which has needed to be replaced since we moved in 6 years ago - but no one in their right mind would replace carpet with toddlers in the house).
In an effort to get new carpet before our painting marathon from last fall became dated and needed to be redone, we decided an empty house for three weeks was the perfect time (for Ben) to tackle the project. Unfortunately, it meant he had to do all the work himself.
He spent two and a half weeks moving all the furniture out, tearing out carpet, repairing the floors (no more squeaks!) having the carpet installed, and then moving everything BACK where it belonged.
What I didn't know, is that in addition to ALL that, he also painted all four of the bedrooms, including ceilings, our closet and repainted the hallway (which we had inadvertently painted with flat paint the first time).
So now, with the exception of our bathrooms, our whole house is freshly painted in shades of gray. No more tan.
WOW! Best. Surprise. Ever. Because I was NOT looking forward to having to move all the furniture again, try to protect the carpets, and doing another painting marathon any time soon.
So here's a look at the almost brand-new-feeling of our house...
We took the opportunity to rearrange a little bit, and eventually we'll add things back to the walls and maybe choose some new artwork, etc.
What I love the most is how quiet it is! I can get up in the morning and walk all around upstairs, without waking anyone up!
As Ben puts it, you could bowl down our hallway, it's been reinforced so well!
Now the basement playroom/den feels more like a part of the house again. While the concrete painted floor was a very good choice for us for the past several years, now that we know it doesn't get wet down there anymore, and we're done riding bicycles and riding toys all over, it sure is nice and cozy with comfy carpet.
Don't your feet just feel happy looking at it? Well, okay, so maybe you don't care, but mine sure like it!
Rainbow Unicorns & Gymnastics. They go together, right?
In our world, I guess they do. My *almost 7* year old daughter Ayla asked months ago to have a Rainbow Unicorn birthday party.
Actually, she hijacked a Oriental Trading catalog and circled and wrote down all the rainbow unicorn items she wanted for her birthday party so I could get the *right* thing. Why fight it? Rainbows are fun and easy to decorate with, Oriental Trading is inexpensive, and I'm all for easy birthday parties. :) I convinced her that a gymnastics party would be a lot of fun for her and her friends, and we just threw in the Rainbow Unicorns for some eye candy!
Here's how the Rainbow Unicorn Gymnastics party took shape:
We found some super cute 5" x 7" Rainbow Unicorn birthday invitations at Zazzle, so that was a no-brainer. :) They were easy to customize, shipped quickly, looked great, and I didn't have to design or print them!
Since we were having her party at a Gymnastics gym, we didn't need to do much in the way of decorating, so I kept it very simple. I picked up 7 balloons at the Dollar Tree in rainbow colors (the purple one didn't make it to the party) and used rocks and tulle to anchor the ribbons to the long tables, and put a couple of long red plastic table cloths from Dollar Tree underneath.
We ordered the Rainbow Unicorn dessert napkins from Oriental Trading and used solid purple dessert plates from Dollar Tree, but only because these plates were out of stock when I needed to order them. Actually, the napkins worked out better since the plates ended up covered in cake & icing. :) Okay, some of the napkins did too!
I ordered a unicorn cake topper from Birthday Express because I couldn't find any unicorn cake designs at my local grocery stores -- and I don't bake cakes. So I went the semi-homemade route and we ordered this pretty pony to sit on top of a plain white cake:
But I gave her a little acrylic paint makeover so she'd fit into the party a little better:
Since it was an afternoon party, we only served cake, bottled water and Smarties. Easy. So easy.
Our cake was a 1/4 marble sheet cake from the Target bakery with white and yellow icing and rainbow sprinkles. They wrote "Happy Birthday Ayla" for me, and I added the cardboard "grassy meadow" and unicorn. I was afraid the unicorn's feet would sink into the cake. Word of warning -- cardboard sticks to icing. We just scraped it off and cut into the cake after she blew out the candles and we were ready to cut -- didn't matter how the icing looked then!
The unicorn was a big hit. The girls passed it around the table so everyone could rub the unicorn's horn for good luck. Plus, it's sturdy and durable enough, that now Ayla can use it as a toy with her Barbies and dollhouse dolls.
Oriental Trading made the goody bags really easy. We ordered rainbow unicorn necklaces for each of the girls (which arrived as a tangled mess of chains, but once I got them untangled, were a really AWESOME party favor for a bunch of little girls - and better quality than I expected).
Unicorn Rainbow Necklaces - Oriental Trading
We also included a sheet of stickers, that matched the theme perfectly:
Unicorn Party Sticker Sheets (set of 12) - Oriental Trading
And multi-colored glow sticks that Ayla spotted at the Dollar Tree -- but they're available from Oriental Trading as well.
Plus, we added a few packages of Smarties for their sweet tooth. :) Sort of rainbow-themed, right?
We put the whole lot of goodies into a clear party bag and sealed it with some rainbow striped cardstock and staples:
The best part of this party was that I didn't have to plan any activities. The girls played on the gym floor and the coaches guided them through the different stations (trampoline, floor, bars, pit, etc.) They had 45 minutes of activity....then a little bit of cake, opening presents, and we sent 'em home!
Oh, and of course at our house, we like to dress for the occasion - we'll take any excuse to wear something special. :) Ayla requested rainbow nailpolish...
How to Turn Your Child's Artwork into Professionally Printed Notecards and Greeting Cards
I surprised Ayla today with a really fun package in the mail. I turned a couple of her "Best Of" first grade artwork projects into custom notecards at Zazzle! She was totally pumped when she saw them!
"Oh wow!! This is so cool!"
In order to turn her large pieces of artwork into small printed greeting cards, I photographed them with a high quality camera (and a tripod) in natural light. Our front porch in the afternoon is a perfect place to do that. I used painter's tape to tack them to the brick wall, hanging them as straight as I could, and placing the camera on a tripod directly across from them (to minimize any distorting). I ended up with pictures like this:
Then, I cropped the images to include only the artwork (it helped that they were pre-matted pieces), and auto-adjusted the contrast and colors in Photoshop, until I had two high quality images, like this:
Finally, I just uploaded them to Zazzle and created Ayla's very own personalized notecards with her own original artwork on it. What a cool way to show off her work! She'll love sending these to her friends and family (they even come with their own envelopes).
The cards turned out fantastic! The slick printed top looks really professional, and I love that I could customize the inside (I made the inside flap a solid coordinating color) add a little note on the back:
I'm definitely a fan. We'll totally be doing this again.
- Cameleon Watercolor Cards - Art by Ayla
- Sailboat Pastel Cards - Art by Ayla
- Watercolor Fish Cards - Art by Ayla
What do you do with your kids' artwork each year???
I blog a lot about things the kids do and like and record so many details about our family, but sometimes I forget to include some of the little quirky things that *I* like and do that are a small, but significant part of my day. So, since I don't do much scrapbooking anymore, here's a "blog post" version of an "all about me" layout...
In no particular order...here are some (mostly little) things that make me happy these days and have become my "everyday" luxuries:
I have always been a bowl (or two) of cereal in the morning kind of girl, but lately, I've been feeling much fuller when I eat a bowl of oatmeal with a little bit of unsweetened applesauce, raisins, cinnamon, and a few crushed pecans.
I think it makes me feel "healthy"....
...but don't be fooled. I can also put down a full box of White Cheddar Cheese Its in a day. I'm not *that* healthy. I used to LOVE the "Get Your Own Box" campaign that Cheese Its did a while back. It was VERY fitting for me. Very.
I bought this set of workout DVDs because I love Zuzka's workouts. They're short (usually only 10-20 minutes), SUPER hard, and you don't need any extra equipment. This is her first DVD series, but she also offers a free real-time workout of the week on Thursdays, and it's been perfect for my at-home workouts.
Sorry for the insane amount of Zuzka cleavage... :/
My old bathroom bag finally gave up after daily use for several years. One of the zippers broke, so I had to go searching for a new one that would be just as useful, since I use it every day. It hangs on the back of my bathroom door, and I roll it up and take it with me to the gym too. I couldn't find the exact bag I used to have -- apparently, it's not made anymore -- so...
This Mary Kay Roll Up Travel Bag is the ONLY bag I could find that was big enough for all my stuff, hangs on a hook, has 4 clear pockets, and *bonus* rolls up neatly into a cute little cube with a handle!
Thank you very much Mary Kay!
I.O. Metro Bree Sectional (in Bela Pewter):
We LOOOOOOVE our new couch. It's cozy, comfy, and looks so pretty, and best of all, we ALL fit on it. It took us a while to find it, then about 8 weeks for it to arrive. But that didn't stop me from going into I.O. Metro often to visit it while we waited for ours to arrive. The kids even brought library books to try it out.
I'm sure that's not weird...right?
We (and the store employees too I'm sure...) are happy to be able to sit on our own now, in our own living room.
My old Lily Bloom bag was so worn out I finally had to let it go a few months ago. (I'm sensing a theme here..evidently I like bags with pockets and I use them till they fall apart - I think I get that from my mom). Anyhow, I've been on the lookout for a new one ever since. TJ Maxx had a bunch in stock one week when I went in, so I picked up this fun bag.
Since I wear so many solid colors, I love a bright print purse!
For Christmas, my sister-in-law Rachel made all the Steed girls these cute little heated rice bags. Just heat 'em up in the microwave for a few minutes, and they feel wonderful on your sore shoulders, hips, hands, back, legs, etc. (I'm telling you, those ZCUT workouts make you *very* sore!)
A Twisty Tail Hair Do:
Lately, my hair has gotten very long (which i like), but it's also been giving me the heebie jeebies about mid-day. I think it's something about the mess of curls hanging over my shoulders. Why does my hair always fall forward like giant cocker spaniel ears instead of laying nicely down my back?
Anyhow, my favorite solution for no-nonsense hair days is this twisty-tail hair do. It's fast, it's easy, and it doesn't look like a messy bun or ponytail. It actually makes it appear as if I care a little bit about how it looks. I'll have to post some better photos of it soon, with a tutorial.
So there you go...just a few, mostly frivolous, and unneccessary things that make my days a little brighter. I'm no Oprah, so unfortunately, you can't expect a door prize of each of my favorite things just for reading this, but maybe you'll find someting new that makes you happy too. :)
Perhaps the catlyst for this whole painting endeavor was the living room. I painted it the WRONG color gray first, so it was a totally mismatched mess compared to the rest of the house.
Then, after watching the 2012 Summer Olympics without even enough places to sit for our small little family of four, we decided it was time to add some seats to the room. We settled on a big gray sectional that would be delivered in 8 weeks. So, we had to get going on the painting in order to make space for our new seating arrangement.
Here's where we started:
BEFORE (view from entryway):
...and where we sit now...
AFTER (view from entryway):
After we painted all the walls and ceiling the same SW Worldly Gray 7043 from my office and the entryway, we started filling it back up with furniture (and our brand new couch - which is the Bree Corner Sectional from I.O.Metro, in Bela Pewter)
We hauled off the green rug, moved the green curtains, couch and loveseat to the den, and started working with a new color scheme of mostly gray, teal and gold.
I bought the coordinating (but not matching) pillows from World Market, Kohls, and Target.
Here's a view from the other corner of the room, looking toward the front door. The big round coffee table is borrowed from Paxton's room for now (he had his fire station on it). I think it's a little too big for the room though, so we'll probably replace it with a rectangular coffee table eventually. But, since we haven't been out to shop for that yet, this one is sufficing for now (even if it does look like a kids' play table). It's a good height though, and *bonus* - it doesn't matter if it gets rings on it from drinks!
Now, our Dot Calm painting (see it back there in the corner?) seems to fit in a little better with the gold and turquoise shades in the painting and the gray and gold accents around the room.
For the floor, I lucked out one day at Target and found this 5' x 7' rug on clearance with the perfect colors - for only $45! I couldn't pass that up.
BEFORE (view from my office):
AFTER (view from my office):
We moved the Expedit bookshelves all to the back wall to make one long set of shelves. Even though I loved the L-shaped corner bookshelf look, it was too many "L-Shapes" for the room when you added in the sectional. I'm still hoping to replace that silver lamp behind the couch with something more interesting one of these days.
I had all sorts of curtain shopping drama that I'll spare you, but I finally was able to find (and buy, and successfully hang) these long-length Imperial Blue/Taupe Striped Grommet curtains from World Market. They seem to be perfectly subtle, while not being a solid color. It was worth the drama.
Here's a view from that back corner, looking into my office.
We still need to find a new piece of furniture to put our television on, and then we'll find some artwork or a big mirror to hang on that big blank wall. But, even with the boring view, this is DEFINITELY the best (and coziest) seat of the house!
I highly recommend a sectional...it's awesome. Even in a small living room. We've enjoyed many Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching shows and football all together on the big couch. It's a major upgrade from fighting over the three available seats we used to have...
The "den" or the "playroom" or "downstairs" is kind of a giant holding room for leftover furniture, decorations and lots and lots of toys. Not quite a living-room, not quite a basement, maybe we should call it a rec room?
Whatever it is, it's needed some help along the way - and we're not there yet. But, in our painting marathon of October 2012, we did manage to step it up a small notch. Here's what we did:
Exhibit A: BEFORE (looking down)
Believe it or not, this is after MANY improvements and variations. Note the lovely cat food containers (on the mantle) that make *great* storage containers. Just keeping it real. We don't apologize for recycling.
And yes, we have a television in our fireplace. We live in Alabama. We don't need heat.
Exhibit B: AFTER (looking down)
When we did our big painting marathon, we continued the SW Anonymous 7046 color from the kitchen down the big wall where the mantle is, and used the lighter SW Worldly Gray 7043 color (used also in the entryway and my office) on the other three walls and ceiling.
Exhibit C: BEFORE (looking up)
We moved our loveseat and chair from the living room down to the playroom and removed or relocated a few of the bigger toys. The easel was disassembled and turned into a flat chalkboard and dry erase board. The pink chair was moved back to Ayla's bedroom. The tool bench moved up to Paxton's bedroom, the basketball hoop to the garage, and that great big "craft" desk (that was ALWAYS a disaster of papers and markers) was donated to Goodwill.
Exhibit D: AFTER (looking up)
We moved the treadmill and deep freezer over to the less-visible space next to the stairs, which has seemed to work really well (both for convenience and asthetics).
Notice anything else missing? We removed the railing and the carpet on the stairs, which significantly opened up the room. Safe? Probably not to code, but it's working for us, so for now, that's how it stays. Painting the top metal railing the same wall-color as the kitchen helped it disappear, as did painting the door that goes to the garage.
I moved a few of my 12" x 12" frames to the space over the mantle, and with the help of some white spray paint, they pop really well on the dark gray wall. While I was spray painting, I brightened up the wood "Family" sign and several smaller frames to bring some color to the otherwise dark and gray wall of stone:
We didn't ban Ayla from doing crafts entirely, but we significanly down-sized her desk space in the hopes that it would downsize the mess. All her papers and coloring books and art supplies are stored in this cabinet, and she works at the little table next to it. This setup has worked *pretty* well so far. But still, the floor is often covered in papers and markers. You just can't hold an artist back. :)
The room still needs some artwork on the walls, a coffee table, and hopefully wall-to-wall carpet before too long (when we'll probably say goodbye to the area rug). But for now, it's been a step in the right direction -- more living space, less "junk" space.