Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ta Da! Like Magic, But Sweatier.

Just popping on to share some pictures of the playroom makeover I mentioned in my last post before I run out to fill some sandbags or something (oh my god will it ever stop raining?!). M. and I crave validation and credit for the hard work we did to create this playroom, a playroom that M. is convinced will never actually be used by the kids.

So, to set the stage, we have been living in our house for over 4 years. We moved here when Finn was a mere 7 months old, possessing of a jumperoo, an exersaucer, and a few odds and ends to entertain the bambino. Because we spent all our time on the main level of the house (kitchen and combo living room/dining room) with a child who could not be left unsupervised for any length of time, we opted to keep his meager toys scattered about in various places of the living room. No big deal, because, as I mentioned, he only had a few toys.

Then the first birthday happened. The large baby toys (exersaucer and jumperoo) disappeared, but the small- to mid-sized toys grew exponentially. We eventually purchased a shelving unit of sorts with storage bins to contain the toys, and placed it near the dining room. This worked well, and yay, forsooth, our living room/dining room still felt somewhat adult-like. But then came Christmas. And a second birthday. And another Christmas. And then another BABY, necessitating the reappearance of all those large baby items once again. By now our storage system had grown to include a toy box as well as several other large bins scattered throughout the house. AND YET THE TOYS COULD NOT BE CONTAINED.

Enter Lucy's birthdays and Christmas for two children, and it became VERY apparent that our living room/dining room? Was no longer an adult space. In fact, it quite resembled a daycare. But what could we do? We spent all our time with the kids on the main level of the house. This was where we ate with them, this was where we watched TV and movies with them. This was where they ignored their toys and complained that they were bored and irritated the crap out of us every weekend.

We have a basement. And in this basement is a family room, with our (only) fireplace, a comfy red sleeper sofa, a treadmill, and our largest TV. The basement is where M. and I retreat after kid bedtime has been achieved and all nightly chores are done.

Also in the basement is an office. This office was unfinished when we bought the house - concrete floors and framing and nothing else. We thought we needed an office. Before Lucy was born, we had this unfinished space finished so that we could create an office (and full bath) and move our second floor office downstairs, thus freeing up a bedroom for Lucy AND maintaining the existence of said office.

We never use the office.

Really, never.

I pile things in it that I need to file (but don't file). We have a printer in there that doesn't work, that we occasionally try to MAKE work. And when it doesn't, we go in there and curse at the printer. So that is how we use our office. We pile "to be filed, but never actually GETS filed" crap in it, and we curse at the printer. And sometimes we have guests sleep on the futon that resides in it.

So, the kids are a bit older now. Not very old, of course. Lucy's not even 2.5 yet. And I will admit that not even two years ago, when I saw that our neighbors had a basement playroom for their children, who were perhaps 2 and 4 at the time, I was MAYBE a little critical and incredulous. I could not fathom how they thought it was appropriate to let their young children out of their sight to play together - not just in another room, but on a whole different floor of the house. I was maybe a bit judgy. I had my newborn baby, and my two-year-old-who-has-never-been-out-of-my-sight-at-home-for-more-than-2-minutes-unless-he's-sleeping, and I was judgy.

But now, I totally get it. I get why some people would be OK with having their young children play in a room that is on a whole different level of the house.

Sometimes, I want to let my kids kill each other when they are a flight of stairs away from me, rather than 6 feet from me. They're going to do it anyway, I can't stop them or save them. That much has become clear to me.

Sometimes, I want the mess to be NOT IN MY LINE OF VISION.

Sometimes I want nice things. And I want those nice things to not get messed with.

I am a more relaxed parent than I was at one time. The old me would probably judge the now me.

But the old me does linger a bit. Not the judgy one (OK, maybe the judgy one a little), but the safety conscious one. We are considering moving a baby monitor down to the playroom so we can at least keep an ear on the noise and mayhem. You know, if it gets used. We also bought a large hook and eye latch to keep the door to M.'s workroom (also in the basement) closed enough to keep the kids out, but open enough to let the cat get to her litter box.

Wow, that was a far longer "setting the stage" intro than I meant to write. Good god, let me just get to these pictures already, the ones that were supposed to be posted and live 45 minutes ago...

But first, another note - we do not have "before" pictures of the office. Just know that there was a futon, and a desk with some random little objects on it, and two filing cabinets. And an end table and a couple lamps and a console table (that we did not move) and piles and piles of crap.

Also note that the room has no windows so, yeah. Lighting is not great. Sorry.

These are pictures of our living room on Monday morning. After our yard sale emptied out our dining room of furniture. I had already started sorting the kids' toys into various piles and bins for eventual transport downstairs, an improvement from what we started with on Monday morning, but nothing had actually been brought downstairs yet. This includes the bins of toys that had previously been scattered about the house (one in each kid's bedroom, one in our bathroom, two in the attic/storage-y area), so a few more toys than we typically had on a daily basis on the main level.

(Carseat not normally stored in the living room, just cleaning up a bit of a potty accident from the weekend...)

This is actually much less organized than it appears, as there is stuff hiding behind those chairs.

And here are the "after" photos of the new playroom:

View from the door looking in (play kitchen used to be in our kitchen)

The shelving/bins used to be in the dining room, and the futon used to be on the wall where the play kitchen is now.

Looking from the wall where the play kitchen is toward the door/console table. The pictures on the wall are left over from the "office decor" and will eventually be replaced with something more fun and kid friendly. We are thinking maybe fun, large decals and/or maps.

View from the futon toward the closet.

View of inside the closet. So. much. more. room. for. stuff. We will eventually (once we finished sorting through all the crap that has been displaced into our bedroom and the family room) put some of our own random crap up in the top shelves of the closet, since the kids can't reach them anyway.

View from the closet out into the room.

And here are some pictures of what our living room/dining room look like now.

Spacious. Empty. Mostly because we need to get that dining room furniture I ordered. In the back by the window is a TV stand that is not normally located there. We are trying to sell it. Want it?

Here is the living room part of the room. We are still hiding stuff behind those chairs. It is not as clean as it looks.

And this is what the kids want to do all the time. Wrestle in the big, empty room.

Time spent wrestling? Much.

Time spent in new playroom? Eh. A little. But it's still early.


  1. Such exciting stuff. Can't wait to see the new dining room setup!

  2. I'm super jealous of your basement. Too bad Charlotte doesn't have a lot of them or we would have jumped on a house when we bought in 2007...well, that and if we hadn't bought at the peak of the market. Plenty of houses available now with basements :-)

  3. We have a third floor in the new house instead of a basement. We have successfully gotten them to play up there. HEre is what worked for us.

    1. Keep some kind of toy on the main floor. OTherwise all they will do is whine and complain and moan whenever they have to stay there. For us it is legos and dominos.

    2. MAKE them go down there. Alex was super afraid of the third floor by himself but we would make him go up there over his cries. After a few minutes of crying he would start playing. I would say a week of working on it and they would go up there voluntarily.

    3. Spend some time there with them so it becomes a happy space. Get them playing with something then leave.

    Maybe none of it will work because of the age difference but hopefully at least one of them will go down there. I'm at the point where I can't stand toy clutter in our main living space anymore and it's been nice to reclaim it as ours.

    And if they really hurt each other, they still come down to tell us.

  4. My oldest two are 2 and 4 and can play independently upstairs, downstairs, and in the backyard and IT IS AWESOME. I judge no more because it has been the best possible thing for their relationship and conflict resolution skills (which are improved, but by no means where they need to be, and yes I can usually hear when something has gone amiss in that department). The playroom looks so inviting and fun! And so does your living room, for adults.