Cubby Holes + Secret Rooms

The entire third floor of this house was used by the previous owners as their master suite… I can see how it would be pretty awesome. We chose not to do that though, as it just felt so disconnected from the rest of the house, and with two little kids on the second floor, it just felt better to be near their rooms in the middle of the night.

The previous owners (POs?) did a great thing utilizing the empty space behind the knee walls by inserting three dressers into them to make a lot of “built-in” storage. Super practical and I totally get it.

However…

For whatever reason, these things are just FUGLY to me. Maybe it’s the hardware? Maybe it’s the rounded molding around the sides? They just look so dated and yucky to me and since we moved in, I’ve been saying that I just want to chuck ‘em and put in something else. Anything else. Shelves? Cubbies? Different drawers? My mom, ever the practical one, always advises me to keep them (“Drawers are so functional!”) But I just can’t do it.

They’ve gotta go.

When I did a pinterest search for “Built in cubbies playroom,” a sense of omg I love these just washed over me. Seriously, there is just something pleasing about a little cubby hole, right? I can remember back to when I was in preschool… the littlest kids had hooks on a coat rack, but the bigger kids? Those guys had their own personalized cubby holes near the front door. I coveted those cubby holes and I remember how excited I was when I aged up into the part of the preschool where I got my very own personalized cubby hole.

So I feel like cubby holes are the way to go.

The Kallax just roughed in, before we get the trim and stuff up. Peanut The Cat is very excited about the cubbies. Cats + Cubbies are a natural combo.

The Kallax just roughed in, before we get the trim and stuff up. Peanut The Cat is very excited about the cubbies. Cats + Cubbies are a natural combo.

Luckily enough, we discovered that Ikea’s Kallax bookshelf is almost exactly as big as the openings in the wall! There is about an inch or two room on each side but I figured that can be covered with trim. This saves us from constructing a cubby unit from scratch and I also love that all the great Ikea storage boxes and baskets will fit into the cubbies—they’re my favorite organizational tools anyway! Ikea for the win, once again!

So that’s what is going to happen with those two horizontal dresser openings.

What I’m really excited about is what we are doing on the opposite side of the room where the vertical dresser was.

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When we pulled it out, we found that the space behind was pretty roomy, and it felt like such a waste to just block it back up with something else. So we are fulfilling one of my childhood fantasties: A SECRET ROOM! Or a reading nook. Or a hidden room. Whatever you want to call it I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE GIRLS TO SEE IT.

It just makes sense to finish out that space. Once the kids are grown up and gone, it’s great storage space… or that how I’m justifying the expense in my head. 😉

The framing inside was already done and there are already floor boards in, so I had my friend Jeff, who is also an extraordinary handyman, come over to hang dry wall and beadboard and trim. Basically, Jeff has a saw. I do not have a saw, nor do I possess the gross motor skills to use a saw safely. So Jeff is here to do all the things that I cannot do with a screwdriver, hammer, or crow bar. (Okay he can do more than saw things, like plumbing stuff and electrical stuff… basically, he’s a great guy to have on speed dial if you own a house).

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Poor guy. He’s at least six feet tall and he’s spent more hours than he ever wanted to cramped in a tiny crawlspace that we nicknamed the [horribly-bad-politically-incorrect-name-that-I-shall-not-publish-here.]

After all this talk about cubbies and cozy secret rooms, I’m sure you (and my husband) are wondering just who this playroom is actually for… the kids or me? Let’s just say “the kids” ok? 😉

Check out the finished project here!

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2015: The Year of Cake

We had three birthday parties in two months. For two girls. And there was cake. Oh yes, there was cake.

Because we were in the Boston area close to Poppy’s First Birthday, we had a party there for all our Boston family (there are a lot of them), but then we also another First Birthday party for Poppy back in Chicago when my family was visiting from Cleveland. Then a month later, we had a smaller party for Millie’s Third Birthday when all three of her grandparents visited for that day.

So, like I said, a lot of cake.

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“I will hug her, and pet her, and squeeze her…”

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“WTF Poppy? You don’t want my love??”

But cake makes a party and we needed to throw a party! We closed out one year of being a Family of Four. I know there are many people out there that have more kids and have done this before so it’s not really monumental, but you know, it is to us. Last summer, I couldn’t imagine what having a second child would be like, and I was so nervous about it… how it would affect Millie, how it would change our family dynamic, how our routine would be upended again… I had a lot of anxiety about it.

But now I know, it just works out. Millie adjusts. I adjust. The family adjusts. And then you have this wonderful smiley, happy, chubby ball of baby that just makes everything even better. Watching the two of them–Millie and Poppy–figure out how to exist together (and maybe even become friends) is pretty enjoyable too. So yeah. It was reason to celebrate (three times).

Again. Cake. These cakes are from Chubby Love Bake Shop. I’m obsessed with her cakes and cookies.

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Cutting A Rug, Or The Most Disgusting Home Improvement Job Next To Toilet-Related Work

The new to do list for getting the third floor done is this:

  1. Paint walls and trim.
  2. Rip up disgusting 20 year old wall to wall carpet.IMG_9830
  3. Remove the ugly “built in” dressers from the knee walls
  4. Drywall and finish the crawlspace behind one of the knee walls
  5. Create built-in cubbies where dressers once were
  6. Lay down Flor carpet tiles inspired by this awesome picture ——>
  7. Enjoy really cool fun new space.

We are getting there!

Let’s talk about getting that carpet up, ok? It was the worst. It was tedious and smelly and dusty and itchy and I hated every second of it. Continue reading

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Kid-Friendly Music That Won’t Make Me Scream (Mostly)

I believe the soundtrack in hell consists mostly of popular music hits sung by children. There are all kinds of really cool playspaces in the Chicago area and I pick where we spend a day based on which ones won’t play me that Kids Bop kind of stuff. It makes me want to scream. There is so much great music out there, there’s no reason we need to subject our kids to that crap, right??

As much as I am an advocate for just playing ANY music for kids, from The Beatles to Jason Mraz to Michael Buble, I have realized that my three-year-old does enjoy listening to songs that are about more than just unrequited love or adult-themes. Like, you know, songs about bubbles. She likes songs about bubbles.

So I created this playlist of music I found that my kids love and that I don’t mind listening to. I threw in some kid-friendly standards and classics, some current “kid musician” songs, to a little Queen. I’m not going to say that every song in here is curse-word free or void of adult references like drinking or kissing or whatnot. I’m not all that concerned about “protecting” my kids ears from things like that, unless it’s really blatant or, well, the Eff-word. So there’s your word of warning.

Some of my favorite tracks on this playlist:

“Yes, We Have No Bananas” from Louis Prima. This is a song from 1922 that first appeared in a Broadway musical revue and has been recorded by dozens of famous and not-so-famous artists throughout the years. Louis Prima is just fun and his version is also just fun. I love Big Band and Swing and pretty much all popular music from the 1920’s through the 1950’s and this is a wonderful example of some vintage music with interesting sounds and instruments for kids to hear and fun lyrics. I adore this one.

“Ho Hey” from The Nashville Cast/Lennon & Maisy. Millie goes through phases where she is obsessed with this particular recording and will not listen to anything else. The song is about two minutes long and we had thirty minute drive to an appointment and we listened to this 15 times in a row. I love The Lumineer’s original of this, but my kiddos like hearing little kids sing together, so this wins. Plus, I’m hoping that the sweet harmonies Lennon & Maisy have will sink into my kids brains so they too have a great sense of harmony.

“A–You’re Adorable” from John Lithgow. I was so excited to discover that John Lithgow recorded three children’s albums (one is a companion album to his children’s book The Remarkable Farkle McBride) that quickly added many of the tunes to this playlist. I love Great American Songbook songs and his does them well enough to please an adult music fan but also very accessible to little ears. This playlist is heavy on the Lithgow. Can you really have too much Lithgow, though?

“Bohemian Rhapsody” from both Queen and The Muppets. Okay, so here’s how two versions of this song ended up on this playlist. I love the Muppets. As you get to know me, you’ll find that my love for the Muppets runs deep and long. I showed the Muppet music video of this to Millie and she went nuts. It was all we watched for a week. I couldn’t not put this song on the list, however, part of me kept thinking that it would be a crime to also not have Queen’s version. THEY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT QUEEN! So there you go. Two versions. But we Wayne’s World Head Bang to both versions, ok?

WHY I LIKE THIS PLAYLIST: it’s light on Disney music (not that there’s anything wrong with Disney music…), it’s very light on actual kids singing, it has artists adults know and love singing kid-centric songs or kid-friendly songs.

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The Peculiar Feeling Of Going Viral

Back in May of 2015, I took a video of my then-eight-month-old baby laughing hysterically when the pages of the catalog we were looking at would rip. I posted it to youtube on a Monday evening and by Friday morning, I was watching that same video play back to me on the Today Show.

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By noon that Friday, I was seeing Poppy on The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN.com, The New Yorker, and so many more places. One that was particularly surreal was the full article written at The Daily Mail which also included photos from my Instagram feed to really flesh out the story.

It was a strange day… my husband and I were on cloud nine, seeing all these really great things written and said about our darling girl. But to our girls, life was exactly the same… Poppy had no idea that for a brief flash in time, her cute smile and laugh and face were all over the internet, making people smile. We went to the park that day and I wanted so badly to say to everyone I saw “yes… this is the baby you saw on the Today Show this morning.” Of course I didn’t actually say that, but ohmygod it took every ounce of restraint to not.

The views of the video have tapered off now and life is back to normal (hell, it was back to normal on the following Monday morning). Occasionally, I will see a spike in shares and views of it for a few days, mostly now in other countries, which is also kind of surreal… but for a tiny, itty-bitty moment in time, it was fun to see your cute babe become a D-list internet celeb.

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The Pre-Schooler and the Curse Word

Ahh, that blessed moment when our potty-mouths catch up to us and we hear our own words said back to us with the tiny, innocent voices of our babes. It’s distressing, embarrassing but dare I say….. pride inducing??

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My daughter Millie has cursed three times (that I’ve heard) and I am proud in that every single one has been contextually-appropriate. Surprisingly, none of those curse words have been the Eff-Word, since that is probably my word of choice in any situation. All of her first swears have been a form of “shit” or “damn.”

A few weeks ago, we were caught in a violent downpour of rain a mile from our house, the two girls in the double stroller. As the water literally poured down on us from the sky, little Millie sat in her side of the City Mini quietly repeating “Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.” This makes sense. It’s exactly what I would say in that situation and how I would say it.

I have a hard time telling her that she can’t say these words. She’s not saying them to get a laugh from her audience or to rebel against me or “the establishment.” She’s saying it because she’s genuinely frustrated, along with me, at the rain or the lack of diapers or the fact that the pedestrian jumped out in front of my car and I had to slam on my brakes to not hit him. She’s an empathetic little girl and it even shows in her swearing. I’m kind of ok with that. But I’m pretty sure I have a future filled with notes home from her teachers. And probably the principal.

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A Sonnet To My Crowbar

I’ve been working hard to get the third floor playroom/guest room ready, but I discovered something… I fell in love. Deep, mad love. With my crowbar.

I can say that I am deep into my Third Floor Checklist, which has been modified yet again (I’ll get to that tomorrow), but in the midst of ripping up the disgusting, not-my-pet urine soaked wall to wall carpet, I started to have feelings for this tool. I don’t even know where he came from. I never bought a crowbar. But he was in my basement workshop area, beckoning me just as I was standing there thinking “What the fuck do I use to get those old staples and tack strips off that fucking subfloor??” The needlenose pliers were effective at getting some of the staples up, but they were taking a long ass time to get even one, and they certainly weren’t going to do what I needed done on the tack strips.

But there he was. This guy. He came into my life serendipitously and I can promise you I will never look back.

And because my love is true, I wrote him a poem:

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Crowbar, I did not know my love for you
Within your simple shape, magic exists
People say you’re the best, I’ve found it true
Times spent with you are my favorite trysts.

Just a wee move and you (de)nail my floor
I slip your smooth tool around pesky tacks
Pulling up nail strips is my least fave chore
It’s love, dear ‘bar, cue the sexy-time sax.

You do it all with a slide and a tug
Sometimes the pliers joined us just for fun
With you and the knife we sure cut a rug
Sweaty, spent, wasted, finally all done.

The wood is all gone, no more nails or pricks.
But I’ll come back soon when I need a fix.

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Millie Can’t Say Fever

One of the best things about (almost) three-year-olds is that they can have conversations with you like they’re an adult, with their own fully formed ideas and thoughts and sentences. But then they go and mispronounce a word and the whole thing is ruined because they are just so damned cute you can’t even take it anymore.

That’s what Millie does to me all the time now. We will go on and on, discussing things (the girl has A LOT of thoughts on EVERYTHING), but then she just says the cutest damned thing. Like earlier this week when she was sick… after a trip to the doctor and several doses of Children’s Advil, she was on the road to recovery without a fever and feeling so much more like herself that she had been. And she wanted to tell me about it. I cannot get over how she says “fever.” OMG I JUST WANT TO SQUEEZE HER CUTENESS SO HARD.

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If Stephanie Paints A Wall, She’s Going To Want To Remodel

Three weeks ago, I complained here about wanting to do something with our third floor playroom and guest room. I didn’t quite know where to start. A good, old friend of mine text me something that got me motivated: JFDI. Just fucking do it. So I did.

I went out and bought a beautiful warm white paint (Benjamin Moore Atrium White, which some people hate due to its pinkish undertones but I happen to love because the three windows in the space face east, west, and south) and just started painting!

Just three weeks ago, I thought it was going to be a simple paint job. The to-do list looked like this:

  1. Paint walls.
  2. Enjoy freshened up space.

But…. once I got the beautiful, clean, warm color up, the to-do list became this:

  1. Paint walls.
  2. Rip up disgusting 20 year old wall to wall carpet.
  3. Lay down Flor carpet tiles inspired by this picture that I keep seeing floating around on Pinterest but cannot for the life of me find the original source, even with a reverse google image search.
  4. Enjoy really cool fun new space.

Because I can’t do anything easily, it has morphed into even more projects and drywall, and a handyman and a lot of other crap. I cannot WAIT to show you the finished project!!

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