As the stay at home orders continued, swallowing up the months of March and now April, we made a few changes to our living space. Some were overdue improvements, such fixing a garage wall that was poorly withstanding the test of time. Others were projects to preserve our sanity, or what was left of it anyway. The great thing about these projects was that they gave the kids the opportunity to be involved, learn some handiwork skills, and express creativity.
Before we started distance learning on April 6, one of my goals was to create spaces where the the kids could separate or at least have more room to spread out while working on their lessons. Prior to the stay at home orders, I learned that oftentimes the dining room table could only accommodate two of my scholars at a time before arguments would ensue. This wasn’t one hundred percent of the time; indeed there were times when all four kids would sit at the table studying and telling stories of their respective days as I cooked dinner. But this idyllic picture is not typical of our everyday, therefore we decided to switch up the room arrangements, as well as create some office corners for the husband and myself.
Like many families, we had the kids divided up by gender in our three-ish bedroom home. With the new orders, we were finding out that this arrangement wasn’t ideal when the kids were stressed out and unable to access their typical outlets. There were many disagreements and annoyances throughout the first several days of the quarantine. The aha moment came when Emily mentioned that she wanted to repaint her room. This was a job for which she could get paid, as well as give her that creative focus she needed. We then decided too to rearrange the rooms by age rather than gender. Jacob and Emily had been great friends from the time she was born, and while Nate and Sami can each be a little fiery, their both being in middle school going through similar experiences could be a comfort to each other. As a result, we took a few days to paint and put together the high schoolers’ room, and the following week, finished the middle schoolers’ room.
Jacob and Emily’s room was pretty easy to complete. Emily selected a calm, frosty blue paint color, Behr’s ‘Permafrost.’ The trim was kept white, and with Jacob’s acquiescence, new accessories were purchased. Home Depot and Urban Outfitters were fairly financially stimulated by the project, but the end result was an oasis that is every teenage girl’s dream. Except maybe for the pesky older brother.
Nate and Sami’s room took a bit more effort than I had anticipated. It was an add-on to the home, constructed years before we moved in, and as such, three of the walls are actually exterior walls. The fourth wall was a natural wood beadboard that had never been stained or painted. While the room was a den and later the boys’ room, this unfinished wood look was fine. But with Sami moving into the room, it needed a lighter treatment. She of course wanted a pink room, but this wasn’t going to happen. The compromise was a pale sage green that Nate helped pick out, Behr’s ‘River Mist,’ with the beadboard wall being treated as an accent wall and finished in a pure white. Painting the first three walls was pretty straightforward. I used an exterior paint and primer which worked well and dried fairly quickly and evenly with the first coat. The wood wall needed a lot more work and patience. It looked horrible after the first coat of paint and primer, and it took the second coat before it yielded the desired effect. The room’s theme was travel-related while the boys occupied it. I decided to keep the travel theme as it could work for both kids without being being over-gender specific, and some of the mementos have meaning for both kids. I was pleased with the outcome, and more importantly, so were Nate and Sami.
While there are continued challenges to adhering to the lockdown orders, changing things up a bit have helped to boost morale and regain a small sense of control in an ever-changing time when any sort of control seems out of reach. The kids being a part of the decision-making process was way of giving them some power to make choices, even if it was just choosing new curtains or the color of their refinished desks. They enjoyed the process and actually worked well together to achieve the desired outcome: a new space and renewed creative expression.
Meanwhile, I created an office out of the corner of the garage…
It’s not exactly the corner office, but it wouldn’t be too bad if not for the holes in the particle board. I repurposed all of the decor in the space, as I didn’t want to spend anything. After all, it is the garage. The best part is that I do get to enjoy the company of the goofiest ‘coworker.’
I hope you enjoyed this more lighthearted post. It’s been harder to look on the bright side as we hear more bad or uncertain news. If you need more than a fresh coat of paint or some Target decor, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, clergy, or counselor. There are also links below:
Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
For information related to the Covid19 pandemic, continue to visit
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For information specific to Los Angeles County, visit L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Stay well. Hopefully we’ll soon be on some happy trails.