Our Lives

Dreams of home projects that may never be

June 16, 2012 


Elizabeth McCarthy for "Our Lives" column.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

I have a rich fantasy life that involves having a tranquil, tasteful house full of orderly occupants. This particular fantasy is fueled by some of the blogs I read. One's by women who rescue an ancient coffee table from the trash and in two days create a repurposed potting bench that could have come from Smith & Hawken. I think either “I could do that!” or “Somebody please fix this woman a pitcher of zombies.” I did read on a mom blog about a woman who referred to herself, post-children, as “The Woman Who Used to Be Beautiful.”

Having kids will wreak havoc on your appearance, but I’m so over that. I’m on to something even less obtainable than the mythical pre-babies body: I’m the Once and Future Woman Who Did Things to the House.

My youngest is 3 and a half. I have no excuse for baby weight, and there is absolutely no reason why I can’t do something about my 1970s paneling and dusty rose wallpaper.

We had grand illusions about this house when we bought it, and the seizure-inducing wallpaper was to be the first to go. The brushed steel light fixture in the dining room would be next. The fantasy list was long, but I was pregnant with Child No. 3when we closed, and so we let things go. That child is now 6. The ugly wallpaper has grown more dingy and food-stained. What’s my problem?

Being overwhelmed. Having no spatial relations skills. I could go on. It was not until this past Christmas, when we were expecting houseguests, that I finally finished the years-long process of painting the downstairs bathroom cabinets and adding the new cabinet knobs

My dear husband did install a new kitchen floor last year, but only after we had water damage and then lived with subflooring for several months. Hey, you don’t have to mop that because you can’t. Works for me.

I was waiting out the high-chair years to remove the dining room wallpaper, but now I’m thinking we need a concrete floor with a large central drain so we can hose down the room daily. Walking across that floor is like walking through a bar. Only after the light fixture in the kids’ bathroom exploded did we finally replace it.

That trip to Lowe’s and the entire installation process took just a few hours. Why did we wait for an act of electrical violence to remedy the tomblike lighting in there? Are we that lazy?

In the old house, the pre-children, and then the just-two-children house, I painted as if I would win some kind of contest. The dining room went from white to blue to peach to realtor yellow. There were some bad color choices in there, but it got done. Sometimes it got done in the middle of the night, but I’m not sure I want to pull those hours anymore.

When I’m not cleaning up a cup of corn syrup poured on the stairs or keeping Thing 3 from biting Thing 4, I’m trying to sneak in some meaningful conversation with any number of the people who are all talking to me at once. I may not have standards, but I have priorities.

Yet I long for the patience and time and organization skills needed to at least get started on something around here. I don’t delegate well at all. I talk a good “Honey, will you please …” game, but then want to micromanage it to the point that I can’t blame my husband for muttering through clenched teeth and snapping at the children who are so “helpful.”

I’m running out of excuses. I’ve set my sights too high. I’ll never have an adorable mud room with precious little chalkboards hanging on fresh gingham-lined baskets directing my obedient and tidy children where to place outerwear. No cutesy inspirational saying over the washing machine to remind me of the joy of cleaning and the attendant virtues of running a tight domestic ship.

But if I close my eyes, I can imagine, at least, repairing the wall of anger in the foyer where foot met drywall

“The hole in the house” my 3-year-old calls it.

At last check there was a half-eaten bag of popcorn, several toys, two sets of pliers, and a pair of sunglasses in there. Really?

Something has got to give, and apparently I have to make it happen.

I will, but don’t go looking for my upcycled Dumpster finds on Pinterest any time soon.


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