Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Magic All Its Own


Parenting is not easy. Sure, it can be fun, worthwhile, and it is always a great privilege, but anyone who says it is easy, has no idea what they are talking about. If you got into parenting because you thought it was going to be easy, only to realize it is the single most difficult thing you will ever do, rest assured, there are many who join you in that discovery.
That being said, parenting can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Seeing your newborn smile for that first time, take their first wobbly steps, speak words only you can understand, and learn new things on a daily basis....that is part of the magic of parenting. And that is why we keep doing it, over and over again, generation after generation. Despite all of the muck that comes along with that magic.
I am not an expert on parenting. I still have much to learn. With that in mind, I want to share some simple suggestions that may help to make your own adventure, one of joy and love.
    1. We set the tone As parents, we are the ones who decide what type of environment we create for our children (and for ourselves). If you feel like your home is constantly in chaos, if your kids are fluent in Whinese, or if you never seem to get ahead, it is time to sit down and check yourself, before you wreck yourself (and your entire team of little ones). I do this. A. LOT. I wish I could say that I live my life, constantly full of cheer and endless patience, never losing my temper or my focus on priorities. But the truth is, I am and always will be, working towards becoming a better me, partly so that I can be a better mom and have a happy family. One of the things I have learned, is that my children mirror my emotions, be they positive or negative. Let's just say that I take time outs, more than my kids do. When I notice crying, whining, distress, etc., I can almost always trace it back to myself. So, how DO you maintain a positive, nurturing environment in your home? Begin with personal prayer, meditation, setting personal goals (and working towards them on a daily basis) and being willing to admit when you are wrong. Breath. And remember WHY you began parenting in the first place, to experience the joy of watching these little ones grow into truly amazing adults. What a privilege!

    2. This, too, shall pass It is so easy to forget that this mortal life is only temporary. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. Even all of the muck that you will have to go through, is there to make you stronger and help you to grow into who you will finally become. The fact that this life is temporary should help you to remember that, whether you are experiencing joy or sorrow, stress or complete contentment, it is all temporary. ENJOY the moments of reprieve, cherish those blissful times when your children are in complete harmony with one another, when the stars all align and the world is easily seen as perfection, and appreciate the age when they think you are their world and can do no wrong. Realize that these moments are temporary, don't take them for granted, and live in the here-and-now. On the same hand, recognize that what may seem like the worse thing that could ever happen (and we have had a few of these, in our home), is only temporary. Whatever you are going through, it will evolve, change, and become something better, something to learn from and grow out of. True joy comes from being able to learn from the past, look to the future, and LIVE in the present. Sooner than you know it, your little ones will no longer be little. Enjoy them at EACH and EVERY stage of life and accept that you will make mistakes along the way, as well. It is all a part of the process. I promise.

    3. Finding common ground I have always enjoyed looking for ways to connect with other people. Common interests, traits, friends, whatever I could find to connect. I have a great love for people, all people. I love being able to find something that we share, so that we can connect. It is the same way with our kids. While it is easy to find connections between ourselves and our children, I think it is much more difficult to find connections between our children that will bring them closer together. But it is SO WORTH IT! In our home, we have been able to find several shared interests. We all seem to love to travel and learn about the world and the many cultures it encompasses. We all love to build and create. And most of us love to read. I have used these connections to create lasting relationships and memories for myself and for my kids. Through our travels (and future travels), building Lego villages together, reading books as a family, etc., we are able to make those connections. And those “connections” are what keep our family happy and free of contention. When my children have a common purpose or goal, even if it is as simple as working together to get the kitchen clean so that they can play video games for a few hours (once a week), they seem to work better when they find common ground, when they are on the same page. It is amazing! Try it sometime, with fellow employees, strangers, or family members you Can. Not. Stand. Find that common ground with them and you will know why it is so magical!

    4. Natural Rewards
    Too much of my early days as a parent were spent bribing and threatening. And I am not saying that I am completely bribe or threat-free, but I have taken some time to evaluate the benefits of using these methods and have to come to the conclusion that they should be used sparingly, if ever. Here is why. When you use either of these methods for getting your young children to accomplish a task, behave in a particular way, or for any other purpose, you are creating a sense of entitlement or fear within that precious being. They will come to expect that they should always get some sort of named reward for what they should be doing without any reward (other than the feeling of accomplishment and peace that comes when we do good things). It can lead to them learning to avoid getting in trouble, by lying. They may eventually grow to resent you. It is a vicious I am fervently working towards breaking.
    We decided not to pay our kids to do the jobs they should be doing, as a part of our household (but if you have allowances, kudos to you!). And I have been working on cutting back on treats for a few years now, so we have come up with healthy, natural rewards for getting work done. They know that the natural reward for cleaning up and getting required school work done (we only have a few things we require of them, mostly we work to inspire them), they have free time to do the things they want to do. This works well, because this is reality. I know that if I get my chores done and keep a tight budget, I will have time to do the fun things I want to do and the money to use for whatever I choose. It is a great way for them to learn to enjoy working, through natural consequences and rewards.

    5. Distraction & Redirecting Early on, I decided to use the tactic that works well with very young children, distract or redirect. When a child is upset, I help them to calm down, find out what is wrong, and refocus their attention on something positive. It works well with helping kids to overcome phobias, accidental injuries, or any other sadness/fear. I use it to calm my kids and I also use it to help them to focus on whatever they like about the task at hand. I use it to create a space for love, when they are struggling with each other. If I can find something for us to refocus on, instead of whatever problems we are having, soon my kids have forgotten what they were upset about. They are free to love and be loved, because they have chosen a new direction. It works well with younger kids and hopefully, by doing this consistently, they will learn how to effectively let go of hard feelings and refocus on what is important, on their own, someday. After all, my job is to give them the keys to a healthy relationship. Some day, I won't be there to redirect, they will have to discipline themselves and make the choice to choose love with whomever they are dealing with, a room mate, a companion, a fellow employee, spouse, child, etc.

                6. Choice & Accountability I am a firm believer in the Adversary. His plan was all about removing the choices that might bring us down. He wanted to make sure we never made mistakes, we never had to feel pain, we never had to endure misery. I get that. But his plan would also inhibit us from the ability to feel the joy that we find in making righteous choices. His plan would have prevented us from finding ourselves, through much trial and error, from learning from all of our mistakes. His plan would keep us from ever getting back to be with our eternal family, our Heavenly Father and Mother. One of the greatest gifts our Father gave us, was choice....and accountability. As parents, I believe that is one of the greatest gifts we can offer, as well. This has probably been one of the most difficult things for me to comprehend, as a parent. I want my kids to be happy, to not make all of the same mistakes I made (and believe me, there were and are SO many). It seems so much easier to just tell your kids that they have to do something that you have chosen for them, because you know it is right.
                In our home, we use a great method from Love & Logic (one of the best courses we ever took), where we give our children a choice with as many things as we possibly can. Some common choices might be, “Would you like to clean up your mess now or in 5 minutes?” (the answer is almost always 5 minutes). I set the timer and they know in 5 minutes they are expected to clean up. But, they feel a little better about having to clean up. Why? Because they had a choice in the matter of WHEN they were going to clean up. The key to giving choices, is to find two choices that you, as the parent, are okay with. At bedtime, I am okay if my child has the hall light on or off, if their bedroom door is open or shut. Frankly, it doesn't matter to me at all. But to a child, who is constantly being told what to do and how to do it (at least that is how they feel sometimes), they need to be able to recognize all of the freedoms they do have. They hear “Don't go out into the road. Don't touch the hot stove. Don't fill up several cups of water and dump them all over the bathroom floor and into the hallway....” well, maybe that's just my kids that get to hear that, but you get the point. They need to be given and recognize all of the many choices they DO have, so that when they really don't have a choice in the matter, they are okay with that. When you are in a situation where there are no safe choices other than the one you give them, they will feel better about it because they know they have a multitude of choices to choose from, all day long. It is a good thing, a very good thing.
                When your child grows and becomes a young adult, a lot of the choices are placed in their own hands. At that time, you have to learn to accept the things you cannot change. Our oldest child was and is very independent. She was extremely obedient and very helpful, until she hit around 14. Then we had to go through a great learning process. We had to learn how to accept that we didn't have control over most of what she did. We could expect certain rules to be followed and have reign over what some consequences were, but in the end, she would make decisions on her own. It was a very humbling experience for both of us. We learned the next lesson....

                7. Love is the ultimate discipline
                  As parents of young children, we have so much control over our children's environments and lives. After living a life, full of our own parents, teachers, bosses, community leaders telling us what to do, it is kind of strange to be put in a position of authority. It is easy to get a little heady about the power God grants us, as parents, to forget that we are supposed to be stewards, mentors, protectors, nurturers of the most divine gifts ever allotted a human being. I am not going to advise others on how to discipline their child, that is their own prerogative. But I will attest to the fact that it is so much easier (SO MUCH EASIER) when you work on building a loving relationship and loving your child UNconditionally, instead of having them live in a constant state of fear, finding absolute obedience from that fear. I am not perfect, far from it (or anything that remotely resembles perfection), but I have been working on instilling one piece of knowledge within my own children's hearts. And that is that I love them, no matter what they do, what they say, or where they end up in life. I am honest about how I feel about whatever they are doing, don't get me wrong. But I am also able to share the logical side of why I think some of their choices might bring them confusion or sadness later on, because I can separate myself from their decision long enough to set my feelings aside and speak logically. It isn't an easy task, letting go of the power you can have as a parent. It reminds me of the part in Lord of the Rings, where Frodo offers Galadriel the one ring....yeah. We have to be willing to let go of a little of our own ego, to gain a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our child.

                  I don't mean that we should let our children walk all over us or that we should be friends INSTEAD of being a parent. But it always bothers me a little, when people justify abuse or using harsh words with their child (and believe me, I am not sinless in the harsh words department, I have said my share, unfortunately) because they believe they can't be both a friend and a parent, simultaneously. It is a tough balance, but it is still possible to accomplish. To see into your child's soul and love who they truly are and build a relationship, based on that glimpse of hope, despite whatever troubles you are going through together. I know. I have been that parent, searching for answers and struggling to maintain a loving relationship with a very independent and stubborn child. I am sure there will be more opportunities for me to experience. I say, “Bring it on! I will love them all the way through their crazy stages of life, even if some of those stages last their entire life.” That is the magic of love.

                ~.~ the purple sprout

              Monday, November 4, 2013

              Project Neverland (before & after shots)


              Just to give you a better idea of the amount of change that occurred in Neverland, I put together a few side by sides. If you haven't had the chance to see the entire process of the transformation of Neverland, feel free to check it out!



              Here is an image I just found from right before I boxed all of the books up....those naughty books! LOL

              Project Neverland (Part II)

              Once I finished the bookshelves and got all of the kids' books back in order, I was free to begin the fun work. I have wanted to cover these cushions in Neverland (see cushion on right) since I first moved in. I found this fabric (see cushion on left) on sale at Joann Fabric and was thrilled! It was the perfect length to wrap these cushions. I sewed some simple pillow case-type covers, because I am planning on having to remove them to wash A LOT (I am not in denial). I was going to sew in zippers or some sort of fastener, but I realized I wouldn't need to, as they all fit so snug next to each other.
               I love the design, but I also loved the fact that all of my favorite colors were here: periwinkle, turquoise, orange-yellow, yellow, red, and sage green (did I mention that I LOVE color?). So perfect for Neverland!

              I wanted some cute pillows to make reading on the bench more comfortable and to make this area really pop. I had 4 pillows that I was no longer using, which were still in really good shape. So I covered them with some fun fabrics I had lying around (see pictures below).

              This stereo cabinet is from the 1950's. I found it at Saver's for $4.95 and ironically, I barely had enough cash to cover the cost. But I could see so much potential in this piece. I knew that either I would use it or sale it. Either way, I had to buy it. It was sitting around for a few months, while I was working on the bookshelves. I figured out where it belonged and had a blast reinventing it (see pictures below).
              Another great deal! I picked up this armoire for $20 at the Annual Presbyterian Church Rummage Sale. We used it as our Craft Cupboard for a while, but I knew that it belonged in Neverland. I sanded off all of the artwork (via all of my wonderful artists) and had fun reinventing it, as well (see pictures below).

              The other item that I bought brand new was the 12 ft wooden board for this sign and the vinyl. One of our favorite quotes from Peter Pan is, "To die will be an awfully big adventure!" But an even better quote is from Hook where Peter Pan says, "To LIVE will be an awfully big adventure!" Aaron and I decided which quotes to use for this room and we both loved this one. A lot. I believe life, despite all of the hang ups and down falls, is supposed to be a great adventure. I am focusing on a life that is full of intent right now, so this quote speaks volumes to my heart.  

              Organizing books. It has been one of my greatest challenges since we began having kids. I am finally to the stage in our parenting, where our kids are old enough to know better than to rip pages or make a mess and think they can get away with it. So, I was excited to finally try out a new way of keeping the books where they belonged, when they weren't being read. I designated the first 3 bookcases to Fiction (for kids 12 and under....the Adult Fiction is located in our bedroom. And, no, it is not the type of Adult Fiction some of you perverts think it is. Ew!).

               I put all of our non-fiction (well, minus the religious, musical, parenting, pregnancy/childbirth, cooking, and school books...which are all in different areas of the house) in the next 3 bookcases. Bookcase #4 has Everything Science, including 2 shelves for Gardening/Herbs/Natural Remedies/Home Repairs/Homesteading. Bookcase #5 has 2 shelves of American History, 2 shelves for World History, and a shelf for Languages. Bookcase #6 has a shelf for travel books/info on modern-day countries, a shelf for Geography/Sociology/World Cultures/Countries, a shelf full of biographies and autobiographies, and a couple of shelves for crafting, art, writing, and other miscellaneous subjects. I know, it isn't the Dewey Decimal System, but this way of organizing our books works very well for us. 

              You could say that we are HUGE fans of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis...but that would probably be an understatement.

              I had so much fun with this corner of Neverland!
              Seriously, I think I pop down into Neverland at least once a day, just to admire my accomplishment (hey, I need to remind myself that I do actually accomplish something besides keeping our laundry room free of debris....I mean clothing). Above the red armoire, I have plans to put up a sign that has the quote, "Second to the right, and straight on till morning."
               I picked up the map from Costco for $6 and found a sheet of leftover veneer to glue the map to (which, lesson learned....if you ever want to adhere a map/poster to some veneer, use a spray adhesive instead of modge podge. Just trust me on this one!). I also had some casing lying around that I cut, attached, and painted for the frame. I was so proud of my work. Of course, my kids always help me to stay humble. Within a week, I found that they had not only knocked it off of the wall, but it was even further damaged  by someone knocking it over and stomping on it. Of course, no one could really say who it was that had done it. I procrastinated on fixing the map for a few weeks, as I was too busy to do anything in Neverland.  But when I did finally get around to fixing it, I used liquid nails instead of wood glue and added several more staples and nails for good measure. That picture is NOT falling apart again. Bring it on, Lost Boys!
              If you look closely at the left door on the bottom of the armoire, you will notice the scar from my bang-up job of fixing a tantrum-induced broken door. Not one of my little Lego lover's shining moments, but he is gentler now, when putting Legos away, especially after I repeatedly ask him to clean up and finally get a little upset. It took me a few weeks to figure out how to reinforce it (with nails from a nailgun and wood glue, in case you were wondering. I swear, I have fixed more broken doors than I care to remember.) Just trying to keep it real for all of you who think I live in a fairy tale....this is OUR version of Neverland, not Disney's. ;) 
              And, did you recognize the armoire? It's the one I picked up at the rummage sale. Isn't she lovely in this little nook? I took off the ugly vented door that used to cover this closet, stored it in the garage (to put back on, should we ever decide to sell our home) and decided to put something festive in there instead. I had a $2 can of "Oops!" paint, just waiting to be used, applied a little of that paint and distressed/antiqued her. Voila! I give you.....
               .....The Lego Cabinet! With a household of Lego builders, I knew I needed to have a way to house all of the Legos and the many creations that we have. I even went as far as cutting an inch off of the Lego long boards that we have, so they would fit inside of the cabinet. Now, when the Lost Boys and Tink are in the middle of working on a creation that I don't want out on the floor overnight, we have somewhere to store it. Win-Win! 
               Did I mention how much I love Neverland now? It just brightens my day.
               This corner is my workout corner. That treadmill is going to get a lot of year.

               This wall is where I am going to eventually hang a framed map of Neverland (from the book, Peter Pan). I haven't been able to find one online yet, and if I can't by the end of the year, I will just make my own. Recognize this cabinet? I used a little "Oops!" paint (that I had already utilized for several other projects and still have more remaining for future fun) to finish this lovely piece of furniture. Isn't it just adorable?
               I found this hardware at Hobby Lobby and it was 1/2 off, so I spent an additional $7 for my retro $5 cabinet. With the $1 I spent on paint, I am going to say this was one of the best bargains I have ever created. This cabinet is going to be used to hold my exercise equipment...yeah, in other words my weights and yoga mat.
              The reading fairy has been in our home since Alex (she was a HUGE book worm and loved fairies) was just a little girl (so around 15 years now). I felt that she would enjoy her stay, here in Neverland. And I was stoked to finally have the perfect spot for the FREE 16x16 canvas (we won from PixelGIANT) of last year's family shot. It has so much color!
               I know this is a lousy picture, but you can see the puzzle board I made (I used the other 1/2 of the sheet of veneer, at the same time that I framed the map). We love putting together puzzles and I have always wanted to make a board upon which to keep the puzzles we are working on. I also found that awesome service tray (the dark brown one, in the corner) at a thrift store. It is perfect for Lego projects or for taking animals, dinosaurs, etc. for playing with on the road. 
               This is the toddler corner. I actually don't have any toddlers right now (and have no plans to have any more of my own), but there were many board books that I just couldn't bring myself to let go of. I have friends with little ones who need to read when they are at my house. And I am hoping to have grandchildren someday, all of whom will be avid readers, I am sure of that.

              I have plans to put this quote, or something similar, on the wall above the periwinkle shelves in the toddler corner. By the way, if you look back at some of the before pics of Neverland, you will see these shelves in the corner where the treadmill is located now....they were a dingy, dark brown. Again, used another of my "Oops!" paints to create the look I desired.
               This is the rocking chair that my mama painted for me when I was just a little one, myself. It survived all of my many phases and several coats of paint, to commemorate my many years of transformation. I recently worked on restoring parts of it.....maybe I can share the process in another post. That would be fun!
               Simon loves puzzles, so he spends a lot of time here. One of my goals for Neverland is to get rid of unnecessary toys and give the kids better quality toys, to use on a regular basis. Puzzles, miniature animals, books, and a rocking chair for rocking is a good start to reaching my goal.
               And this is the moment I have been waiting for, the chance to share my own little strategy for keeping our books in order. You see, as I have spent years diligently collecting books, organizing and cleaning them up has been one of my biggest pet peeves. As you can imagine, with 6 kids in our house who all love to read, our library can get pretty messy. A few years ago, I had so many issues with my (then) 5 year old taking books off of the shelves, that I finally did the unthinkable and put all of our books in boxes. I was trying to sell our home, at the time, and it was overwhelming enough to try to keep on top of our regular messes, but to have to put away around 50 books a day was torture. I began hating books. I had tried everything, threatening the kids (that I was going to burn all of our books, not harm the kids...geesh!), creating a library system, complete with librarians who would help the younger kids get their books and return them, I even tried to have a specific time of day that we could all go into the library, so I could make sure not more than 3 books were pulled out. It was all to no avail.
               As I was preparing Neverland to house our library again, I couldn't help but gain anxiety over the memories of my struggles with thousands of books all over the place. I literally stressed myself out over books. Then it came to me one morning, in the wee hours, as I was lying in bed, going over all of the worries in my world and sorting things out. Why not create some sort of fun book marker for where the books go? I could be insistent that the kids only take out one book at a time (We had a limit of 3 before, but that just opened up the door to more and more. What if they wanted 4? What if they needed more?). I talked it over with the kids and they were just so excited to have the books back, that they all agreed to these terms. I tried to figure out a proper book mark. I thought of cardboard, plastic strips, and then (one day, as I was picking up my freshly shaken-paint (one of the older Oops! paints, I bet), my paint lady asked me if I would like some big stir sticks for The Lost Boys and Tink to use as swords. I knew they would love them and took several of them home with me. That day, as I was brainstorming ideas for bookmarks, I glanced over at these guys and realized I had the answer right in front of me. I tried them out and realized that they were a little bit too long. So, I cut off about 5" and they worked perfectly. I painted them with the same paint I used for the bookshelves and distressed them (I like to distress items because then I never have to worry about them gaining the inevitable scratches and dings my kids will eventually give to whatever it is I am working on...they are already worn). I toyed with the idea of decoupaging them with some Disney cartoon characters or putting the kids' names on them, but in the end, this is how they remained. I like the fact that anyone can use them and if one gets lost, no one will cry over it because I can always make another just like it.
               As I was photographing Neverland, Simon came in to explore his favorite bookshelf, the Science Section (that would be in the 4th bookcase). I was able to photograph how successful the process has been in our home library. Simon grabbed a bookmark, put it next to the book he wanted to read, then pulled out the book. Simple.
               He was a little confused about why exactly I was photographing, he got a little shy.

               Eventually, he sat down and began an adventure.....
               ...pausing to pose for me....
               ...what a goof!
               One of my most favorite things to do, is to watch my kids reading.
               And with the help of some new bookshelves and a fun way for the kids to keep track of where their books need to be returned, I am now able to enjoy watching them read even more.....
               ...and to remind myself that....
              ....To LIVE will be an awfully big adventure!

              ~.~the purple sprout

              Sunday, November 3, 2013

              Project Neverland (Part I)

              One of my goals for the next year, is to make our home EXACTLY how we would want it to be, and THEN see if we still want to sell it. What have we got to lose, right? If it is perfect and we are content, we will have the home we want to spend the rest of our lives in. If it isn't what we want, it will be in excellent condition for selling in the future. Win-Win!
               This is Neverland. We like to give our rooms names from books and our library/rec room/play room has been lovingly called Neverland since we made Blossom Cottage our home. After 6 years of living here and deciding that we weren't going to be selling our home and traveling the country this year, I finally decided to dive in and attempt to create the Neverland I have envisioned since we first walked through this home.
                The most obvious obstacle with Neverland was the fact that it was extremely dark and very dated. I knew I didn't want to put sheetrock up (anyone who has done sheetrock knows why) and I knew that I didn't have a lot of money to spend (in fact, I had $0 to spend, as almost our entire tax return went towards paying off a broken arm that ended up needing surgery....yeah).
               I knew that I wanted to do floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along this wall, but I had the issue of this window (which actually goes to nowhere. Apparently, when one of the previous owners of this house added on a beautiful bay window to the kitchen above Neverland, they decided that it would be best to have a view to the dirt from the room below). I also had the heat register in the ceiling and the electrical outlet to deal with. I decided that the bookshelves couldn't go to the ceiling and that I would cut a hole in one of the bookshelves, problems solved.....except for the window. I think I spent a few weeks just trying to decide how to deal with the window.
              I spent the next couple of months saving money (I made off of selling furniture we no longer needed) and stalking the online classifieds for bookshelves. I finally had enough shelves (6) to fill most of the wall. They are all laminate and ranged between $10-$15 a piece (which was easy for me to do). Notice, all of these are different. I did find a couple that were a little similar, but even those ones were a little different.
               I decided that we would insulate the window, cover it with wood and then put another piece of wood over the hole in the wall. I toyed with the idea of having a secret compartment to hide our loot in....but then I remembered we don't have any loot (and I was too lazy to figure out how to do a false back on one of the shelves, etc.). I had Ethan remove the molding around the outside of the window, as it would only get in the way of the board I planned on putting there.

               I used a piece of the foam board from the bus conversion to fill in the one side of the window....
              We put in a board and reinforced it with some strips of wood. It was nice and tight, nothing is getting in through that window. I also used this part of the wall to test a little of the paint (I already had a 5 gallon bucket of Swiss Mocha paint I had gotten for a steal -$20- that I was going to use on the bus, but decided to stain the cabinets and doors in there instead) on the wall to see which painting technique I was going to use on the awesome 70's wood paneling.
               Once we had the window securely covered, we began attaching all of the bookshelves to the wall (like you would if you were securing them for an earthquake, from the top). We also used liquid nails, gluing them all together and using the nail gun to reinforce them.
               I measured out and made a hole with my jigsaw for the one electrical outlet on that wall. I knew that I would probably never use it, because there are already 4 other outlets in that room, but it is always best to have options for later on.

               I couldn't decide how to finish the hole that was in the back of the bookshelf, but I decided that it really wouldn't matter that much. My plan was to have it covered by books most of the time.
               I began painting and was pleasantly surprised to find how much it REALLY brightened up the room. Neverland was going to bright and cheerful, after all. YAY!
               It took me many hours to finish up the walls, because I chose to go with a dry-brush process. It is my favorite technique for painting and I was so happy with how it turned out. So worth the extra time it took me! Here, you can see the doors to the under-bench storage area.
               I was so happy with the way these doors turned out. These are the doors to the furnace room, where we store a few Rubbermaid bins, full of rotating toys.
               I found some leftover base board in the garage and decided to use it along the bottom. I also planned on using some of the crown molding I have been collecting over the past few years, but I didn't have enough of any of the pieces I had, so I ordered some (the biggest expenditure of Project Neverland) for a whopping $32 (would have cost me over $80 in the hardware store). I then put some 2x4s along the top of each shelf, to give the crown molding somewhere to attach to. I lightly sanded and painted the shelving with a gripper (both of these steps are a must for laminate).
              I had Aaron help me remove the decorative pieces that were on the top of the end shelves (I had thought about making similar ones for all the rest of the shelves, but decided it would be silly, since they would be mostly hidden with the crown molding I was going to attach along the top). Anyways, I wanted to put this photo in here, just as a means of proof that Aaron does sometimes help me out with my crazy projects, on occasion....hey, I will take the help wherever I can get it!
              I cut a board for the inside of the top of the window opening. I painted it a dark brown.
               Then I went over that with some white paint and a dry brush, to attempt to get a matching look to the rest of the wall it would be going on. 
               I had Ethan find some 2x4 pieces and attach them around the inside of the opening, to attach the cover to.
               I used some painters tape to indicate where the edges of the 2x4s were located. I wanted to be sure to hit them, when nailing through the piece of wood that would be covering the opening.
               I let Ethan do the nailing....he loves to help out (and I love that!).
              My plan, once I realized I wouldn't be able to go all the way to the ceiling, was to make a wooden sign with a cute quote from Peter Pan for above the shelves. Because of this, I wasn't overly worried about the way the window covering looked. I was also able to have Aaron and Ethan hold the crown molding up long enough for me to nail it in. See? You can't even tell that these shelves were different heights, anymore. I attached the base board and felt extremely motivated to finish this project up.
               In fact, I was so excited to get done, I decided to forego the sanding of the shelves and just put the gripper on them. I had a couple of coats done (both sides on around 15 shelves) and left to run some errands.
               I got a phone call....Simon REALLY wanted to help paint and had even scraped some of them for me.
               I was able to wash off the brown paint on the back of the shelving, but I realized with the scraping off of the gripper paint on the shelves, that I needed to sand them not happy about that realization. I ignored that fact for quite a while, hoping that it would somehow disappear.
               I found some leftover corner molding that I just happened to have lying around and decided to attach it to the fronts of the shelving (where the two edges of each bookshelf met). It was just what I needed to give it the finished look I had been going for.
               I asked the kids not to step on the boards, as I procrastinated about peeling and sanding the shelves.....apparently not everyone understood the request. LOL
               Because all of the bottoms of the bookshelves were different heights, I had to figure out a solution to having them come flush with the top of the base boards, so that they would work well. I finally figured out how to fix the problem. I measured up from the top of the bottom shelf to the top of the base board. Then I subtracted the width of the board I had to put in there (3/4") and cut some boards (shims) to go in between the original bottom shelf and the new bottom shelf I was going to create. I attached the shims to the original bottom shelves, then attached the new bottom shelves to the shims. I caulked like crazy around all of the corners of the entire bookshelf unit. Like Carayzee! 
               Once I was done with this step, I finally came to grips with the fact that I needed to redo the shelves. And soon. After not having most of our family books out for a year, the kids were so anxious to get them back in the house. They were not content with library borrowing anymore. I used that anxiousness to my advantage.....
               I can't remember what else I bribed my minions with, but they were all eager enough to begin scraping and peeling away at the poorly-painted shelves. I actually think they enjoyed destroying my work (this time, with permission).
               It took a while to finally get them all scraped.
                Many hours of hard work and elbow grease went into this project.
               I continued painting the bookshelves, as the kids and I scraped away at the shelves. I applied 2 coats of gripper and 3 coats of regular paint, before I was completely through.
               Finally, the shelves were scraped, sanded, and ready for the gripper and paint. That took another week or so to complete, as I wanted to make sure I gave them plenty of time to cure in between coats.
              At last, after months of procrastination and hard work to avoid having to spend a fortune on hiring someone to make me some bookshelves, my shelves were nearly complete. I had to cut a few more shelves (which you can see I was painting, along with some other shelves for yet some more bookshelves. We are addicted to books, I am not going to lie to you. When you see how many books we have in this room alone, you will understand what I am admitting to), because part of the reason the shelves were at such a great price was because they apparently were missing a couple shelves. The shelves were painted and after a few days, I brought all of our kids' books into the house to put back into our library. The kids actually cheered.

              Want to see the rest of the transformation? You are going to love Neverland! Here is Part 2 of Project Neverland.