The Three Faces of Lego Peeve

Finding the best Lego storage solution seems to occupy way more of my attention than appropriate.

I’m the only person that cared about maintaining the Separation of Lego Components, investing hours of time in the sorting and labeling of Lego storage systems, each new system more elaborate and separatist than its predecessor.

Mistake Number One: Investing that much emotion in the State of Lego’s Infrastructure Policy.

Mistake Number Two: Excluding Ambassadors from State of Lego during the planning phases of the Infrastructure Policy.

Mistake Number Three: Demanding Expecting adherence to the Infrastructure Policy and delivering harsh sanctions for noncompliance.

Yesterday I performed an admirable step-jerk-hop to avoid demolishing a Knex creation, only to over-correct, lose my balance, and land– barefoot– on an abandoned pile of Lego bricks and tiles.

Finally taking a closer look around, I noticed my carefully sorted and labeled drawers where upended on the floor, and those not on the floor coated the entire surface of a Lego table re-purposed from the drop-side crib of death.

You see the surrender? Well, I guarantee that I have the best Lego storage solution developed just for you. My readers. My fellow Lego-peeve sufferers.

And in the infamous words of another brilliantly famous red-head: Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

Prioritizing To Do List Items

My To Do List today, according to Zach:
1) Sew an Ironman costume
2) Make cookies
3) Wrestle
4) Finish reading all of the Harry Potter novels to him
5) Build the outside fort

My To Do List, according to Elliot:
1) Build the knex roller-coaster
2) Make cookies
3) Play Monster Chase Hide-n-seek
4) Sew a Kitty Bed
5) Make Yoda Soda

My To Do List, according to Me:
1) Take a shower
2) Put on clean clothes
3) Get E’s health form filled out (due on Friday)
4) Magically morph 3 tortillas, a tomato, and cheese into a nutritious and delicious meal for four*
5) Make a Mega To Do list (see example from July) proving I am just a wee bit delusional

*Note: Going to the grocery store didn’t make my Top 5.

Make a DIY Magic Wand

How to make a DIY magic wand? Yeah, sure.

What adults learn from children–if they pay attention–is that the world is a magical place. That there might be monsters under the bed, or a beanstalk that grows high into the clouds. Or, if I make the environment friendly to them, laundry gnomes.

Please, please let laundry gnomes be real!

Zach has been reading since November and his skill with it still makes my brain hurt. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, it squeezes my heart in a vice and makes me all teary.

So when we started reading Harry Potter together (not that he couldn’t read it by himself– he just won’t) I began to consider all of the wonderful things I could do with my own magic wand.

Laundery gnomes

Then I saw some old chopsticks and got to thinking… which is how I ended up making the easiest DIY magic wands in the history of craft making.

Supply List for the Easiest Magic Wand:

      Hot glue gun




      A few beads (I used pieces from a broken mardi gras necklace)



Apply hot glue to the chopstick. Twist and twirl it– uniform perfection is NOT the goal here. Let the glue harden up just a little bit.

Add a few beads. Just a few— I did a version with more beads and it looked like a bedazzled corndog.

It was at this point that I went and looked an actual image of Harry Potter’s wand. Ahem. I mixed brown and a little black to make it streaky.

Ta-da! A epoximise spell!

This Old House

This old house has seen a bunch of upgrades–some easy, some not. A corner here, a room there. Slowly it inched forward from 1969.

The poor kitchen started off with a look that only a DIYer could appreciate. We got new cabinets, and I was happy for awhile. But then I decided that the new cabinets were boring and needed to some spice.

Ah, turning the old-new into the new-new.

Insert insane cackle, since that project isn’t ahem done. Though all I have left (other than decorative touches) are the faux built-in from target bookshelves and leftover scraps hack. I plan for it to look something like:

Photo Credit: BHG

My brilliant idea for an inexpensive stainless steel backsplash is still my favorite all my DIY projects.

And I did manage to get the other set of shelves hung in the coat closet last weekend. But then I had to shove all of the misplaced stuff back in there (we needed to eat dinner). I refuse to let JB hang the door back up, because out-of-sight…

So instead I’m embracing my eclectic decorating style and making a pop-art statement about the Overload of Stuff in America–

Wait. That’s IT. I’ll just label my clutter as being an ode to Warhol and suddenly it’s a statement.

And why this montage of projects of Months Past? Because I was down in the basement– doing, yeah, laundry…

…when I started fantasizing about my perfect life. One where my hair stayed stick straight despite the humidity and I had an extra 1200 square feet of space.

Wait– I do have an extra 1200 square feet of space, but it’s not pleasant– and sometimes the dark corners are kinda scary.

If only the basement were done, everything else would be perfect. Cue my Rainbow farting unicorn, please.

Hey– who needs some baby stuff? Cloth diapers? Anyone? Bueller?

Can you see it with me?

Buh-bye to clown-vomit epoxy floor,
and also to the 1970s vintage accordion door.

No to wainscoting in shades of dark brown,
Acoustic ceiling tile? You’re first to go down.

Hello to a softly carpeted place;
to new walls creating happy-family space.

Oh– and bad poetry aside– I’m totally building this system for storage.

Trying… but Just. Can’t. Stop. Myself.

Photo credit: Family Handyman

To eliminate all of the closet over-pourage.

But before I can even think about the satisfaction of ripping out every spec of acoustic ceiling tile, I first have to finish the built-ins. And the closet. But you can watch me drool over ideas on pinterest.

Perhaps I should have FINISH IT tattooed on my forehead?

Mortal Kombat for ADHDers

How to Organize a Coat Closet

This past Saturday (as in the day before Father’s Day) I decided it was time to tackle the organization of the coat closet. Mine was a simple plan to use the free closetmaid shelves that I’ve been installing in various other locations and do something about the mess.

Before: the top of the closet.

Before: the bottom of the closet.

After pulling everything out– hey look, a box of hangers– I realized that I didn’t have a real plan.

I started first with a mind map, a new skill recently acquired during a blog content planning class at Momcomm.

Yes, I included hide-n-seek as a priority need for the closet. Duh.

Next I took measurements (height, width and depth) and transferred the dimensions to my best-ever-perspective-drawing.

But then I started poking around on google and pinterest for clever configuration ideas. This, my friends, began the easy project’s downward spiral into the 5th level of home improvement hell.

Google, in its increasingly sentient–and assholish– way led me over to a blog where the homeowner turned a coat closet into a mudroom nook.


I’ve been suffering from mudroom envy since 2007 when the first of a million grains of sand dribbled out of Zach’s tiny shoe. But then Kim hacked mudroom built-ins and somehow I’ve turned my missing mudroom into the root of all my domestic difficulties.

So… JB returns and I, according to his version, pounce on him like he’s the nip to my cat with my Super Duper Ooper Schmooper Big Idea.

Instead of a boring coat closet with wire shelves, how about a NOOK. Everyone has a closet! We’d have a mudroom nook! It’ll be easy!

Y’all, I had him. For approximately 27 seconds.

Then this happened.

Next came the argument, the frustration, the misunderstandings and at least 4 hours of my life lost to the abyss of marital disagreement.

A sort of cranky me finished deconstruction. Off came the wooden coat rod and shelves.

Then came paint. I was tempted to use the bright green from the living room, but for the first time ever in my life I intentionally painted a room beige.

While painting non-popcorned closet ceiling, I realized that the popcorn covering the ceilings of all but three rooms in this house aren’t original. Which means that the previous owners deliberately chose to popcorn their ceilings as a… design technique?

Redneck sauna: a closet with no ventilation and bright work lights.

I’m totally over my mudroom nook plan.

I think. Maybe.

The fact that there is only one wire shelf installed does not, in any way, imply that I might be considering just going for it while he’s at work. Because that would be wrong and stuff.

Easy Magnet Lesson for Preschoolers

Do you need an easy magnet lesson for preschoolers (or older)? A few months ago my mother gave the Small People a book about magnets. This morning E found it buried under some other books and requested that we go magnet fishing. Like in the book.

Well, I do love the science-y stuff, and the entire lesson plan is laid out in the book.

Stay tuned for my explanation for how to hand-carve your very own bamboo magnet fishing pole. And also how to use your regionally available fish to handcraft the fish magnets. Please don’t forget to place them all in your hand-thrown, kiln fired porcelain pond.

Or not.

Because I’m making fun of myself too, when I start thinking craziness like that. Did the above-mentioned occur to me? Yeah, for at least 6 seconds. Then I recognized how insanely stupid and time-wasteful that was for my purposes.

In this case, I needed to Just Say No to Pinterest and yes to projects that Small People could theoretically replicate without me.

Every item needed for this project could be found in my catch-all bowl bucket to my microwave. So I’m even giving myself bonus points for cleaning some crap off the counter.

I’m turning over a new leaf when it comes to this stuff. Because you know what meant more to my kids than a hand-carved magnet fishing pole?

1) Going from request to completion in less than 5 minutes. Because that never happens here.

2) Not fake smiling as I photograph their every magnet fishing moment.

3) Playing with magnets and catching fish with every cast. Trying to beat each other for catching and carrying the most objects.

Make a DIY Upcycled Repurposed Deck Planter Box

Between our fence and the house, where a sad, sagging thing called gate once lived, we now have a giant deck box planter. A rocking, upcycled, no-cost deck box planter. Of course there are flowers in it now!

Ghetto gate was removed when the boys decided on Birthday Extravaganza 2011 being a home party. I then spent the next 6 months screeching “hurry up” as Old Dog #1 looked oh-so-carefully for her special pee-pee place.

The solutions I had come up with were laughably painful. Brick and mortars walls, for example. But there is concrete under there, and I don’t want any part of a jackhammer.

Then pinterest delivered unto me a living hedge.

I’m not going to lie, I adore the stainless steel trough look. As it turns out, they are pretty damn expensive. I tried to convince JB that we could fashion something similar from flashing, or stainless steel sheeting like the kitchen backsplash, but he wasn’t buying it.

Then there was the issue of Small People and scorching hot metal all summer long.

Soooo… since I had already built a wood deck box, back in the old days–Wave hello at gestating Zach!–JB and I decided that we could use the deconstructed gate and panel to make a new box.

Almost all furniture building, starts with a basic shape (in this case a rectangle).

First you need a base.

Then you need uprights and a helper.

And some sides.

And a superhero.

Having an identity crisis.

Leftover stain. I used 3 different kinds and mixed ’em.

But I don’t own staining gloves. What’s up with that? Ah, but I do have plastic bags.

Now I didn’t want to fill this bad boy up with dirt, because that would make it weigh more than a show pony. I also didn’t want to spend the money on containers… but I did have a perfectly sized trashcan.

That said, I didn’t want to fill the trash can up with dirt, either. Oh…gallon milk jugs that JB wanted to recycle.

And the newspaper I’ve been saving.

My mixture.

You’d never know what’s down below!

Now it’s all filled in so you can’t see the containers unless you are right on top of it. Which I can (and will) fix with landscape fabric. Eventually.

A few of the other plants.

I’m going to miss tiki man so much when he finally breaks. But 8 years off of a $5 Big Lots purchase makes me smile.

Here’s My Sign

I waited too long to get a sign for voting AGAINST the marriage amendment. Though the fact that I’m finding it difficult seems to be– if you’ll pardon the groan– a good sign.

Since we read a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Dr. Suess, I got all poem-y again.

A sign? Look–a sign!
To all of you, from all of mine.

Celebrate happy families of any combination.
Married. Single. Gay. Straight. Cohabitation.

No insurance coverage for birth control? Demands from Church to be apart from State?
Well back at ya– no Constitutional Amendment for legislated hate.


Learn to accept and live with your fellow (wo)man.

Of course, all that wouldn’t fit. Heck, even the modified version barely fit. And look– I discovered yet another non-talent to add to my list: sign making. Dude. I even had a stencil. Sad.

But then–huzzah– I found out they got more signs. Here’s to hoping I can get my hands on one tonight. Otherwise, I’ll be sporting this in the yard.

DIY with your kids: Mudpie Kitchen

Yet another brilliant idea from pinterest. Mud pie kitchen? Yes, please.

Why, mud pie?

1) I’m developing a moderate hatred of sand boxes. Sand on its own irritates enough; sand on a Small Person morphs to something parasitic. Hitching a ride in underwear, hair, socks, shorts pockets (grrr!) until it finds my bed sheets. Then–and only then– sand detaches from the Small Person. I’m like the Princess and the Pea with that stuff.

2) Using only upcycled/repurposed wood, the original project plan cost $5 (sink and cooking supplies from the dollar store). The final version included a $10 splurge for new lumber (1 x 2 Pressure-Treated Pine Strips). Pulling splinters out of the hands of Small People has to qualify as a circle of hell.

3) The purpose of the project made it really easy for to say “yes” when the Small People asked “can we help”.

Here’s how:

Step One (not pictured):
Determine your dimensions, make measurements, and gather supplies.

My table is 48 inches long, 22 inches tall, with a depth of 23 inches. Yes, it’s an odd height/depth– using scraps of wood for a project often requires flexibility.

Step Two: Assemble the frame for the counter
Two kids equals a need for two sinks, so the counter is a rectangle. I used standard 1x2s, repurposed from the now-dismantled fence gate.

Question: You have 2 Small People to drill eight holes, in 4 pieces of wood. If both Small People start getting grabby at their second turn, how long before one Mom gets the fake smile face?

Answer: Quicker than it should.

Patience practice– not just for kids.

Elliot drills his first hole; I’m reminded to use more oomph on chuck-tightening.

Step Three: Add reinforcements at the corners

When involving furniture with children, one should always add reinforcements at the joints.

When involving furniture building with children, one should anticipate it taking about the same amount of time as it took the tree to grow.

I mostly managed to remain cheerful. Watching E manhandle a drill that packs almost as many pounds as he does was sorta awesome. Some additional time spent debating with JB about the intelligence of letting Z use the miter saw.

Check it out– hearing protection, eye protection, my hand on the wood (keeping his hand out of blade range) while he pushes the button? I feel like the only one at real risk is, well, me.

When involving children with furniture building, one should be expectant and tolerant of imperfections. Secretly fix the tetanus risk later, while they dream the sweet dream of real power tools.

Step Four: Measure and cut the slats for the countertop
Like I mentioned, my original plan was to use fence paneling, but I just wasn’t happy with the look and feel of them during the dry fit.

So I sent JB to the hardware store to grab some more 1x2s, and used those instead.

I added a top frame of 1x2s to the base, for stability, and a place to screw the the cross slats (from the bottom). I screwed them in with the “sinks” in place to make sure that each one was snug, but still removable.

I have this thought to eventually replace the plastic bins with real sinks. Which makes me kick myself for not keeping the sinks from the bathroom remodels.

Step Five: Attach the legs

Four pieces of wood, wood glue, and some screws. I totally confess to using netflix and Spiderman as a bargaining tool for doing this part solo. Next time I run across some old wheels/castors, I’ll add those as well.

At 22 inches, I love the height for Elliot (~38 inches). If it were just Zach, I would have gone taller.

The minute the I put the drill down– literally, see the glue still dripping– I had two Small People ready to test the mud pie kitchen for the first time.

Step Six: Stain the Wood

Despite using pressure treated wood, I added stain. One, because of the table’s purpose– mud and water, and two because the stain was sitting right in front of my face from the upcycled deck planter box I’ll show you tomorrow.

Yeah, we dig it, Mom.

Vermicomposting with Kids

I won’t say it’s a boy thing– since it isn’t. But the Small People do love insects, arachnids (spiders), and annelids (worms). Vermicomposting with kids combines all of that with dirt.

Now, because they are tech-age kids, they will dig for a few minutes, give up, then move over to stand 8.5 inches away from my leg, waiting for whatever worms I find. It makes my chest hurt that they don’t have enough patience to dig for their own worms.

Which begins the choruses of “Can I help with that?” Or, and this was my favorite since it happened right when the Jehovah’s Witnesses should have (they skipped us) walked up the driveway, the gnashing of teeth and eardrum splitting screams of: “YOU JUST TOOK MY WORM. I DON’T WANT YOU TO DO THAT.” For 38 minutes, the Smallest of the Small People loudly defended his worm against what he purported was illegal worm deportation.

A few days later, they found a DIY worm bin in one of my gardening books, beginning Vermicomposting Campaign 2012.

“Mom, can we have worm pets?”

Which, my friends, was a marked improvement last month’s campaign:
“but why can’t the termite friends live in our bedroom? We promise to keep them in the bucket!”

I will warn you, our finished project lacks a certain…polished professionalism. Which should tell you that it was indeed made almost entirely by a 5 and 3 year old. Who think it’s the best worm bin, ever.

We started the vermicomposting process a website and some youtube videos. Next, I used Z’s interest in the project to have him practice copying words/letters. The squiggly letters are in worm-font. Duh.

Then I tried to find non-internet-shipped red wigglers. Apparently you can’t just dig worms out of your backyard– who knew?

First stop, Walmart- I know, I know— but it’s less than a mile away!. Walmart locks up their bait worms, by the way. Requiring a walmart manager (as elusive as photographic evidence of Big Foot) make a worm purchase. Which didn’t much matter, since Walmart only carries a warehouse worm not good for bin composting.

Back in the car, across town to the bait store we go. Success! Return trip home, where I work on convincing the children that we will need to use a dark bin, and they suggest we use a clear bin, paint it black, but leave a window– so the worms can “see us”.

Lots of tongue-biting and cheek-chewing, after all, it’s their worm bin, right? But, it was hard. So very, very hard.

Then Zach piped up with, “look, Mom. There’s black paint right here.” I still had the black paint sitting in the kitchen. Next to the white paint from the cabinets and the eventually to be up-cycled built in shelves.

Drill air holes. Actually, let your children drill the air holes. The smallest of the Small People will first insist on appropriate hearing protection. While reading a coloring book about birds. Get it? Worms/ Birds.

Gather paint and brushes. And more damp paper towels than you will think necessary. Have mild freak out moments because you are letting 2 children paint with non-washable paint– INSIDE. Why inside? Because it’s raining pollen right now. Yellow pollen + black paint + Allergic Small People = no good.

Give them a lot of paper to shred for the worm beds. Show Small People how to make strips. Walk away to check facebook fold laundry . Come back in 20 10 minutes to exactly one sheet of newspaper ripped in half.

Heave a large sigh, and begin to deliver a lecture about the importance of caring for pets. Realize pretty quickly how stupid you sound (and that they aren’t listening) and start ripping paper with them.

Instruct Small People to wet the bedding until it’s damp, like a sponge. Remember too late that damp to Small People is synonymous with dripping wet to everyone else.

Tell Small People that if they can get ready for bed without crying, screaming or yelling (mine, not theirs) that we can add the worms into the hottest new city view worm bin in the South.

Watch a squiggling wet mass of–thankfully–alive worms. Explain to the worms how they were on their way to being bait, but instead now get to live in a giant plastic bucket of newspaper and veggie scraps.

Currently, the bin lives outside as I work on the correct green/brown ratio. I have already explained to my husband that he couldn’t just put a whole apple in there– worms have small mouths, after all.

I assume the worms like it better outside, since they have stopped trying to escape. One, which I’ve named Bent Tail, seems to the be the leader of the worm revolt. Me? I’m looking at a long driveway, lots of birds, and several exuberant boys thinking, “stupid worm, you’ll never have it as good out there as you do right here.”