{ Our Playroom Makeover-Part 2 The Building }

After all of The Planning, I was ready to get started building on these lofts. I had draw out the plans, including exactly how much wood I would need for each step of the way and had purchased the first amount of wood. My brother Mitch was going to be here visiting for Thanksgiving weekend so my goal was to have the lofts rough box shape attached to the walls by the time he left. That gave us about 3 day to work on it. I did an awful lot of research on how to build these lofts. After looking at multiple plans and about a thousand pictures of different styles of railings and stairs and the ceilings for underneath, I came up with a set of plans that would be best for us. In the end I am not sure it’s the “right way”, but it seemed to be an engineeringly sound way, a way that gave it the best amount of safety you could have for a loft, and was the way that we intended it to look aesthetically. I was a little frustrated when I was looking for plans at the lack of detailed instructions on how to go about this, so I decided that I better write down the way that I did it, so if I ever what to try to attempt this again I will have some detailed instructions to remind me.

We started by officially closing down the playroom. When the kids all came home from school one day, the playroom was officially closed until Christmas. We put up wrapping paper covering the French doors on both sides of the door and then hung a sheet for extra protection from any little kid sized invaders. They were super curious but didn’t peek. We had moved the TV out to the hallway media area just outside the door so they wouldn’t have to miss out on all our Christmas time movies, and were in earshot as I would be working some days. We would rotate out the toys to play with in the hallway area, and then they would knock when they wanted more. It’s funny how after a month of doing that  it became such a smooth working system you would of thought that’s how it was always done. It’s makes me laugh now to have been a fly on the wall watching all that craziness.

Materials for Step 1

4-2x8 8ft in length

2-2x8 12ft in length cut in half for a total of four pieces

6-2x4 10ft in length cut in half for a total of 12 pieces that would go inside of the outer “box” we made

1 box (100 count)-4inch lag bolts to attach 2x8’s and 2x4’s together and attach the loft to the wall. We used 64 total for this step for both lofts-8 for the corners and 24 for attaching the 2x4’s.

Step 1-Building the loft base

For the first part of this project I started by attaching together the 2x8’s to make a basic box shape. I used two lag bolts per corner to attach them together. After I had finished one of the boxes I realized a mistake I had already made. I knew that I wanted to add some trim around the outer edges later (you can see it on one of the later pictures), but I had not countersunk the screws so that the trim would lay flat on it. I tried to unscrew them, but they were in too tight. The ones that would eventually be facing the wall wouldn’t be a problem, but the outer two sides I would have to adjust on the trim later to make it fit.

Playroom Building-2

When I made the second box I made sure that I used a large 1inch paddle bit to drill a countersunk hole first that went down just enough for the head of the lag screw to be flush with the wood, and then used a regular sized bit to drill all of the way through the rest of the wood. After I had both boxes assembled I was ready to fit the 2x4’s inside of the box to give it more support. I had planned for there to be six supports in each box. As I researched what a normal spacing of floor joists were, and how big our lofts were, six seamed to be a good amount. I’m sure by some standards it was overkill-I think many things we ended up doing were, but we didn’t want to take any chances of it not being sturdy enough to hold a good amount of weight. I used the same 4inch bolts to attach the 2x4’s to the main frame. My brother asked why I didn’t just use wood screws to attach these. On some plans that I had found they had all used the bolts for the main frame and the 2x4’s as well. I basically just went with their plans and figured extra strength was probably not a bad thing. It was more expensive for the lag bolts as opposed to just wood screws, but for a project this big it was small change to pay for safety.I finished up almost all of this part of the building by Wednesday night, and then our drill burnt out. It was one that we had had for almost 10 years so it had gotten some good use, but we were left with no tools to use all of Thanksgiving the next day. It was probably for the better-we were able to just spend a whole day relaxing and talking and eating.

The kids think it’s funny in the picture above that Aaron is just watching me do all the work. Truth be told I LOVE doing all the work. I don’t get too much time to do anything that “hobbylike” for me, so when I have a chance to I get a little bossy and stingy with the work. It really is so relaxing for me to create things, and I love just having Aaron there to keep me company though he claims that I never let him watch me do anything. He may be partly right =) He and Mitch just let me do my thing, and helped with their muscle power when I needed it. In the end we were all super glad that we were all there-there was something that we each had overlooked at one time or another, so it turned out we were a pretty good team. Aaron just humored me and let me do the power tool part and he did the engineering part, and Mitch-well he did all the scary parts like getting under the loft to screw in bolts to the wall when Aaron and I were too chicken too. Thanks Mitch, you’re our hero=). He also helped Aaron with all the heavy lifting a 7 month pregnant woman can’t do (though I tried hard because I really don’t like to ask for help), and helped us think though all our plans thoroughly. And really most importantly he and Aaron kept me company while I had a little building fun.

Materials for Step 2

4-4x8ft plywood 19/32inch thick cut down to size

2 1/2 inch wood screws (2 boxes)-to attach the plywood to the base

Playroom Building-13

Step 2-Attaching the plywood floor

We had big plans for going out early on Friday morning to try and hit some Black Friday deals and score ourselves a new drill, and Mitch wanted a sander to finish a project he was working on too (it’s by the bed that Aaron is sitting on in the picture above). We ended up staying up way too late talking though so when our alarms went off at 6am, we promptly both decided to snooze them indefinitely. I did want a little vacation too and sleeping in doesn’t happen too often around here. Mitch got up earlier than me on Friday and picked up a new drill for us along with his sander and some materials for his project.

I continued to finish attaching the 2x4’s and then we flipped over each box so we could attach the plywood to the top. We had assembled the boxes upside down so that we could lay the 2x4’s flush at the bottom (we laid it on a scrap piece of wood so we wouldn’t get carpet stuck in between the wood) rather than having to hold the 2x4’s up at the top of the box while screwing them in and hope that they would all be even. We don’t own a circular saw, so had Lowe’s cut down the plywood sheets to size for us. I waited to go buy the plywood until I was finished with Step 1 so that I could measure one more time and get the measured exact. I had figured out the measurements on paper, but after having the actual wood together I wanted to be sure that our dimensions were accurate with the slight differences that wood sometimes has in it. We attached the plywood with 2 1/2inch screws around the edge every foot or so and then a couple into each crossways 2x4. In the picture above you can see where we ended up having to add some 2x4 pieces cut shorter so that where the two pieces of plywood met they would have something to be screwed down into.

Materials for Step 3

2-4x4 8ft in length for corner support of loft

6-2x4 8ft in length to help support the loft as we lifted it up and screwed it into the wall. We ended up using these for later in the project so they were not a waste.

39-4inch lag bolts. We ended up having to go purchase a few more bolts than the initial 100 pack after seeing exactly how many we would need to attach the lofts into the wall.

Step 3-Attaching the loft to the wall

The next step was by far the hardest part of this whole thing and the one that I was super worried about. I think I had dreams of our whole house collapsing because we had attached these lofts into the studs and they broke them and the playroom started crumbling down. Crazy, I know. Almost every single loft I found online was solely supported by one pole on one side, with the rest of the loft securely attached to the wall. It was what set apart the lofts that looked built in and those that looked a little “homemade” for that lack of a better word. I wanted our loft to look like it was part of the house when we had it built. Our best option for the one leg wonder was a 4x4 pole. Our selection of this 4x4 is one thing I would do differently in the future. Those that had used a pressure treated 4x4 (which is all we could find) had mentioned that over time as it dried it could warp a bit and end up twisted a little. We didn’t really have a better option because we couldn’t find any regular 4x4’s at any place in town, but after we added the additional square column around it and it has had a few months to really dry out, I have noticed that one of the poles looks a little crooked and the other pole had a screw that seems to be popping out as the 4x4 is twisting. Live and learn I guess. I’m sure no one would notice but me, but it’s enough that next time I would do it different. When I think of how heavy that loft was to lift up, it’s amazing that just one pole can support it, but it does.

One thing that I am glad that I did when we built our house was to take pictures of almost all of the rooms before it was dry walled. Why I did that, at the time I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that it would come in handy later for something. This time it proved to be right. We were able to look at the pictures and figure out exactly where the studs were. With something as heavy as these, I wanted to make sure we weren’t just guessing where we thought the studs were, we needed them to be in the middle of the studs. We lucked out and above the toy closet was a header so along the whole length where we needed to bolt the loft into we knew was in a solid piece of wood. The other studs we were able to locate through the picture and from the attic above. We ended up putting in 19 bolts on this toy closet side loft. Overkill maybe, but secure for sure. We have had around 500lbs of teenagers up there before and not a budge. Now, I’m sure if they decided to jump up and down on it that may be another story, but for now after four months it’s not going anywhere.

Playroom framing-4

The other loft didn’t have a header, but we were able to find all of the studs and put 20 lag bolts into studs to secure it. I was just so grateful for those pictures-it saved us a ton of time locating studs and gave me a lot of piece of mind knowing that those things were attached absolutely secure.

Playroom framing-5

Here are a few pictures after they were attached to the walls. Hopefully I can explain how we got them there somewhat clearly. We laid the boxes on their side with the plywood side facing the wall. We attached the 4x4 permanent piece of wood with 5 lag bolts. Two from each side being careful to avoid the bolts that were already in there holding the box together, and one lag bolt down through the top. After that we attached two 2x4’s that were 8ft in length together temporarily with wood screws to make them be temporary poles for the three other corners. All of this was done while the box was on it’s side. The next part was a bit of trial and error. In hindsight we should have probably rallied some more help, but as three independent people we thought we could do it ourselves. The second loft was so much easier after a little practice on the first one. This is what ended up working-Aaron and Mitch each took a corner that was nearest to the wall and started to lift it up in the air. I was at the two corners that were closest to the French doors. I would run between the two corners and scoot in the 2x4’s and 4x4 as they would lift up. If the 2x4’s just drug along they would start to bend and break at where they were secured to the loft. Once we had the loft set in the corner the weight of it almost kept it tight against the wall-I think that is probably why from an engineering stand point this design of one major post and the rest of the loft secured to the wall works. We were then able to use the 4inch lag screws and attach each loft to the wall. The one on the left took 20 bolts and the one on the right took 19-overkill maybe, but we were glad we had studs available and could secure it so well.

Playroom Building-3

Playroom Building-4

Aaron testing it out-once we were up there we realized how tall it really was-without the railing it was a little bit scary. I began to doubt if my kids would even want to go up there, but at this point it was a little too late to turn back. Luckily, once we got the railing built and attached it didn’t seem scary-still high enough up to seem pretty cool, but not as scary. You can get an idea of the head room available up there. It’s not a ton for an adult standing straight up, but for kids and teenagers it works great.

Playroom Building-6

Aaron working his mathematical magic while he explains something to us about the set up up there. I was happy to have both lofts officially attached to the walls by the end of the weekend. After that I knew that I would be able to finish the rest by myself with Aaron’s help for a few things. It felt so good to have what looked like two lofts in the works. I was pretty proud of us and what we had accomplished so far. At this point the kids obviously knew that we were building something for their surprise because we were just so loud with all of the tools. It still amazes me though that they didn’t try to come in and peak at what we were making-even the little boys. When the cousins arrived a few days before Christmas they even announced that they couldn’t come in because there were Christmas presents in there.

Playroom Building-9

Materials for Step 4

8-1x5 1/2inch primed white boards 8ft in length for columns

8-1x1 1/2inch primed white boards for trim around edges of loft

1-1x2 1/2inch primed white board for trim

1-1x4 board for trim around the top of columns

1-1x7inch primed white boards for trim along bottom of column

Other trim pieces for around column bottom and around edge of ceiling planking

2inch screws (50 count/1box)-used to screw the column together

Step 4-Building columns and attaching planking for ceiling underneath the loft

I knew that there were several things that we would need to rent a nail gun for. I tried to get things to a point where we would have to only rent it for one day. We needed it to attach the plank ceiling to the underside of the loft and to attach the trim around the poles and edges of the loft. I spent Monday building the two columns that would surround the 4x4’s of each loft. It would offer a bit more support and mimic in part all the molding that is in the rest of our house. I wanted these lofts to look as if there were part of the original house and I love how the columns turned out. I used the preprimed boards to create a box and then simply attached it to the 4x4 on two sides.

  Playroom Building-14Playroom Building-16 

For the trim I just attached various widths of primed 1x2’s and other trim molding. In the spots where I wasn’t able to countersink in the bolts when I attached the box frame together, I had to use a countersink bit and basically carve out the back of the piece of molding so it would lay flat. I wanted the underside of the loft to have a very finished look to it, so we found some tongue and grove planking at Lowes. They came 8? to a pack, and we ended up using exactly 3 packs per loft-six packs total. They were pretty easy to install, but it was definitely a two person job-so Aaron was happy when I actually let him help=). I would cut the boards to length and help hold while he would nail them in. I found a tutorial after the fact that shot the nail in at an angle right through the grove so that they wouldn’t have to fill so many nail holes. We had shot right through the top which turned out to be hundreds of nail holes to fill and sand. Great tip for next time though. One other thing that I would do different was that we had the 2x4’s to attach the boards to in the middle area, but on the edges there wasn’t. They fit pretty snug, but it would have been a good idea on the shorter 5ft length ends to have attached a 1x2 strip of wood so that we would have something at each end of the planks to secure it to-hopefully that makes sense. I loved how nice everything looked once the planks were up and the poles were finished out with molding. I put some molding around the edges of the planking so that it had a nice finished edge and covered up any gaps that were left.

Materials for Step 5

4-2x4 10ft in length for the sides of both ladders. I had originally thought I could use the 2x4’s we had purchased and used for extra support as we were attaching the loft to the wall, but hadn’t thought through that one good enough and realized with the angle that the ladder needed to be we would need ones that were slightly longer than 8ft

2-1x4 8ft in length for ladder rungs

2 1/2 inch screws (2 boxes)-to assembling ladder together and for the railings

Step 5-Building the loft ladders

Building the ladders was next. We used the 2x4’s at the 10ft length and cut them at angles on the top and bottom. We then used 1x4’s for the rungs of the ladders cut to 16inches wide. We bolted them to the loft from the back with the same 4inch lag bolts that we used for the rest of the loft. I ended up going back and covering up with wood filler all the other bolts, but I did leave the ladder ones exposed in case we needed to replace the ladders because of it braking. I attached the rungs with wood screws, but if I would do it again ( I may go back and redue this since I can unbolt the ladder) is to make a routered cut at each place that a rung is so the rung can slide into the 2x4 and then wood glue and screw it in. I think it will make for a much stronger ladder. We haven’t had too many problems, but we have had one rung break already that I need to replace. It had a little too much weight on it and I didn’t pre drill the holes so it created the wood to crack more easily.

Playroom Building-17

Materials for Step 6

8-1x4 8ft in length for railing top and bottom

20-2x2 8ft in length for railing spindles. Each pieces was cut down into 3 pieces for a total of about 60 pieces that were each 31inch in length. I cut them as I went along and ended up being able to return a few that we didn’t use.

Left over 2x4’s for newel posts

2 1/2 inch screws for attaching the posts to railing and railing to the plywood loft floor

Step 6-Building the railing

The railing was the last part of the building that needed to be done, and it took probably the longest because of all the angles. I don’t have a lot of pictures but when you see the final pictures you can see how the side railings all came together. I built two boxes that became the larger newel posts at the top of the ladder. We set them farther apart than the 16inch rung width just to give a little extra room when climbing up-a suggestion from Aaron that was much needed. It made a big difference in climbing in and out comfortably. The 1x4 on the front of the post was cut a little longer so that it overlapped the loft floor and we would be able to screw it into the front of the loft. I cut the remaining spindles to 31 inches and then sanded each one down individually to make them extra smooth. We basically used our staircase in our home as a model for how tall to make the railing and how far apart to place the spindles. I am not sure how lofts are treated during a home inspection, but we wanted to make sure that they were at least equal to our staircase should we ever move and they needed to be a specific height. That of course was second to just having it really high so that my little kids wouldn’t fall-something I worried about, but they really play so carefully up there and we are up in the playroom when the little boys play up there just to be extra careful. Getting the railing fitted against the ceiling on the side railings was the trickiest part. I basically had to make the entire railing and then slide it into place. It was super tricky and a tight fit. The top and bottom of the railing is made from 1x4’s and the spindles are 2x2’s that are predrilled and then screwed in from the bottom 1x4. That 1x4 was then screwed into the plywood loft base. We connected the top and bottom railing parts at the corners with flat metal plates on the underside and top of the railings. The railing is also screwed into studs at both sides. The picture below is when just the front railing was installed, I don’t have a before picture of the side railing before it was painted.

Playroom Building-18

Step 7-1000-Sanding and Painting

Okay so there wasn't that many more steps, but what was left was a lot of filling holes, sanding, caulking, painting with a primer, sanding again, wiping down and vacuuming everything really good, and then painting it a glossy white paint. It felt like about a thousand steps because it took so long. I was still painting up until the few hours before Christmas. I actually still need to go back and do another coat in some spots. Those railing spindles and ladder rungs took forever to paint, but in the end I was super happy with how it turned out. I still can’t quite believe that we built this. Aaron and I would just stand up there looking at it saying, “This is SO cool!” I am pretty sure that we were building this in part for ourselves as well to satisfy some childhood dream. Either way, it turned out pretty great, and come Christmas morning the kids were beside themselves with excitement.


{ Our Playroom Makeover-Part 1 The Planning }

I am realizing why I have put off writing this post for the last four months-it is LONG! I decided that it would be better to divide it up into four different posts to help a little –The Planning, The Building, The Decorating, and The Finished Room. I just have too much to record for each part, and I don’t want to skimp on remembering all that went into this-for my own sake and for my kids who didn’t get to see all the before stuff that happened. I really want to remember this whole process, not just the great after-though I really love that too! I think it was just the first time that I felt like I decorated a room the “right way” (more on that later) so I need to remember this as I slowly work on each room in our house. I really did learn so much through all of this.

For Christmas this last year, we decided to do something a little different than we have ever done before for our gift giving. As Christmas neared I was so excited and was looking forward to it especially since we would be having family come, and I was determined to have all my shopping done early even though I still wasn’t due with Ethan until February. At Christmas our kids each only receive three gifts-one from Santa, one from each other that they have made in part (they draw names so each person secretly only makes/buys a gift for one other person), and a gift from us. As I started brainstorming all of my gift giving purchases I was super frustrated by a couple of things.

First, I felt like my kids already have too many toys, gadgets, clothes, etc., and many that they don’t even play with or use anymore-they just end up scattered on the floor instead of actually being used.

Second, I felt like I was having a hard time finding presents that really stood out to me-I was not impressed with the selection of toys in the stores/online. We have really tried to keep fewer toys while staying in a theme-Little People, Legos, toy kitchen, dolls, cars and trucks, wood blocks,Geotracks, and avoid just buying one of this little thing and one of that thing that in the end just end up getting lost in the mix. I am definitely one to pitch McDonalds' kid’s meals toys when my kids aren’t looking. It’s not the answer for everyone, but for us it just works better to keep a bigger collection of things that they actually play with and love,and they seem to have more fun with more pieces to a few things, than fewer pieces to many things. With the poor selection of toys I was beginning to feel like I was doomed to just buy something to buy something even if it wasn’t something I loved, they loved, or we needed. Not a good use of resources in my opinion, and the exact opposite of what we have been trying to teach our kids. We really want them to think through their purchases, save their money for it, and only buy what they need, or really love, not just “things” for the sake of having more things.

Third, I am a big believer in the fact that kids create memories from doing things and sometimes just getting a physical gift doesn’t always create those lasting memories for many years to come. I really can’t remember but a handful of presents I ever received as a kid, and when I asked my kids they couldn’t remember many they had received either. So the option of going on a trip for Christmas was tossed in the mix. After careful consideration though, traveling anywhere at 32 weeks pregnant didn’t appeal to me as much as I thought it would, so that idea kind of got put on the back burner for another year.

And last, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite for asking my kids to hand make part of their gifts for each other so they would be more meaningful when I myself wasn’t willing to do the same.

One day I was up in our playroom with Scott and Ryan while they were watching TV, and as I was sitting on one of our only pieces of furniture up there-a broken Lazy-boy recliner, I was thinking about how much I loved this room as we were building the house, and how unused it was now. I hated the thought that we had put so much money and effort into building this room and now it felt like wasted space.

Playroom Makeover Before blog-1

We had all the kids toys up here, our big wood TV cabinet with our only TV in the house, and a Lazy-boy recliner. The kids would come up here to watch TV, but since there wasn’t anything but floor space to sit on, they rarely invited their friends up there, and movie night became a battle for who would actually get to sit in the chair. The rest of the time the little boys would get all of their toys from the toy closet and spread them out over the whole room, pretty much taking over the entire space. When the girls would complain about doing something downstairs and I would say, “Go upstairs we have a whole playroom for that”, I would get moans and groans about how the boys messed it up and there was no where to play.

After coming from our other house which had no real dedicated play place, I was so excited to having a place where all the toys could be that was away from the main living area (though the little boys still have a cupboard of some toys down in the family room), where the kids could be loud when we needed some quiet time downstairs, and where I could shut the door and not have to clean up everyday. It made me sad that we had somehow missed the mark a little bit. Enter.. an “Idea for a Christmas present”. I decided that a present didn’t have to be something that they opened up, but could still be almost as memorable as a trip for them. I was determined to “makeover” the playroom for our one present to them, as kind of one big combined present. I hadn’t thought through all of the details, but at that moment I was so much more  excited for Christmas. The real spirit of giving came back, and I was so excited to make a place that we could truly enjoy as a family.

Here are some more of the before pictures. It was a great room and had great light from the three windows, it just needed some careful planning of the space, some furniture, and a little bit of love to make the space work for us.


Playroom Makeover Before blog-2

One of the first things that we needed to do was repaint, thus all of the stuff in the room being in the middle. This part was not a surprise for the kids-we just played it off like we needed to repaint in there. Scott or Ryan had drawn with permanent marker all over the wall (you can see a bit of it to the right), and we had a ton of nail pops on that wall and huge gash marks from where the kids would hit the Lazy Boy back into the wall. It was not pretty. I was really wanting a light gray in there instead of the same neutral color that was downstairs that I had painted over in the family room. Again, a great color, just not what I had in mind for this area.

A built in desk area that the kids never used. It was mostly a spot for them to drop junk on.

Playroom Makeover Before blog-4

The toy closet that I had partially started to organize with bins. I had a ton more that I had gotten at the dollar store. I really did love the colors of the blue, green, and turquoise, but many ended up getting stood on and broken. I had made some chalkboard labels that didn’t hold up very well either. The toy closet needed to be overhauled along with the rest of the room. I started by donating any toys that they no longer played with, and only kept the ones that they really loved. I am a big fan of imaginary play so I like the old standbys like Legos (big and small), things that they can play house with-(dolls,play kitchen,dress up), our wooden doll house set that I still had all the pieces to, but the actually doll house itself broke from the kids stepping on it to climb up and reach other things, and the Little People. I decided to keep a few Barbie's too, though they don’t play with those as much as the American Girl Dolls.

Playroom Makeover Before blog-5

Playroom Makeover Before blog-7

Our ceilings up on the second floor are nine feet tall, but when we were building our house we were able to change out the plans while they were framing and made this ceiling the full height of the roof. It is about 20ft tall in the center and then tapers down to nine foot where the ceiling meets the wall. The dimensions of the room are twenty-one feet long (from window to French doors) by 17 feet wide. Just for reference, the TV cabinet is exactly eight feet tall-that thing is a beast!-it is super heavy and was one piece that was staying in the room, so you can see in comparison how tall the ceilings are. I love the tall ceilings, and how they make the room seem even bigger than it is, but part of me kept thinking that there was a whole lot of useful space up there past the eight foot mark.

Playroom Makeover Before blog-3

I started toying with the idea of not just making over the room in terms of furnishing and decorating it, but building a loft (or two) in there. Even though I loved the decorating/furnishing plan I had come up with (see below), I felt like I still needed that WOW factor that it lacked so that even my big kids would feel the whole magical feelings of Christmas when they saw it. I had thought of having a loft built in there before, but it would have been more money than we had budgeted for the whole room. I really wanted one that ran the whole length of the long wall opposite the TV, so the kids could sit up there and see the TV, but the window placement was causing a problem for that plan to work. I started pinning pictures of lofts on Pinterest while I just mulled over the idea. I finally couldn’t get it out of my head and just kept thinking of all of the options of how we could build one ourselves. I dropped hints to Aaron about how cool that would be to have a loft in there. His answer was, “You are already planning on building one aren’t you?” He knows me well! He is such a good sport when I get these crazy big ideas. Like redoing the backyard at our other house, or building the pantry there, building the fire pit here at this house, and now this. I think he just wishes I would stop coming up with them when I am pregnant, or just stick to the little ones that are more feasible. He knows that they always seem to take longer than expected and with a Christmas deadline he knew we would have to work very diligently to finish in time.

My brother was coming for Thanksgiving so I knew that I needed to have everything planned out by then so he could help us start building them that weekend-we would be on our own after that. I scoured the internet for all kinds of plans and ended up kind of making up our own by combining several different ideas. My idea was to make a loft to the left of the French doors (while facing them from inside the room) that was 5ft wide by 8 ft. long. and it would be about six feet tall with a railing that would be taller than that. I wanted us to be able to walk under them even as adults and fully use that space underneath so nothing was wasted. As I started sketching out ideas for the layout of the room, the size of the loft just didn’t seem that big. It was a okay size, but with seven kids I knew that we needed a bit more space, and there was still so much room up top. My concern was getting one too big that from an engineering stand point would have been too much for us to handle-one of the other reasons that we didn’t want to DIY a longer one across the whole length of the room.The 5x8 size was perfect.

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One night as I was up there watching TV and just playing around with ideas, I got the idea to build not just one but TWO lofts up there-one on either side of the French doors. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this before-it would give us double the space-about 80sq feet more to the room, but still keep each one within the building size we wanted. By not running the entire length of the short wall too, we would avoid having to wire in lights under the loft. This way the lights from above could still shine through the middle section. The lofts would frame the door nicely and I loved the idea of the symmetry it would give to the room. One of the big issues was that we would have to make them taller so that the one on the right would be able to have the toy closet doors clear it. At eight feet tall instead of six it was becoming more of a tree house size than just a simple loft, but I was in love with the idea. I was beginning to feel the joy that comes from being able to give them something that was hand made too.

For the decorating part of the room, I came up with an initial plan that looked something like this: I put in all of the options for different tables that I was looking at, and several more things that I hadn’t fully decided on yet. I will write down in detail all of the ideas I had and my thoughts for each item, as well as what I thought about for the furniture placement in the decorating post.



{ Little Rituals-Naptime }

It’s funny how we remember things from our childhood. I have this one memory of when I was about four or five and I was upstairs at our 32nd street house. My oldest brother was having a birthday party outside and I was suppose to be taking a nap in my moms room. I remember laying there not sleeping, but instead using my fingers to trace around all the intricate little details on her wooden headboard. It had swirls and carvings that I ran my tiny little fingers through again and again just waiting for sleep to come. But how could one sleep with all the fun and excitement happening outside? I finally couldn’t take it anymore and snuck to peak out the window to see all the festivities outside. They were having a water party and throwing water balloons at each other. I ran from one window to the next in my mom’s room, then switched to the hall bathroom window so I could see more of the games. My memory ends there. I am not sure if naptime was officially over and I was allowed to come downstairs or if I finally fell asleep. What I do know is that that was a time before I fully appreciated what a gift naptime is.

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Naptime at our house is a gift, and one that I receive and give out freely. Anyone that knows me know how I protect my naptime. I won’t schedule appointments or outings during that time. I don’t answer the phone or the door. I just cuddle up with all my little people who aren’t in school and we nap. It’s a little ritual that I depend on physically (I think I am just one that needs lots of sleep) and one that as a mother I treasure deeply. Our naptime almost always is in our bed-which the kids think it such a privilege since it’s so “fluffy and cozy” according to Ryan. We have lunch then I say to Ryan, “What time is it?” and he sings back, “The best time of the day!” Naptime. We read a story of their choosing and then we enjoy a peaceful nap until the girls come in the door from school.

Sometimes we sleep long, sometimes we sleep short. And sometimes I even get woke up from the phone ringing or the dog barking. When I do, I look over and see my little boys sleeping so soundly and peaceful. All the messes and rowdiness of the day melt away, and I just sit and watch them for awhile. Their long eyelashes flutter and I silently wish that these little naptimes wouldn’t have to end when they grow up and off they go to school. I wish I could hold them close a little longer, and cuddle them a little more…even if it’s just at naptime.


{ Remembering Easter Sunday }

Last night I was upstairs sitting with Scott and Ryan in their room trying to get them to bed. It was way past their bedtime, and I was trying my best to get them to sleep without too many tears from either of us. Getting two little boys to want to go to sleep after a full day of Easter egg hunts and chocolate was becoming a bit of a challenge. We got on pajamas, brushed teeth, read stories, put on their stickers on their bedtime sticker charts from the night before, said prayers, and they were at least laying down in their beds. I was sitting between them trying to keep the peace, and hoping that sleep would quickly find it’s way to them. I had my phone out and was trying to finish up reading parts of my Sunday school lesson that I would be teaching the next day.

After getting Ryan to actually lay down and be somewhat quiet for awhile, Scott started talking to me about Easter. I told him that tomorrow was a special day that Jesus was resurrected. Suddenly all the knowledge that he had stored up in that little 5 year old brain, came spilling out along with all the tender feelings one could hope to have about the Savior. His honest and sincere questions of exactly what happened when Jesus died, and what is would be like when we are resurrected, and how Jesus really lives filled me with awe as I sat listening to this young child. His understanding far surpassed that of even some adults, and that “old” spirit of his came shining through in a way that I hadn’t seen before.

The spirit in that room was so real, and I could see Scott get choked up as he talked to me about Jesus. He spoke up with such excitement to answer all of Ryan’s questions like what a tomb was, and that Jesus was crucified, and how it was for three days. He told him that Mary saw Jesus and he talked to her, and that a big rock was rolled away from the tomb. We talked about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, and how they were all separate and real. He told me that we are all brothers and sisters because Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits-even him and his friend Ann from preschool. He told me that sometimes when he is in the car and Ryan isn’t talking to him he hears a voice and it’s Jesus telling him, “Choose the right Scott”.

As I sat there experiencing a little bit of heaven, I was thankful that Heavenly Father blessed me with an over abundance of patience at that moment. The swirling thoughts of all the many things I still needed to do that night and the chaos of a busy day disappeared and there I was with just my two little boys in a dark upper room remembering what Easter was all about. The little light that shined from my phone was so small and weak compared to the bright light of hope from the Savior I felt in my heart at that moment. I felt like I knew in such a different way what it meant to become as a little child, and I was thankful for my own little children who had taught me so much about Easter.

My love for what He did is overflowing as I think of how imperfect I am and how much I depend on His atoning sacrifice that He made for me. How grateful I am for the Savior Jesus Christ who suffered and died for all of our sins, and who gloriously rose again on the third day. What hope it gives me to know that someday we too will rise again to be with Him forever.


{ The Abby of 6 Years Ago }

I was getting ready to post pictures from Abby’s 8th birthday that happened last week and came upon these pictures of her when she was only 2. It was way back when I had just gotten my first DSLR camera-a Nikon D80. I loved it, and took about a million pictures of my family-including this little cutie who was my baby at the time. I hadn’t started blogging back then, and really didn’t even edit too many of my pictures either-they have just been sitting on my computer waiting for me to notice them. When I pulled these up of Abby I wanted to do a mix of crying because I can’t believe have much time has passed and just smiling from ear to ear at how cute she is. SO… before I get to remembering her 8th birthday this year, bear with me as I take a little trip down memory lane and soak in this sweet little two year old from long ago.

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I can’t believe how some of those same little looks and sassiness are still with her-we love you Abby!


{ Paris Day 2-The Palace at Versailles }

A year ago this Easter weekend…

Our first full day in Paris happened to be Easter Sunday. It didn’t really feel like Easter Sunday at all-there was no going to church together or Easter baskets or decorated eggs. No big dinner feast or family festivities. But as we got up early that morning to catch a train to see the Palace at Versailles right outside Paris, there seemed to be a special stillness in the air. The streets we walked on were mostly empty, and the train ride was one that was a time of just quiet reflection.

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We had planned to spend the day in Versailles because it was closed on Monday, which was our last full day in Paris before moving on to Germany. We caught our train early so we would have enough time to stop at a hotel near the train station for a morning breakfast buffet. It was one that was recommended by Rick Steves’, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a quick walk across from the train station and they had crepes, fresh meats and cheeses, croissant with chocolate, and fresh fruit and bread. It was simple and perfect.

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From the train station and hotel everything still seemed so quiet and serene, we really thought that we had outsmarted the crowds today by coming right when they opened. We thought maybe others had decided to celebrate the day in town because of Easter. As we rounded the corner after our walk from the hotel restaurant though we were greeted by this. Hoards of people all lined up waiting their turn to enter the palace.

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It was so quiet on the train station part of town because many people had driven out from Paris instead of taken the train or most had come on huge tour buses. Just like many other places in Paris, there were so many people and it was packed both outside and in the palace. The weather was much warmer than the previous days so we didn’t mind too much having to wait  in line outside. The sun was shining and it gave us a chance to be a little silly while we tried to get some great jumping shots, and gaze extra long at the outer courtyard of the palace. This palace is really quite breathtaking with all the gold gates and ornate buildings. It’s something a bit out of a fairy tale.

Here is a little background about the palace from the Rick Steves’ book:

“Every king’s dream, Versailles was the residence of French monarchs and the cultural heartbeat of Europe for about 100 years-until the Revolution of 1789 changed all that. The Sun King (Louis XIV) created Versailles, spending freely from the public treasury to turn his dad’s hunting lodge into a palace fit for the gods (among whom he counted himself). Louis XV and Louis XVI spent much of the 18th century gilding Louis XIV’s lily. In 1837, about 50 years after the royal family was evicted by citizen protesters, King Louis-Philippe opened the palace as a museum.”

There are three main sites to see there at the palace-the Chateau, the Gardens, and the Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette.

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While we waited we took our turn at some jumping shots out in the big courtyard in front of the royal golden gates. It was pretty entertaining to watch these two-Austin was having quite a time at jumping up. Cute kid.

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“Outside of the golden Royal Gate in the center of the courtyard, nearly 260 feet long and decorated with 100,000 gold leaves, is a recent replica of the original.”

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The Chateau

We had purchased our Paris Museum passes beforehand so we were able to avoid the long ticket line to get in. After receiving headsets we started out our tour of this massive palace at the Royal Chapel. It was two stories high and was decked out with beautiful painting and detailed scrollwork and carvings everywhere.

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Each room seemed to compete with the previous one, with more magnificent paintings on the ceilings and walls, and more elaborate gold leaf work and carvings. I think I may have toured the whole palace with my mouth wide open. It is just so hard for me to imagine all of the work that went into making this place, especially considering it was all done without the modern equipment we have today. No detail seemed to be forgotten-right down to the door knobs and window openings-it was fit for a king.

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“The Hall of Mirrors-250 feet long, with 17 arched mirrors matching 17 windows looking out upon royal garden views. The mirrors-a luxury at the time-reflect an age when beautiful people loved to look at themselves.”

I think I would love to have a room with 17 huge windows in it to let in all that light. Can you imagine the great pictures you could take if you had that many windows? It was love at first sight. I was happy to wander around admiring it, but I think Austin was getting kind of bored, so he started playing the “Where’s Waldo?” game with me. He would wander around and see how many pictures he could get caught in that I was taking. It was pretty fun to go back and try to find him-he’s in quite of few that he snuck into.

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The Queen’s room with her huge lavish bed. I think I would be too scared to even sleep in that bed with all the heavy duty gold carvings going on above it-I think I would be afraid it would fall on me. Across from the bed the queen would have enjoyed beautiful views of the outside gardens. I think I would have loved this room just for that.

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The Gardens

“Versailles was laid out along an eight-mile axis that included the grounds, the palace, and the town of Versailles itself, one of the first instances of urban planning since Roman times and a model for future capitals, such as Washington, D.C., and Brasilia. A promenade leads from the place to the grand canal where France’s royalty floated up and down in imported gondolas.”

Wandering around outside in the gardens was a very enjoyable experience though we missed out on all the beautiful flowers that normally grace the grounds this time of year. That darn late spring tricked us all when we planned this trip. The missing foliage didn’t diminish the beauty of the many acres of gardens though. I could just imagine the royal queen wandering around all day, with her kids in tow running in and out of tall bushes and trees that served as good hiding spots and breathing in the wonderful aroma from the flowers. There was dozens of fountains throughout the property that I am sure would have offered a calming atmosphere that the royal family craved for and hadn’t gotten in Paris.

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Another attempt at some great jumping shots. I am pretty sure all of the other tourists must have thought that we were pretty much nuts from some of the looks that we were getting.

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I am already planning my next trip here, because I am pretty sure I need to spend a whole day just rowing up and down this canal soaking in the atmosphere. I can remember a painting that I love that has a sea of people lining a canal similar to this one, their parasols out, and eating picnic lunches-it all seems so dreamy to me. We were getting a little short on time and it was too cold to have stopped and rowed in a boat that day-next time for sure though!

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Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette

“Versailles began as an escape from the pressures of kingship. But in a short time, the Chateau had become as busy as Paris ever was. Louis XIV needed an escape from his escape and built a smaller palace out in the boonies. Later, his successors retreated still farther from the Chateau and French political life, ignoring the real world that was crumbling all around them. They expanded the Trianon area, building a fantasy world of palaces and pleasure gardens-the enclosure called Marie-Antoinette’s Domaine.”

We toured through the smaller palace, and then sat down for a short break to read up on the rest of the area. Brianna and I needed to use the restroom, but couldn’t go backwards through the palace we had just left. We needed to go out the gate and back around. We left the camera with Austin to hold, and we went out the one way gate around the side of the building where they were sitting. After walking around to the front of the building we discovered that they had closed the doors because it was getting close to closing time-we were stuck outside the gate! We ran back around to the one way gate. We were going to ask someone to go and talk to Aaron and Austin before they left the gate, but most people didn’t even speak English, and our French interpreter was inside the gate. We started yelling their names, but it wasn’t until after about 20 minutes that they came looking for us. Luckily Austin had the camera, so Aaron and him set off to try to get and see the last few parts before they closed-a few pictures of it would have to do for Brianna and I. Instead we spent the time wandering up and down the parking lot (trying not to think of how bad we needed to use the restroom still), and looked at really cool cars that were parked there. It was fun to see people pass by on bikes they had rented and families out exploring the area. There was an area that led to the canal that wasn’t part of the palace so many people just came to enjoy that without having to pay for the whole palace.

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