Friday, February 09, 2007

Doing projects with kids around

*Updated to add a few photos!*

Painting the little girls' room this week reminded me how hard it is to get things done with little ones around. And big ones.

But it can be done.

I went for YEARS waiting around for the "perfect" time to do projects (either that, or for my husband to find the perfect time!). You know, like an entire weekend - hours on end of gloriously uninterrupted time - devoted to my precious projects. Never came.

Eventually, I took matters into my own hands. I decided if I wanted to get things done, I was just going to have to change the way I worked.

Here are a few things I've figured out that help:
  1. Marry an easygoing guy. One that understands this could take a while, and you're going to need his unwavering support and shameless admiration, no matter how the project turns out.
  2. Too late for that? Then have him do the project.
  3. He's not handy/he's too picky/he's not interested in projects of decorative nature? Then hire the project out.
  4. Don't have money to hire it out? Then work on the hubs and let him know your limited options have necessitated a change in his perfectionistic expectations.
  5. Translation: Deal with it, buddy.
Okay, now that we have the husband on our team, it's time to work on the kids.
  1. If the little one is a baby, plan on using nap times.
  2. If the little one is a toddler, use baby gates, play pens and cooperative neighbors, grandparents or older siblings to keep little hands out and/or occupied.
  3. If the little one is a preschooler or older, let him or her help. Of course, this means some serious instruction/supervision, and about ten times as much masking tape, but they are amazingly capable. My five-year-old worked tirelessly beside me while we painted her room for two hours yesterday (Only one roller mark on the ceiling. Oh, well. Ceiling paint is cheap.). The three-year-old lasted about five minutes, but it made for some cute pictures.

(Note the two shades of pink on the shirt - the soft pink was the last room. We're big and bold enough now for, um, "Lipstick" [aka Pepto] pink.)

Now it's time to get to work. I'll use my latest painting project as an example.
  1. Think about your project for a really long time. I never want to do a project more than once, so I want to make sure I can really live with "Pepto Pink" before I paint four walls with it.
  2. Break the job into small parts. Really small. Think: What can I get done if I only have an hour? Because if you are lucky enough to go that long without being interrupted, you might actually get something done!
  • One segment (or several) - shop for supplies. Don't even think about dragging a couple of kids (especially preschoolers) from store to store getting supplies, and then saying, "Go play! I'm going to go paint now. " They'll commit mutiny (or be grumpy, anyway). Don't get overly anxious. One thing at a time.
  • Another segment (or several) - prep work. Masking things off and covering everything in plastic (I tape it over the entire floor all the way to the baseboards) takes time. For my paint job, I took one afternoon just to fix nail holes, staple holes, knife holes and dart holes (can you tell it used to be a boy's room?). Of course, half of the time I was scraping my small helpers' oversized globs of Patch N Paint off the wall ("Aren't we doing a good job, Mommy?"). Like I said, think small.
  • When you are done with each part, clean up and put it all away each day. I had to put this in because Martha Stewart would have. This way the supplies are not strewn from here to kingdom come for weeks on end. Or, you can just close the door. Whatever works.
  • Don't forget to allow for clean-up time. Putting the room back together after having it completely taken apart can take the better part of a week an afternoon.
A few other thoughts:
  • With rare exception, it is a BAD IDEA to start the very first thing in the morning. You might feel ready to go, but if your kids wake up to find you knee deep in paint, they will invariably whine twice as much, and now you are covered in wet paint. So much the worse. Listen, fix your kids some breakfast, give them some love and (if they are old enough), get them started on a DVD marathon project before you desert them to your own interests. Clean up the kitchen (reasonably), pick up some debris, maybe throw in a load of laundry, and put some thought into lunch and supper (even if that means ordering pizza). Remember: at the end of the day, other people don't care a flip about what you got done - they just want to know what's to eat.
  • There is a reason that all "How To" instructions start with "Gather Supplies." When you are limited to a baby's 90 minute nap, you want to have everything at the ready for when the little one's head hits the sheets. Get your stuff together - in a basket, closet, or box - ahead of time, so that you can get right to work. When you are done for the day (ALWAYS assume you will not finish in one day) put everything back where you got it, so little fingers do not swish in your paint thinner when you turn your back.
  • Get good supplies. Don't chintz out on things like masking tape and plastic drop cloths. For every dollar you spend in good supplies to do the work, you will save HOURS in cleaning up, or worse, having to spend years looking at that bad patch job that no amount of pink paint can hide. A good roller on a broom handle and a 6-foot ladder can cut your painting time in half. Good paint covers most everything in one coat. I buy disposable paint tray liners and paint rollers, gloves, and use all those burp cloths from days-gone-by (sniff!) for rags. Especially if you've enlisted underage helpers, it's a cost of doing business, and it's worth it.
  • Stop at least thirty minutes before you really want to. In my humble experience, most mistakes happen in the last 15 minutes of a job. Especially if that 15 minutes is rushing to clean up because a toddler is screaming at the top of his lungs, hanging over a baby gate, inches from your paint can. My rule of thumb is 1:2:2 - one part prep to two parts project to two parts clean-up. Yes, just stopping can take that long. Quit when you think things are too good to be true. They probably are.
And a few things to add to your standard supply list:
  • A glass of water and a snack. Who wants to track paint back to the kitchen when hunger strikes?
  • A cordless phone. Same as above, when the phone rings?
  • Paint clothes. My old hospital scrubs tell the story of our three fixer-upper houses, in multi-shades of color.
  • Good shoes. Never throw out those old running shoes. You need support standing on your feet and climbing a ladder.
And my, don't they look good in pink?


Leslie said...

Your posts are so fun to read! Sitting here and reading this I couldn't help but smile and laugh out loud. Thanks for your blogging. And, that little girl is A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!

Unknown said...

You give great advice...especially on how to handle husbands...! I just hope Teresa doesn't read it...!

T.S. Eliot said...

LOVE the picture... great post! I can't wait to see the finished product. And why don't you throw in a shot of your hospital scrubs for all of us to see? How fun!

Susanne said...

Go Katherine! I'm sure that room with look wonderful and the girl's will love it! I need to get to the trim in my girl's room. One of these fine years!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't appear too "Pepto" on my monitor. Cute picture. =-) Keep up the great work!
Not having big chunks of time to do anything was definitely one of my biggest adjustments to motherhood with multiple little ones. That and the two steps forward, one and a half back manner in which things often prgress with "help." It's a happy day when you give up the wishing and just start to re-think and strategize everything, as you're detailing so nicely. Burning the midnight oil has also been a solution I use, but the habit of doing that sure can get draining on a marriage, and the kids can pay for it with a tired mommy the next day.

Anonymous said...

What great tips! Thanks! I am taking advantage of Grandma this weekend, and I am going to catch up on scrapbooking. I don't know if I am brave enough to paint yet, but I may follow your example soon!

Beckyb said...

Way to go - conquer - I love it!! leave all the painting to my husband as he was a painter in his earlier days!! But your tips are wonderful!! I have to post our Pepto Pink room too - Chloe loves it!

Rachel Anne said...

I think the DIY networks should pick up your segment and feature you doing a project with kids on hand to help!! Real life stories of weekday warriors. Awesome job. PS it isn't Pepto pink, It's Lipstick Pink--just perfect for two cute girls!

Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

These are great tips - I must admit, I've utilized several of them already - but it's great to hear the whole picture from beginning to end!
Here's one more to grow on -
-These are the years! Enjoy every spill-laden, messy, chaotic task; the day will come when you can finish a task in one day, and you will(well, I will, anyway!) long for sweet little voices and fingers! :) It's a good reminder for me!
I know you treasure your children and your time with them - it is so evident in all of your posts. I love it!

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

I wish I would have read this before I jumped into many a painting projects around here. Guess I had to learn the hard way.

But what great wisdom for the future:)

Qtpies7 said...

Oh the problems this information would have saved me...... yellow paint forever on my wood floors. Or at least until I care enough to get them sanded and refinished.
The joy of having "helpers."

Speaking of helpers, I'm hosting a contest for the stories of the birth of all those helpers!

Beck said...

That's great! I love that shade of pink - zippy! And your helpers are SO cute.
My husband is in charge of all painting in our house. I'd happily paint, but he doesn't think I do it the right way... FINE, then.

Unknown said...

I have another tip that I used when my daughter was under three. I gave her a paintbrush and a small cup of water. She "painted" on one of the walls that I hadn't gotten to yet. It kept her busy and away from the paint.

I love these tips, though. Painting is a bear--the cleanup, the mess etc etc, but it's so cheap if done yourself.

My husband is rather, er, frugal, but he works long hours and is NOT handy, so we hire a lot of things out. He didn't even need prompting to come to that conclusion.

Tammy said...

What a fun and helpful list! :) And the girls look like they are having a great time! :) Love that Pepto-pink!

Code Yellow Mom said...

I am soo there. Four years of waiting for the uninterrupted weekend have ended. We gathered the supplies yesterday. Hubby did the putty. 4yo checked if the putty was dry today. Tomorrow is cover/move the furniture day. (Yes, it takes a whole day;))This one-room project could take...a week? Being a "get it done" girl in my former life, I'm coming around to the "grab tidbits of time when you can" way of doing things. I love the advice and tips in this post!

Lana said...

nice pink! Sorry about the shoes:)

Mrs. H said...

I've been visiting your blog for awhile now, great stuff!!

This was ment for my ears!!! Just last night I was thinking of going to get all the supplies and redoing my bathroom while my hubby was at work! yes with 2 little helpers of my own, so thanks for the reality check!!

Joyfulness said...

Great advice and ideas! It's almost inspired me to start a project... almost... I'm still recovering from the cookie making yesterday with three little, little pairs of hands!