Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Extreme Home Makeover Chez Lydia

I have reached the breaking point with my house. It is awful. I'm so stressed from the level of chaos and disorganization that it's hard to focus. You would think being at home for two weeks without a break under an avalanche of snow would've been a great opportunity to get organized. But you would be WRONG. It's even worse now and this further deterioration has not gone unnoticed. You know how I know my house is an even bigger train wreck than my wardrobe? The following conversation:

Me: Hey, if I were to decide to sort of, fix up my house, and maybe make it look like grown-ups lived here, would you be willing to hel--
Friend: YES. Absolutely. When? Now? No time like the present! Let's get started.
Me: Ok. Ummmm... That bad, huh?
Friend: Yes. Yes, it is.

So in this update, Lydia's Commitment to Vanity has taken a new direction. I spent a week focusing on improving my house, rather than the size of my ass. First, let's a get a sense of what I'm working with. I am renting a 35-year old split-level. It is not charming. It has no upgrades. I feel icy drafts through every one of the original doors and windows. The drawers in the kitchen fall out if you pull them too hard. It has shiny, regency-striped wall paper that is curling off at every seam (offering a relentless temptation to certain small fingers). The deck could fall off the side of the house at any time. Almost every faucet drips. How can dripping be so loud?

Drip drip drip... The soundtrack to my insanity.

But on the other hand, the house is HUGE and cheap and walking distance to a great elementary school and Target (!) And while the neighborhood is OK - the neighbors (with one or two glaring exceptions) are amazing. Also, there are hardwood floors. And lots of natural light. So for someone with nice stuff or who was good at housework (not me), it could be really cute. We have nice stuff - it's just (a) covered in crap or (b) in storage.

The only "art" on the walls are my children's paintings and other kid-related stuff and it is all held up by scotch tape. Oh! And there's also the Valentine that Kate sent me. It was a Twilight greeting card that unfolded into a poster. That's the first thing you see when you walk in the house. Classy.

The other thing you notice when you walk in is that there is kid stuff everywhere. In spite of the fact that we have a playroom, their stuff all over the place. Not just toys - socks, shoes, gloves, books, Legos, sometimes even underpants (which I will NEVER understand).

In making over my house, I decided to start with my couch. It is old and nasty. After twelve years, four cross-country moves, three kids and an enormous dog who sneaks naps on it whenever I turn my back - it's pretty gross. There are fraternities who wouldn't want this couch. For their lawn.

It's green and white plaid and holds a 296 lb. queen sized-pull out. I have bought three or four slip-covers and they have all ended up shredded. I have begged the Cap'n for a new couch, pleaded and even made the frat analogy, all to no avail. He points to the tattered slip-cover and says: "Why bother 'til the kids are older? Until then, let's just get another slipcover."

Stupid male logic.

But I did what he said. I bought another slip cover. And... I bought another couch. The "new" slip-cover I bought six months ago, but it clashed so horribly with the shiny wallpaper that I stored it in the basement. It cost about $20 less than the new Craig's List couch. But I needed help. So I called my friend and neighbor Ellen, who was like: "Fix up the house? Move heavy furniture? Strap things to your van? Bring. It. On."

So we got started on a multi-step process that took two days.

Step One: Clean out and re-arrange the playroom so that 1/3 is now playroom and 2/3 is now adult-type seating area (also appropriate for Wii playing). Includes moving several old, broke-ass bits of furniture out to the curb with signs that said: "Broken but FREE!" that were snatched away within hours.

Step Two: Move 296 lb frat couch down narrow hall and bizarre, twisty split-foyer stairway to the playroom. Try to avoid serious injury. Put new slipcover on old couch and in the hopes that it will look less vile.

Step Three: Survey and then clean horrifying disaster-area complete with mutant dust bunnies in the empty space where the fart frat couch used to be.

Step Four: Pick up $100 Craig's List couch. Affix to the exterior of the BWT with 4,000 ancient, borrowed bungee cords. Drive BWT home without wrecking the van, the couch, or causing a fatal motor vehicle accident. Do so while driving 11 miles per hour with flashers flashing, windows open and Ellen peering out to make sure it's not falling. Also, with three kids in car seats in the van alternately screeching "FALLING OFF! FALLING OFF!" and singing along to "We Are the Champions".

Step Five: Carry new couch up one-half of bizarre, twisty split-foyer stairway. Arrange all other furniture around it. Additional cleaning, de-cluttering, and ineffectual attempts to "decorate".

Partway through Step Two, I had to leave my house to pick up Hawk at preschool. When I got back, Ellen had totally finished steps 2 and 3 and taken the charming the picture you see of the mutant dust bunnies. She had also re-rearranged the playroom to make it look bigger and somehow - cleaner.

Let me tell you some things about Ellen. She is not quite five foot two and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. But that woman is like MIGHTY MOUSE. As Hawk says: "She's wittle but she's stwong". She can lift anything. Like a 296 lb frat couch - all by herself. And by lift, I mean ONTO A VAN. She claims it's because she goes to a class called Body Combat, where essentially (as it was described to me) you pretend to beat the crap out of someone to "Fire Burning On the Dance Floor". So really, she's like a bad ass, hot girl version of Mighty Mouse. And she's never says no when someone needs help, and her three kids are awesome, she's a second mom to every kid on our street and she loves mojitos. And she once fought off a gang of banditos in order to save a baby turtle - she's that good. Oh - and she's an army wife. Enough said.

But I digress. We must hurry along to THE BIG REVEAL. The Cap'n gets home, exhausted and bleary-eyed at 8:30pm. The kids and I are hiding in Hawk's room and then jump out and yell: "SURPRISE!!!" at which point the Cap'n had to pretend that he didn't almost have a coronary. He surveyed the changes and looked surprised. Then happy. Then grave. Then suspicious. Guess what he said first? That's right! "How much did it cost?" When I told him it was $100 TOTAL, he looked pleased.

But here's how I know he actually LOVED it. For Valentine's Day, he came home with an area rug to match the new couch. This is what he said: "It's from Pottery Barn. It's a dark brown rug and we shall call it Peter Orszag." I have to say that I adore it.

My house is still jacked up - but it's so much better. Yay! Sigh... If only ass-reduction were so easy. But that's next week.

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  1. Awesome...congrats Lydia! We too had a 296lb sofa once. It was a pull out couch from the 1970s that had belonged to my GRANDPARENTS. It had been faded by the sun and shredded by two naughty cats. It had also been covered by a slipcover and slept upon by an 80lb dog. When we recently moved, I REFUSED to take it. So we called Salvation Army. They nearly also REFUSED to take you know it.was.that.bad. :) In the end, we paid them $50 to take it away (to the dump). It was worth every penny to not see it anymore!

  2. Pics please! I need ideas for making my house look awesome and your amazing neighbor Ellen doesn't live next door to me. Sigh.

  3. Would Ellen be willing to come help me, because I could use her help. We have the ugliest couch evah but it was free and it's actually in GOOD shape (sigh)

  4. Yes, clearly this post had an error in it because it did not include Ellen's phone number! Lydia you are so lucky!

  5. ok - I need Ellen - could you pimp her out?

  6. I am in the middle of doing the exact same thing, only I don't have an Ellen :( Hubby's boss is redecorating and they offered us their old (expensive, nice) furniture for free. He informed me last night that it will be coming on Thursday evening. So I have today and tomorrow to clean the living room (yes, I have mutant dust bunnies too) and get my 296 pound couch in the basement were the uber uncomfy futon was. We disassembled the futon last night and discovered that it was so damned uncomfy cuz it was broken. When I took the mattress off of it it looked like it could have fallen apart at any time. Anyway, congrats on the "new" living room!!

  7. My couch cushions are held together with safety pins.

    And Husband wants a new coffee table. *sigh*

  8. We don't even have a couch. Hubby got rid of ours when he said we we're going to re-do our living room. 2+ years later the living room isn't finished and we still have no couch!

  9. For Ellen (and Kate, Lydia and all other worthy mommies). You don't know me but my parents are from Cuba. Being Cuban, I know my mojitos. Here is my recipe to share for all. Enjoy in good Health!

    Traditional Cuban Mojito

    1/2 cup of sugar
    1 sprig of fresh mint leaves
    1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
    3/4 cup of white rum
    Crushed ice
    Seltzer water

    1. Thoroughly crush the mint leaves into the sugar. The crushing is very important as it releases the mint oils and adds to the flavor.
    2. Add the lime juice and rum to the minted sugar. Mix until the sugar is mostly dissolved. This is your "drink base".
    3. Fill a glass with crushed ice. Add the drink base about 1/4 - 1/3 of the way up the glass. (change to suit your taste).
    4. Fill the glass with seltzer water.
    5. Mix thoroughly and enjoy!

    I keep 'drink base' in my fridge 24-7 during the summer. This is how I sneak adult beverages to the development pool. hehehe. Looks like lemonade once mixed. hehehe. Just have some non-adult lemonade on hand for the IHP!

  10. Lydia, you had my at "sometimes even underpants."

    For Valentine's Day, my husband bought me a really bad-ass new camera. I proceeded to take 34535353 pictures of our four children. I've had to crop nearly every picture before I could post them/email them -- why? Because there's UNDERPANTS ON THE FLOOR IN EVERY PICTURE. Legos, I get. Barbies, sure. But UNDERPANTS?!?!?! Why, god, whyyyyyyyy????

  11. PS one day I was inspired to wash my couch cushions. I found a funny stain on one. It was dog vomit. I surrender.

  12. Haha...I know how some of the underwear gets where it does...the dogs! I have a funny picture of a pair of underwear that my dog had chewed a BIG hole in the butt...I put a postie note on it that said "HOLY FART". It was quite amusing to me that the underwear belonged to my son, whom just last spring I gave a "BIG FART" award to. Maybe someday I'll dare to post the picture on my blog...would that be too embarassing to the kid? Would I get a visit from DSS for something like that? (Don't ask me what is wrong with me that I would find so much amusement from this!)

  13. Just yesterday, the Professor (my husband) helped me move the couch because I had a sneaking suspicion some of the twins' toys might be under there. Lo and behold, we not only found literally dozens of small toys and enough dog hair + dust bunnies to fill 2 standard size pillowcases, but also some of Mommy's cosmetics and 4 baby bottles with yellowing, crusty, rancid old formula and milk. Jackpot!

  14. I am a mom of three who are 9, 6 and 3. On vacation recently my two eldest who are girls watched "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". After the brothers kidnapped the six girls from town and took them up into the snow for the winter because of what a great housekeeper their new sister-in-law was, my six year old turned to her sister and said "Someone should tell them that some moms don't clean up like that".

    *Sigh* At least I'm not a '50s stereotype right?

  15. I heart Ellen. I also heart "knittingnurse" for providing the mojito recipe, and saying that she has it in the fridge all the time in the summer. She just might be my new hero.

  16. we had a futon that broke. i spent several months (pg w/ TWINS) sitting on the futon mattress ON THE FLOOR. mt new couch was the best money i ever spent, even if it is now broken thanks said twins. no children will be aloud on the next one, lol!

  17. OMG, i spelled allowed wrong!




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