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Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Multi-Purpose Room (aka. the Dining Room of a Large Family)

OK.  So today I'm going to be honest and real with you dear readers about my endless quest to create just one grownup room in this old farmhouse.  If you're looking for cool decorating tips, this probably isn't for you.  If you like DIY projects, I am including one super simple project that I sat on the floor and did yesterday in about half an hour while watching old episodes of Once Upon a Time with my kids as the snow fell outside (in April!).  If you want to hear the ramblings and frustrations of a mom of eight concerning her tremendous desire to have a house that looks like it was featured in Country Living, but can't seem to succeed without evicting all other family members, this post IS for you!  Be prepared to see some clutter, plenty of childrens' belongings, along with dust and dead ladybugs on the floor.  You've been warned.

Three years ago, I decided we would convert the dining room from a playroom back into a real dining room.  I was done having babies, all animals were moved outside, our youngest was turning four, and I was going through a mid-life mommy crisis.  I thought if I didn't have one room that looked like adults actually resided here, I would go crazy.  I told my husband I would get rid of all the kid clutter, help him paint, and take care of all the decorating.  All he had to do was show up for the painting and move the piano for me.  He said he could have the room painted in a weekend.  I made big plans to entertain by the end of that April.

As with most of our projects around here, the painting took a little longer than anticipated.  Like 4-6 weeks longer.  In all fairness to my husband, this is in large part because it took not one, not two, not three, but four coats of paint to cover up the huge loopy "artwork" that our youngest created on one of the walls when she was a toddler.  Magic Eraser does not erase black permanent markers, by the way.  And if you look closely, you can still see that masterpiece under the four coats of paint.  This new sofa helps hide some of it.

I hesitate to admit that I did very little of the actual painting.  Instead, I filled garbage bags with stuff to take to Goodwill, and I had to sneak a few things out while the kids were asleep to avoid a total meltdown.  Then I bought insulated curtains from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, along with chair cushions and new pillows for the futon that we had at the time.  I got the bright idea to bring our old dining room table and chairs in from the loft above the outdoor shed.  At first I thought I could refinish them myself, but I need some serious instruction before I tackle that project, so I bought a new tablecloth to throw over it instead.  My mom surprised me with curtain tiebacks that she made herself.  After purchasing a new futon mattress and cover since the old one had been peed on numerous times by either the beagle as a puppy or a toddler or two, I felt like we had a brand new room.  I went shopping in our attic for some wall hangings not currently being used, and we finally had a grownup room.

Fast forward three years, and here we are with an invasion of kids' stuff again.  When the 20 year old futon finally bit the dust for good, we had to go out and shop for a new sofa last week.  Funny how a new piece of furniture makes you see a room in a whole new light.  What happened to my neat, uncluttered, adult room?  I realized that I still don't have a dining room.  No one actually sits in there and dines; but all kinds of other activity occurs in there.  The teenagers sprawl on the couch and browse Pinterest or Instagram on their phones or sneak in some "game time" when they think no one is looking.

The bookshelves have become filled once again with children's games, artwork, and our six year old's attempts to decorate for every holiday and season.  (You have to admire her zeal for decorating though.)

Other shelves hold children's books, craft supplies, and my cookbooks.  Stashed beside and around the bookcase are musical instruments: a mandolin, trumpet, clarinet, and violin.

Another shelf still holds all kinds of homeschooling stuff because we still have one homeschooler in this house.  Did I ever mention this old farmhouse has only two closets?  That's right.  One linen closet that's in the bathroom, and one closet that's in the boys' bedroom.  That's it.  What was I thinking ten years ago when I fell in love with this house at first sight to purchase a house with only one main bathroom and two closets?  The private location, the mountain view, the wide open space, and the colonial decor of this farmhouse reeled me in.  But I clearly wasn't thinking about where we would put all of our stuff!

The boys practice playing their instruments in the "dining room."  Um, in case you're wondering what's on our youngest son's head, that's a paper brain with all parts labeled that he made in science class.  And yes, he has actually been known to wear that out in public.

Our youngest daughter practices her violin in this room too.  

And at some point every day, someone decides to play the piano.  Sometimes two or three children try to play simultaneously, which never ends well.  Does anyone else have a house full of people who play different instruments...all at the same time...and all playing a different song?  

This room is also housing a number of house plants, and it's been known to hold trays of seedlings owned by my husband who is itching to start planting in the garden but has to wait until the threat of frost is over.

Speaking of my husband, even though there is this great designated office space at the top of the stairs where there is a desk, printer, file cabinet, and a terrific view from the window above, he still insists on having his morning coffee and browsing the Internet in my "dining room."

Finally, for whatever reason, this is the favorite room of our behemoth black cat, Star.  Yes, this is the one who threw out my back during Winter Storm Jonas when I tried to grab him before he went to the bathroom on a stack of backpacks.  If you haven't read about that, it's in my blog archives under the month of January.  And no, he really isn't supposed to be in here.  I am a glutton for punishment.

As my frustration mounted this week at the state of this room that really isn't a dining room, and never really was, I finally made my peace with it.  I don't know how other big families manage to have kid-free zones.  Maybe they don't.  I just know that in our house while there are still more children than adults living here, their things, their interests, their personalities can be found in every room, including this one.  I stopped fighting it, and decided to just accept that this is the multi-purpose room.  And then I decided to create something to make myself feel better.  So I went to Michael's and picked up plain wood boards glued together with twine attached at the top.  And my little girl helped me decide which alphabet letters would look and fit best on the wood since there are a gazillion different sizes, colors, and styles of letters to choose from right now.  And then I pulled out my hot glue gun and went to work.

Then I hung my finished project on the same wall that held the "artwork" that we painted over three years ago.  Above the new couch.  And above the portraits of our 8 blessings taken when they were all toddlers.  And I reminded myself that some day when this house is empty and quiet, and I'm sitting in the actual dining room having a grownup meal with my husband, we'll probably be reminiscing teary-eyed about the days when this room was filled with four musical instruments being played at once while teenagers texted on the couch, the black cat was sleeping on the chair, and my husband and I were popping Tylenol for our migraine headaches in the adjoining kitchen.  Or maybe we'll just sit there and eat in silence and relish the quiet in the room that is no longer used for multiple purposes but is actually used for dining.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


  1. Our dining room is our school room. My husband keeps trying to reclaim it but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

    1. Our "dining rom" was the homeschool room during the years that I was homeschooling 5 of them simultaneously; although, their books and papers usually ended up on the kitchen table. Before that, it was the playroom. I wish your husband the best of luck, but I think he'll probably be waiting awhile. Have a great week, Kristy.

    2. Typo above: "dining room" is what I meant. :)

  2. Love this post and I laughed out loud at the brain.

    Brilliant! Truly brilliant.

    Rooms are meant to be lived in. You are blessed. :)


    1. Thanks, Karianne. This is the same son who declares that he may be small for his age, but he makes up for it with his big brain and his awesomeness. Gotta love his self-confidence.

  3. Loved this post. I got misty eyed at the end because your words ring true. Have a great week.


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