Toy Cabinet Organization

What follows is the long saga of what I thought would be a simple and quick home improvement project. But I’m proud that I did it all myself.

When we moved into our house, we had built in bookshelves and cabinets installed to either side of the fireplace.  They cabinets in the bottom have always been a great place to store a lot of the toys.  They each have a cabinet.  I’ve gone through several different ways of organizing things but in the last few months, I decided they needed a shelf to utilize a little more of the vertical space.

I figured I could probably tackle this project myself and some day around New Year’s I went to Lowe’s and picked out my shelving and had the nice man cut the pieces to my measurements.

The first problem is that the 1×10 boards that I purchased were not really 10 inches wide.  More like 9.  But I had the ledger boards for support cut to 10 inches.  They were an inch too long and I didn’t want them sticking out from under the shelf.

Also the shelves were just a bit too snug when I fit them in the cabinet.  I did a bunch of sanding and fitting and refitting until I thought they were good.  Then I put some satin finish polyurethane on my shelves.

The ledger boards sat there for quite a while, staring at me, waiting for me to find a solution for them.  I was hoping I might see my neighbor out who could just take an inch off with his saw really quickly.  No luck.

It took a couple weeks but it finally hit me that the simplest thing to do was to go back to Lowe’s and just buy another $2.50 1×2 and have the man cut it 9 inches instead of 10.  Oh, except this nice guy informed me that they can’t do cuts less than 12 inches.  That other guy must have been breaking the rules for me.

Plan B – I bought a miter box and saw.  I came home and hacked that 1 inch off those 4 ledger boards in about 10 minutes.  Kind of proud of myself but it cost more to buy the miter box & saw than it did to just buy a new piece of wood.

But then it got cold and I didn’t feel like adding the polyurethane to my ledger boards.  For a couple weeks.

It warmed up and I finally finished the polyurethane part.  Time to screw those ledger boards in and set up my shelves.

Except I guess the poly added a little too much width back to my shelves and they were too tight again. Or I never sanded them enough in the first place.

I got the circular saw out.  Told the kids to cover their ears.  Made some horrible cuts…one was very crooked and the other I wasn’t holding the saw level and the blade didn’t go through the wood all the way so I finished it with the hacksaw.  Jack asked me why it smelled like things were burning.  I got a little short with him.

They were ugly, which was kind of a disappointment.  But then I put them in the cabinets.  They fit and no one can see how ugly they are.  Case closed.  Or cabinet closed.  Or project finished.  The end.


This is Casey’s cabinet beforehand.  Not too bad.  I bought a bunch of $1 shoe containers just after Christmas to organize all her little things…dolls clothes, doll accessories, princess shoes, etc.

But she also had this bin full of (mostly naked) dolls that didn’t fit in the cabinet.

The after – It fits a lot more stuff in there.  It bothers me a little that the shelf is slightly too narrow for the four shoeboxes to fit perfectly across.  I can’t really make the cabinet wider though.  Although maybe dollar store has slightly narrower boxes.  

Jack’s cabinet wasn’t really in need of the extra space.  It basically looked like this but without the shelf.  But now it looks nicer.

And another Aha! moment.  These cute little license plates have been floating around inside the cabinets for years.  Why did I just figure out that I should stick them on the cabinet doors now?  But I’m glad it hit me and I like it!

Thus ends the long saga of my shelving project.  It really only took a couple hours of total time, but I managed to spread it out over a month or so and add some obstacles to make it more exciting.  And I’m very happy with the final results.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy!

A couple weeks ago, Jack was trying to play cowboy and he announced, “Mommy, while we’re at school tomorrow can you go to a cowboy store and get me one of those horse heads on a stick?”  If I’d had food in my mouth I would have spit it out laughing.  I like that he didn’t ask for a toy horse, but for a “horse head on a stick.”

I didn’t come across any cowboy stores in my travels so he had to rein in (pun intended) his cowboy ambitions for a bit.  Luckily for wanna-be cowboys, Nana and Pop Pop came in town this weekend and Nana’s friend, Miss Deb, let her know about a potential cowboy store.  Sometimes it’s called Big Lots and sometimes it’s called The Cowboy Store.

After lunch out with Nana, we headed over to the store to see if they had any horse heads for sale.  In the meantime, Jack had gotten a little hung up on some Cars 2 toys that he wanted.  He’s pretty sure that if he talks about something for long enough and is very serious about his “needs” that he will get what he wants.  He decided he needed some special Cars 2 Action Agents cars and the Battle Station that they accessorize.  Of course this Battle Station can’t use the same size cars that we already have.  It needs newer, smaller, specially built cars.

It’s really my fault that he even knows about the existence of these cars in the first place.  I let him watch YouTube videos that review a lot of the toys.  It started off with reviews of some of the Lego sets that he likes/has and has moved on to Cars 2 toys.  He knows a lot of random facts about toys that he doesn’t even own.  I think it’s safe to say that his letter to Santa might have a long list in it.

Anyway, while Jack was busy searching for Action Agents, Nana found the horse barn and as soon as Jack saw Nana holding his new pet, he forgot all about those cars.  The horse heads on sticks turned out to be pretty nice.  They even had a pink one for Casey.

The nice lady at checkout spent some time putting the horses in bags and covering them all up so they wouldn’t get wet in the walk to the car.  Jack and Casey were appreciative but it really was a wasted effort since it took her longer to cover them that it did to walk to the car and rip them out of the bags.  These horses had to get saddled up immediately!  Or at least get named.  There were a few trial names, but I think they’ve settled on Tipper for Jack and Marley for Casey.

Tired Cowboy
Fashionable Cowgirl

Since then, we’ve been living all rodeo, all day.  I can’t buy apples and carrots fast enough.  In between watching YouTube videos about toys we don’t have, that is.

Jack just figured out that he can record the music he plays on his toy piano and he has composed a special cowboy song.  Today they also attached the horse to a storage box that has wheels so that it would be like the horses pulling Cinderella’s carriage.  I love their imaginations!  It never would have crossed my mind that my kids might like one of those horse heads on a stick, but now I’m the proud mama of two little equestrians and I hope they continue to ride the range as far as their imaginations can take them.


Lightsaber Week

This is the first time I’ve started a blog post at 4:45 in the the morning, but I can’t sleep!  I have been sick with an extremely sore throat for the past week and we’re leaving on vacation today.  I’m guessing the combination of all the things I still need to do and the medicine I’ve been taking are not letting me sleep any longer.  Which is too bad because I haven’t had a good night of sleep in the last week either.  It’s only been a week of being sick but I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet looking at what everyone else has been doing and I feel like it’s been a month.  There are so many projects I could have done last week…not that I probably would have, but I could have!

On Sunday evening, I noticed a sore throat and took some zinc.  The sore throat was still around on Monday morning so I decided I better get out and do the grocery shopping while I was still feeling somewhat okay.  When Jack heard we were going grocery shopping, he immediately started a new campaign.  “Mommy, do you think we should go get lightsabers today?  Aren’t we going by that store where we saw the lightsabers last week?  How about if we are really good at the grocery store and don’t fight, we can get lightsabers instead of a donut or fruit snacks?”  (The donut or fruit snack bribe is very effective for grocery shopping.)

Jack’s final assault in his campaign was, “I don’t think we should go look at the jets today.  I think it would be more challenging to get lightsabers.”  More challenging?  I love when he tries to use big words.  It kind of worked…I had been thinking about getting them lightsabers and I decided it was close enough to his birthday that I could start spoiling him.

Bribing them with food is good, but getting them lightsabers takes it to a whole new level.  We bought the lightsabers before the grocery store, we talked about some lightsaber rules and then I let them bring them into the store.  It was amazing…I never heard another peep from either of them.  I’ve never been through the commissary so fast.  They sat so quietly in the cart and I’m not even sure they moved.  It was a little eery.

Jack was so excited to get home and start battling it out with Casey.  Unfortunately Casey wasn’t feeling so well either and she wasn’t much of a sparring partner.  I don’t think Jack’s lightsaber has left his side since he got it.  He’s had it clipped onto his pants almost everywhere we go and he’s been sleeping with it every night.  When we went to the doctor, I looked down at Jack and said, “You can have your lightsaber in here but you need to put your blade away!”  Although maybe it was a cute scene – miserable mom and little girl being defended by Jedi Jack.

While I layed on the couch feeling pretty miserable all week, Jack spent a lot of time working on his lightsaber skills.  “Mommy, do you want to see my skills?”  He and Casey have spent hours together pretending to be Jedi and Sith and roaming the galaxy.  They also spent a lot of time working on a lightsaber show.  Jack wanted more of a duel but mostly it was a solo show while each of them showed me their skills.  Jack can even add some Jedi mind tricks into his routine sometimes.

There’s got to be some practical use of these “skills” Jack is gaining right?  He puts so much effort and thought into it.  Turns out that the lightsabers were a good buy this week!  Jack keeps telling me it’s one of his favorite toys.

New Game in Town

Jenny (my sister-in-law) had Jack’s birthday present already wrapped up to give him this weekend.  She thought if he got bored we could open it a little early.  But, even though some of Chase and Charlotte’s toys might have been a little young for him, he still found them all fascinating.  They were all new to him so he took it upon himself to check out each and every toy and figure out how it worked.  There was no chance of getting bored, so we just brought the gift home with us.

While we were unpacking the car, Jack spotted the present and immediately wanted to open it.  It was already past his bedtime but we had been in the car for 3 hours and he had taken a nap and I didn’t feel like telling him he had to wait.  He opened the present and was immediately smitten.

It’s called Hockey Guys and it’s a portable hockey rink with all the “hockey guys” and Jack has been playing with it nonstop in his waking hours.  He’s created rules for the guys, sent them to the penalty box, cleared the ice for the zamboni, created benches for the extra players and really used his imagination.  At one point, he created a big archway for the players to come through as they were announced.  He also got upset when I called him to dinner because he was just about to play the “America song.”  At first, he even included Casey in his games.  Now she just likes to come in and knock as many players down in one swipe as she can.  

He also takes a few guys to bed with him.  Tonight, he called me back up to his room because he took the puck to bed with him and he had lost it.  He kept telling me he heard a clinking noise, so it must have fallen against the wall.  He thought it was somewhere at the foot of the bed and I kept asking him where exactly it was in his bed the last time he saw it.  I looked through sheets, blankets, Elmo, and a stuffed dog named Sid.  I looked for this puck for 5 minutes.  Then he said, “Oh, I think I left it in your room when I was reading stories with Daddy.”  When we found it in my room, he said, “Now we just need to figure out what made that clinking noise because I was sure it was my puck.”

What a great gift this has been and a breath of fresh air after the non-stop of Star Wars and Star Wars Legos in the last several months.  It is fun watching his imagination take off in different ways.  

My Little Decorator

After the dump truck of toys stopped by over Christmas, Pat and I were throwing around the idea of turning our front room into more of an official playroom.  There have always been toys in it but it’s not exclusively for toys.  After deciding that I didn’t want to do that, I couldn’t sleep last night and kept rearranging furniture in my head.  I’m trying not to be afraid of changing things and moving furniture because all I have to do is move it back if I don’t like it.  It’s funny that I shouldn’t naturally think that considering the number of times I moved my furniture in my bedroom growing up.  Anyway, by the time I went to sleep last night I had come up with some good furniture arrangements and thought I might just go for it.

This morning I didn’t really think about playrooms all that much given that we actually had to get up, get dressed and leave the house today to get Jack to school.  I think I could have used another week of vacation.  The kids weren’t even getting on my nerves yet.  Sometimes a big infusion of toys is all they need to get along a little better.

While Casey was napping this afternoon, I was trying to get some things done on the computer, like reading other blogs and looking at great projects other people have done and thinking, ‘I should do that someday.’  I paid some bills too.  Jack decided that it would be a great time to bring a Lego creation over to disassemble, placing the pieces strategically around the mouse.  And that was my inspiration to do a little reorganizing.  I ran upstairs and dug our 2nd coffee table out of the upstairs toy closet and brought it downstairs.  Before I go any further, there are no pictures of this process yet because it’s still a bit of a disaster.  It had to get worse before it could get better and it’s just now making the turn.  Pat has asked me twice already if I plan to keep a 6 foot tall bookcase in the middle of the living room.    

I brought the coffee table downstairs and moved Jack’s pile of Legos to the table.  He went and got himself a Buzz Lightyear chair and happily sat creating a new airplane for his aircraft carrier.  I was able to get back to blogland without a pile of Legos and child under my elbow.  I wondered why I hadn’t thought to bring the table down months ago.  When Jack was a baby we baby-proofed this table and stuck the spongy rubber stuff around the sides so he wouldn’t bump his head on the sharp edges.  We’re a little past the baby proofing stage around here now but I decided that rubber stuff is staying on.  It’s primary purpose now is to keep Legos and puzzle pieces on the table.  Brilliant.

From the coffee table to moving a 6 foot bookshelf to moving a bunch of toys around, the room is now more of a playroom but I didn’t move any major furniture beside that bookshelf.  (And a small kitchen.)  In the midst of this Jack thought he would help me.  He just started pulling things out of cupboards and shelves and saying, “I’ll put this here and this here and this here.  See how I’m fixing it Mommy?”  When I took some old frames and knick knacks out of a cupboard he asked where they were going.  I was planning to put them back in a different cupboard but I asked him where he thought they should go.  And boy, did he have some opinions.  More like steadfast confidence in his decorating ability.  He knew exactly where things needed to go and how to do it.  I’ve already signed him up for the next season of Design Star on HGTV.

“Mommy, what rocks do you want to put in this jar?” he asked as he pulled out a bag of rocks and a clear vase.  It was obvious that he didn’t even need me to answer that because rocks were already going into the jar.  He was very serious about his tasking and his end table was decorated in no time.  I’m afraid to move things now.

April Toys of the Month – Casey

Sometimes there are whole cupboards of toys in this house that sit untouched for months, while other toys get used over and over again.  Usually just when I think that Jack and Casey aren’t going to play with something and I’m ready to put it in our toy graveyard, it becomes their favorite toy for a while.  It’s always interesting to see what they’re playing with at any given time.  Since I’m trying to “capture the days” here, I thought I’d try to write once a month about what toys are currently the “in” toys.

For Casey, it’s her big bin of dolls and accessories.  She has about 4 or 5 dolls with bathtubs and bath accessories, as well as about 8 pairs of princess heels, some tutus and other girlie stuff in one bin.  It’s been sitting in the cupboard since Christmas but apparently April is the month to be playing with it all.  It’s so cute watching her play with her dolls and taking care of them.  Sometimes they nap, sometimes they get baths and sometimes they go in the “car cart” to the store.  (She calls her shopping cart and all shopping carts at stores “car carts.”)  She has a couple of bags and she fills them them up with all her doll bathtub accessories and carries it around with her.  Sometimes she shoves her “babies” into the bag too.

There is one specific pair of shoes that are Casey’s favorites.  She got them for her birthday and they have one of the Disney princesses on them.  She has been wearing them everywhere…she plays in them like they are sneakers while she’s out riding her bike, clip clopping down the driveway.

Casey also has a favorite doll and I think her name is Grace or Sarah, but mostly we just call her Baby.  She asked me where Baby was a few days ago and I said I didn’t know.  She said, “out there” and pointed outside at the sandbox.  I told her I didn’t think baby was in the sandbox.  Sure enough, a couple days later, she said it again – “Baby’s in there” and we opened up the sand box to find her, not too worse the wear for a few nights in a sand box.  I think she may also have spent the night out on the lawn and gotten a little shower a few days ago too.

On Monday we went to the “Elmo Store” also known as “Tar-jay” or plain old Target to most people.  Jack and Casey like to walk down the aisles and look at all the toys.  I told them we weren’t buying any toys and we did pretty well sticking to that plan.  Then Casey spotted a princess lunch box and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t leaving the store without it.  I tried to get her to put it back once, but then I gave in.  I thought it was too cute how much she loved it on first sight despite the fact that she didn’t really know what it was for.  She just loved carrying that princess bag around and was so proud of it.  On the way home from the store, she sang, “Bag, bag, bag, bag…” causing Jack to complain that she was too loud and he couldn’t hear his movie.  Since then, she’s been able to fit Baby, Barbie, a book and her purple ball in her bag and carry them around wherever she goes.  (Barbie is just another baby to her and I think that’s pretty funny too.)  The bag is also useful for bopping Jack on the head, another enjoyable pastime for Casey right now.

So Casey’s been getting all girly in the month of April and it’s fascinating to watch her imagination start to work.  She’s also in a bit of a hitting phase…it’s so much fun to hit Jack with her hands, feet, lunch box, golf clubs, hockey sticks, or anything else she can get her hands on.  And she’s already figured out that the best time to do it is when I am doing something else and not there to stop her.  Hopefully we’ll get that out of her system soon and it won’t be something I need to write too much about in future months.