Custom Built Mudroom Bench – DIY Shelves

If you haven’t seen part 1 of this Mudroom Bench series, click here!

Having a mudroom bench is lovely, but to really make a small mudroom functional, you need to use all of your vertical space. I planned my mudroom to have three levels of storage: Low, with shoes, medium, with jackets, and high, with hats/mittens and jazz.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for anyone who clicks on a link and purchases a product. All product links, affiliate and otherwise, represent my unbiased opinion about the product.

Materials

  • 8″ Common Board – Common board is pretty well priced and 1″ is a good thickness for this project.
  • 6″ Common Board – See above.
  • 2.5″ Screws – These ones!!! Save yourself so much time and stress and just get these buggers. You know me, I’m a cheapskate, but these are so 100% worth it. They self-drill into 2x4s and ply and countersink themselves. HOWEVER, you’ll need to drill pilot holes into the common board used in this project because we’ll be drilling so close to the edges of the wood.
  • 1 5/8″ Screws – Again, these ones!!! See above.
  • Wood glue – Truth be told, I hold no allegiance to any particular wood glue brands, but this one is inexpensive and works perfectly well.
  • Wood Putty – This stuff is both super cheap and super effective.

Step 1: Making 2 “L” Shaped Shelves

The image above shows the piece of wood that will be attached to the wall sitting on top of the shelf bit (that juts out). The line shows how thick the wood I’m screwing it into so that the screws can be inserted right into the middle of the board.

The top line shown above is the line I made marking the thickness of the wood and the bottom line is the exact center from the edge of the board to the top line. The center line is where to drill the screws!

Oh, also I broke a drill bit in the wood, so that’s in my shelf forever.

Step 2: Putting the 2 “L” Shaped Shelves into a “V”

Are the letters helping? I don’t think they’re helping.

One shelf is pointing toward the bottom left, the other to the bottom right, and in the middle is a small piece of wood bridging the gap between the two wall boards.

Some annotations might help.

Step 3: Making the Braces

Sub Steps in Order of Images Above:

  1. Print out a pretty, squiggly line with one side the length of the wall mount and one side the length of the shelf.
  2. Cut the squiggly line out of wood TERRIBLY. Twice. And I mean REALLY poorly on both.
  3. Clamp the two squigglies together and sand them together so at least they look the same and can totally fool the unsuspecting eye.

My jerry-rigged setup for clamping the shelf down to I could screw on the brace and sand it down.

Step 4: Attaching this Bad Boy to the Wall

If you have a bit of an older home like I do, odds are you’ve got some of these lovely trimmings in the corner. They’re made out of such soft wood, you can just use a hammer to tap a chisel into it and it’ll eventually just slice out giving you a nice clean corner in which to install your shelf.

These next three steps are the easiest way to install your shelf. Measure where you want the screws to be (I chose a zig-zag pattern, six screws per wall mount) then screw some pilot holes.

Put the shelf on the wall where you want it (make sure to level it!) and take something pointy like an awl or a small screwdriver and push it into the holes in the shelf, hard. This will make marks on the wall.

Take the shelf off the wall and drill pilot holes into the wall where the marks you just made are. Add drywall anchors if needed.

Screw all of the screws into the shelf until they just poke out of the back a tiny bit. Put the shelf back on the wall and screw the screws the rest of the way in!

Step 5: Spackle and Paint

Ta-dah! Shelf! All that’s left to do is smear some of that wood putty into any holes, sand the putty down, then paint it!

I’ll go into more of that later since I did the bench and shelves all at once.

Until then, happy woodworking!

Warmly,

EGinny

Custom Built Mudroom Bench – On a DIYer’s Budget and Skill

Original mudroom corner

I decided I was done with this hot mess. There was nowhere to put anything, the coats were hanging on random screws in the wall, and there was nothing to sit on which made putting on shoes a balancing act I didn’t excel at. Plus, our Northeast winter was looming around the corner and with it to come snow boots, huge jackets, and hats, gloves, scarves, on and on.

Yeah, it was time for an upgrade.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for anyone who clicks on a link and purchases a product. All product links, affiliate and otherwise, represent my unbiased opinion about the product.

As most of my DIY projects do, this one started as a dream for a better world…

Vector image of the bench plans
I dreamt of a functional Mudroom bench

I created this on Adobe Illustrator which is a program I personally can’t live without. It’s entirely to scale and includes important details like where the floor vent is (a moot point, I learned, since it’s no longer hooked up to anything). It took me ages to make but I wanted to have everything fully fleshed out before beginning.

And since this is a fail blog, I suppose I should also point this out…

Can you spot the differences? The first one I made out of 2x4s – like literally, 2″ by 4″ beams. I nearly finished the design when I thought, “you know, I should just made sure a 2×4 is actually 2 inches by 4 inches.”

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

2x4s are ACTUALLY 1.5″x3.5″ – so I had to redo the whole thing with new measurements.

Next step was material gathering!

Note: If anyone would like to know the dimensions, drop me a note, I’m happy to share! For the time being though, I’m going to share the process so you can determine your own dimensions right for your home.

Materials

  • 2x4s – these are the cheapest and sturdiest for framing
  • Plywood – I bought the cheapest stuff Home Depot had since A: I’m broke and B: I was gonna paint it anyway.
  • 2.5″ Screws – These ones!!! Save yourself so much time and stress and just get these buggers. You know me, I’m a cheapskate, but these are so 100% worth it. They self-drill into 2x4s and ply and countersink themselves.
  • 1 5/8″ Screws – Again, these ones!!! See above.
  • Wood glue – Truth be told, I hold no allegiance to any particular wood glue brands, but this one is inexpensive and works perfectly well.
  • Thin wood trim – Icing on the cake.
  • Panel Board Nails – These are great for nailing small things and plus, they’re just really fun to nail.
  • Wood Putty – This stuff is both super cheap and super effective.

Framing

2x4s
Home Depot haul #1

My car isn’t exactly a pickup truck, so I had to get a few cuts done at the store. This is two 8′ pieces and eight 2′ pieces. I couldn’t resist the 2′ pieces because I figured I could use them for the height of the bench and not have to cut them at all – 8 pieces perfectly the same length that I didn’t have to cut! BUT. Read on to see how I botched that up 🙃

Framed bench

BOOM. Finished framing. Actually this part was the easiest in the whole project – and the most fun because it came together so quickly! With the screws I mentioned above, I didn’t need to drill any pilot holes or anything either.

I used a jig saw to cut the 2x4s like the one below.

Woodworkers reading this are definitely cringing. I don’t recommend this, but it was what I had and hey, it worked.

If you have one, use a chop saw or a circular saw to cut the 2x4s.

Putting on the Plywood

Plywood plans

This is a crappy picture I took on my phone of my computer showing me what I needed to buy for plywood. It was surprisingly effective. Since the plywood came in 4’x8′ sheets, I had to have them cut a lot. Home Depot cuts for free, though!! Aaaand…

Womp. This pictures shows that my plywood piece is about 4″ too short. Well, technically my frame is 4″ too tall. According to my plans, the plywood is cut correctly, but I got so starry-eyed when I saw the 2′ 2x4s that I completely forgot that I only made the bench 20″ tall! It was way cheaper and easier to cut the bench frame down, so I decided to do that. Time to take the vertical 2x4s off and cut them all down.

Cutting the height down to size

Pro Tip: Use whatever you’re cutting to, to measure. Measuring tapes lie but patterns don’t. The picture above shows me lining one of the vertical beams up with the height of the plywood.

Of course, Home Depot didn’t cut ALL the wood, so I used a jig saw to cut the rest of the pieces out of the plywood using the bench frame as makeshift sawhorses.

Side note rant: why on earth can’t all saws just get their own names?? At least give them last names or something! I’ve mentioned two saws in this post so far and they’re super different but have the same name. I guess I could call the first one a “table jig saw” and the other one a “hand jig saw”, but wouldn’t it just be easier if they just had completely different names??

Update: Apparently the table jig saw is ALSO called a scroll saw. I henceforth ban the name “jig saw” from being used for a table jig saw.

Anyway. Moving on.

Jig saws aren’t the straightest shooters if you’re not an expert (like I’m not) so you’ll probably have to sand down some bits. The straightest line you can get is with the thin edge of a ruler. Lay it on the edge you need to flatten, then mark where the bumps pop up. Sand down the bumps and voila! Flatter! This is a furniture project, though, so little bumps are okay – we’ll fix them later.

It’s worth noting that technically, a better tool than the jig saw for cutting the plywood would be a circular saw. Circular saws cut straighter because the blade is longer, so to speak. Personally, I find the circular saw way more intimidating than the jig saw so I opted for more work sanding with better ease of cutting for my nerves.

Screwing it All Together

Screwing on the plywood

Once all of your plywood pieces are cut out, it’s time to screw them into the frame! The plywood is a bit harder than the 2x4s, but all I had to do was give the screws a swift hit with a hammer to stick them in, then they drilled in no problem.

Woot! All screwed together!!

But since I’ve gone like, a whole 10 sentences without a fail, I guess it’s time for another one.

My screws were too long. I didn’t have 1 5/8″ screws so I used 2″ screws but they popped out. I unscrewed every 2″ nail that was popping out and switched it with a 1 5/8″ screw later – I had to. Little, nasty, scratchy bits sticking out aren’t ideal.

Sanding Like CRAZY

Time for a TON of sanding! Make everything nice and flat. I adore this old sander I got from my gramps – it has a trigger rather than an on/off switch for better control and with a course grit, this baby can take off some crazy dust.

Product advertisement!

If you don’t have this, follow this link and buy some. Of all people, my gram introduced me to this stuff. It’s SO CHEAP and coming from someone who always has at least three cuts on her hands at any given time, it’s a necessity. It just acts like skin, moves with you, and doesn’t come off in the shower/sink. I usually put it over bandaids for some extra hold power.

No one likes to get blood on their work – it’s hard to get off.

Fixing Split Wood

Split plywood is annoying, but easily fixable. Just fill the split with wood and clamp it down. Be careful not to clamp TOO tightly and squeeze all of the glue out, though.

Shoe Shelves

To make the shoe shelves, I glued one layer of dividers down, glued down a shelf, rinse and repeat. These shelves bear virtually no weight, so glue should be enough to keep them sturdy.

Of course, it was impossible to get the dividers to stand up perfectly, this made me cringe.

But art truly is all about turning mistakes into successes. I got thin wood to nail over the edges (using panel board nails) and make it look nice.

Fixing holes (Wood’s Fault, Your Fault, Who Cares?)

This stuff is a MUST for every DIYer. It’s extraordinarily cheap, you just mix the powder with some water until you get a paste, so the powder lasts forever. This is great for wood pieces like this because as the can says, it’s “rock hard”. Try not to pile it on too thickly because unlike plaster wall fillers, it’s difficult to sand down. However also unlike plaster wall fillers, it can withstand a lot of abuse so you don’t need to worry about your bench getting kicked around.

There she is! One (mostly) finished bench! This picture is pre-puttying and pre-painting of course, that stuff had to wait until after I made the shelves. It’s also pre-chest-lidded (that makes sense, right?) I had already cut a piece of plywood that fit the top of the chest, then I measured about 4″ of a long side and cut it as carefully as I could. You can see the thin piece of ply on the chest against the wall, that is where I will attach 1/2 of the piano hinges, the other half will be attached to the chest top which I’ll attack after everything’s painted.

I hope you enjoyed part one of my mudroom bench series! Once I finish the next part I’ll link it here.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if I wasn’t clear on anything and I’m also always up for comments/suggestions! Even though my bench is done, I’ll surely be woodworking again and other DIYers can always benefit from more insight.

Warmly,

EGinny

Coping with Failure – Using it to Thrive

On this blog, I talk a lot about my many, many failures when it comes to trying new things. Creating things, making things, trying new techniques, the truth is that when you’re trying new things, it’s not always going to go perfectly the first time. How could it? Who masters a skill BEFORE even trying? It doesn’t make any sense. Still, failing is frustrating. So how is it possible to be okay with failing? As per my previous blog post, why I’m going to set my child up for failure, I do have to give a lot of credit to my parents for bringing me up in a life where failure was success, that said it’s still not an easy thing – it’s still disappointing.

Here are my tips failing in style 

1. The First Time isn’t the Last

Never go into a new project assuming that it will be your final draft, always take attempt #1 as a draft. Last year I decided I wanted to try making bath bombs to give as Christmas presents. I did this partly for fun, partly to save money. I looked up 3 dozen recipes on Pinterest, picked out my ingredients, decided which recipe I liked best, and went to work! The bath bomb seem super easy – kind of like baking cookies: you put the ingredients together, mix them, pack the mix into a mold, wait for them to dry, and pop them out! Simple, right? But when starting a new project there are always curve balls that neither you nor Pinterest can predict. My first set of bath bombs bubbled and expanded out of the mold like crazy! No Pinterest posts warned me about that! I’m guessing I used too much water; they were hot messes. If I’d gone into that project assuming that my first set of bath bombs were going to be beautiful, I would have been sorely disappointed. Instead, I recognized them as draft #1 and had me a nice hot bath to get rid of the monstrosities.
On the flip side of this, the other day I went to make headbands for a bachelorette party for the friend I married and 9th grade. I went into that one assuming that all the headbands would be my finals; I didn’t test beforehand. I was sorely disappointed when I finished making them -the ink bled out so horribly that the words were almost unreadable. The other bridesmaids were lovely and we wore them anyway, but I was upset because I knew I could have done better.

2. Recognize your Prior Emotions

Sometimes a failed project is due to your previous emotional or physical state, not the project itself. For me, I know for a solid fact that I am a hangry person. If I’m overly hungry, I shake, I get anxious, I get frustrated very easily. That said, even though I know this about myself, if I’m going on a project that I started at 9 in the morning and it’s now 10 at night yet I haven’t eaten all day, I’ll still make the mistake of not recognizing that I haven’t taken a break. I’ll be physically and emotionally drained and everything will start going wrong. Ever since I was a little girl creating in my parents’ basement, my mom or dad would have to come downstairs late at night just to remind me of the time and that I need to put my project down lest I get super frustrated, overtired, and mess something up. It’s no secret that your emotional state has a lot to do with how things in your life are going, creating something is no exception.

3. Laugh at your Failures

Sometimes you’re sitting on the floor covered in paint, trying to get your masterpiece perfect, nothing’s going right, you’re on the verge of tears, and the idea of laughing is absolutely absurd! But that’s exactly why you should do it. Laughing at yourself and your failures, even if you don’t feel like it, can help change the way you’re feeling. There are very few mistakes that cannot be fixed – at least not the DIY world. Laughing instead of crying can get you a long way! I know that what I’m talking about is a major mental shift and it’s not an easy thing to do, but I promise that working on it will be worth it.

4. Change the Narrative

“We don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents,” Bob Ross. I hope that you have all had the pleasure of watching one of Bob Ross’s painting shows and if not, I encourage you to seek one out now – it’s truly a  life-changing experience. One of his major lessons is that mistakes are just happy little accidents – mistakes are opportunities. When I completely botched my sister-in-law’s birthday cake into a slippery, sliding, gooey mess, she ended up with an even better dessert. The failure forced me to think differently and turn it into a trifle. As I sit here writing this, I’m trying to pull up in my mind examples of when I turned my mistakes into opportunities, but honestly I’ve made so many mistakes that it’s hard to recall a single one. Especially if you are a person who likes to stretch his/her creative muscles, mistakes are major assets.

5. Share the Love

Encourage the four previous tips in other people. They say the best way to learn is to teach. If your brother or daughter or spouse finds themselves unsuccessful at whatever they were attempting, remind them that failures are okay and it can even be a good thing. Helping other people change their mindsets forces you to become even more solid in your own. I have never found myself better at laughing at my mistakes that I have since becoming a teacher. When I see a student on the verge of tears after doing something wrong and I tell them it’s fine, it’s how you learn and it’s a good thing, then I smile and I help them get to where they need to be, it makes it easier to remind myself the same thing when I have my own failures.

I hope these five tips are helpful for those of you who are hoping to become more effective creatives. I know that these five tips are going to be more difficult for some of you than others, but they’re not going to be easy for anybody. Just remember that you’re not the only person who gets frustrated by failure, but the more you can work on these tips, the more you can help the mental shift of our creative Nation. 

Failure is good

Warmly,

EGinny

Christmas Gnomes: 3 Dollar Tree Christmas Decoration DIYs

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for anyone who clicks on a link and purchases a product. All product links, affiliate and otherwise, represent my unbiased opinion about the product.

‘Tis the season of the Christmas Gnomes! I’ve been seeing them everywhere and they’re the cutest, most adorable, most expensive things. Since there was no way I could waltz through the door $100 poorer and 3 gnomes richer without my husband shaking his head defeatedly, I decided I ought to just make them myself. I’m SO glad I did.

All three gnomes are different, but have the same nose. Each gnome cost me $6 or less and was a blast to design!

Materials

Mr. Dazzle:

  • Sequin Stocking
  • Scarf
  • Placemat
  • Bell – These aren’t the exact ones I used, but I like them better!
  • Small Plastic bat – This must be a Summer item because I can’t find it online, but I see these in almost every Dollar Tree I go to year-round.
  • Small Stones

Sir Comfy:

  • Plaid Stocking
  • Pillow for stuffing – Nothing online for this one, but check your local Dollar Tree. If I hadn’t found the pillow, I was going to use three luffas which I think would work really well!
  • Sequin Stocking – This is just for the red felt.
  • Bell
  • Small Stones

Baron Bubble:

  • Ball – This doesn’t link to the exact on I used, but it’s the same diameter.
  • Kid’s Hat – This doesn’t seem to be online, but any fuzzy hat will do!
  • Elf Hat
  • Styrofoam Cone – If you can’t find one, try a party hat!
  • Small Stones

NOTE: I just found this phenomenal Santa hat online and if anyone has it in their Dollar Tree please make a gnome out of it and show me!!

A hot mess of materials – 20 points for anyone who can guess what I’m watching!

The Nose

All the gnomes have the same nose – a tiny Christmas ornament! Buying these at the Dollar Tree pretty much ensures that they’re plastic so you can simply cut the top off. I simply hot glued these on.

Gnome #1: Mr. Dazzle

STEP 1: Cutting off the top of the bat.

Using a saw seemed to be the easiest way to do this – even if your saw is as rusty as mine… Don’t worry about messy edges since we’ll be coving them anyway. I recommend not using a powered saw. Powered saws are fast. Fast makes friction. Friction causes melting. Melting causes problems… definitely not speaking from experience here…

STEP 2: Adding some weight.

Fill the bottom with rocks so he stands nice and steady.

STEP 3: Disassembling the placemat

Separate the two pieces of fabric that make up the placemat. This not only gives you a new material (the satin) but also makes the fabric thinner and easier to work with in the next step.

STEP 4: Wrapping the bat.

Wrap the placemat around the bat and glue it on, then glue the edges of the mat together all the way up. The placemat happened to be the PERFECT width to fit the bat, but if yours isn’t, consider unfolding the seam (which you ripped away from lining) for a bit more width.

STEP 5: Tucking in the top.

Snip off the excess fabric leaving about 1″-2″. Gather up the rest and stuff it into the hole in the top of the bat. I recommend you try to do a bit of pleating here – fold the fabric rather than bunch it.

STEP 6: Disassembling the stocking

Time to destroy the stocking! Seam rip it all apart. The dollar Tree tends to baste all of their seams (long stitches) so it shouldn’t take too long to cut the seams apart.

STEP 7: Making the cone for the hat.

Cut the sequin sheet into a trapezoid shape, making the bottom part as long as you can and not cutting the angles too sharply at first, then you can make the angles sharper if you want a pointier cone. Glue the two diagonal lines together (right sides together, sequin to sequin) to create a cone shape.

STEP 8: Adding the bell to the hat.

Glue the top of the cone together and cover the glue mess with a bell! Make sure to hold the bell upside down when gluing so the ball doesn’t get stuck in the hot glue.

STEP 9: Adding the beard.

Cut the scarf to the length you want the beard. I chose to make it to the ground, so I cut it about an inch longer than that so I could stuff the top edge into the hat.

STEP 10: Adding trim to the hat.

Time to cut a piece of fabric for the bottom of the hat! Using a piece of ribbon can help with the step, but it isn’t necessary. I used a piece of ribbon to trace around so I could cut out a strip of fabric to the right size.

Gnome #2: Sir Comfort

STEP 1: Destroying the pillow.

This part’s sad but necessary. Get that fluff out so you can use it!

STEP 2: Cutting out the gnome’s shape.

Imagine a line from the tip of the toe that bisects the toe completely, then fold on it. The shape you’ll come out with will have a point on the bottom which you then need to cut off so it’s flat. The final shape will be a triangle with rounded corners.

STEP 3: Stuffing the gnome.

Glue ALMOST all of the cut edges together like a pillow, right sides together, leaving a small hole to turn it right side out and stuff. After stuffing him, add some rocks to weight him down so he sits properly and glue the hole up.

STEP 4: Making the hat.

Cut a trapezoid out of some felt (I used the back side of the stocking used for Mr. Dazzle’s hat) and create a hat with it (see making Mr. Dazzle’s hat above for more help). Turn up the bottom of the hat to create a brim and cut off the excess seam in the back.

STEP 5: The beard.

I seem to have overlooked snapping a picture of Sir Comfy’s beard… It’s the top brim of the stocking I used to make him simply cut off and glued under his hat.

STEP 6: Adding some pizazz!

Hot glue some extra fluff around the brim of the hat. The bell for this one had to be sewn – I was afraid the hot glue would look messy. I was able to pull the tip of the hat through the loop in the bell and sew it that way.

Gnome #2: Baron Bubble

STEP 1: Making the body.

Stuff the ball into the hat! Glue to the cone onto the top with LOTS of glue. Gather the brim of the hat and glue it around the ball so it’s nice and taut. The glue probably won’t stick to the ball great, but the fabric glues to itself really well which helps.

STEP 2: Making the hat.

Snip the top part of the Santa hat off and slide it over the cone. Hot glue the edges down to the hat.

STEP 3: Dealing with the hat pompoms.

The hat I used had little pompoms on them, so I glued them so they’d sit forward like little feet. If your hat doesn’t have pompoms no worries, the next step will sit him upright!

STEP 4: Sitting him upright.

Glue little stones to the bottom of the ball so he sits upright. If you don’t have the pompoms, you may want to glue the stones in a triangle pattern like a tripod. Use lots of hot glue – there are better glues to stick stones but hot glue is just fastest and as long as you use enough, it’ll do.

STEP 5: Decorating the hat.

Use the original brim from the Santa hat and cut it thinner, then turn up the bottom and glue it to hem it. You will also need to cut the length down. Glue it around the bottom of the red hat on Baron Bubble. Take some glitter ribbon and glue it around the bottom of the brim because everything needs more glitter!

That’s it!

Have fun making gnomes and send me pictures!! I always love seeing what other people come up with!

Warmly,

EGinny

Christmas Gnomes: 3 Dollar Tree Christmas Decoration DIYs

Inexpensive Bachelorette Games and Puzzles: A Matching Set

Guys, I’m at that age. You know the one – when everyone your age starts getting married and having babies. It’s kinda weird sometimes, like oh I didn’t know Jenny-who-was-trying-to-kick-her-thumb-sucking-habit-in-6th-grade is pregnant! Or oh look, Francisca-who-skipped-school-on-gay-rights-day-because-she’s-so-anti-gay is marrying a chick now!

But hey, it’s fun! Besides, following my recent wedding, it would be hypocritical for me to complain about anyone else’s nuptials.

It also means that lots of my friends are getting married which is a blast! Of course then my friends and my friends of my friends ask me to help creatively and I end up getting wrapped up in crazy projects which is exhausting.

Here is the fruit of one of my more recent projects! I originally made it for a friend of a friend of a friend’s bachelorette (yikes!) and ended up using it for a bachelorette I went to, too!

The problem:

There are lots of bachelorette games out there, but when you print random ones they don’t match which looks sloppy.

The solution:

Make them match!

The games in the packet:

Dirty Drink It

This is basically a never-have-I-ever drinking game: four rounds, each getting more intense. Take a drink every time the answer is yes, everything from have you ever sent nudes to have you ever had a threesome. At the bachelorette, two of us just drank orange juice and we still had a ball! It lead to some great stories.

Bride Libs

Rated PG (depending on how you play it). This one was a blast, though a bit redundant. The bride kept it to read at the rehearsal dinner!

Porn or Polish

This is exactly what it sounds like: is the given name a nail polish or the title of a porn? I honestly can’t believe some of the answers! “Meet Balls” porn or polish??

Dirty Minds

This is a list of dirty riddles. We played it by having one person read the riddles one at a time while everyone else guessed as a group so it was a social gam, but people could do them on their own, too!

Wedding Emoji

Rated G for everybody, this game gives a series of emojis that mean something wedding-y that you have to guess. For example, guess this one: 😊👰
Blushing bride

Dirty Pictionary

This game can be as short or long as you want! It’s a list of words that you cut up and put in a hat, then one at a time someone pulls a word that they have to draw and other people have to guess what it is. Die-hard pictionary enthusiasts will tell you to get into teams and during each round, one person per team pulls a word to draw and only their team guesses before a timer goes off (a correct guess is 1 point). Since there were only 5 of us at my friend’s bachelorette, we just had one person draw at a time and everyone got to guess (no points for anyone). It’s a blast! I mean, have YOU ever thought about how to visually communicate the word “horny”?

Well ladies, have fun and pack some aspirin!

Warmly,

EGinny

Brain Goop: A Halloween Hot Mess

In the 1960s, EVERYONE knew EVERYTHING there was to know about gelatin and they could make ANYTHING with it! I mean, check out this glorious masterpiece:

Like seriously how did they do that?? Also why… but I’m not here to argue that.

And since we’re talking halloween, I think I’d rather eat the meatloaf stuffed inside a fake skeleton with ketchup rather than the above “meal in a mold”.

I had no intention of going THAT far, but I perused the aisles of the Dollar Tree looking for inspiration and when I saw an LED and a brain mold. I knew what I had to do.

This project was never about the gelatin, it was about the special effects!

It was a big hit!

This isn’t what I set out to make though – not at all. It started with an idea for a jello brain. Here’s how I, a mid-twenty year-old with zero gelatin experience, decided to go about making a jello brain from the dollar store.

The materials

The brain mold, strobe light, and tray were all from the Dollar Tree. The Jell-o, gummy worms, and fruit (not pictured here) were all from the grocery store. The two different boxes of jello are two different colors to make the brain more dynamic.

Step 1: Make Jello Box #1

I used the quick-set instructions off of the Jello box – strawberry first, the darker color. Instead of making it with just water, you make it with a mixture of water and ice. Using this method helps for the next step.

Add a bit of the first jello color to the brain mold, then dump the rest in another tray for later. Put the brain mold in the fridge and let it sit and start to firm up while you do the next step:

Step 2: Cut up the Fruit Salad

This is pretty self-explanatory. The flashing jello is fun, but people are more likely to pick out some of the fruit salad.

My fruits of choice!

The lemon juice is my tip here – once you make the fruit salad, spray it down with some lemon or lime juice. That keeps it from browning!

Step 3: Make Jello Box #2

Fill up that brain the rest of the way with the other jello color! Pour slowly and over a spoon (like bartenders tend to do in order to layer drinks), that will make it so there’s a gradient of color. Letting that first jello color firm up a bit before pouring the second one on also helps with keeping the colors separate. Then dump the rest into the pan with the rest of the jello. I didn’t worry about mixing here.

This is the spoon method I mentioned

Step 4: Let it Firm Up Overnight

Unless you want pictures of my sleeping, I got no images for this step.

Step 5: Sanitize and Waterproof the Light

Give the light a wipe with some soap (don’t submerge the light – it’s not waterproof) then cover it in saran wrap. This light has a press button for turning it on and off which was perfect because it was easy to do under the saran wrap!

Step 6: De-mold the Brain!

Womp womp.

FAILURE. And at this point I had about 10 minutes before I had to leave for the party. I was SO EXCITED for this!!

Step 7: Pivot

Welp, I made the jello and the fruit salad so I still wanted to bring it to the party. Bye-bye jello brain, hello jello brain goop!

Still came out pretty well, even though it wasn’t what I had in mind.

I ended up just dumping all of the jello (including the stuff from the second tray of extra jello) into the glass bowl, but the original plan had been to cut up the secondary jello into chunks and add it on top of the fruit salad for people to grab – like little finger jello bites.

Alt Text

Here’s What YOU Should Do

I got some tips from my mother and grandmother, who I should have gotten advice from in the first place!

  • Add Extra Gelatin: Use the recipe 3 small boxes Jell-O, 4 envelopes (1 box) (1 oz) unflavored gelatin, 4 1/2 cups water or some ratio of it. The extra gelatin will make it FIRM.
  • Spray the Mold: Use Pam cooking spray or a paper towel with some oil on it.
  • Break the Seal: Not THAT seal. Before trying to get your Jello out of the mold, slide a knife around the outside of the jello between it and the mold.

I fully intend to give this a try again once I get my light back! Wish me luck 🤞

If you try this send me a picture! I’m dying to see how it works out WITHOUT the fails!

Warmly,

EGinny

Adventures in Meal Prep: Healthy Lunch Prep for the Week

I’ve been on a diet since I was 12. Twelve was about the age when I started really noticing my weight and trying to watch what I was eating. It wasn’t just me noticing my own weight, though, everyone seemed to notice my weight. I once had my drama teacher (who in every other sense was really lovely) tell the Saturday lunch-runner,

“she won’t be eating today”

referring to my having to wear a spandex jumpsuit in the upcoming musical.

So yeah, not such a healthy relationship with food.

On the bright side, all of this focus really prompted me to learn more about health and nutrition and for what it’s worth, I can tell you how many calories are in just about anything. This odd relationship with food has led me to doing some fun exploration into meal prep in an attempt to have control over what I eat.

Here are some of the lunches I’ve prepped over the years.

Keto, Mediterranian, Millitary, Low-fat, and other Diets

I’ll preface this with saying that I don’t currently do any fad diets. I’ve tried them all (who hasn’t?) but now when a new one comes out, I do my research before diving in like I used to. What I’ve learned is it pretty much all comes down to this: fad diets work because they force you to eat less. Take for example, keto, the hot new trend. If I did keto, I wouldn’t be eating those donuts that my coworker brought in or ordering dessert on my nights out. Keto has the added benefit of also allowing me to indulge in things like bacon which makes the diet easier to stick to.

If it’s working for you then by all means you go girl! Plus I know that sticking to restrictive diets is difficult so I like to mention when I make a meal that follows one. For me though, I have such a sensitive stomach that all fad diets ever did was make me sad and usually in pain.

Making Meals for Multiples

Learn how to make the same meals for both you and your family members with simple alterations. For example I like bento-type lunches with a box full of a variety of small amounts of foods, but my husband isn’t a fan. For his lunches, I’ll give him more of fewer things. For example if I make myself a snack bento with grapes, carrots, celery, melon, and cheese chunks, I’ll make him a lunch with grapes and carrots, another with celery, another with melon, and I’ll put the cheese in a separate bag. Same ingredients, different presentation.

Low Carb Keto Tuna Lunches

Keto, low-calorie, high protein

Low Carb tuna salad on lettuce with apples, cucumber, almonds, and cheese for keto lunch prep.
  • Almonds for protein
  • Cucumber for substance without calories
  • Cheese stick for healthy fats
  • Tuna for healthy fats and protein. I mix mine with just a little but of mayo and some sweet relish.
  • Apples for sugars and some carbs
  • Triscuits for some healthy carbs. I love crackers, but crackers can be as bad for you as cookies! I’ve taken a serious liking to Triscuits due to them being made with whole wheat with good fiber content. If you’re doing keto, nix the Triscuits.

Egg Salad Sandwiches with Heaps of Veggies

Low-calorie, nutrient dense

Egg salad sandwiches with green beans, carrots, grapes, and cucumber for easy lunch prep.
  • Egg salad sandwiches. I know, white bread. I went through a phase where I figured why the heck would I use whole grain or wheat bread if it has more calories?? I’ve since learned – not all calories are created equal.
  • The hearts on the sandwiches indicate which ones are my husband’s – they have more egg salad in them than mine do! He needs the protein.
  • Carrots and grapes are THE BEST MIX especially if you have a vicious sweet tooth like I do. They’re both higher in sugars, but also have lots of good nutrients.
  • Green beans and cucumbers for low calorie crunch

PB&J Roll-ups with Piña Coolata Cottage Cheese and Celery Bagels

Good source of protein, high sugar

Peanut butter and jelly wraps with pina coolata cottage cheese and everything bagel stuffed celery - lunch prep.
I may have gone a little nutty on this one… but all the elements are there!
  • PB&J roll-ups have crunchy peanut butter for crunch! They’re cheap and easy, too. Next time I’ll use wheat wraps.
  • Piña coolata cottage cheese was my invention and I’m very proud of it! It’s just cottage cheese with canned, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, chopped mango, and coconut. Next time I’dd add a couple maraschino cherries and most importantly, I’ll put it in its own container! I covered it with saran wrap before putting the lid on, but it wasn’t good enough. Fruit juice leaked everywhere…
  • The celery everything bagels are a great source of low-calorie protein that can satisfy your bagel needs.
Everything bagel and cream cheese stuffed celery sticks.
Keto friendly
  • Plus it’s pretty It’s pretty simple to make: Dry your celery really good (or the cream cheese won’t stick)
  • Fill a quart-sized (preferably freezer) bag with cream cheese
  • Play with the cream cheese in the bag until it warms up a bit
  • Cut off a corner of the bag and pipe it into the celery like frosting
  • sprinkle them with everything bagel mix which you can find in just about any grocery store
  • DON’T chop them into little pieces! …like I did. I thought the bites would be better, but the cream cheese made them much harder to eat.

Spicy BLT Salad

Keto friendly, low-carb

Chicken, bacon, jalapeno, black bean, and tomato spicy salad lunch prep.
  • Lettuce – I like a mix of iceberg (cheap) and butter lettuce (yummy)
  • Black beans – protein without too much flavor
  • Tomatoes
  • Cheese – I used cheddar and some leftover mozzarella in this one
  • Chicken – you can buy precooked chicken from the grocery store, but a huge bag of it still sits in my freezer because I think it tastes weird… this is just chicken I threw in the oven for a bit with some S&P and olive oil on it.
  • Bacon bits – as per my husband, it’s REAL bacon, not the fake stuff.
  • Jalapeños – I know Josh likes spicy so I may have gone a little overboard with these things on this salad… turns out most people don’t want searing mouth pain every day at 11:30am, who knew?

Sweet Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Blueberry Salad

Low-carb, low-fat

Arugula, spinach, blueberry, goat cheese, chicken, and craisin salad lunch prep.
  • Spinach and arugula – Spinach I use for the health benefits, but the arugula has such a strong flavor that I only use it when I want that flavor, which is usually in sweet salads.
  • Chicken – protein of course.
  • Craisins – I adore these things! They make everything sweeter! Plus if you eat them in the same bite as some chicken, they’re like cranberry sauce.
  • Blueberries – it was blueberry season so they were really cheap!
  • Glazed pecans – any glazed nut is heavenly on a sweet salad.
  • Goat cheese – protein and flavor.

I have many more meal preps that I’ve made that I’ll keep adding in here, so don’t forget to check back!

Warmly,

EGinny

Slippery and Sticky – The Miserable Combo of Removing a Carpet from a Hardwood Floor

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for anyone who clicks on a link and purchases a product. All product links, affiliate and otherwise, represent my unbiased opinion about the product.

Tweet, "baby boomers blame millennials for everything BUT WHO PUT CARPET OVER ALL THESE HARDWOOD FLOORS PATRICIA"
This.

I totally get it that styles change, but I don’t get how it’s possible to not LOVE hardwood floors! I have pretty bad allergies so carpets are my kryptonite, but even if that weren’t an issue, I love how easy they are to keep clean and how versatile they are! Heck, even if I decide I’m not about wood floors anymore, I can throw a carpet down – I can’t throw a wood floor over a carpet.

Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, wood floors don’t smell. They CAN I guess since they’re semi-porous, but not like carpet. When my husband and I bought our new house, every time we walked in we were struck by an awful odor which we eventually determined to be the old carpet. It had to go!

We peeled up one corner with fingers crossed and…

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There she is: the elusive hardwood floor

Woot! Hardwood!!

Now’s the easy part, right? Pull up the carpet, give the new floor a quick wash, and pull up any carpet tacks left over, easy!

My mother and I decided to tackle this project while my husband was in Canada on business, so the two of us

gingerly peeled

no that’s not right,

carefully tugged

that’s not right either…

FORCEFULLY MUSCLED a corner of the carpet up.

That’s right about when we realized this wasn’t going to be as easy as we’d hoped.

Like many carpets, this one was completely glued down. Not only did we have to battle the carpet to get it up, but then we had to battle the floor itself trying to make it walkable.

So, for those of you smart enough to do your research FIRST and not get stuck in a way stickier mess than you’d intended, here’s how we de-carpeted our mudroom.

before-and-after-mudroom-33
The ONLY difference between these two rooms is the missing carpet and the new rug for under the washer and dryer.

First, gather your materials:

  • Goo Gone – I learned a thing: there are different strengths of Goo Gone! Get the Pro Strength, and get a lot. You know how much you’re thinking right now? Get more. Besides, even if you don’t need it all it’s not like it won’t get used eventually.
  • Wallpaper scraper – THIS ONE!!! And just buy it on Amazon – they’re not sold anywhere else, I’ve looked. The only reason I had one is because my grandmother bought it a long, long time ago and we happened to find it. The one I linked is the most ergonomic design and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they’re not everywhere. Scraping up paint and glue is exhausting and really hard on the wrists. I can honestly say that my mother and I wouldn’t have been able to do this project in a weekend without this tool. 
  • Other scrapers – Regular metal scrapers work well for some things, too. We tried the plastic ones but they were way too weak to be helpful.
  • Razors – Just your regular, run-of-the-mill razors can be helpful to have on hand for tougher sticky things.
  • Utility knife – bonus, this comes with razor blades so you don’t need to buy more!
  • Scrub brush – This is perfect because you can just toss in the trash it when you’re done and you’re only out a dollar!
  • Scrub pad – This one has a handle so I highly recommend it. Like the scrub brush: buy, use, toss.
  • Junk Towels or rags – If you don’t have any junk towels, get yourself some cheap shop rags. You’ll need paper towels too but don’t rely on them!
  • Paper towels – I’ve got these guys on a monthly delivery with Amazon. I did my research, these are an excellent price!
  • A bucket – preferably a bucket you can throw out at the end of the project like the one linked here.
  • Krud Kutter – or any other grease cutting cleaner.
  • Plastic drop cloths – Waterproof is important.
  • Some tools – Just pull out your toolbox and keep it nearby. Some things we needed were a hammer to pull out the nails in the threshold covers and a flathead screwdriver to pry up the carpet tack strips in the doorways.

STEP 1: Pulling up the carpet

To get the carpet up, you’re gonna need some muscle. My mother and I would both pull, then she’d lightly tug it as I cut chunks off with the utility knife. We ended up with about 4 chunks of carpet in the end. 

20190927_193126
The picture is super blurry because I was trying to take it fast! We had to strain to keep the rug taut enough for a good cut.

Mom tripped onto the gooey wood floor and her socks immediately stuck so when she stumbled back, she stumbled right out of them!

20190927_192234.jpg
Not sure if the advice here is TO wear socks or NOT to wear socks…

One corner up!

20190927_192239
See the pup in the bottom righthand corner? Don’t let them get so close! She wandered onto the wood while we were focused on other things and cried as she unstuck herself to get back on the carpet… She spent the rest of the time locked in another room.

STEP 2: Goo Gone time!!

20190927_214213

At this point you have two options: spray the Goo Gone onto the wood in MASSIVE amounts then immediately begin to scrape and be done in a half hour, 

or,

spray the Goo Gone onto the wood in MASSIVE amounts then wait 15 minutes before you scrape, and still be done in a half hour.

Basically, be impatient and work much harder or be patient and reap the benefits.

Trust me – my mother and I tried both ways and we learned to be very, very patient.

Will Goo Gone ruin hardwood floors??

We did a lot of research on this (worried about the same thing) and everyone seemed to have roughly the same conclusion: it’s the best option. You might end up marring the finish, but the hardwood has been sitting under carpet for years anyway so the Goo Gone won’t damage it any more than it already is. We opted not to leave a thick coat of Goo Gone overnight, but we did just do a light wiping at the end of the day and leave a Goo Gone film on the floor overnight and it didn’t hurt anything.

STEP 3: Grossness layer one

20190928_195805
GROSS

This is layer one of what we scraped off the floor. It’s a mixture (we think) of carpet glue, Goo Gone, carpet padding, and probably some cat hair.

Again, that’s layer one.

STEP 4: Goo Gone time again!!

Yup, spray down that floor again and wait another 15ish minutes.

STEP 5: Grossness layer two

This is a two part step – one part scrub brush and one part scrub pad. These two work well together because the brush gets up bigger junk while the pad gets the smaller junk. 

Also have your razor blades and wallpaper scraper on hand. Scrub each section with the scrub brush, then go over it with the scraper again, and finish off with the scrub pad. By this point the floor should feel just kinda slippery, not sticky. If there’s sticky junk then scrape or brush it away!

20190929_163217.jpg

20190929_170717
See all this paint, too? The Goo Gone with scrubbers and razor took all that off!

STEP 6: Wash off the yuck!

Mix some Krud Kutter in some hot water and wash the floor with some rags. We tried sponges but they just spread the goo around so we don’t recommend it.

20190929_190223.jpg

Tips, Tricks, and Warnings:

  • Wear ruinable clothing. This may go without saying, but expect your clothes to get ruined with glue, Goo Gone, and even the potential razor blade scrape if your shirt is baggy…
  • Use a towel as a knee pad. Not only is hardwood not knee-friendly, but you can also use the towel so that you can kneel on the wood when it’s gross without grossing up your knees, meaning you don’t have to take a bunch of knee-cleaning breaks. 
  • Spread the tarp out in the hall/next room over and just toss gunky stuff onto it as you go. We made the mistake of using a sheet (not waterproof) and ended up having to clean the hall after.
  • Have paper towels on hand to clean off your scrapers as you go. If there’s gunk on your scraper, you’re just spreading the mess around. Give it a good wipe every once in a while.
  • DO NOT wash the rags/towels in your washing machine! Goo Gone is oil based so it will gunk up your washer like crazy and do even worse damage to the parts you don’t see (the pipes). Even if you think the towels aren’t too gross, wash them outside with Dawn soap and a hose BEFORE throwing them into your washer. 
  • DO NOT wash your tools in your sink/bathtub! Re: above. The massive amounts of Goo Gone will ruin your drains. Wash them in a bucket outside with Dawn or better yet, throw them out! At the end of this project, my incredibly frugal mother and I threw out the bucket, a bunch of razors, the scrub brush, the scrub pad, and a utility knife – they just weren’t worth cleaning.
  • Vacuum the rug first. We thought, “eh, why vacuum if we’re just gonna tear the rug up anyway?” Because then the dirt will get in the glue and you’ll be scraping up chunks of dirt with your glue, that’s why. Gross.
  • If you’re frustrated, spray with Goo Gone and walk away. 9 times out of 10 if we couldn’t get a spot of glue up, we just hadn’t let it soak in Goo Gone for long enough.
  • Get this wallpaper scraper. I know I made a big deal out of this in the materials list, but I’m gonna do it again. It is so, so worth it. I am 100% not getting paid to tell you that we couldn’t have done this project without this scraper.

20191001_175244-1I’m so in love with my new hardwood floor I may marry it. It’s not perfect in the least, though. Actually as we peeled back the carpet, we theorized that the reason it was carpeted in the first place is due to a bad refinishing job. If you look closely in the sun glares, you can see that it’s a bit wavy and under the radiator the wood has been sanded about 1/8″ down from its original height. Plus the floor is stained a honey color that doesn’t match the rest of the house… but only my parents, husband, and I will notice that stuff, so I don’t care.

My wrists killed me for a week but it was worth it.

If you pull up a carpet in your house, let me know how it goes!

And keep an eye out: now that the gross carpet is gone, I have big plans for this room…

Warmly,

EGinny

$4 Decorating at the Dollar Tree: Autumn Candles

Looking to level-up your decor with a project that helps you flex your creative muscle without breaking the bank or sacrificing all your free time? Here’s a quick, easy, cheap project just for you!

Halloween Candles_5

I got all of this at the Dollar Tree:

  • Two glass jars – these are definitely seasonal. They have a bunch of different colors, too!
  • A 2-pack of tapered candles – again, there are a bunch of different colors.
  • Popcorn – in a bag like this NOT a microwavable one! The last thing you want for this is buttery, salty popcorn kernels…
  • Two Dixie cups – I had these in my bathroom. Any cups will work as long as they can fit in the jars you chose and don’t quite reach the rim of it. You could also cut down larger paper/plastic/styrofoam cups.
  • An exacto knife – if you don’t have one, get one! Every crafter should own one. That said, a regular knife or a sharp pair of scissors will work in a pinch.

Total material cost: 4 bucks – heck yeah.

Halloween Candles_41. Cut a hole in the bottom or each dixie cup the same size as the diameter of the candle. I marked it with a pen, first. If you only have a knife, you should be able to simply cut an X in the top and slide the candle into it, but it won’t hold quite as well.Halloween Candles_32. Place the dixie cup with the candle in it into the jar and fill the jar with popcorn. The popcorn will help keep the candle upright and the dixie cup will help take up some space in the jar so you don’t need quite so many kernels. I used about 2/3 of the popcorn bag for this whole project. Halloween Candles_1

3. … actually that’s it. Honestly I planned to get a clear glass jar and some ribbon to decorate these myself, but I found the pre-decorated jars instead and I just couldn’t pass them up! They’re so pretty and festive!

Easy 2 -step DIY for making some inexpensive autumn decor!

Honestly the best part of having my own house is getting to decorate it! Plus I don’t have 50 years worth of decorations stocked up like my parents (as people tend to when they’ve been decorating for many holidays over the years) so we kinda need decorations, too!

I hope you also enjoy this picture of my entirely monochromatic dining room… we’re planning to paint that soon 😉

Warmly,

EGinny

Why I will Set my Children up for Failure

pexels-photo-1149022.jpeg
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

When I was young, I saw an episode of the cartoon Jimmy Neutron where he invents a purple mist that tastes good. I thought, why isn’t that a thing?? Delicious air? Heck yeah! I set to work filling a spray bottle with some sugar water (no other flavors, I figured I’d keep it simple in the beginning) and proceeded to spray it into the air in the kitchen over and over and over again to see when I’d added enough sugar to the bottle to be able to taste it. 

Now, some of you probably see coming what’s going to happen next, I, however, did not. 

After about 20 minutes of spraying sugar water into the air so that it would land on me, I started to notice my skin getting tighter… and my feet sticking to the floor… and that’s when my mother walked in the door.

Tired from her day at work and running my siblings and I around to our extracurriculars, she smiled wearily, grabbed the mop, and helped me clean the sticky kitchen.

When I was young, I liked to cook off and on. I say “off and on” because I liked to cook NEW things, but making something I’d made before bored me. It happened to be one of the few nights when my mother wouldn’t be home, so being the dutiful daughter that I was, I offered to cook dinner. Well I knew that I liked macaroni and cheese with meat and veggies mixed in, so I decided to try a version of that. I made angel hair pasta with peas, corn, carrots, and slices of hot dog. 

I loved it! My father, who has never liked his flavors mixed, smiled and ate every. last. Bite.

When I was young, I loved to make clothing. I liked sewing, sure, but I would make clothing using hot glue, thread, wire, cloth, newspaper, anything I could get my hands on. One day I decided that I wanted to make something truly extravagant. I dug through the fabric bin and found the most beautiful snow-white silk (okay, probably some ratty, old satin my mom had laying around) and the perfect piece of lace to match. I sewed the silk into a skirt but before gathering it, I sewed the lace onto the front. When it was done, I marched upstairs to show my mom. Her eyes flashed with shock in such an instant that I didn’t even notice, then she told me it looked beautiful, gave me a tip to keep the fabric from fraying, and I was on my merry way. It wasn’t until years later that I learned I’d inadvertently grabbed her lace dresser runner from a storage box, NOT a fabric scrap box, and in that split second she had to decide whether to reprimand me for something I’d worked so hard on, or praise me. 

We dug the skirt up again recently. Apparently I also thought that bigger, longer skirts were fancier

READER POLL! I couldn’t choose which of the three stories I should start this article with, thoughts?

They all illustrate my point in this post: I tried a lot of different things. I tried a lot of different things and I failed at a lot of them. I’d say my success rate was somewhere in the range of 20-40%. Even if I were exceptionally talented (BIG if) it’s not possible to try so many things and always be good at them! 

Failing never really bothered me, though, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why that is.

Actually, I never thought about it at all until I became a teacher. Now I sit in a classroom holding a piece of tape in one hand and two paper cups in the other, wondering why it is that I can’t seem to convince my student to take the cups and tape them together. 

He keeps looking away and fidgeting, he says he doesn’t know if that’s REALLY how he wants them taped, he asks if I can just tape it for him. 

And he’s not the only one.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of students I have who won’t try something out of fear of failing. They’ll ask me to do it for them, they’ll get upset and even cry if it doesn’t come together the way they think it should, or they’ll just sit and do nothing except wait for class to be over. What I’m seeing is a bunch of students who are too stressed to try. They’re afraid they’ll do something the wrong way and if they try and fail (something as simple as taping a popsicle stick to the wrong side so the catapult won’t work) they practically go catatonic. 

There are many reasons why kids can fear failing and I’m no psychologist so I don’t pretend to know them all, but I do know that the generation in which I grew up seems to be drastically different from the one upcoming.

When I was growing up, I failed a lot and that was okay. I think about the adults in my life who molded me into who I am and I know they have a lot to do with my success at failing. 

There seems to be two main reasons for a child becoming afraid to fail:

  1. A child is not allowed to fail by way of everything s/he does is a success no matter what.
    Many people are now starting to recognize the detriments of the “participation trophy” generation – this is one of them. If you’re a child and whenever you do something, adults are telling you that you’re amazing and successful, how can you not worry about the one time when you’re not successful? What should you expect? How will the adults react? It’s like when you’re playing a game with a winning streak: you know it can’t last forever so each play you’re more and more fearful of failing. 
    Instead, we should be teaching kids that they will fail and that’s okay. You didn’t win the soccer game today, the other team did, but that’s okay and you’ll get ’em next time! You didn’t tape your project together correctly, but that’s fine and I’ll help you fix it. 
  2. A child is not allowed to fail by way of punishment. For this second reason, I think back to my childhood specifically – why was I so okay with failing? Why did I never give trying something a second thought? To answer this question I reached back into my college psychology classes and pulled out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

My parents managed to raise some dang actualized kids. The top tier of this pyramid is “achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities”. Essentially, this post is about that top tier – feeling able to try new things, often creatively. 

Of the four bottom tiers, two are important, but the other two are directly related to trying new things. Relating to my own childhood, I had all of the first tier taken care of. I was lucky enough to have the basics: food and water and jazz. Jumping up to the third tier, I also always felt loved and accepted by my family. 

Jumping up again to the fourth tier, we start getting into the tiers that are directly related to trying new things. When it came to my esteem needs, I had enough successes to have good self-esteem. I tried a LOT of things, so some of them were bound to be successes if only per the Law of Truly Large Numbers. Then when I did have successes, even little ones, my family praised me and encouraged me on. Without that positive reinforcement, I’m not sure that I’d have created so often. Having that support was integral for little me flexing my creative muscles.

Jumping back down to the second tier, I always felt safe. If I messed up or did something wrong, I never worried I’d get hit or yelled at. I got a bunch of “stern talking to”s sure, but I was never afraid of repercussions for things that I wasn’t doing maliciously. I think back to that skirt I made with my mother’s nice dresser runner – she could have yelled at me, put me in a time-out, and seam-ripped it right off the skirt I’d made,  but she didn’t. If she had, I would have avoided the craft room for weeks, months, out of fear of using something else that I didn’t know I shouldn’t use. Feeling safe and secure doesn’t just mean that you don’t have to worry about being attacked, it means feeling safe to try new things without fear of lash-back for failing or for being wrong. If my mother had yelled at me for using that runner, I wouldn’t have feared her, but I would have feared making something new again. I wouldn’t have felt safe to do so.

When I say that I intend to set my children up for failure, it’s the honest truth. Failure is important – it’s how we learn and grow as people. I want my children to recognize that failure is an option and if it happens, that’s not a bad thing. Failing is always an option, refusing to try is not.

Warmly,

EGinny

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