My Misadventures with Chalk Paint

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015

It’s the Royal Botanical Garden’s fault, I think.

James and I took the girls there a few weeks ago to check out the frog exhibit (it’s awesome, by the way). When we passed by the gift shop, the girls noticed the small aquariums with the African Dwarf Frogs for sale. They of course asked if we could buy one and I of course said no and James of course said yes and so, of course, I vowed that he will not be coming out with us anywhere ever again.

Luckily we didn’t buy a frog right then – James figured they’d be cheaper at a fish store and that we could use one of the five aquariums that we have stashed in the basement. Perfect, I thought. Everyone will forget about buying a frog by the time we get home.

Never underestimate the determination of a man with five empty aquariums.

The next day, James wandered from room to room, trying to find an acceptable place to set up. We finally agreed that it would go on top of the credenza that’s behind the couch (and by credenza I mean the old dresser that was passed down to us).

Picking a Paint Colour

You might remember this dresser from my kitchen, pre-reno. White. Kind of boring. I’ve been meaning to paint it for the last year or two or seven but I never had the time or motivation. Suddenly I knew it had to be painted immediately or I wouldn’t get the chance again until we upgrade to a larger tank. And goodness knows I’m going to fight that with every fibre of my being.


When I saw my husband hauling aquariums up from the basement, I knew I didn’t have long. I pulled out my collection of chalk paint sample jars and started holding them up to the couch, squinting at them through one eye and then the other. James looked at me with disbelief, certain that I was just looking for ways to stall his aquarium set up.

I promised that if he would just let me paint, everything would be done by the next day. And that it wouldn’t even cost anything since I already had everything I needed. I even had clear wax for finishing.

But first I had to decide on a colour. I knew I had to pick fast – no time to paint sample swatches. I turned to Facebook instead.


I got some good advice and lots of encouragement and one perfectly-timed quip:

The general consensus was that my favourite, the light aqua colour, wouldn’t look terrible. Good enough. That I needed so that evening I grabbed a brush and started painting.

The paint went on beautifully and the colour was gorgeous. But when I stepped back to admire my work, I realized that the aqua was somehow different than I expected and I was pretty sure I hated it. It looked terrible with my couch.

Uh oh.

Also? I was running out of paint, which was going to put me over my budget of “spending nothing.”

The next morning, I sat on a chair and stared at the dresser. The morning light was more flattering but I still wasn’t certain that I liked it. Then I threw a chartreuse-coloured table runner over top and suddenly, like magic, it was perfect. The table runner colour matched both my couch AND my new turquoise dresser and I was much happier.

Sealing the Paint with Wax

As soon as James woke up, I left him with the kids and drove across town to buy more paint so I could finish up. I also decided to switch my clear wax for dark wax after an hour or two of looking at chalk-painted projects on Pinterest.

The dark wax adds more depth and an aged look and seemed easy enough to use. Thankfully, the store was kind enough to exchange my clear wax for dark wax. I asked if I’d need supplies, since most people used fancy wax brushes in the YouTube tutorials that I watched.

“Nope, just a cloth, like an old t-shirt.”

Perfect. I went home with my paint and new dark wax.

We finished up the painting that afternoon. The drawers were painted a slightly different colour, a green/turquoise blend, on the suggestion of my seven year old and over all, the dresser looked fabulous. I love chalk paint.

My husband wasn’t convince though. “This stuff scratches right off?! It’s useless!”

“Well that’s what the wax is for,” I assured him. “It seals the paint.”

That evening, I was set to wax the dresser. James was raring to get the fish tank set up so I had to finish my project ASAP.

“Are you going to do it in the living room?” he asked. I thought I would. I mean, the wax has virtually no odour; I specifically asked about that when I bought my can of clear wax a couple months back. The sweet girl working at the store assuring me that it hardly smells at all – she even let me smell an open can and I could barely detect an odour. After all, it’s wax, right? That word makes me think of happy bees.

James looked at the can. “It says you need a layer of clear wax first.”

“What? No it doesn’t.”

“Yes, right here.”

“Nobody told me that!” It was 5:30. The store was closed for the day.

The next morning, as soon as James woke up, I left him with the kids and I drove across town to buy more wax.

When I got home, James asked once again if I wouldn’t prefer to wax it in the garage. Sigh. Oh, fine. We (okay, he) hauled the dresser downstairs and into the garage and finally I got to work.

As the World Turns

The wax actually did have an odor once you start to work with it, but it was tolerable. I happily worked on the six drawers, and then I stood up straight the garage suddenly tilted a bit to the left.

Whoa. I attributed my shakiness to the sudden change in temperature – the garage is way colder than our living room.

Just to be safe, I closed the door from the garage to the house so that they wouldn’t smell it upstairs.

I began to work on the dresser body. My head started to feel terrible. I opened the garage door, despite the fact that it was 15° below zero. I worked as fast as I could so that I could get away from the wax. What kind of sadistic bees made this stuff? Probably the petroleum-based, man-made kind of bees.

Finally I went upstairs and casually mentioned to James that I didn’t feel so good.

“Because you’re as high as a kite?” he asked.

Um … what? I was confused. I definitely wasn’t as high as a kite – maybe a telephone pole, but certainly not a kite. And the thought of a kite spinning through the air was making my head feel worse. Do kites spin? I don’t know. I leaned against the refrigerator.

James walked to the back of the house to open the bedroom windows.

“We can smell it back here,” he called. “I was just coming to open the garage door.”

I sank to the floor, still leaning against the fridge. “I opened the door 15 minutes ago, but I didn’t know it it was that bad.” I responded weakly.

This was actually comical – I’m always complaining that his model paints stink and opening the windows dramatically while James swears he doesn’t smell a thing.

I closed my eyes. “Some of the YouTube tutorial videos were inside. Nobody mentioned the smell in them.”

James came back to the kitchen and opened both windows wide.

“One video even had a kid making faces behind her mother. And another one had a baby laughing adorably somewhere off camera.” I continued feebly.

“Maybe they used a different wax.” he suggested.

I lay across the floor. “No, it’s the same name brand and there are only two options, clear and dark.”

“Well then maybe the laughing baby was high too.” he responded.

“That’s a terrible thing to say!” then suddenly I realized my three children were all exposed to this horrid stuff too and immediately began to cry. Because, you know, I was pretty loopy.

“I’ve damaged our baby!” I blubbered. “Can he breathe? Is he okay?” And then I whispered “Am I going to die?”

I should probably mention at this point that I have the same reaction to fabric softener and perfume and scented room plug-ins. Walking down the detergent aisle at the grocery store is akin to torture. I might be a teeny bit sensitive to chemicals. And a touch hypocondriac.

James looked at me and gave me an encouraging hug. Because sometimes the only thing you can do when your overly-sensitive wife is sprawled across the kitchen floor crying that the baby has just caught cancer is to just humour her as best you can. And hide your laughter.

“No, Tamara, people huff turpentine and paint thinner and stuff like that to get high. On purpose.”

I don’t know if that’s true, but it was encouraging.

We left the garage door open for the rest of the day.

The next day, I woke up with a sore throat but a clear head. James asked me if I was planning to do coat of dark wax. Are you kidding me? I told him that I wanted that stuff out of my house as soon as possible.

For some reason, James decided that he would do it himself. He assured me that he would wear a mask and gloves and have the garage door open and even seal the door between the house and the garage with duct tape before he started. I told him that I wasn’t certain that I wanted to sacrifice my husband in the pursuit of pretty furniture but he didn’t listen and off he went to the garage.

An hour later, he came back inside and had a coffee. He wasn’t bothered in the least. That’s annoying.

We left the garage door open all day again. The next day, we brought the drawers up to the living room, but even though I tried to pretend they weren’t bothering me, James brought them right back down with barely a word and opened the garage door again to air them out.

The next day, we brought everything up and admired our work. It was over zero outside and I figured this might be out only chance to throw open all the windows if we needed to (clearly I had no idea today was going to be so nice).

Anyway, it’s done. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the colours so, so much.


I don’t know if I’m ready to paint anything else though. I might try something small and using a different brand of wax. I’ve heard of a Canadian brand that uses actual beeswax and is supposed to smell amazing. I might even try my own concoction. Or I might just wait until a windy summer when I can be sure the breeze will carry any offending odor quickly away. From James. I’m not touching that stuff again.

I’ve had a sore throat for a couple days now but I’m not sure if it’s related to this adventure. I’m not seeing double anymore, although I suppose that wouldn’t be the worst thing. This dresser turned out so well that I wouldn’t even mind seeing two of them, spinning around above me with a kite or two as I lay on the kitchen floor.


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Unexpectedly TV-Free

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015

Unexpectedly TV-Free

My four year old and I do not see eye to eye on the value of potty training and she reminds me three to four times a day that I have no control over the situation.

No control? Oh, we’ll see about that. A couple weeks ago, after changing the Pixie for the 507,954th time, I finally decided to Assert My Authority and to Create Concrete Consequences (I’ve been reading parenting books again): I told her that there would be no more television until she’s figured out the toilet thing.

So now I’m locked into a battle of wills and my opponent is a four year old child. It’s difficult to predict who is going to win.

This is the kid that asks if she can watch TV before she opens her eyes in the morning. This is the kid that nags us all day long because there is nothing she likes better than passively being entertained. Of course, I don’t give in right away. I tell her 463 times that it’s not time yet – we don’t let the kids watch TV until 3:00 at the earliest.

Why 3:00? Because that’s when I need a break. I kick the kids out of the kitchen, pour myself a glass of wine or tea, and start cleaning the kitchen and prepping dinner. I listen to the radio or some podcasts and poke around Facebook for awhile. 3:00 is mom o’clock and TV makes that happen.

And now I’ve gone and taken that away.

But here’s the thing: it’s going great.

The day I told The Pixie that she had lost her TV privileges, she just said OK and went on her way. The next day, as I changed her, I reminded her that TV was off limits. She listed off the shows that she wasn’t going to watch and then ran off to play. On the third day, I changed her and reminded her that there would be no TV. With a look of utter exasperiation that would befit a teenager, she replied “I know, mommy.”

And that was that.


I thought it would be hard. I thought we’d give in after days and days of relentless nagging but our days have been better by far. Even The Princess has grudgingly accepted that books are the new Netflix.

On most days, the girls play for hours, sometimes together and sometimes apart. I hear so much less “I’m bored” – I suppose that’s been code for “can we watch TV” but I didn’t pick up on it.

They’re not completely free of screens. The Princess has been playing on the Wii and doing a lot of math games on the iPad. The Pixie tends to sit and watch her, but somehow I don’t mind as much. Because really – watching your sister answer math questions? How long can that possibly last?

Famous last words, I’m sure.

Almost two weeks into our TV-free life, I backed down a bit and agreed that we would do a movie night once a week, regardless of the progress made in the bathroom.

The first movie night featured popcorn and donuts and hot chocolate and Megamind. I was afraid that I would undue all the progress that we made, and it took a few days for my four year old to get that movie night isn’t a daily ritual but we more or less survived.

I can’t say we’ve been perfect though. A week or so ago, we all got sick and I sent the girls downstairs to overdose on Disney while I stayed upstairs with the baby to catch up on Downton Abbey. A few days later, once the worst of it had passed, we all turned off the screens, emerged from our rooms and let our eyes readjust to natural light. I don’t mind the lapse – movie marathons are a part of being sick, right?

Though I do have to admit that since that week, I haven’t been as strict as I was before. I’ve been letting The Pixie watch a show or two on the iPad while she sits on the toilet trying to poop. My hope is that an episode of Bubble Guppies will help her relax and keep her there longer, and she humors me by making grunting noises if I walk by the bathroom.

Which means she might have won our battle of wills after all.


How do you manage keep TV time under control in your home? Send me ideas, either here or on Facebook!

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Our Nursery is Done! And Nobody Sleeps there Any More!

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015

Last night we finished decorating the baby’s room. Yeah, yeah, I know he’ll be five months old on Saturday, but what can I say? He’s kept us busy.

When we first decided to give him a room of his own, we weren’t even planning to decorate it. I mean, sure, I figured eventually we’d paint over the pink walls, but I certainly wasn’t in any rush.

Then, a week before my due date, the nesting instinct kicked into overdrive and I went to the store to buy a gallon of paint, some curtains and a throw pillow.

I’m not sure my husband totally believed me when I told him we would be redoing the room that day, but when he saw me and my 39-week belly pulling furniture away from the wall, he knew he had no choice but to help out.

So that day he edged and I rollered and the Pixie tasted and we yelled because eating paint can NOT be good for you and then before we knew it, the room was a gorgeous shade of aqua. Perfect for a little bundle of boy.


Didn’t it turn out great? I love the colours. And half of the stuff we used to decorate with was already stashed in our basement so the makeover was pretty cheap.

Alphabet Cards from Etsy

Like these adorably retro alphabet cards – I bought them years ago when we first decided to try homeschooling The Princess. I’m 99% sure I bought the PDF files off of (affiliate link) and then had them printed on cardstock at Staples – the whole set cost me maybe $15 in total? They match the room so perfectly that you’d think that I based the whole colour scheme off of them.

Etsy Print

This print came from Etsy (affiliate link) too. I bought it on a whim because it’s fun and it matches the room perfectly and I like the idea of using a fair or carnival as a decorating theme someday.

Scrap Fabric Bunting

The fabric bunting cost me next to nothing. I raided the discount section of Fabricland for orange printed fabric, and then I cut it into strips and tied the pieces to some twine along with the alphabet cards. Quick and colourful and easy.

Paper Lanterns

These lanterns I found packed away in the basement. They’re a hit – the baby loves staring at them. Or maybe he’s afraid that they’re going to fall down on his head and crush him – it’s hard to say. I originally made little paper baskets to hang under them so they’d look like whimsical hot air balloons – that’s why there are little flags around the middle. But the baskets looked awful. A total Pinterest fail.

Oh well, you can’t win all the time.

Wrap Distraction

And, well… these are just some wraps. Sorry, I know they don’t have anything to do with the room decor, but what can I say? I’m easily distracted by pretty wraps.


And by babies too.


Munch, munch, munch.

Comfy Nursing Lounger

Back to the nursery. We just moved this chaise up from the basement last week. I’m far to lazy for rocking chairs – I like to put my feet up when I nurse. This is the Kivik chaise from Ikea and it’s ridiculously comfortable. I love having it in the nursery because it was going to waste in the basement. Now I can put up my feet, quietly watch Downton Abbey on the iPad and knit while the baby sleeps. That is, if the girls haven’t already grabbed a book and claimed it for themselves.

Before we moved the chaise up last week, I had a mattress on the nursery floor so that I could sleep in the same room as my baby. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that you sleep in the same room as your baby for the first six months and I thought a mattress in the nursery would be easier than cramming a crib in the master bedroom.

And, of course, a mattress on the floor is safer than a full-sized bed if you decide to bedshare with your baby. Which we ended up doing immediately, because really, is there anything better than waking up next to a beautiful newborn? Every morning my heart just melts.

I don’t know why I ever bother setting up a crib.

So then why did I haul the mattress out of the room and replace it with the chaise? Well, it happened because of the last post I wrote, called Simple Birthdays:

“The day didn’t feel intentionally simple – it just sort of turned out that way. I was too tired to do anything else. I’m too tired to plan. We were all sick this week, but beyond that, I’ve been exhausted for weeks. My thoughts are disjointed. My ambition comes and goes. I don’t feel rested when I wake up in the mornings.”

When I first wrote that post, I sounded really depressed. In fact, I rewrote it almost entirely before I published so that I didn’t come across as so miserable. But reading through the first draft really got me thinking – what was going on?

I thought about my mood a lot that day, and then that night, and then the next day – right until I had a random insight: the baby’s room where I’ve been sleeping doesn’t have a ceiling fan.

Suddenly I knew what was going on.

This is going to sound silly, but I can’t sleep in a room without air circulating in some way. If I can’t open the window, I have to make sure the ceiling fan is gently spinning so that air keeps moving. If the window is shut and the fan is off, I wake up with a killer headache.

Does that sound dumb? Probably, but that’s just the way it is.

Who knows? Maybe I have horrible night-time gas and a stream of fresh air is the only thing keeping me from asphyxiating on my own methane. Although that doesn’t explain why all of my children want to sleep as close to me as possible. It’s more likely that the constant air movement is the only thing that keeps my brain from overheating as I’m smothered by multiple children, plus a cat the size of a small bear. And now I’ve grown so used to fresh air that I can’t sleep well without it.

Now just think – I’ve been sleeping in a stuffy room for four months now with no fan. In fact, that room is the worst of all the bedrooms – it’s freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. It’s its own microclimate of stale air.

Obviously I can’t crack a window when it’s 15 below zero, especially when I’m using a thin little blanket instead of a luxurious feather duvet because I’ve got a teeny little baby sharing the mattress with me. Thank goodness babies are little heat bundles or I’d never survive a cold winter’s night.

The next day, I kicked everyone out of the master bedroom, took the bed apart and put the mattress down on the ground. I don’t care where everyone else sleeps – my mattress and my ceiling fan have been reclaimed in the name of my sanity.

It just took one night to feel the difference. It’s been two weeks now and I feel like a different person. We’re talking a night and day difference from before.

I can focus again. Our homeschooling is going great. I’ve got four blog posts started and I have two more that I can’t wait to write. I’m starting to finish off the projects that have been half finished for months.

Projects like the nursery. It’s done and it’s my favourite room in the house.

I do hope someone ends up sleeping in there some day…

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