West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

If you give a kid a can of paint...

Personal, Kids, Tosa Business

“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk to go with it.”

So begins Laura Numeroff’s 1985 chidren's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If you’re not familiar with the book, let’s just say that giving the cookie to the mouse creates a long string of ongoing requests. This book was a favorite of my kids for many years.

This summer, we’re experiencing the home decorating equivalent of the mouse and the cookie. It all started with a seemingly simple suggestion:

“Mom, can I paint the basement?” asked my teenage daughter. “I hate the blue walls. Pleeeeease…..?”

At first, my husband and I balked. Although my daughter has some stellar qualities, taking on a large painting job may not be a good idea for a kid whose bedroom looks like a war zone. Eventually, we reluctantly agreed. It’s the basement, after all, and the blue walls weren’t very attractive. She and her friends spend way more time down there than we do. If the painting isn’t perfect, it won’t be the end of the world.(I know - you painting perfectionists are cringing right now, aren't you?) 

The project was challenging from the beginning. After a trip to Lowe’s, she got a lesson in Painting 101 and found out that the entire room had to be taped off and primed. She was a trooper, however, and acted unfazed and more determined than ever. I went with a strictly hands-off policy. This was her suggestion and her project. I was NOT going to bail her out of this one. Progress was slow for quite a while but the knowledge that her choir of 18 girls would be sleeping over soon became the ultimate motivational tool as the summer wore on.

Here’s where the cookie analogy enters the picture: The paint color looked great - a soft tan/brown combo that instantly warmed up the entire room. Suddenly, it was obvious. The bright blue commercial grade carpeting looked hideous, as did the bright blue tile in the small bathroom. My husband and I made the decision to replace the carpet and the tile. (After all, it was 20+ years old and looking pretty ratty.)

All of a sudden, the project was "heating up." Painting and retouching were being done at a furious pace so that it would be finished before the carpet/floor installation. (Yes, we pitched in and helped a tiny bit with the painting.) 

But then, we had some large pieces of furniture that would cause problems when the floor and carpet were installed – a pool table and a small upright piano. The pool table had to be professionally moved and recalibrated and reassembled. The piano would need to be tuned. (Can you hear the "ka-ching" sound of the economy being stimulated?)

The carpet and floor were installed and more changes were needed. The blue-ish couch needed a slipcover and all of the bathroom accessories (towel, trash can, soap dispenser) were the wrong color. (More ka-ching.)

To add a further twist, there were other "projects" created by this basement re-do. Once all the games, etc. from the basement were organized and sorted, we had a huge load of stuff to donate. I hauled that upstairs and started creating a "donation pile." This forced me to address the messy back closet filled to the gills with old shoes and jackets. Once everything that was no longer needed was put in the garage, there were some items there that I also considered donation-worthy. So now the basement and garage looks great and my back closet is no longer an embarrassment. Phew!

I’d like to say we’re done, but now we’re re-thinking the movie posters that were hanging on the walls. We may need to find some different prints and/or posters because everything else looks so great. (Ka-ching!)

Next time my daughter gets an idea for an extreme room makeover,  we might be wise to think ahead a little more thoroughly...before she starts!

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