Day Twenty-Eight: The Great Tornado

I've done quite a few posts about the ways we've adapted our kids' rooms as they've grown and I don't think I need to rehash that again.  But I thought I'd share a little bit about how I organize their stuff and keep this very small space functional for my kids.  Have you all seen the very funny post that was circulating around Facebook recently about the Warped Childhood, Restoration Hardware Style??  If you haven't, please do yourself a favor and read it!  Excuse the unfortunate language choices here and there but seriously, she has a major point.  The people who design those amazing catalogs for "kids" and sell us the ideal of what a kids' room should look like???  I'm willing to bet they don't have children of their own AND if they do, their own homes look nothing like that.  

Because really?  Kids are little tornadoes and toys rarely come in one general, coordinating color scheme.  It seems so charming doesn't it?  A house of vintage, wooden toys and beautiful maps lining the walls?  I went for that look twice, in the glory days of my children's nurseries, when they didn't actually play with anything and they never messed their rooms up.  And oh did I love that look!  

But then a funny thing happened and they grew up.  And the toys they never touched, suddenly they drug them all over the house.  Birthdays, Christmas and then the invasion of plastic took over when all the people who love them began showering them with toy after toy, all in brightly colored shapes and sizes, effectively ruining the color scheme of their rooms!  ha! 
 But as I listened to them giggle and get lost in make believe, I no longer cared so much about everything looking so amazing or magazine worthy.  I cared a lot more about the time I got to spend with them, about the way they played with one another or the freedom to put my feet up while they simply played like the kids they are.  

I started looking at their room and their play space with different eyes.  Rather then making everything beautiful for my benefit, I wanted to make it fun for them.  I have the challenge of a small space, this room is basically their playroom and our family room and while perfection isn't my goal, function and organization is.  
 I move things around in here all the time.  As they grow and go through seasons of play, I change things up and swap things out.  I like things they are into to be accessible, on their level.  Trav has given them a love for books and our shelves are overflowing with them.  Still they have their favorites they gravitate towards...Ava always reaching for a princess book and Carter, anything with a truck.  But I hide them sometimes (don't tell them) and put some new books in front of them too.  I always have this idea that we're going to spend a day reading all the books we never's yet to happen but it's a goal!  
 I'm probably the only one who knows where everything "goes" but in order to make this room work, I do have a place for everything and I'm always showing the kids where things belong.
 Since Ava has been in preschool, I've sort of shrunk her floor space in order to make more room for Carter.  He's home the most now and without Ava to boss him around or dictate what they do, I am watching him learn to play on his own and to get lost in imaginative play.  I've gotten an education in the ways boys play!  Cars, trains, trucks, airplanes...always spread out, every surface a possible road.  
I didn't want Ava to lose her space too, but as the older one she's always had the most real estate and now she needs a little less.  Thankfully she hasn't noticed a bit and she is great at rolling with anything "new."  Her castle is usually where she lands when she gets home but it makes me smile when I occasionally find Carter sitting here too :)  
 This room isn't as pretty or as cute as it once was.  
But that's ok.  
 Truly it doesn't look this clean on most days.  I usually put my foot down and insist on one day a week when we put everything back, vacuum and re-group.  I always say to them, "Isn't this so nice to have a clean room to play in??"  They always agree and laugh, eager to set some new toy out or to dive into another imaginary scenario.  
And then they do what they do best, they turn the room upside down again, leaving it as if a tornado has blown through.  And I sigh, cringing at how long it took to clean and how quickly it got dismantled!  But I see that little face and I think, this is exactly how being a kid should be.  
Manicured, pristine places were never meant for kids and although I am a lover of all the magazines and companies who make gorgeous things, I love my kids more.  I want them to remember all the crazy ways they played together and the make believe things they created.  Sometimes that means I can't walk by their rooms without shuddering or that I don't have moments when the mess sends me over the edge and I freak out until they help me regain some order.  But knowing that seasons come and go and soon so many of these toys will be "too little" for them, I make myself take the good with the bad and embrace reality.  

It's good for them and it's good for me.  I love it when this room is picked up and in perfect order, sure. But seeing the disaster too reminds me of a Proverb that never made much sense to me before.  

Proverbs 14:4
"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest."  

Like living with kids, if they aren't around the house is empty (clean).  But when they are full of life and present, the harvest is abundant and the manger?  Full (and likely, messy).  I can long for a clean house but in order to maintain that, I'd have to long for an empty house too.  I'll take the mess and I'll praise the Lord for the abundant harvest if it means I get to have oxen in my manger!  

The more kids you have, the more you realize you aren't an expert on raising kids.  This is what works for us, maybe you've found something better or something that works for your kids?  I don't know anyone who has Restoration Hardware kids, but I do know a lot of oxen who make hearts full and homes messy and in the end, I think those homes are the most beautiful of all, don't you? 

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