I have to do something with this kitchen. I have lived with it for ten years. In some seasons, I’ve even ceased to notice, but today, I’ve decided I cannot live with it for one more second. The dark brown cabinets with antique brass pulls and big decorative medallions beneath them. The bright orange countertops. The cracking linoleum—a mosaic of browns, oranges, and something I can only describe as “dijon yellow”—with two-inch circular holes where knots in the subfloor deteriorated beneath it. This kitchen is older than my parents’ marriage.
Additionally, my children are being noisy and demanding. How many pickles do y’all need in an afternoon?!? The obvious answer to my building frustration with both the children and the kitchen: half an hour of Pinterest and one poorly planned decision. “Pack it up, kids, we’re going to Lowe’s.”
I spend fifteen seconds choosing a gray to paint the cabinets. Morning Fog seems like a solid choice for a kitchen, no? Then I spend about five more making yet another brilliant choice: “Big girls, if you can agree on a color, I will let you choose the paint for the interior of the lower cabinets.” I leave them to make a choice while I take the preschoolers to customer service in search of someone who can mix paint. I return to find Jenna (8) on her hands and knees with Katherine (7) standing on her back to pick out the perfect shade from the top row of paint swatches: Robust Pink. Cool. Pepto Bismol with a hint of salmon seems like the clear choice for my cabinets.
Thus began my first-ever DIY home project.
I learned some important lessons. For instance, you should remove the bottom hinge before the top when taking off cabinet doors, otherwise you need a hand ready to catch the door before you get whacked in the noggin. (Hypothetically.) You should always use primer unless you want to paint four coats of Robust Pink before coverage is almost sufficient. Also, 45 years of kitchen grease will not be handled by sanding. (Ick.) You should wear a hat when you paint the inside of cabinets. Related: just because you wash your hair (and rinse and repeat!) does not imply the paint flecks will be gone. The parts of your arms likeliest to be painty are also the parts you are least likely to notice and scrub. You will look ridiculous in public for the duration of this project.
I plugged along, starting with the lower interiors and the slightly-coral bright pink. I painted and painted… and painted again. I bought a can of high-coverage Kilz to prime the next portion of espressoish brown. (I say “ish” because “espresso” is a great color. This… was not.) Then I was on to drawers and contact paper and refilling the bottom cabinets to make space in my dining room for the contents of the uppers. When it came to the orange counters (neon pumpkin?), I enlisted the help of a friend with a fine arts degree—my own BS in math was zero help to me here. I removed caulk, scrubbed, patched, and primed them. She directed the work of making them look like granite. Up next is actually painting the cabinet doors that are taking over the space where we usually eat dinner. I remain undecided about the very ugly linoleum: the plan is to re-floor both kitchen and dining room, but the dining room carpet is integrated with the living room and hall, and we’re not ready to re-floor the whole house just now. Maybe I’ll paint the floor. It’s not like I can make it worse.
Why did I decide to take on my entire kitchen based on one crappy-in-the-usual-ways afternoon and 20 seconds’ deliberation after ten years living with a kitchen straight out of the 70s? I still cannot tell you.
I spent the entire month sanding, painting, and yelling at my children to stay out of the kitchen and do not touch the wet paint! For the love!
And it’s still not done. It’s fine.
The question I’ve asked between binged podcast episodes might be the same one you’re asking: Do I regret this? Was it a bad choice to spend twenty seconds considering a project that would take more than a month to complete? Do I even like what it’s becoming? No, I don’t regret it. And, as I’ve covered, pretty much any change is an improvement.
As for the haste, I’m pretty sure I just needed to jump. Those darn antique brass medallions under the door pulls have annoyed me for ten years now, but I was having babies all that time, and it was never a great time to look at the options, make the decisions, spend the money, disrupt the kitchen, and spend several weeks working on it. This is not a good time to do any of those things, either. I doubt I would ever have stumbled upon a “good” time, but I do like what it’s becoming. It’s brighter, which is important in the middle of winter in Alaska, with the four hours of daylight. It’s cleaner—the light gray doesn’t hide things like the dark brown did (again, ICK), and it’s been good to have my children see me doing the project. I realized they hadn’t seen me wield a drill before, much less a palm sander. (My husband is unusually handy, so outsourcing to him is always the expedient option.) I needed us all to remember that I’m capable and allowed to make big changes, too.
It turns out, I have agency. I spend so much of my life responding to my kids and their situations. Yesterday, I read in a John Gottman book, “Behavioral psychologists have observed that preschoolers typically demand that their caretakers deal with some kind of need or desire at an average rate of three times a minute.” Three times a minute. No wonder I live my whole life reacting—or, at best, responding—to them. Four kids times three requests a minute means I am handling their needs or responding to requests (often “no” with subsequent sadness from them) every five seconds on average. No hyperbole. Every. Five. Seconds. (It’s no wonder I am so happy the release of Disney+ coincided with my bad-day-turned-hasty-choice.) Of course, I have a hard time making proactive decisions. With five-second intervals available, I can barely even breathe. I needed to make this decision in a few seconds because a few seconds was all I had.
My children and I all need to remember that they can absolutely survive for a few weeks on PB&Js, Disney+ (praise Jesus), and vague instructions hollered from a paint-speckled mother contorted to paint awkward places. I don’t have to be on call for requests, questions, and demands every five seconds. I’m a grown woman—I can make actual decisions that make my spaces more pleasant for me to live in, and I don’t always need thoroughly-researched answers before I start.
It turns out, sometimes a few seconds is all I need to make a decision: It’s time to begin.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and homeschooling mama to four babies, ages one to seven. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps holed up in her bathroom with some coffee.