As Pierre neared the end of his paternity leave, I had a lot of professionals (like my midwife and the public health nurse and my family doctor) asking me what sort of support system I had in place and how I planned to cope with a return to long stints of solo parenting — now with two kids in tow.
I never had any doubts that I would figure things out, but I’m sure my answer — which basically consisted of adding a third morning of childcare for Frankie and lots of helpful friends and the perfect weather — probably sounded a bit flat to them.
After a rough first few weeks getting to know each other, Winnie has emerged a wonderful crib sleeper, just like her older sister was. She regularly takes two long naps (over two hours) in her crib each day, peppered with some shorter naps in the sling as we get out and about or run errands. This is great for me and great for Winnie, but it means we are home a lot — not great for a very energetic three-year-old.
So I added a backyard playhouse to my solo parenting plan.
With just a few weeks left until Pierre went back to work, I got in touch with David of Incredible Sheds. I remembered seeing a cute playhouse on his website when I was looking into garden sheds last summer. Given the customizability, wood construction and the fact that, with Winnie coming up behind Frankie, I could see us getting a decade of use out of a playhouse, a made-to-order playhouse seemed like a way better investment than anything I could find on Amazon.
I chose Sherwin Williams colour Wisteria for the playhouse, which is also used inside in our kitchen. The trim is Extra White, the same white used everywhere in and on our house. One coat of each came with David’s quote, but I offered to do some painting to save some money.
The playhouse is built on an 8′ x 8′ wood base, with half that being house and the other half being porch, which we had made with cedar deck boards. He attached the frame and metal roof with screws rather than nails; ostensibly we’ll be able to disassemble and sell it once our girls have outgrown it. The walls are 5′ high and slightly higher than that in the centre, so it’s not impossible for an adult to hang out in there, too, though I’ve smacked my head more than once already.
In combination with our small trampoline, bubbles, paints, chalk and the garden hose, the playhouse has really helped me keep Frankie busy in our backyard during the afternoons while Winnie sleeps. We’re really happy with the product for the price, even though it wasn’t executed perfectly. The hearts on the shutters were supposed to be smaller, the house was supposed to be bigger (and the deck smaller), the windows were supposed to be square, etc. etc. So not quite as custom as I was led to believe, but I think it’s well made and we’re going to enjoy it for many years.
Of course it’s been really fun to decorate, but rather than present it to Frankie as a “finished” product, I think it will really just evolve over time. I’ve seen some amazing playhouse interiors on Pinterest, but I think the more it’s decorated/furnished the fewer purposes it can serve because the space just isn’t as flexible when it’s so clearly defined as a soda shoppe, kitchen, lemonade stand, etc.
So far we’ve made it cozy with a rag rug (that I had used in the kitchen before deciding the rugs just can’t be in our kitchen), the sheepskin that was lining Winnie’s Moses basket, an old crate that Pierre built a loooong time ago to hold records and has just been kicking around our basement forever, an extra wooden stool, a pretty thrifted glass cabinet that I painted pink to hold garden treasures, some bunting made from scrap linen and lace, a curtain rod and curtains from a failed project and her own “key,” which is just a spare to our storm doors. Sadly, the treasure cabinet is low on treasures these days; there’s a small gap where the house meets the deck and Frankie unceremoniously dropped all her gems and little butterflies down there to be “lost forever.”
On the exterior, we hung the driftwood mobile that Frankie made with my dad and house numbers that we found in the basement when we moved in. They got updated with white and black paint. I doubt these are original, but several homes in our neighbourhood feature house numbers in this style; I imagine some enterprising young boy with a jigsaw went around the neighbourhood decades ago, offering to make house numbers for a fee. We also have an IKEA toddler chair to match our patio chairs, I added little latches to the shutters and some flowers. Off to one side are some glass plate flowers that my aunt made many, many years ago. In short, this (in its current form) has come together using whatever I had lying around the basement and garden.
Our big neighbourhood garage sale is this coming weekend and I’ll be on the lookout for things to add. Some ideas:
- A small table for art or snacks
- A tea set and/or picnic basket
- A wall-mounted chalkboard
- A birdhouse or bird feeder
- A mailbox
- A broom for sweeping the porch
- Little pails for holding chalk, bubbles and garden tools and collecting berries from around the yard
- Wind chimes
- Add a little garden bed under the east-facing window
- Solar-powered string lights
Just outside the west-facing window is an old stump, that Frankie and I filled with fairy garden items. We couldn’t do a proper treehouse, but nestled underneath a neighbour’s tree and adjacent to our little “grotto” area, it’s a pretty magical little spot.
In another month or two we’ll have blackberries growing all along the fence by the playhouse, a pretty built-in snack. The backyard has come an amazingly long way in two years and, while we still have some pretty big projects to complete back here (like pouring a new patio and walkway and replacing our deck) it finally feels done enough (and safe enough!) to enjoy.