Playin' House

It occurred to me as I began minute 49 of putting my one-year-old to bed that I must be doing something wrong. He wails and screams with intervals of heart-wrenching cries of "Mama" and "NO" for an hour every night. When my husband and I aren't up to listening to him scream, one of us stands next to his crib singing and patting him on the back for an hour.

My experience with going-to-sleep-time, or "night-night" as we call it at my house (as if calling it some harmless silly little name could make it less agonizing), is limited to my three-year-old who is possibly more difficult than her brother to put to bed. The only other bedtime I have witnessed is my own. I remember simply falling asleep but as I was on the receiving end I could be wrong about it being so peaceful.

And then there is bedtime on television, which I was thinking about as I stood immobilized by the fear of waking the baby should I remove my hand from his back. I considered that I should handle this whole bedtime thing differently as my way fails upon a nightly basis.

I cannot imagine that other parents take an hour out of their days to put their children to bed. I know they don't on TV. Parents on television lean against the doorframe with a satisfied look on their faces as they stare into dimly lit rooms while their children peacefully drift to sleep. No one ever screams until she throws up. No one ever asks for 14 glasses of water only to awaken his parents at three in the morning, naked because he has pee-peed in the bed. No one ever has to smoke a cigarette to calm down after the kid finally goes to sleep.

I tell myself I don't watch much television but the truth is I watch my fair share. I have witnessed hundreds of bedtimes. All have gone quite a bit more smoothly than they do at my house.

They all went well because they were all SCRIPTED. I am trying to learn how to deal with my children from childless television writers who stay up all night, drinking coffee, smoking who knows what and reading Kurt Vonnegut before they come into work and try to figure out the best way to get Priceline.com and Pepsi's ad dollars. What I really need are some real life examples from parents explaining how to deal with this and other messy scenes one finds themselves in when rearing children.

In this case I am trying to live up to the wholesome characters I see on television. The more nefarious result of watching television comes from the materialism that comes from wanting what the characters on television have.

I saw a show on television about customized play houses. The segment I saw featured a 2300 square foot house (cost: $40K) with two floors, running water and custom-made furniture. If an architect, decorator and parent were willing to collaborate to build this "Play House," I thought that it might be acceptable to build a tiny cabin for my sweet babies (OK, for me).

A few niggling little thoughts tugged at my conscience. It's too indulgent, too Little Princess, too Bonnie Blue Butler. Did I just think it was OK because I saw it on television? None of my friends, nor I, had a play house when we were young.

Then I met Sharon Thelin. She built a play house for herself.

The "main" house, a well-planned grown-up play house, has all the features adults desire. The Thelin's finished the basement to create a home theater, added on a vaulted den/office and a diminutive porch, complete with awning, skylight and fan for summer evenings. They refurbished the kitchen by keeping the 1960's Platt cabinets and accenting them with granite-patterned Formica countertops, tile and stainless and new appliances for a state-of-the-art kitchen with a nod to the past.

In this house, nooks, crannies and bookshelves abound. A screened-in porch became a sunroom with French doors to a brick patio and courtyard. The pass-through between the entry hall is just wide enough for bookshelves while more bookshelves flank the fireplace in the living room.

Perhaps her cozy house inspired her. Perhaps it left her longing for an even more cozy space. Perhaps she, like my friends and I, never had a play house. Regardless, Sharon built a play house for herself. She even bought the house behind hers for its backyard so that she could build the play house under an ancient oak tree. Contractor Ted Vimont built the house from plans for a shed Sharon's mother had ordered forty years before. The tiny 10 foot by 10 foot building, with its shake roof and white clapboard siding, draws inspiration from Colonial Williamsburg, where Sharon, an antique dealer, and her husband, John, visit often. A recycled window and antique brass hardware lend the patina of age to the house. I asked her what she does there (as if I couldn't think of a thousand things) and she said, "Oh, anything have a drink, take a nap" (both on my list).

This was just what I needed, a real-life role model to tell me it's all right to indulge myself (and, of course, my children) with a little house in our garden.

I am thinking that this play house could be a really great thing; the children can play in it by day and when the time comes for night-night, I can hide out there taking a nap or having drinks while my husband puts the children to bed.


324 Chinoe Rd.


2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms

2300 square feet including 700 in finished basement

Contact Courtney Lagrew 294-2515

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.