Cal did two weeks of "Danger Camp" this summer (basically a summer day camp program based on this book) and came away with it not only with the requisite mosquito bites and tie-dye T-shirt, but also with an enduring passion for spying, ciphers, espionage, and general subterfuge. It's all highly contagious, and while Mack will deny this to his last breath he idolizes Cal beyond all measure so whatever interests Thing 1 has rapidly become the interests of Thing 2.
Separate and mostly unrelated: we currently live in a three bedroom house, which while by New York standards is an embarrassment of bedrooms (and square footage), means that under current occupancy patterns, we have neither a guest room nor a room for Nina to decamp.
THEREFORE (and this is where the two threads come together) we are working towards the goal of consolidating both boys into the same room. We already have a bunk bed in Cal's room so we're halfway there (it's even a twin over a full so that Mack will be, what, 50% less likely to end up on the floor?) but even so, it's a transition that is sure to be met with some resistance, at least initially. So we're selling the idea by billing these new shared quarters as the SUPER-DUPER BOYZ HANGOUT ROOM. Jazz hands! And one of the ways that we thought we could make the room cooler? By building a secret clubhouse inside of it.
Cal's room has three small closets, the middle closet of which has a lofted crawlspace, about two and a half feet wide, thirteen feet long, and maybe four feet high. We'd been using this space to keep a variety of larger items that we had nowhere else to store (as we have neither garage, basement nor attic space); things like our Christmas decorations, moving boxes, an old set of doors from the laundry room, what have you. We still have no place to store these things, and in fact, all these things are kind of sitting out in the family room now until we find a better place to put them. But lack of storage aside we figured screw it, let's just empty out the crawl space and turn it into a clubhouse. A SUPER SECRET RAD CLUBHOUSE FOR BOYS. No Homers allowed!
The first thing we had to do, after we emptied the closet out, was change the light fixture. Being a closet, all it had was a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling with a pull-chain cord, which was obviously hazardous, what with the risk of anyone walking into the burning bulb with their face. So we took out the light fixture, capped it off, and put in an outlet instead. (I say "we" but when I say "we" I really mean the electricians did it and I watched, encouraging them with the thumbs up sign and offering beverages for their troubles at annoyingly frequent intervals.) After the electrical work was done, we vacuumed and washed the floors (and I apologize for the lack of any really good "before" photos because you have to understand, it's basically a railroad car-shaped space, there's really no room to get a good shot) and got to work decorating.
One thing that Joe really wanted to put in there was a full-wall panel of dry-erase board. A dry erase board that size (about four feet by six feet) would easily cost more than a hundred bucks, but we did it on the cheap by going to Home Depot and getting a panel of fiberboard with one side of white shiny coating (not sure what the coating is but it is smooth and slick, like melamine) and getting it cut to 48 inches, which was the length of the wall on one side of the clubhouse door. The whole panel of fiberboard cost something like $12.99, and after getting it cut, we ended up with two fairly large pieces of whiteboard material--I still have to find a home for the second piece, because I guess I'm too much of a cheapskate to throw it away. The only drawback to this is that the dry-erase board isn't magnetic like some of the more expensive "real" whiteboard options, but in the big scheme of things and especially given the price differential, I don't think it's a big deal.
My big contribution was the lighting. Mainly the concern was safety. Joe had wanted to install one of those recessed can lights up in the ceiling, but I just kept having visions of the kids burning their heads or their hands on the bulbs, as the ceiling really is very low in there--Cal can't even stand up straight without his head grazing the ceiling. Another issue is that as a closet, the ventilation in the clubhouse space isn't very good. We already put a fan by the door to move some air in there and I have talked to the boys about leaving the outer closet door open, because as an anesthesiologist I am somewhat paranoid about CO2 rebreathing. (That scene from "Apollo 13" where the astronauts have to make that new CO2 filter out of, like, a sock and some duct tape? THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES.) Anyway, my point to the lights is that anything incandescent would heat up the space quickly. I originally thought about a string of low wattage Christmas lights, but then I found these:
Tape lights! (Not "tap lights". TAPE lights.) They're LED and energy efficient, bright, cool to the touch, and super-easy to affix, as they are literally backed with 3M tape so you can just stick them up wherever you want. And best of all?
They change color! They even have flashing and strobe effects, which is not my favorite setting (I kept waiting for someone to start seizing in there) but the kids certainly enjoyed pushing all the buttons. I mean, no kidding, right? THERE ARE BUTTONS? WE MUST PUSH THEM. Anyway, we got two sets of 16 feet each, which was enough to go around the entire clubhouse once with a few feet to spare. We actually like these lights so much we ordered another two sets to rim the bunkbed with, so the kids could use them as reading lights in bed. (See also: the awesome factor.)
We rounded out the room with a berber carpet remnant we had lying around from carpeting the bedrooms when we first moved in (coincidentally the one strip we had was almost exactly the dimensions of the clubhouse space--we just had to lop off a few inches in width to make it fit), two beanbags from Target, a few superhero posters, and a world map from National Geographic. Et voilà.
The name of the secret club, by the way, is SECRET CLUB MOM AND DAD NOT ALLOWED (S.C.M.D.N.A. for, uh, "short") and after surveying the finished product, Cal and Mack promptly kicked me out, which I consider a successful end-result.
Hope you're having a happy Labor Day weekend!