Growth Chart Ideas: Where Did the Time Go?!

My dear friend Cathy just gave me a challenge: she’s moving out of the house her family has lived in for many years and wants to preserve her children’s heights recorded on a door jamb. Here is her treasured growth record. You can see why she doesn’t want to leave it behind. I used to babysit her youngest when he was five, which is the lowest mark in this picture, and I can hardly believe that he has grown so much! Where did the time go?!

Cathy has been recording her three boys’ heights on this door jamb for ten years!

I’d love to hear your creative solutions to this dilemma. I’m also wondering how many people have all their kids heights combined in one place like this and how many have individual charts for each child. I can see the benefits and downsides to either approach. Here are some of my ideas, including the growth charts I sewed for my kids.

1) Transfer the entire jamb: You could remove the piece of wood with the markings and replace it. In the new house, it could be installed in a doorway or hung on a wall. This would allow you to retain all the quirky charm of the original – with the different colors and handwriting over the years. I personally think this would look so sweet as a piece of “art” in a family room or kitchen. (However, I think Cathy is going to be reluctant to pursue this idea, as she’s sort of worn out on DIY projects after prepping their house for sale.)

growth panel

This family recorded their children’s heights on a piece of wooden paneling. When they moved, they removed the plank from the wall and hung it in their new home (quite a surprise for the buyers of their old house!).

From: Like Mother, Like Daughter blog

2) Take photos and transfer: Like everyone else who has a smart phone, I find myself taking pictures of everything – usually five pictures of everything…. at least five times a day. All this picture-taking can get a bit ridiculous, but it also has its uses. I love the idea of taking photographs of the door jamb – it would probably take five or so photos to capture it all. I was trying to think of ways to keep track of the scale, so you can reproduce it accurately. One way would be to mark off 10 inch sections and take a picture of each section on its own, so you know it’s to scale if you print an 8″X10″ picture. Another way would be to take some notes on reference points (eg. Junior was 4 feet tall in May 2007), to help you work out the right size later. Once you have printed out your pictures to scale, you could

  • frame them, either in several simple frames stacked one on top of each other or in a long frame, designed for posters
  • decoupage them onto a wooden board or a new door jamb. This option requires no construction work (which I am sure Cathy will appreciate!) and would still capture the personality of the original. For this project, print onto plain paper, rather than photo paper.
  • make iron-on transfers and display on a piece of fabric.

3) Transfer the information to a new growth chart: Cathy did this the last time she moved, transferring the heights to a piece of masking tape, which is a great idea! Once you have the information, your imagination is the limit for ways to display it. There are so many beautiful ideas for growth charts out there, but here are some of my favorites, including what I did myself. A tutorial for making my growth chart will be in an upcoming post.

  • plain plank of wood – this would be easy, inexpensive, and give the new record a similar feel to the original door jamb. You could paint the wood first or leave the wood grain.
  • purchase a ready-made growth chart to hang. These come in endless variety made from wood, fabric, or paper.
  • wall decals – decals are such an easy way to make a beautiful statement in a room. I customized a tree branch decal in our nursery. There are dozens of gorgeous examples of wall decal growth charts out there. I particularly love this one!
wall decal growth chart

Wallies Wall Play Woodlands Growth Chart

From: Fab Baby Gear website

And last but not least… Jewels’ hanging fabric growth chart!

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Jewels’ own hanging fabric growth chart. Tutorial coming up soon.

I’m sure there are similar growth charts out there, but I designed this one myself, keeping in mind that I wanted it to be

  • portable – so that we could take it with us when we moved (a feature this post proves is valuable!)
  • easy to store – fabric can be rolled up for compact storage and ironed later – wood, obviously, cannot, and paper could get folds and wrinkles – though you could wrap around a paper towel roll to minimize this.
  • complete – I wanted to be able to record my kids’ growth from birth to adulthood. Many ready-made growth charts stop around five feet. Granted, most tweens and teens may not have any interest in growth charts anymore, but their parents might, so I made mine go up about 6’2″, which is more than generous, if you could see how tall I am!

UPDATE 5/3/2012:  Here’s the link to the tutorial for making your own growth chart!

Please let Cathy and me know if you have more great ideas about how to preserve her treasured memories!

“Jewels”

Whimsical Retro Nursery

Here is the first room tour of Jewels at Home. The tours are my motivation to “finish” (and clean up!) our house, room by room. In reality, our spaces are a constant work in progress, reflecting the dynamic nature of our lives, but it’s a great feeling when a room gets to the point where it’s ready to share. Let me know if you have a room in your house to share on Jewels at Home!

Our house was a fixer-upper when we bought it last year. Besides maintenance problems (clogged sewer pipe!) and cosmetic issues (pink, pink, pink!), the house was built as a sort of grand space that meant a small number of large and formal rooms, when what we wanted as a modern family of five was more separation of spaces for sleeping, working from home, and playing. I’m glad I spent so many hours staring at the real estate brochure with floor plan, because I figured out that we could convert the “dressing room” off the master bedroom into our ensuite bath and create an entrance through a hall closet to turn the old master bath into another bedroom. Adding the bedroom, that we are using as a nursery, has been a huge value for us.

Bedroom before

BEFORE: This space was the dated and pink master bath. By making a new entrance through a hall closet, it became a new bedroom!

I figure the reason that the nursery was the first room in the house to be “finished” is probably because it’s a small room, and, of course, because it’s SO fun to decorate a nursery! A child’s room is a place where your imagination is the limit!

Whether it’s because we are indecisive or enjoy change, we’ve moved a lot, and each of our kids has had a different nursery. I’ve loved putting them together, and while there are elements that have naturally been shared by all of them, each is also unique. Our current nursery has established itself with a whimsical retro feel. I preferred to make our kids’ first rooms pretty neutral – no car or princess themes here. I know from experience that they will develop their specific interests soon, but I chose not to make them a focus in the nursery.

This “Connor” rug from Pottery Barn Kids circa 2003 was the jumping off point for the colors in the room. I love its palette of dark and light blue, sage, and red. Cheerful for a child’s room, but not too juvenile and cutesy.

Connor Rug

"Connor" rug from Pottery Barn Kids has the inspiration colors for the nursery. The red is picked up by the wrapping paper on the inside of the bookshelf, and the blue in the toy bins (which are old diaper boxes wrapped in fabric!). The sage green is in the bedding, including the sleepsack hanging on the wall.

The roman shades from Country Curtains are a find that I cannot recommend highly enough! They are attractive, safe and easy to use (cordless and raise and lower with a spring, like a roller shade), and inexpensive. They’re not custom, and they didn’t have a size that was right for our other rooms, or I would have bought more! Even though they have a “thermal” rather than blackout lining, I find they cut a lot of light for nap time, maybe because of the dark color.

reading chair

Here is our cozy chair for reading, nursing, and snuggling.

I didn’t buy any new furniture for this room when we moved in, because I figured that a nursery arrangement is always temporary anyway. I took a tip from one of my favorite designers, Sarah Richardson, and even though I mixed wood tones, I made sure that each wood tone was found at least twice in the space, so it doesn’t look out-of-place: the crib and dresser have an espresso color, the bookshelf and picture frame on the opposite wall are a light wood, and the floor and chair have a medium tone. I added the wrapping paper to this bookcase in this post on dressing up bookcases: “Decorating Inside the Box.”

bookcase wall

The bookcase has room for display and storage. The mix of dark and light woods can work, as long as you have each wood tone in multiple places in the room.

Change table

This change table is an inexpensive version of the popular modern nursery furniture. I love the wall decal of a branch right next to the window, extending the outdoors into the space. I customized it by adding the letters spelling "sweet dreams."

A lot of the accessories in this room have special meaning. On the shelf and off to the right are a lot of accessories from my childhood, including the lamp, a bronzed shoe, and a “ducky bank”. In our reading corner, I made the quilt, and my close friend knit the baby blanket on the arm of the chair. The display wall between the windows has a paper quilt block from an old friend, a name plaque with motifs from MY baby blanket, vintage switch plates from my baby room, and an oversize letter “J.” You can see how I made the letter here. The jungle animal clothes pegs next to the book shelf is special, because my mom, who did not survive to meet her grandchildren, bought this for them in anticipation many years ago. Last but not least, the squeaky “Jumping Jack” below was a gift she bought for me as a newborn baby with her first paycheck after returning to work. My parents told me, he made me laugh for the first time, and all my kids gave enjoyed him too.

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My baby toy is bringing smiles to the next generation.

The end result of this transformation is a cozy, comfortable room that brings a smile wherever you look!

“Jewels”

Puppy Love and Loss

It’s a story that has been told many times. Cooper was, as they say, our first baby. We even named him after hearing the name from one of hubby’s coworkers, who had used the name for his new (human) baby! For years, our lives happily revolved around this adorable furball, from weekend outings to vacations, he inspired us to explore and experience so many new places.

Cooper puppy

Cooper, just a day after we brought him home in October 1997. Our friend took this picture with a polaroid camera!

Years later, when the kids came along, Cooper was the faithful guardian who learned to bravely tolerate their expressions of love, including the classic tail-pulling, ear-tugging, and yes, even a “haircut” by our oldest, when he was three and Cooper was nine. We learned quickly to never put our baby down near other dogs, as Cooper would chase them all away. Even if they disrupted his peace, Cooper embraced the boys a treasured members of his “pack” with a loveable curmudgeon-liness.

And now, finally, after surviving a cancer two years ago, old Coops is slipping away from us. I am endlessly amazed at how much life teaches us. I will confess to, previously, having a somewhat limited ability to empathize when others lost an elderly loved one. Where I work, I see and hear so many stories of people who have died young. And having lost my own mom when she was in her early 50s and I was 25, I always thought that I would be nothing but grateful to be so fortunate as to watch someone grow into old age.

And so, even though the tears are flowing, I am really grateful for Cooper and for what this new experience is teaching me – about how it is possible to be thankful and heartbroken at the same time. About what a wonder it is to share life with another species – and to witness a full life in a time that for us is relatively brief. It is such a vibrant illustration of how youth evolves into maturity and maturity into old age.

Cooper vacation

Cooper on vacation with us this past week. He has gotten very thin and slow, but I hope he still feels loved by us.

While I am treasuring my own memories and, yes, wallowing in my own heartache, I am touched by how hubby and I are navigating the decisions around Cooper’s care, how in that process we are learning new things about ourselves and each other, and how my memories of Cooper are intimately interwoven with our marriage, which is only barely older than he is.

I am also thinking about how to share this experience with the kids and support them with the first major loss in their lives. We’ve been preparing them over the past few weeks. There are some good suggestions here at Kids Health and from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Since I’m just reading these now, it’s reassuring to know that we’ve been doing a pretty good job “winging it.”

Among other resources, a friend suggested the book The Tenth Good Thing about Barney, and I also found Saying Good-bye to Lulu. For a more spiritual approach, there are several choices, including The Legend of Rainbow Bridge. I’ll try these out with the kids. Both of the older ones have been writing books recently at school and at home. Maybe, they would like to write their own book about Cooper. I would love to hear things from their perspective.

With a grateful though heavy heart,

“Jewels”