Thursday, September 20, 2012

Patio Decor: Geography in Your Own Backyard

I have been waiting for this moment since I first gave birth eleven years ago . . . My son is in fifth grade.  And he is learning STATES AND CAPITALS!!!!!

Finally.  My area of expertise.

Of course I love maps (who doesn't?).  One of the first purchases I made for our first apartment was a laminated world map and United States map.  Later, I bought an actual roll-down map of North America off Ebay (I gave it to my sister Hanna when I had to build bookshelves in the only feasible place in my entire house that this map would fit . . . but that's a story for another time).  And my favorite way to wrap presents is with map-paper from old road atlases (check out the post I did here about it).  One of my favorite gifts my husband ever got for me (in 2005) was this geography coloring book, after he watched me print out maps from the Internet and spend hours coloring and labeling them.

But only having a fifth grader could prompt me to do what I have dreamed of doing since having my own home: painting a map of the United States on my very own concrete patio.  Oh yeah!  One week later, and I finally have the energy to blog about it.

I tried to "freehand" an outline of the US of A with chalk just by looking at the map in my atlas.  Um, yeah, Texas was even bigger and freakier-shaped than usual, and Maine and Florida belonged where Newfoundland and Cuba belong, respectively.

My "canvas"--the concrete patio on the back of our house.
Poor Calvin got to watch the entire two-hour process . . .
So I had to do it a real way.  I carefully drew a grid of chalk on my back patio.  It was thirteen, 1-foot spaces wide by six, 1-foot-4-inch spaces long.  And I even made the longitudinal lines get bigger as they went South . . . the better to represent the curvature of the earth, yo.

Totally set the timer and took this picture of myself . . . shameful
It took me about twenty minutes to lay out the grid.

That bowl has a wet rag in it so I could "erase" my mistakes
Then I began to work on the states with chalk.  The same way as reading: left to right, top to bottom (Only I actually went top to bottom, then left to right.  The West Coast must be chalked first).  That took an hour and a half.  Whew.  (The next day, I felt like I had done a thousand squats . . . as I very well may have done).

The West . . . like you've never seen it before 
All the easy, big states . . . 
I ended up using both atlases (one for kids and one for grownups)
because one had better longitude / latitude lines, and the
other had better outlines of the states themselves
When I finally had the whole thing done, I was so excited to start spray-painting.  "WAIT!"  You're thinking.  "Spraypaint?"  Unfortunately, my brain never told me that it might not be a good idea, because spraypaint is 1) fast, 2) cheap, and 3) lasts forever on concrete, as the many "project-spots" on my back patio can attest to.

Here goes.

I wanted to CRY after I sprayed the first couple states.  I worked so hard chalking the California coastline!  And now it just looked all  . . . spray-painty.  It was not as pretty and perfect as the chalk!

I stood for a while with the can in hand, like a vandal who can't decide which swear-word to graffito on the side of a box car in the dead of night when the only emotions she can conjure up are angst and rebellion . . . and I finally decided the same thing that said vandal would decide: go ahead and finish.

And I'm so glad I did!  It actually turned out to look pretty good.  Kind of stylized.  At the very last minute, I remembered Alaska and Hawaii, so I spent another twenty minutes chalking those two and then painting them (I actually left out the skinny strip of Alaska that butts up against British Columbia.  C'est la vie.)

Now, time to help Truman become around-the-world champion of his fifth grade class.  {If they still play around-the-world.  Did any of you play it?  My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Wood, gave king-size candy bars to anyone who made it all the way around the classroom . . . ah, those were my days of glory.}


  1. Oh my gosh, I am laughing so hard right now! You are hilarious AND a totally awesome mom! How cool is that?!?!? WOW!

  2. Wahahaha I loved this post! And boogs. I need one of those too! I bet you could tole paint in the states color and then use a concrete clear coat sealer to keep it all there! Oh boogs I really want one too!

  3. COOLEST thing I have ever seen. I think we got our love for coloring from mom. Maps were also my favorite in school. This is so cool Bec. You always have the best ideas. I love it!

  4. I think that is Awesome!! You did a great job!!

  5. Seriously.. I envy you..You are amazing.

  6. Seriously.. I envy you.. you are amazing. I just showed my 12 year old and he said that he wishes I could be more like you..burn!

  7. Amazing! I keep popping over here but have been too lazy to comment on all the great things. I had to this time. I love this idea! Some day I'll hire you to do mine ;)


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