By: Sheila Gaudet
Last summer, in a flurry of activity, my husband and I bought a house….and got married….and moved….in the same month. A year later, we are settling into the marriage and my husband is adjusting to having two stepsons. The house, like all houses it seems, is taking a little longer.
In addition to the challenges of merging two households, we thought it was a great idea to take on a house that came complete with orange shag carpeting and original light fixtures from the Seventies. We bought it because of the location, sitting right on the lakefront, the potential for an income producing or in-law apartment, and the value for the size. Those things are all still great! However, I’m sitting typing this today with roofers on my roof, tearing off and replacing the original 1970s version, after a few exciting nights of using every available water-holding device in the house and garage to capture some leaks. These were not pesky little drippy leaks. These managed to flow in streams nicely along the sheetrock seams. Luckily, my post-Hurricane Katrina life in Mississippi had prepared my teenage son and I well for this problem. My husband slept through a couple of those late night storms while Anthony and I quickly assessed the appropriate size container for each leak. Hopefully, this will be the end of that saga.
I would like to say that is the only problem was the roof. Those of you who own a home know this isn’t the case. We opened the pool last summer to find out that the pool liner was torn, so we had to replace that. Then there was a problem with the pool pump and the pipes, that required digging up concrete. By the time that was all addressed, the kids got in the pool and shivered their way through last September out of sheer determination to use it. This year, with a few minor glitches, it finally got opened and is being used. One thing checked off the list.
Like all homebuyers we were ambitious in our projects. This is my husband’s first house. He vouched for his ability to do projects. He is a hard worker. I’ve come to understand though that he really likes company when he does a project, particularly his dad’s. This is a good thing because we haven’t quite sorted out our ability to do most projects together. I’ve owned several homes. Most of which were houses that were older (like 100 years older) and required renovation and repairs. I’m well aware that when you open something up, there is usually more work than you planned for to be found underneath, that there is always at least one mishap in the project, and that contractors showing up on schedule and completing on schedule and at cost is a rare and precious thing. My husband , however, is a glass-half-full guy. He believes estimates. He likes to do the big part of the job and tends to forget that last 10%. This has led to some family friction.
He and my father-in-law tore out a lot of old orange carpet and installed a lot of hardwood flooring in our living room and upstairs hallway. This was a huge job and the floors are beautiful. Except they are not complete. Most of the baseboards are back up, but a couple were damaged In removal and haven’t been replaced yet. Since I am the painter of all things residential, this means that I haven’t painted any of the baseboards, so I have a beautiful floor, freshly painted walls….and chipped and missing baseboards. There have been multiple projects like that but my husband, bless him, has decided to save both of our sanity and is trying to complete some previous projects before starting new ones. This is hard for him because he really, really, really likes starting new projects. That usually involves renting or borrowing or just using our own power equipment, dragging his dad, our kids, and I into the project, and several days of effort. The ambition is great, the completion is not.
What does this have to do with being a mommy? Anyone going through home improvement with children in the house knows that it is an extra challenge to keep them out of danger (stepping on carpet tacks, touching wet paint, pushing the bright red button on the power tool). The harder part of the challenge to me is actually keeping them entertained and on routine when naps are disrupted or mommy can’t make lunch on time because she’s got one wall left to paint and if she stops now everything will dry up and not blend and she’ll have more work to do. It’s during these times that the other soccer parents probably think I’ve been on some bender because I’m throwing my kids out of the car at practice while wearing shorts with a hole in them, covered in a paint color that resembles dried blood, and probably in desperate need of a shower.
When my son was a toddler and I bought my first house, it was just he and I. His job was to hold the hammer in between my tasks. He took this very seriously. One night, I was hanging wallpaper in his new room before we’d moved in. I looked over and there he was, asleep on the floor, clutching the hammer like a teddy bear. He has had other exciting tasks like pulling nails, washing cabinets and has now been promoted to trim painter. He’s actually quite good at it and is an expert at taping of areas prior to painting. Now that he’s taller than I am, I make him use the drill for anything over my head because he is now both bigger and stronger than I am.
My younger son, being the youngest, has gotten off easier. It was really just this year that he’s gotten involved and I can’t say he really enjoys it much. He is the type of kids who does not like getting dirty and doesn’t like loud noises. He will put in a couple hours of effort in a day now but I haven’t found a task he really enjoys doing. I keep trying.
I keep telling my husband that working on the house and doing both big projects and maintenance is a lot like raising children. It’s dirty and hard some days. It costs more and takes longer than you expect. There are always surprises at inconvenient times. Hopefully, over time, your house becomes a reflection of who you are and what you value and a place where memories are made and family members feel at home. Our goal as parents is that all those days we put in with the little maintenance projects and occasionally the big catastrophes produces an adult that reflects ourselves and has a strong foundation to build on. Today, I have some spackling and painting to do on a couple walls- kind of like boo-boos and bandages.