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As parents, there is very little that hubby and I want more than to just let our children be who they are. We want to expose them to whatever we can and let them choose what is right for them. I know that it’s not possible to open every single door out there and that there is certainly more than enough bias just from what we value being passed along to them. We aren’t going out of our way to show them things that aren’t true to who we are, for better or worse, but we are letting things be when our kids take interest in what we’re interested in.

I think the best we can do as mom and dad and the most trusted human beings for these two small people today is to lay a foundation with how we live and what we value and if they accept that and want to learn more, great and if they show interest in something more than that, we’ll do what we can there as well.

As an example, I always said from before we even started thinking about having children that I NEVER wanted to have a daughter take ballet classes. I suffered from anorexia for a long time and my sisters-in-law all did ballet at some point and as a result starved themselves. So I related ballet to anorexia and never wanted my child to go through that for something so silly as dance classes. I was never a dancer. I’m very uncoordinated.

Fast-forward a few years and we have ourselves a three year old who LOVES all things girly, all things princessy and all things ballet. I don’t know when or how it even started. She maybe read a book about Angelina Ballerina or something but whatever it was, she was hooked. She owns leotards, she does plies, and she begs to take ballet classes. And we’ll put her in them as soon as we find a class that accepts her age. Because she wants to. I just have to take a deep breath and let be what is.

I actually remember from early on in my first pregnancy, that I was afraid to have a girl. I wanted a boy to watch football with, to play rough with in the yard and to make fun of ballerinas with. I hated the color pink and all things girly. Then reality struck. And I was given the most beautiful gift that is my daughter, who shows me every day how to challenge my beliefs, she shows me that it’s okay for things not be as we expected and just to love and embrace what is. She has shown me to just let it be. She loves pink, ballet, princesses, and everything girly you can imagine.

Now we have our son, he’s 13 months now and we’re starting to see that he is a little guy who will challenge our thoughts and ideas about the world and people also. He’s a sensitive guy. So far, he shows no interest in sports, much to my chagrin.


Both of our kids, as young as they are, Drew 3 1/2 and Eli 1, have shown a keen interest in the project that is our home remodel. Both of them have found tools and projects beyond interesting. Drew has named herself “Daddy’s big helper” and Eli is right there in the middle of whatever he can be in the middle of.


As parents, we have both stepped back. We don’t take hammers away, we don’t stop them from climbing the ladder. We just let them be. They are, after all, learning. And they may or may not take from this time in our lives an appreciation for remodeling and home improvement projects, but all we can do today is let them take interest in what they like. We’ll keep letting them be involved and enjoying the moment as it is. There are only so many moments when they’re little. Neither one of us wants to steer who they are or what they become so we’ll keep just sitting back and letting them explore their world, learning new things and finding their way. We’ll keep just letting them be.


A lot of good has come from our decision to buy an as-is fixer upper and do a complete home remodel. I won’t deny that. It has turned into one of the best things for our life in so many ways. We’ve learned to live simply, we’ve learned to appreciate having a home more, and we’ve taught our children some valuable lessons along the way about hard work, determination and the value of having do-it-yourself skills.

Here is a list of some mistakes we were either fortunate enough to avoid or unfortunate enough to have to learnas we went along.

1. Supersizing – to be honest, we have had and still have had thoughts of adding on to our home. It’s about 1800 square feet and we’ve toyed with the idea of adding a 2nd story for another 600 sf. The truth is though that rarely does an addition to a home recoup it’s cost in the short term. For us to decide to add on, we’d also be deciding to stay put for the long haul in this home. We’re not doing that. And when it comes time to sell we want the home to fit with the neighborhood and original style and we want to be able to recoup our remodeling costs.

2. Trying to make a home something it isn’t – in our case, we bought a 1960 ranch. It would’ve been silly to try to make it into a massive victorian. We chose to go spanish style cottage with ours. There are a lot of choices so make sure the style your home is when you buy it lends itself to what you want it to be.

3. Changing the function of rooms – for us, one of the biggest money and time savers was keeping the kitchen the kitchen and the bathrooms the bathrooms.

4. Do It Yourself – we haven’t (knock on wood) had any major mishaps with hubby taking on our remodel himself. He’s managed each project along the way just fine but it can be a huge money and time drain if you don’t know what you’re doing and have to call someone in to tear out your tile job and do it properly.

5. Costly renovations for little return – If you’re remodeling for yourself to make home yours for the rest of your days, it is one thing. If you’re remodeling and will be looking to sell someday, it’s an absolute necessity to know what people will be looking for in a home. Know what the return on a gourmet kitchen is vs. a midrange kitchen remodel. The biggest returns in remodeling come from replacing exterior siding, new windows, and kitchen and bath upgrades.

6. Underbudgeting – This one, I don’t know many people who stay within budget on home building or remodeling but it’s important to have some idea of what you’re looking at and a back up plan better than sinking into debt. Not planning for costs properly can either result in a delayed project, bigger debt, or work that lacks quality to cut costs.

7. Assuming you can live in your remodel while work is being done – you CAN live in your remodel, but if you choose to go that route, know what you’re getting into. Doing dishes in the bathtub while the kitchen is gutted, and eating out for most meals. Be prepared.

8. Not Planning for the Unexpected – You have no idea when you tear open a wall if you’ll find pest problems or moisture issues requiring structural repair. You may discover wiring that needs to be replaced, pipes that need to be rerouted or moisture problems that have rotted away joists or sill plates. Pad your budget and allow yourself a bit of flexibility in your work schedule to accommodate these not-so-nice surprises. We planned for all of the above going into our as-is remodel and we were greeted with all of the above!

9. Going Trendy – it’s always safer to go with classic design when remodeling because it will last and you won’t feel like you have to start over with remodeling in 3 years when what you chose is out of style. Classic colors and styles will appeal to you longer and to prospective home buyers when it’s time to sell.

10. Not doing your homework on your contractor – if you’re using a contractor or contractors for all or part of your project, get recommendations. Go see some of the work they’ve done. Ask previous clients how the contractor handled problems and if the jobs were done in a timely manner. Remodeling is stressful and can be expensive. Don’t add to that stress by not knowing what you are in for with an uncooperative or slow contractor. Get a contract once you’ve chosen your contractor with cost, scope of work and start and end dates!

11. No permit – find out of your projects require a permit and get one if they do. If you have a contractor doing your job, put them in charge of getting the permits to save you time and money.

12. Check insurance – Before your start your project, check your homeowners policy limits. Since policies are often purchased based on existing house value, you may need to make changes to your policy. Also make sure anyone working on your property is carrying Workmen’s Comp Insurance.

13. Unsafe conditions – use tools properly, wear safety goggles, keep your work area relatively clean. Nothing will delay your project longer than a stint in the emergency room for not taking proper precautions while working.

14. Skimping on Materials – know where you should be paying more for quality. From drywall to flooring, to countertops and fixtures. Decide what you want that fits the budget. Put in flooring that will last, not just the cheapest one you can find. If you want high end appliances in your kitchen, you may have to adjust your countertop budget and install laminate instead of solid surface. Make those decisions ahead of time so you can expect what your end result will be.

15. Not having a plan – this was, admittedly, us. We had a vague plan at best when hubby started tearing out walls and floors. Our plan was “remove it and replace it”. That’s about it. It worked out okay in the end but it would’ve saved a bit more of our sanity and patience and time if we’d laid out a step by step plan ahead of time to have an idea of what would happen when. And it could’ve been disastrous if we’d stumbled upon bigger issues during tearouts.

Inspired by It Doesn’t Matter What My House is Worth over at PaidTwice and my desire to share some rumblings from around here about housing, I am writing my own little post on the subject of a home as a financial investment.

I haven’t shared a ton of the details about the home we live in, in terms of the choice to buy it and cost and equity and such here. I’ve always been a little bit wary of such things because sometimes I’ve found people to be less than supportive when they see someone doing something not the normal way. But here I am. We have, lets just say, some equity in our home. We got a good deal, put down oh lets just say more than half for the fun of being fuzzy with details. We’ve done a 1400 sf renovation – living room, eat-in kitchen, 3 bedrooms, bathroom and laundry/mudroom/dog room. We’ve for sure added a lot of value to our home for when we try to sell it. It’s not ready to be sold, there is still the master bedroom/bathroom and a new laundry room plus some closets and such to do.

It’s definitely been an investment of time and energy and money. My home is absolutely an investment because of the way we chose to do this project. Everything we put into it, we have to think about what we’ll get out of it. For me, I’ve likened it to buying an A share of Berkshire Hathaway 2 years ago. Except if I’d done that instead, it would’ve been more of a predictable investment than this house was. But you can’t live in an A share!

The house was, to put it mildly, a mess. Faux wood paneling throughout, beaten down shag carpeting, rotting linoleum, a 60s blue bathroom complete with a blue toilet. It was really really bad. My mother came to see it a couple weeks after we bought it and I think she about died. Seriously, I’m surprised I wasn’t disowned. She told my hubby that day that there was no way he could salvage the house, he’d have to tear down all but about 300 sf of it. All he needs is a challenge and he took that challenge on and showed my mom she was wrong. He made something of the crapshack. More than something. He made a home out of it. Now, granted, home is more than drywall instead of paneling, tile instead of shag carpet, and a white toilet instead of a blue one, granit countertops instead of laminate and wood cabinets instead of plywood ones. But it’s a lot easier to be cozy and feel like it’s home when you don’t want to puke when you walk inside.

For 2 years, this home has been the center of our life. Okay, maybe a close second to our kids. I hope you get what I mean though. It has consumed us. It has for sure been an investment. At least now, we can see that the investment we made will likely turn out to bring us a good return someday.

That has brought us to now, and we’ve decided that it’d be awfully nice to live somewhere that isn’t a total energy, time and money zapper. And so we’re looking at moving. Keeping this house until it’s finished, but having it as a side project for hubby. He can come over on weekends or evenings and finish things up. It’s not a great time to sell anyway so there’s not a huge hurry. When we do sell he can use the money to buy another fixer. Ahhhh bliss.

The biggest factor in our decision is our kids and school. After lots of long talks about where we’d send our kids to school, which much to my chagrin is approaching far too quickly, we threw out the idea of moving across town to a better school district instead of paying private school tuition for two kids for 13 years. The idea is out there and the more I think about it, the more I like it. The idea of living in a home that is an investment in our kids and their childhood more than a financial one is appealing to me. Truth be told, though, we are suckers for houses as investments so we’ll certainly be looking at it from both angles. But I want this next house to be our forever and ever home. The one we live in until we retire and buy a condo in Panama. The one we don’t have to pay attention to the ups and downs of the real estate market for. The one that we’re investing our lifetime together with our kids in.

This home as an investment has been a learning experience for all of us. In the end, it turned out to be a good decision for us, although it wouldn’t have been for many others. I will miss this house when we do find another home and move. I’ll miss the place my hubby built with his bare hands making every last detail ours. I’ll miss the imperfections of it all. I’ll miss the living room my baby boy took his first steps in. I’ll miss the princess room my daughter loves so much. But if I’ve learned anything from this house, it’s that any house can be made a home and that has much more to do with the love inside it than the color of the walls.

When this investment is over, we’ll move on to bigger and better things to invest in – like afternoons as a family making memories doing things other than using power tools. This home will always have been a catalyst to the next great thing. It was a necessary part of our life together to get to the next stage. Because of this house and the investment we made in it, hubby will now be able to have a home with few projects inside (I won’t say none, there is always something to be done) and other houses he can buy and fix on the side if he so chooses. A perfect happy medium brought about by investing in a crazy little crapshack.

I mentioned that we (hubby) started the stucco on the house last week or so ago. It’s coming…slowly 🙂 I thought I’d share a few pics of the progress so far. Those of you that know what it looked like before with just lathe will appreciate the progress 🙂 When we bought the house, it was light gray vinyl siding (as can be seen off to the left in one or two of the pics since it’s still on the section we haven’t renovated yet) with pink (yes, pink) trim.

Here’s how it looks now



So you can see the whole new cute lemon tree


Here is a picture I took today when driving around downtown and found a building with the exact colors I want to paint ours.


Progress, not perfection.

I have come to realize something through the process of remodeling our home. Well, I have come to realize and learn LOTS of things but one thing in particular is really amusing to me. The longer I live with something unfinished, the more normal it becomes. I just stop noticing things that horrify other people.

We’ve been through the what’s-wrong-with-having-a-blue-tarp-as-our-kitchen-wall? phase. We’ve been through the who-needs-a/c-in-the-south-in-the-summer? phase. And many other uncomfortable and atrocious things that make other people look at us like we have 5 heads each. And there is still stuff that is less than desirable if I really look around. It mostly becomes a concern when we’re about to have people over. I start thinking “oh my gosh, do you think they’ll notice that the bathroom doesn’t have a door?” That one has been taken care of but that is a true story. Well, no…an embellished story. It had a door. A glass one. Not the frosted kind. We avoided any awkwardness by using a sticky note leading to the bathroom door that said “occupied” when someone was in there. It worked well.

I have learned through this process not to take things for granted around my home. First, it was stuff like bedrooms – our beds were in the living room for a while – and as the bigger stuff got done, it became trim and baseboards. I really never knew how much I’d appreciate a few pieces of trim around a few windows until I lived without it for so long. And I didn’t realize how much I’d appreciate hot water, a dishwasher, and a bedroom of my own until I didn’t have any of those things for a while.

And because the house has come so far at this point, it’s hard for me to remember when others see it today, they still see exposed doors with no trim, lots of places that need paint and eeek we won’t even talk about the outside. So I find myself having a friend or family member over and having to restrain myself from beaming and being giddy that, say, we have a bathroom door now. “Hey, check out this door! It’s solid and has hinges and opens and closes!”

Blinders. Blissfully content with just having a home. A work in progress. So it has it’s imperfections, it’s flaws, and it’s got a ways to go before things aren’t so scary to others when they come over anymore. But it’s a great way to find out that my friends love me for me and not just my bathroom door. And really, how cool is that?