HOUSING. Buying. Selling. Renting. Building. Moving. ALL are stressful. What makes it even more difficult? Doing it yourself. And the cherry on top of that DIY Sundae is doing it with two small kids in tow.
My husband and I decided to give ourselves a heaping helping when we broke ground on our first new home last year. We have done many renovation projects, but this was the first from the ground up. We were stoked. After months and months of planning and pulling permits we finally broke ground on July 24th, 2015! A glorious day! The crew actually showed up on the scheduled day and dug the footers; we were so excited to check it out! We pulled up and saw that yes indeed earth had been moved. But the excitement slowly drained as we cocked our heads to the side and said, “Wait a minute, is it… backwards?”
They had reversed the plans; the back of the house was on the street, and the front of the house was in the back. Doh! Of course, this is how construction goes; it is one mix up, mess up, clean up after another. And even when you have well thought out plans, there are ALWAYS unforeseen obstacles, especially when you add small children to the mix.
As evidenced when another glorious day arrived… FRAMING DAY!!!
I’m not going to lie, I was giddy. My girls and I woke up early, drove down from Jax Beach and posted up in the minivan across the street to watch. It was great… until the owner of the framing company came over to ask a few questions about the plans. Oh man, it was game time for “Ms. Owner Builder.” The first was one I heard a lot, “Who’s your contractor?” With a side smile, I said, “You’re looking at her!” So with a 6-month-old and a newly minted 5-year-old, we walked across the street and spread the plans on the back of an old Oldsmobile.
It was quite a group: the owner of the framing company, the crew foreman, the architect, my husband on speaker phone and me and my two girls. We went through a laundry list of questions and issues, and everything was going well, with the construction part of this equation. But after about 15 minutes, the baby started to get fussy. Yes, that kind of, “I need milk NOW” fussy. She was hungry. I don’t pump. I don’t have bottles. I am trying to listen and participate in this crucial Q&A while in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I HAVE to feed her.
I can’t walk away because I need to know what’s going on but I can’t end this conversation because it might be another year before I could get all of these people together in the same place to discuss these issues.” It was inevitable. I scooped her up, stepped back a foot so I wasn’t all up in the mix, popped her on and as they glanced over slightly bewildered as to what was happening I simply shot back my best “okay, what’s next?” look. Yep. I breastfed my baby standing up in a parking lot with a bunch of construction dudes. It’s sad that this is even a big deal (I’d like to give a shout out to the #normalizebreastfeeding movement), but to so many people it is astounding. In the end, the questions were answered, the baby was fed, and everyone went on with their day. No comments, No looks, nothing (well nothing to my face anyway); and I’m going to call that progress.
Once the walls were up, things really started moving, mainly because we were using a lot of subcontractors for this part; which is both a blessing and a curse. It is so wonderful having professionals handle projects that would have taken us months to do on our own. But the waiting…OH. MY. GOSH…the waiting! Everyone has experienced being trapped at home waiting for a tradesman to show up during their 5-hour “window” of time, right? So you get it. But try it in 100-degree heat, no A/C, no Netflix, at a construction site where there is no running wild and free unless you want them to fall down a hole or step on a nail or roll around in pink insulation like it’s cotton candy. We have waited for countless hours over the past year, and while it was the hardest part for me, we also had some really fun moments too! There was one day while the siding guys towered above us on huge ladders that Lula and I built a fairy house out of scrap wood and nails she “foraged” out of the dirt. And another when she got to “drive” a tractor and see it work up close! We also built a huge cardboard castle and lots of jewelry out of construction scraps.
While we used subs for the big things (plumbing, electric, HVAC, etc.) there were plenty of projects we tackled ourselves and there is something to be said about working side by side with your husband on a project this size. We designed and installed our own kitchen, decked the porches, built porch handrails from scratch, assembled spiral stairs, installed hardwood floors, and spent countless hours walking around home improvement stores together.
He did a lot of other work solo, while I took care of the kids, but the projects we did together are my favorite part of this entire process; maybe because it was the most alone time we have had since having children (shout out to the grandparents for making these “dates” possible). But mostly because it’s fun to work together to create something and this case it was our family’s house! A place that we now call home! After 382 days since the backwards layout… we are IN! We have finally succumbed to The Siren Song of Saint Augustine…