When we bought Best of Times Beach House, it needed a lot of love.
It had “good bones” (realtor-speak for “good luck finding the bones under all its scars and cellulite.”).
But the ugly scars of bad paint and the cellulite of dated wiring and rusty fixtures didn’t daunt us as much as they probably should have.
Like overenthusiastic house renovators before us, M and I had a plan. We would completely redo every wall, bathroom and bedroom in this little house. We would turn this sad, unloved house into a vacation getaway for our family and hundreds of others.
And we would do it during one of the busiest months of our lives. We would plow through our horrendous schedule of M managing two big work projects (one in Dallas), the kids’ end-of-the-year commitments (plays, and parties, and standardized testing, oh my!), and SWIM TEAM, which is an entity of its own. We would drive the three-hour round trip several times a week to rewire lighting and assemble bunk beds in Galveston
In six weeks, it would all be done.
Now, it’s done, and the house is rented for the rest of the summer. And now we are just starting to peek out from the chaos of it all and ask, “What the HECK happened there?”
So, I’m writing what we did right and wrong. And what we learned along the way.
First lesson: Involve the kids. But know this will make everything way harder.
We involved every family member in our renovation project. The Good Lord either blessed or cursed me with a Team Mentality. When approaching anything from making breakfast to renovating a beach house, I have a deep need to involve every person I know in it (i.e. give them jobs). When you come to the Hergenrader house for dinner, I need to give you a job. I’m sorry. I can’t have you sipping wine and eating appetizers, it makes me nervous. I need you working elbow-to-elbow with me chopping onions.
Truthfully, this need doesn’t jive so well for a home renovations and small children.
Some people would’ve looked at the two-year-old, two five-year-olds, and eight-year-old and said, “Stay out of our way, kids! We have work to do.” I couldn’t do that. Either because I’m inherently lazy and jealous of anyone sitting around relaxing while I’m working. Or because I want to teach our kids a good work ethic.
Maybe giving them hundreds of little jobs taught them good work ethic. Maybe it just taught them to tune out my constant nagging (“I said to take these price tags off these pillows. Did you hear me? Why aren’t you doing it? COME HERE, EVERYONE! GET THE PRICE TAGS OFF THE PILLOWS. NOW!”) It would’ve taken me two minutes to take the price tags off the pillows. Obviously, it took the kids two hours (and a lot of heartache on everyone’s part) to do it.
M’s strategy on kids helping falls more on the side of “get the kids out of our way.” And some point along the way, when he was trying to hang track lighting, while the kids danced around the light switch that would send a deadly shock to him, I sort of agreed with him. So, there were times we just let them play with the neighbor kids for six hours.
However, they also helped. Mechanically-minded Catie put together IKEA furniture. Detail-minded Elisabeth became the chief bed maker and arranger. Team-player Sam sat next to his dad and handed him bunk bed parts. And Nate….well, Nate is the lazy fourth child who everyone babies. So, his job was SUPPOSED to be to pick up all the trash from our projects and throw it away. He did this with about 60% accuracy.
But the biggest payoff was when we finally finished the house.
The kids and I drove down the day before our first renters were to check-in. We put a few finishing touches on the house and said good-bye to it for the rest of the summer. It was hot, I was exhausted, and the mood was generally cranky. I worried we should do more to get the house ready. Sam was annoyed OTHER PEOPLE would be using the house we had worked on so hard. Catie was sad to say good-bye to her neighbor friends. Elisabeth was sick of that long drive so many times a week.
But when we finally got in the car to leave the house for the next eight weeks, there was a moment that made all our hard work worthwhile. I said, “We did this, you guys. Our family had a goal, and we did it together. Aren’t you so proud of yourselves?”
The kids nodded solemnly. They were proud. They had been part of the struggle; their faces now showed the celebration. They were celebrating that their hard work helped turn a sagging, old house into a beautiful vacation spot. They were celebrating the tables they had assembled, beds they had made pretty, and furniture they helped build. They were celebrating that all the hard work had paid off and we now had a beautiful house.
Or maybe they were just celebrating the end of mom’s nagging. Who knows?

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