by Jill Morgenstern


How do you tell if your home renovations have been going on too long?  The telltale sign at my house was that locating the garbage can became a routine part of our after dinner clean up.

My husband and I began remodeling last May in an attempt to convince our cat that the dining room carpet was not an oversized litter box.  Renovations have now managed to leak out all over the kitchen, living room, and study.renovations

Meanwhile, we’re still trying to protect the house from the raging hurricane that is our two year old and that self-same cat, who surely sees the new tile as a bathroom upgrade.

But we’re holding up.

On the chance that you need advice on undergoing yearlong home renovations, here are some ideas that can help ease the pain:

1)    Spend lots of time elsewhere

It’s good to have somewhere to go when you’re having work done on your home.  A resort with luxurious amenities would be nice, but lacking that, my family has settled for a local hospital and various doctors’ offices.

In order to assure that we haven’t worn out our welcome, we’ve managed to convince the children to contract all sorts of diseases and suffer various ailments.  Just since late December the two year old has gotten two staples in her head and has been on antibiotics twice, one of the bouts resulting in a horrible case of hives.

But don’t think the 17 year old isn’t pulling his weight.  In order to advance the cause, he has suffered croup, three staph outbreaks, and a case of hives that made the toddler’s look like a few bug bites.  Not to mention we take him to weekly allergy shots in an office that provides free Wi-Fi.

2) Pinch Pennies

I was explaining to a coworker the other day that it was absolutely necessary for me to teach myself to crochet last week so I could make my toddler beaded socks.  She said, “Well you didn’t HAVE to!”

But I did have to.  And then I had to take seven pictures of the resultant beaded socks…because who doesn’t?  We’re pinching pennies here after all, and the supplies pretty much pay for themselves after making two pairs.

3) Sure it’s cliché, but keep a sense of humor handy.

We’ve run into setback after setback, and a sense of humor has been essential.  We arrived at Ikea just in time to discover that they discontinued the cabinets we were there to buy.  They discontinued the tile when we he had bought and installed less than half what we needed.

Luckily I don’t need to read comics or watch funny movies.  I just wait for the toddler to open her mouth.  She has that whole “fourth child” thing going on, so that when I say, “OH NO!” or even “Uh oh!” she says,

“What me DO?”

It only stands to reason that any and all “Uh OH’s” and “oh no’s” are her fault.

She also has the habit of adding, “I JUSS” (“I just”) to defend herself against any implication that her behavior might be less than stellar.

As in:

Me – Don’t do that!

Her – I JUSS _______ (fill in the blank with whatever behavior she’d like to deemphasize: “spreading my entire dinner all over the brand new not-yet-sealed tile floor,” “jumping out of an airplane with no parachute”… what have you.)

Because not only does adding “I JUSS” to any behavior make it umpteen times less threatening, it adds a laugh right when we need it most.

4)        Pretend the cat has Ebola.

We began this adventure because the cat decided that the world was his oyster…or at least that the house was his litter box.  catAnd yet, certain members of the household forgot to keep him confined despite my best efforts.

As I was bemoaning this general lack of caution, my 19 year old gave the best advice of this entire adventure:

“Just pretend the cat has Ebola!”

It worked like a charm.  Somehow quarantine is easier to remember than simple incarceration.

Despite its efficacy, my advice is to be judicious with the use of this one.  Otherwise one ends up with a toddler whose idea of fun is to yell out, “EBOLA!!!!” in a crowded supermarket just to watch people’s reactions.

I speak from experience.  Of course.