What You'll Learn

  1. Introduction
  2. Living With It
We didn't hire the painters. Actually, we didn't even buy the paint; the walls in our kitchen are still covered with square splotches of semi-gloss samples—my wife likes to "live with" a color for a few months before deciding on whether or not to buy it—which gives some visitors the impression that our decorating inspiration was the Partridge Family bus. Meanwhile, Aurita installed a sink that three plumbers had quoted us thousand-dollar estimates to put in. Through most of this, all I had to do was fetch screwdrivers, hold washers in my pockets, and carry heavy items up and down stairs.

For a year or so this seemed like harmless fun, the equivalent of letting her play with a gigantic Lego set. But after the boys had each moved rooms three times—which required three dismantlings and reassemblies of their bunk beds—things began to get a little frosty around the house. Some couples fight over money and sex; we were fighting over her late-night trips to the 24-hour Home Depot to check out sconces. She asked, with a straight face, if I'd be willing to spend my vacation upgrading our attic insulation. She had to be talked out of trying to sand and refinish the floors. I live in fear of the day we need a new roof. Blame it on our fathers. My wife equates fixing stuff with childhood weekends spent side-by-side with her father, hammering nails and weatherstripping windows. Her dad has two rooms in his self-remodeled basement filled with tools. A typical phone call from Aurita to her father starts with something like, "Are you using the router next weekend?" I, on the other hand, grew up with a father who spent his days off fixing dinner. We kept our tools in a kitchen drawer.

To achieve DIY detente in our household, I'm trying to push one of our boys to become Aurita's new buddy. Alex, the oldest at 10, is a daddy's boy who likes nothing better on a Saturday morning than to cook a batch of pancakes and melt into the couch with a good book. Lucas, who's 4, seems more preoccupied with taking things apart than putting them together. So I'm betting on the baby, Magnus. He refuses to go anywhere in the house without his red plastic hammer, and his constant tap-tap-tapping against the nearest available surface—tabletops, windows, his brother's skull—is the heartbeat of our domesticity.

But until Magnus is ready for his first cordless drill, I guess I'm going to have to help Aurita out with a few projects, just to keep the peace. Every once in a while I might even level with her. Just one question: How do they get the bubble into that stick thing, anyway?
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