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July 21, 2007
Harnessing teen power

Cameron, Paul, and Joss proudly display their first installed wall – the back wall between Cam's and Joss' closets

Way back when our eldest son Cameron was about three years old, we decided to tear down the wooden shed in our backyard and build a new one. Little Cameron went around proudly telling everyone, “My dad and me are going to build a house!”

We never did build that new shed – instead, we decided to buy a pre-fab metal one from the hardware store. One of Russell’s regrets is that he was not able to do this particular father-son project. And for several years afterwards, Cameron continued to tell people that he planned to build houses when he grew up. (In fact, he even took a house design class when he was in middle school, building a small model of a house.)

More than a decade later, we have another chance. Unfortunately, we are building our mountain house during those teenage years when our sons can think of many things to do that are more interesting than spending time with their parents. But one of our agreements was that the boys would help us up at the mountain approximately every other trip. And Gail felt strongly that they should build their own bedroom walls.

So on Thursday, July 19, Gail and Russell both ducked out of work early and took Cameron and Joss out for an early weekend up on the mountain. Joining us was Cameron’s 17-year-old friend, Paul.

(We even drove up again in our 11-year-old van. We decided to go ahead and get a "partial repair." At the recommendation of our service guy, We fixed the radiator leaks and will not worry about the rest for the time being. The good news is that the van ran with no problems.)

The last time Paul had joined us was a couple of years ago when we were still in tents. In fact, Paul’s only memory was the fabulous all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant in Valley Springs. We made a point of stopping there for dinner. Thursday evening was spent with the three young men pitching a tent (they preferred to camp rather than stay in the house with the adults) and all of us watching episodes of “American Inventor” (which everyone thoroughly enjoyed).

Friday morning we set to work. Russell supervised the men’s work crew. Cameron, Joss, and Paul would measure, cut, assemble, and install the walls. Russell would make sure that no errors were made. The team worked well together, with each of them taking turns at each of the tasks.

Joss, Paul and Cameron take turns measuring, cutting, and assembling the walls

The most challenging wall was the one between Cameron’s bedroom and the stairwell – not just because of the sheer drop, but because the wall was so long. Gail wanted to build the eight-foot length in two pieces, but Russell took that as a challenge. The teens ended up building and installing the wall as a single structure.

Installing the long wall next to the stairwell

Russell’s goal for Friday and Saturday was to install two walls. Amazingly, the three teens installed five. Joss even found time to take some scrap wood and construct a chair for himself.





The five second-story interior walls installed by the three teens

Joss builds a chair out of scrap wood

When she wasn’t helping the men, Gail embarked on “Return of Nightmare on the Second Floor.” Despite the new sub-floor joists, she was still unhappy with the dip in the second-story where the floor had sagged under the weight of the wall pallet. After consulting her contractor coworkers and our building inspector, she decided to fill in the gap with a substance called “Fix-It-All,” kind of like concrete but lighter and easier to work with.

“Nightmare on the second floor” revisited: Gail uses Fix-It-All to even out the last dip

We were pleased and impressed with how productive the teens were and how well they worked together. We hope that in years to come, they will look back with pride on having constructed the walls of their own bedrooms.

Relaxation time: the boys moved the television and video game console into their tent


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