- The Watson family on the volunteers who helped with their 'Extreme Makeover' build
- The Watson family on how their 3 kids have dealt with 'Extreme Makeover'
- Watson family sees their new home
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition puts the final touches on the Watson home
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition makes progress in freezing temperatures
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition powers through construction on day three
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition gets inspiration from the Knoxville Zoo
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition demolishes the Watson home
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition helps Knoxville's Watson family
Mandy Watson traces the ripple effect back to 10 months ago, with a knock at the door, a big bull horn and a very long bus pulling up to their house.
"Not a day goes by when you don't reflect on it, on something that has changed because it," she says, sitting back on her living room couch, wearing jeans, boots and a holiday red shirt.
"All the big things going on in our lives right now has to do with what happened on Jan. 10, because of a great big bull horn and a great big bus.
"So much of what we're living now is the repercussion of a door knock."
On the other side of the door was the ABC reality series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The program picked the Watson family of West Knoxville — former Christian Academy of Knoxville eighth-grade teacher Mandy; her husband, ex-church staff member Daniel; and their then-three children (Atley, Ava and Silas) — to get a new home, taking them out of a rotting, mildewy 50-year-old farm house, which was almost literally falling apart on top of them.
The Watsons run the nonprofit Restoration House, a refuge for low-income single mothers. So while the Watsons were struggling to keep a roof over their own heads, they also had families depending on them.
Now, 10 months after the "Extreme" work has finished and the Watsons have settled into their new house, they've gone from their old 2,100-square-footer to nearly 3,500 square feet. They have a new teenage daughter and new residents at Restoration House.
A community effort
The Watsons are mindful that Knoxville built their new home. "No one gets to where they are alone," Daniel says. "They get there because others have helped them."
Hundreds of volunteers lent a helping hand. Grace Construction helped commandeer the project, and the TV show's usual team of design experts brought their touch to every inch.
"I remember feeling so lost when I would wake up" in the new house, Mandy says. "I was trying to find my new routine."
"It's far less stressful in this new house," Daniel says. "It has changed our day-to-day lives. We're a lot less stressed, and the kids are a lot less stressful.
"When mom and dad are stressed, the kids pick up on that. It has allowed us to focus on the passions in our lives, like advocacy … and helping out."
The new house has changed so many things about the Watsons. Daniel has quit his old church staff job and now devotes his full time to Restoration House, where he answers to a board of directors.
By summer, the Watsons started feeling that this new house was a home. "When we went on vacation this year, we came back … (to) home," Mandy says. "We didn't dread coming back, like 'Oh, no, we have to go back (to the old house).' "
The Watsons kept little from the old place — and that meant getting rid of their children's old toys. They donated close to everything but their master suite's bed furniture.
"It was time to simplify," Mandy says.
The Watsons got the attention of "Extreme Makeover" producers by being nominated by several people in the area. The process took months, and even the Watsons thought, at times, that it probably wouldn't happen.
They didn't know for sure it was happening until that knock on their door from the "Extreme Makeover" team.
The old versus the new
Even in its state of disrepair, the Watsons' old house was worth around $200,000 (including the value of the land itself). The new one is valued around $550,000 — and that doesn't include the small complex with two more residences.
With those included, the value of the homes exceeds $800,000.
Their property taxes have quadrupled from the old house to the new one. However, thanks to the solar power grids "Extreme Makeover" put in, their monthly utilities aren't even an issue anymore.
"We're plugged into the grid," Daniel says. "We sell power to TVA."
Settling in was an adjustment that took a while. "There was about six weeks of tiptoeing," Mandy says. "There are people that hadn't seen the house and people we had coming over. We were careful."
Rules changed for the kids. "No eating in the living room," Daniel says. "They can eat in the kitchen or outside. No drinking in the bedrooms."
And mom and dad?
"We wait for (the kids) to go to bed" then they bend the "no-eating" in the living room rule, they admit with a laugh.
The first major mess in the house came when one of the children broke an emu egg against a wall. "I remember writing on Facebook: 'First casualty of 'Extreme Makeover' home — an emu egg,'" Mandy recalls.
Daniel is a bit more "on edge" about such incidents. "I totally expect it," she says.
The second major instance involving a mess in the house came in recent weeks when their youngest daughter, Ava, threw up from the upstairs railing, emptying the contents of her stomach down below onto the living room.
"Some of it splashed in my eye," Daniel says.
This is now a home
Since "Extreme Makeover" left, the Watsons have built a new life for themselves. Almost all the women involved in the episode (to air at 9 p.m. Nov. 26 on WATE, Channel 6) have graduated and gone on to independent lives.
Inside the Watson home, they have added a fourth child — daughter Diana, who came into their lives in April.
A contract with "Extreme Makeover" prevents the Watsons from selling their new house for a year. After that, they could if they wanted. Daniel and Mandy say they'd never sell and intend to grow old in this new dwelling.
After all, the Watsons are still trying to navigate their lives after "Extreme Makeover."
"People are always asking if our lives have gotten back to normal," Daniel says. "I say we're finding out our new normal."
MAKEOVER WATCH PARTY
Knoxvillians are invited to a watch party Nov. 26 of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" featuring the Watsons at the Tennessee Theatre. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
WATE, Channel 6, will air a behind-the-scenes program about the project and the family. Then, at 9 p.m. ABC will broadcast a two-hour special on the house and the Watsons' efforts to help single mothers through Restoration House .
Admission is free.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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