Let me first get this off my chest; I'm no Ty Pennington. There is no one out there with more energy, more enthusiasm and a greater ability to multitask than Ty, not to mention anyone better with a hammer and nails. So imagine my reaction when he asked me to undertake hosting an episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (airing this Sunday at 8 pm/ET). "You can do it," he assured me. I thought to myself, tear down a house and build a new one in less than a week? And supervise a small army of designers and volunteers? I guess so. Not much different than being a mom of four!
My first day was all about the bus. There's definitely a trick to standing on a moving bus while talking to the designers about the family we were about to meet. Speaking of designers, you couldn't ask for a more professional, dedicated and fun group of people. From the minute I stepped on to the bus, Michael, Paul, Paige, Tanya, Daniel, Ed and Eduardo knew exactly what needed to be done for the family we were about to meet.
And what a family. The Llanes lived in a 50-year-old split-level house that was small, dark, noisy and hard to navigate. But obstacles were nothing new for this clan. Blind from a hereditary disease, Vic Llanes emigrated from the Philippines seeking medical treatment. His mother, Isabel, who lives with Vic's family, was also blind. His daughters, Gueni and Carrie, were also going blind from the same disease their father has, and teenage son Zeb was deaf because his mother contracted German measles during pregnancy. And holding it all together was Vic's wife, Maria, who is sighted, and who serves as her son's interpreter for the rest of the family. But even Maria had her challenges she recently battled thyroid cancer.
When we knocked on their door that first morning, we found it was actually their house that was disabled, not the family. Without modern technology that allowed visually impaired people to function in a sighted word and hearing impaired people to function in a hearing word, the Llanes dealt daily with the frustration of a house that didn't work for them. Despite all this, they approached life with a smile. And let me say, they were smiling even bigger when we told them that we were sending them to Disney World for a week while we built them a new house!
In just five days I watched a dedicated crew of producers, designers and over 200 volunteers turn a cramped 1,300-square-foot home into a 2,600-square-foot dwelling dubbed a "Z home" for its A-to-Z technology. It was amazing. Oh, and can we talk about that megaphone? Who would've thought the deaf lady would grow so attached to Ty's annoying megaphone? With all that hammering, sawing and drilling, I quickly found out that the megaphone equaled power, and I just loved it!
After yelling out "Move that bus!" you couldn't stop me from crying tears of joy as I watched the Llanes family approach their new house. Vic, Gueni, Carrie and Grandma Isabel ran their hands across the new siding, while Maria interpreted for her son, Zeb.... And I began to smile. In just a few moments, they were going to walk into their brand-new house, filled with technology that would free them from the barriers of their old house. And I remembered something I learned a long time ago, that the only real handicaps are not in the eyes or in the ears but in the mind. The Llanes family would never be handicapped again.