A recent school project for my oldest asked for my advice to her. In addition to the typical "work hard, fight for what you believe" nuggets, I told her that learning was a lifetime experience, and to never, ever, feel bad about needing her parents. Even when she's 40. The good thing? I practice what I preach.

Home-improvement projects bring out the best and worst of a person, and also have a funny way of pointing out exactly how much you have yet to learn.

What's that smell? I had no idea that painting and staining in the lower level could have such an effect on the upper level laundry room. The burning off of the fumes took me by surprise, and filled my house with a smell that made me paranoid that the house would catch fire. It didn't, but I called the repairmen to check it out anyway. Once you've convinced yourself the house will burn down, you need a pro to tell you otherwise.

Sometimes the best-laid plans ... Much to our disappointment, our basement floors were too bowed to put the laminate in that our daughters desperately wanted.  This, of course, ruined all of their hopes and dreams for what their rooms were to become. I told them I would settle for them to become clean.

Stick to your gut. People questioned the wisdom of painting the basement purple, but I absolutely love it. Ditto with the (very) bright blue bathroom. Everyone knows that if mom's happy ...

There's never enough time. It is difficult to put an extra coat of poly on baseboards, or

There's never enough time for projects.

There's never enough time for projects.

another coat of paint, etc. when you're in the middle of three winter sports schedules and a particularly busy time at work. This is when you thank a higher power for retired parents.

Plumbing is more difficult than it looks. I've taken apart toilets several times, but have yet to successfully put one back together. Although I've not learned to put a toilet back together, I have learned to have a ready supply of towels and buckets as I try. And I WILL try again.

No one likes the grunt work. My kids always want to help paint, but the washing of the walls, hole patching and sanding don't have the same allure. Painting is the ultimate payoff, I tell them. If you want to have the fun, you need to put in the prep time.

Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers are miracle workers. I'm a longtime fan of these cleaning powerhouses, but have a newfound love for them after they removed Sharpie from walls.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. And bonus points if you do it before the nervous breakdown. For me, this is more difficult than putting a toilet back together. I'm fiercely independent (with some control issues), and want to be able to stand back and say "I did this." But I'm learning that it's OK, even at 40-plus, to say "I did this with the help of my parents."

What are some lessons you've learned? Please share!