Home Renovations Take Longer Than HGTV Would Lead You To Believe

The really cool thing about home renovations is you get to find out what’s hidden behind cabinets or walls or baseboards. You get a glimpse at spaces you don’t normally see.

Take for example the kitchen renovation we undertook in January. When we pulled out our dishwasher and the cabinets that surrounded it, we found a nest of mice! I mean, they had obviously heard us coming and vacated already but they left behind lots of goodies like acorn shells and insulation they had dragged up from the basement. They sure are industrious little buggers. Also, super big props to the contractor that installed the kitchen 22 years ago and left a soup can-sized hole around the dishwasher’s electrical conduit!

But, enough about the mice that we no longer have but that still haunt my dreams.

This is what we started with. It was fine and I was so grateful when we found this house that it came with a kitchen that didn’t need immediate work. However, after four years, I still, frequently, tried to open those cabinet doors on the wrong side. I need HANDLES. Hinges on one side, handles on the other.

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Here’s the after. And, look, I’m not one of those home renovation bloggers so this isn’t a fancy photo shoot but I did fold my dish towels nice and neat before I started taking pictures so, you know, effort.

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I love that the cabinets now go to the ceiling. Sure, I can’t reach anything at all on those top shelves so I haven’t put anything up there but still, there is no longer a space on the outside that collects SO MUCH DUST.

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We waffled on closing up that kitchen cutout for a long time. (You can see above that we pushed a piece of furniture in front of it to help determine if we missed the view.)

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We don’t miss the view. Bob and I spotted the pineapple painting in a gallery window while we were on our honeymoon. We both loved it so we purchased it and had it shipped home. Then, we had kids and never spent large sums of money so frivolously ever again. It feels like it finally found its perfect spot.

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In the original design, this wall was going to hold the refrigerator and some pantry cabinets and that would have been great and afforded lots of extra storage but I found a piece of furniture instead and I really like furniture. The bottom half of this hutch can still hold a fair amount of Doritos so I think we’re good.

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With the cutout above the sink closed up, we gained a lot of useful space on the dining room side, too. Surprisingly, this is probably my favorite change the kitchen renovation brought. Well, this and the fact that we broke up that gang of mice under the dishwasher.

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And, no, we did not end up renovating the kitchen ourselves. We went back and forth for awhile, debating whether our marriage could withstand a diy kitchen remodel and, ultimately, decided our union was more important. Bob and I like each other but we don’t like each other enough to renovate a kitchen together. Also, it seemed like there would be a lot of math involved in such an undertaking. Math is hard.

We did, however, serve as our own general contractors on the project and, not to brag or anything, but also if I may brag for a moment, we came in ahead of schedule and under budget. I asked for a trophy but Bob just pointed in the direction of the brand new kitchen instead.

I still have to figure out the window covering situation and there’s a little punch list left that will inevitably take us six months to complete but, I’m calling this space done.

Which means, you are all cordially invited over for chicken nuggets and tator tots.

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2018 Manifesto

1. I will CALM DOWN about October. The arrival of fall fleece weather causes such a frenzy of excitement that I over-schedule every corner of October to take maximum advantage of no longer sweating the instant I open my front door. October then becomes this giant blur. It begins with a couple of mums on the front porch, a giant scarf around my neck and the first hot beverage of the season but it always seems to end in a frantic fit of exhaustion and shame when my kids find me shoving one more snack size Kit Kat in my mouth before I set fire to all of their Halloween candy whilst yelling, “WE FORGOT TO GO TO AN APPLE ORCHARD!” October is crafty in that it promotes itself as this super chill month full of deep breaths and crisp fall air but in actuality, you never stop moving the entire time before tumbling into November and then Thanksgiving which bleeds into the December holidays and then you wake up sometime in January five pounds heavier with wrapping paper stuck to your pajamas. It all begins innocuous enough. I’m on to you, October and I will not fall prey this year.

2. I will step away from the news at regular intervals so as not to fall into a pit of depression and despair, believing that the destruction of mankind is imminent and all hope has been lost.

3. I will invest in me.

*insert tremendous eyeroll here*

But, lo, I am firmly in my forties now and no longer as physically resilient as I once was. Basically, stuff on my person hurts. So, this year, I’m striving to fix what’s broken. That means, I’m going to wear the stupid brace at night to help alleviate the carpal tunnel syndrome I developed while growing three children with my body. I’m also going to do the stretching I’m supposed to do to help alleviate the plantar fasciitis I developed from excessive hiking to get some alone time away from the three children I grew with my body. I’m going to make the appointments and take the supplements and drink the water and get that weird bump behind my ear looked at so I can be as healthy as I can be for me and for the three children that wrecked everything when I grew them with my body.

4. I will finally figure out how to make the theme song from “Parks and Recreation” be my phone’s ringtone because it is delightful. I should probably ask Henry how to do this, better preparing him for the years and years he’ll spend down the road exasperatingly troubleshooting technology for his parents.

5. I will make a HUGE punch list of the home improvement items around this house that need to get accomplished so we can actually accomplish them. Bob and I talk all the time about our to-do list, casually mentioning over breakfast that the laundry room needs painting or the basement curtains are still waiting to be hung or the crack in the hallway needs patching. Frankly, someone needs to write all of this stuff down because we are easily distracted and inevitably one of us gets busy with something else or decides to take a nap or retreats with a book or goes shopping instead, forgetting all about the laundry room, the basement and the hallway. Then, the next weekend, we LITERALLY have the very same discussion about the things that need to get done around the house. It’s all very counter-productive. Bob asked for some sort of a master list some months ago so we can go room by room as time permits to complete the work and I love a good checklist so I’m going to make this happen. I’ll probably laminate it, to be honest.

6. I will show my kids new places and new things. As much as I love to lament parenthood, I think my kids are pretty much the coolest people on the planet. They’re so interesting and they love to learn and are so curious and they’re getting easier and more fun to take out in public. Bob set a goal of traveling into the city frequently this year to show them a new museum or exhibit and I’ve set a goal of two vacations with them to places that none of us have traveled before. This year, I really want to focus on more experiences and less stuff.

(I’m also in that post-Christmas deep regret stage as I try to organize and find space for the hoard of presents I brought into our home so, we’ll see how this one pans out is all.)

7. I will be generous with my time, resources and talent. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to better the lives of those around me. Not just for my husband and my children, but looking beyond that. I’d like to figure out how to extend generosity – in whatever form that takes – farther out in the circle. I have a certain set of talents and expertise and I have friends that are extremely talented and super smart in other things and sometimes, I feel like if we could just pool our gifts, combine our resources, we could make lives better. Easier. Lovelier. Kinder. For ourselves and for others. I’m going to figure out how to build that community of generosity this year. I feel like the world could use a lot more of it.

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DI-Why

When Charlie was just a few months old, he came down with a nasty virus. He was in daycare at the time and our child care center seemed to always be ground zero for the really awful illnesses that my kids caught with such ease. I took time off from work to care for our sweet little Charlie at home and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I knew we had to take him to the emergency room. I had been hanging clean laundry up in my closet and when I finished and reached down to pick Charlie up from the bed, he was stiff. His whole body. He was so little at the time and so new-baby malleable that to pick him up and feel his muscles so rigid was alarming. I knew he was really ill.

Bob and I ended up spending the majority of that afternoon and evening in our local hospital’s ER. Charlie was officially diagnosed with a “virus of unknown origin” meaning, the hospital didn’t know what he had, admitted there was really no good way to figure it out, but acknowledged that it was absolutely making him miserable. It was just something that we had to wait out. They wanted us to remain in the ER so they could hydrate Charlie and monitor him closely for a few hours before discharging him. With a compassionate shrug, the doctors and nurses left us on our own to sit and wait and watch. Our fears placated, Bob and I settled in to spend a few hours staring intently at Charlie.

Now, it should be noted that our local hospital at the time was more urban, less spacious and a bit more bare bones than the hospital we utilize now. The ER in the town closest to where we currently live has private rooms, individual television sets, a staff eager to accommodate and valet parking. The ER we took Charlie to that night had a long wait time, a maxed-out staff, absolutely no snacks, and the only thing separating us from the next patient on a stretcher was a thin curtain and about four feet. I’m certainly not complaining because I didn’t even know ERs came in fancier versions until we moved from the city but still, if we were able to even snag an extra blanket from a nurse that night, it certainly didn’t come all toasty warm from one of those giant blanket ovens our current hospital uses.

Sitting with a sleeping four-month-old and a lack of sufficient snacks left us with nothing to do but eavesdrop on the medical emergencies of those around us. It was fascinating. Directly next to us, on the other side of the curtain, was an intoxicated man who was handcuffed to his gurney and guarded by a sheriff’s deputy. He talked loudly for probably a solid hour about assorted topics before falling asleep and, thus, falling quiet. We heard other random snippets hear and there of bumps and bruises and broken bones but eventually, as evening settled in and the bustling quieted down, both Bob and I started listening intently to a husband and wife that were seeking treatment across the aisle from us.

It turned out, the wife was in the emergency room because she had been experiencing chest pains. It actually seemed quite serious from the tone of the doctor’s voice. The doctor was still unsure of what type of cardiac event she had experienced but he began reviewing with the couple the results of some preliminary testing and explaining to them some additional tests he would like to run before admitting the wife overnight for observation. It was at this point that the couple began to protest. They were concerned about how long all of this was going to take and seemed distressed about the necessity of spending an entire night in the hospital. Bob and I, unabashedly, leaned in for a closer listen.

“You see,” the husband began to explain to the doctor, “we have dinner reservations.”

It was at this point that Bob and I looked at each other with saucer-like eyes and tried not to laugh. Dismissing a possible heart attack in favor of keeping hard-to-get dinner reservations was just the MOST Northern Virginia thing one could do. I mean, I can appreciate a great meal, too, but I wouldn’t risk betting the sommelier knows how to use a defibulator. The ER doctor said about the same.

The conversation quickly escalated between the ER doctor and the husband and wife. Eventually, as the doctor was explaining the “against medical advice” discharge paperwork that would need to be completed before they could leave, the husband looked at the doctor and asked, “So, tell me, what’s worst case scenario here?”

Without missing a beat, the doctor looked at the husband wearily and said, “SIR, your wife could DIE.”

A few minutes later, the husband and his possibly-having-a-heart-attack wife were on their way to dinner to, presumably, eat mussels or foie gras or something like that. Shortly afterwards, Bob and Charlie and I headed home to rest up, recuperate and probably eat some Goldfish crackers.

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Ever since that fateful emergency room visit, Bob and I have used the Worst Case Scenario query to address some of our toughest life decisions.

Should we move the entire family to Richmond? What’s the worst case scenario?

Are you up for having a third baby? What’s worst case scenario?

Is it possible to still buy a waterbed? What would be the worst case scenario?

Maybe we should get that odd rash on the middle kid looked at? What’s the worst case scenario?

Does this egg salad smell weird to you? Worst case scenario?

It’s actually a highly effective tool in distilling a problem or issue down to it’s possible outcomes. If the answer is anything other than one of us dying, we typically proceed.

All this to explain that Bob and I are thinking of renovating our kitchen ourselves. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario here?