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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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?