Friday, September 26, 2014

A Dave Ramsey Renovation

So, as many of y'all know, a few months ago, this happened
(Yep, that's probably gonna have to be replaced.)

And, as house fires go, ours really wasn't that bad

The morning after the fire, I quickly snapped some pictures of the kitchen's damage and started to feel pretty good about what my clean up process would entail. It didn't look awful, so I figured I would grab a big bucket of soapy water, a couple of old rags and things would be good as new before lunchtime. 


See what I mean? It doesn't look awful and burned out and crumbling. There's some cabinet door damage above the microwave, but everything else *looks* pretty fine, right?

Another BEFORE shot of my kitchen, from standing in my laundry room/garage entrance doorway. Excuse the mess. I'd just had a fire, ya know.

I happily filled my mop bucket with some sudsy water, and while the sink was running, I noticed my kitchen window sill had some flaked ash on it. 

It didn't seem major, so I quickly wiped it off and plopped my bucket of suds down by my breakfast nook table so I could get that wiped off before we ate breakfast that morning. (We had donuts. And, over the course of the next few months- we ate a LOT of them. The kids didn't hate it.)

That's when I noticed the flaked ash had also settled on the mini blinds in our breakfast nook. 

UGH. I was so aggravated that I didn't think about cleaning into all those little nooks and crannies. Sheesh. But- in my mind at that point- my clean up plan was still manageable. Long and tedious, but manageable. 

Then I swiped my hand across my table top. And my vision blurred. And my heart started to pound. And I needed to find a paper bag to breathe into. Because I realized then that this thin layer of flaked ash was on EVERY SURFACE AND EVERY CEILING AND EVERY WALL AND EVERY THING OF MY HOUSE. 

I snapped this picture seconds before I decided to put a call into my homeowner's insurance and submit a claim to help me with the clean up. I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to get everything cleaned by myself and I figured the insurance company could help us get in contact with someone who could professionally clean and remove the soot and ash to keep our house from becoming a melted-and-burned-plastic toxic wasteland. 

The need to breathe into a paper bag became more and more intense as I started to walk into the rooms and swipe my hands across furniture and walls and toys and every.single.time my hands kept coming up grey. 

I had ash on the kids' bedding. And in Nathan's crib. And on every single popcorn ceiling in our house. Our A/C was running at the time of the fire so the unit pulled the smoke from the kitchen, into the ductwork and then pushed it out into every bedroom and closet and bathroom and time out corner we had under our roof.

I dialed the 800 number on our policy and started ugly crying to every single person I was transferred to. Bless the sweet people at Frontline Insurance Company. Our claim representative, Tracee, was just about the sweetest gal on the planet. I ugly cried/hyperventilated on the phone to her for about 20 minutes that first day as I had to recount the story of the fire and then completely melt down to her when I realized that my kids were currently walking around on melted plastic soot covered floors. 

She dispatched a crew of professional fire restoration specialists who arrived THAT DAY. PuroClean came, surveyed the damage and got a game plan in place. The dirty AC ductwork system is one factor I hadn't thought about before they came. The restoration contractor started talking about soot dispersion rates and inhalation risks and I got tunnel vision. I escaped to a soot free playdate at a local park with my kids where we breathed in fresh, ash free air while they got started on the clean up. 

We got back less than three hours later and my kitchen looked like this:

 (I had another paper bag moment.)

I don't know how they did it, but in less time that it takes me to bake a pan of homemade lasagna, those three guys tore apart my kitchen. They took down an entire bank of cabinets, exposing a ton of burned wood behind the uppers (which was thankfully just done to the wood of the cabinets and not to the walls), scraped my entire kitchen and breakfast nook ceilings and moved 80% of my furniture from the kitchen and into my living room. 

I couldn't believe how quickly they worked. (It was like they were professionals and they did this every day for a living or something.) I went to bed that night realizing my house looked drastically different already. I didn't realize at the time this was just the first phase of many more furniture shuffled, plastic draped, dust covered days that were ahead of us.

At first, looking into my hodge podged living room like this made me itch a little. If I'd only known then how much worse it was going to get before it got better. I had no idea how NOT AWFUL this set up actually was... 

Luke walked in and said "Momma! What has happened in here?!" 

Do y'all see that red box/fan looking thing on the floor? IT ROCKS. 

It's called an Air Scrubber and it became my post fire BFF. The contractors ran two of them night and day while they cleaned and y'all- my house never smelled better. I'm pretty sure the air circulating my rooms smelled better than the break room at a Downy factory. 

Seriously, my air has never been fresh like that before. I need one of these in my life. I may have joked with the guys about trying to stash one of them away while they were packing up the trucks to leave on their last day. (But not really, because they were kinda loud, and I'm pretty certain those cost more than the van that's currently sitting inside my garage.)

After the cleaning was complete, it was time to start thinking about the renovation. At that point, we hadn't heard from the insurance company yet so we weren't really sure what we were going to be able to afford do but we knew we needed to get some sort of plan in place so we could get the ball rolling once we got final word from our claim. 

 One of my friends, Amanda, who is an amazing interior designer came over one afternoon to help me pick out cabinet colors and wall colors and countertop colors and backsplash tile options and lights and accents and PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING that I couldn't do by myself without some major waffling and a huge dose of smelling salts. (Because Pinterest can only take you so far by yourself, y'all.) 

Between Amanda's amazing recommendations and my text-versations with another interior designer friend of mine Dusti about exactly how to use a can of spray paint- I would have been as lost as a goose in a hailstorm. For sure.

Here was our "The Sky Is The Limit, Paint All The Things All The Colors" color scheme. 

Then, Matt and I heard from the insurance company and our plans became drastically more realistic. (We weren't going to be painting all the things.)  

Here is our "Dave Ramsey Renovation" scheme. Because we paid for all of our repairs and appliances and post fire renovations in cold, hard cash from the insurance company and our savings account, I like this color scheme MUCH BETTER. (And our bank account does, too.) I'd like to have the kids smear peanut butter and jelly onto cabinets that are paid for, ya know what I mean? 

A few weeks passed, and the first piece of the puzzle was delivered: our brand spankin'  new stove:

(Yes, he is wearing a fire man rain jacket. Because, why not?)

(I snapped this one to send to our insurance representative, Tracee to tell her thanks for pulling some strings to get us our stove money a little faster. We love her!)

I honestly never thought I could love a kitchen appliance. But, after going for a few weeks without a working stove- I LOVE A KITCHEN APPLIANCE. 

During our no-stove interum period, I got lots of good use out of our crockpots, my toaster oven, and my $9.97 Black Friday WalMart griddle. (Seriously, I bought that thing a few years ago and I honestly don't know how I ever cooked pancakes or egg-in-a-nests without it. Man! All those wasted years trying to cook one or two pancakes at a time in my small skillet. Mercy!)  

We got our stove installed and then got to work scheduling contractors to come and give us bids on the painting/cabinet work/texturing that we needed to have done. We worked numbers for just about every possible renovation scenario imaginable. There were cabinet refinishers, cabinet reFACEers, and new cabinet installers who came by to give us (shockingly high) estimates. We had several paint contractors come by to give us their quotes on the refinishing and texture work that we needed to have done on our walls and ceiling. 

At the end of the day, we were blessed with a recommendation from a friend to a cabinet contractor that is a member of the Church of Christ out in Pensacola. Their estimate was much, much less than the other renovation options that we had pursued. So, new cabinets were going to go in!

We also had to decide what we were going to do about our backsplash tiles. The microwave/stove hood unit that was installed before the fire was waaaaaaaay too low. To get our new cabinets to code, we needed to shorten the upper cabinet to 12" and raise the top of the microhood to a 30" minimum from the range surface. Doing so would leave several gaping holes in the backsplash tile directly above the stove.

(See? Ain't it purdy?) 

And, I realize that big holes above your stove is completely a "First World" problem, but if we were going to be renovating the kitchen for the ONLY TIME EVER in the history of our bank accounts, I wanted to try and come up with a cost effective plan to either hide the holes or completely eliminate that problem. 


Y'all- have you walked down the aisles at Lowe's or Home Depot lately? Backsplash tiles are crazy expensive. Replacing our backsplash with tiles similar to the ones that we previously had would've cost us $10-$12 a square foot. And we have almost 50 square feet of backsplash tile to install in our space. Even when I found the perfect white subway tiles that I instantly fell in love with at less than $4 a square foot, our budget still just wasn't going to support that kind of addition. 

So, we decided to just demo the old backsplash ourselves (Yay for husband and wife demo day date!) along with the rest of the kitchen cabinets and have our contractor just skim and texture over the walls above our countertops before he painted it. We chose a wipeable/washable texture and finish for our paints so clean up hasn't been bad AT ALL when I've gotten flour or spaghetti sauce drips on it. 

We have plans to continue to save for some future backsplash tile installation (along with a new vehicle and a mini Disney vacation) but, in the mean time, I think my kitchen looks just as fantastic without having those expensive tiles above my countertop. 

At this point in the renovation, I escaped from the kitchen-less house with the three kids for a week while the contractors were here scraping and sanding and texturing and making about a 3.75 inch of fine drywall dust on every surface of my house. 

They were amazing contractors, they really were. They taped off the kitchen doorways and sealed in as much of the mess as possible, but even still- that fine, powdery dust settled in a thin, ghostlike layer on top of absolutely everything in the house. Truth be told, even now- a few weeks later- I'm still swiping up a fine layer of dust when I wipe down the furniture and tables. So, if you're ever in the neighborhood and want to come by, you are more than welcome to come write your name in the settled dust on my coffee table. (True story. I love company.)

This is what happened while we were gone. 

We got back home from our week at the Louisiana Grandparent Circuit (The kids had a blast! I need to blog about it- there was fishing and eating and playing and cousins and a never ending hunt for bouncy balls at my inlove's house after Luke bounces them underneath every dark, heavy piece of furniture they own. Ask them about it. It's fuuuuun stuff.) to a freshly painted but EMPTY kitchen (pictured above), and a living room that looked like this: 

 Y'all. Living like this was SO MUCH WORSE than during the clean-up-anti-soot phase. Bring on the paper bags for real this time.

So, if you ever want to find out just how well you handle stress and mess in your life- just live like squatters in a house with three kids in a dwelling without a kitchen for 4 days. I may have failed this real-life stress test in the beginning. BIG TIME. 

You get a real glimpse at what really matters, at how "First World" your life really is when washing your dishes in your bathtub makes you groan. I was inwardly complaining to myself one morning as I washed out my coffee cup in the kid's tub when I had to stop and make myself realize how blessed I really was in my current situation. I'd recently read this article, and- after pondering on her words for about the 17,385th time, I realized how fortunate I really was. Even if I was living in a house without a stove. 

I had hot, fresh, running water at my immediate disposal. I was on my knees in front of a bathtub in the SECOND bathroom of my house washing one of 472 cups we have that are devoted to consuming only ONE TYPE of beverage. I was complaining to myself because I had to walk tens of feet into my kitchen with a working icebox to take out my half and half to pour into my automatically brewed coffee. 

God humbled me that morning, and for the rest of our insane eating-like-vagabonds-and-tripping-over-the-highchair-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room kinda days that we spent camped out in our living room, I didn't complain. 

And then one day, it happened. One glorious morning at 8:17am, men came to my house with a truckload of cabinets, just for ME. It was like Christmas in adult form. I didn't want to be that homeowner who wanted them to stop during every single step of the process so I could take pictures, so I didn't. I just went full-out 007 on them during their 14 second trips into the garage to cut trim and grabbed the fastest pictures ever taken. And here are the two sneaky "I'm gonna be like James Bond" shots that I got. Enjoy.

They never saw me coming. Thankfully.

Even without a sink. Or a stove. Or a light. Or a microwave. This was the most wonderful, grateful, blessed feeling I've ever had. And boy, did that feeling get even more powerful as the rest of the kitchen came together. 

Y'all! I can't even wait to upload the rest of the pictures.

I put this guy to work holding a box down while I was unloading dishes and spices and cups and plates and saucers the very SECOND the contractors had pulled out the driveway that day. Momma was READY to get her kitchen put back together. 

These two also got in on the action that day. Luke was more interested in building mountains out of the packing paper and empty cardboard boxes and Josie was more interested in taking the lids off the sprinkle containers she found and eating the sugar she found inside them straight from the tap. 

And then, before I even got to cook my first meal in my swanky new kitchen, this happened the next day instead:

So yeah, at that point, I'd say it was officially broken in. 

But the day after that, Josie and I really broke it in with a big ol' pot of Chicken and 

My friend Sara and her family are missionaries in Japan. I was telling her about fixing supper in my new kitchen and I realized that she has never eaten C&D. Y'all. I can assure you that the first meal I fix for her as soon as they are back in the states from Japan will be this. (Unless she'd rather Red Beans and Rice, of course.)

If y'all could see like three inches on the outside of that frame, you'd probably notice a sink full of dirty dishes and a spilled cup of milk dripping onto the floor. Now that I think about it, I probably shoulda tried to get the mess into the shot, too. 

 Josie was really excited to help me roll out the dumplin's. And I'm pretty sure that's probably because "helping Mom" meant she had a prime raw-dough-swiping position. I can't say I blame her logic. 

In my humble opinion, the amount of dumplin's Betty Crocker Cookbook's tells you to fix is NEVER ENOUGH- so we triple it. Because that's how we roll, y'all.

Things still aren't completely finished. There are no pictures on the walls and the breakfast nook windows still don't have the blinds in them. (But, silver lining bonus: SO MUCH LIGHT!) Even still- functionally, it is complete and I absolutely love it

I'm still moving stuff around and rearranging shelves (for like the bajillionth time this week) and forgetting where I store the cutting boards and finagling just the right saucepan/skillet/pot lid ratio in my pot drawers. I say thankful prayers every morning as I fill up my new deeeeeeeep sink full of soapy water. I am grateful every time I wipe off my new Formica-fake-granite countertops. I feel blessed every time I switch on my ceiling fan or fancy new Pinterest inspired spray painted light above my breakfast nook table. 

I spruced up my kitchen one morning last week and shooed the kids into the living room after breakfast and school was over to play with their 4,071 piece bag of blocks so I could take some pictures of the finished kitchen to share with y'all. 

I love my new kitchen, and I hope y'all do, too. 

(And, if you're ever in the neighborhood and want to come over and dig through my cabinets or open and close my pot drawers repeatedly or run a humongous tub full of soapy water in my new sink- COME ON OVER! I'll brew us some coffee!)


Our breakfast nook. 
All our meals happen here. As does school. And art projects. And PlayDoh. And some pretty intense games of Minnie Mouse Bow Bingo.

The main view of our kitchen, standing sort of by the corner of the pantry door. 

The dishwasher/cabinet that holds coffee cups and drinking glasses and a million mismatched tiny plastic cups. (How did we acquire so many kid's cups, y'all???)

At 5:11am, this is the most vital area of my kitchen. My friend Olivia brought me back my teacup and saucer from a deployment she made to Germany a few years ago. My beehive sugar bowl was from my Grammy Elaine's house. I love it so much- I'm on the hunt for some fabric to coordinate so I can try to sew a valance or dish towel or something to put up in my kitchen because how cute are bees?! My cutting board was my birthday present this year.I found a gal's shop on Etsy who does personalized glass cutting boards and I customized one with a scripture that, to me, is the motto of my life. And my new kitchen! 

(By the way, she didn't ask me to send y'all a link to her site. I just loved her, and her business- she donates 10% of her proceeds to an organization that helps victims of human trafficking- and I really love my cutting board. I'm dying to get one for everyone I know.)   

Kitchen sink. Complete with childproof locks. Because y'all- toddlers happen.

More sink! 

This is, in my opinion, the deepest skin ever created. It's a whole three INCHES deeper than my old sink and I'm pretty sure Josie could bathe in it. (And she maybe has already had to.)

 View from the sink looking left. Plates go in the upper cabinet next to the sink, then it's Tupperwear (Who am I kidding- it's mostly lagniappe butter tubs along with cottage cheese and yogurt containers) and then spices go next to the stove. 

Work space, y'all! Along with my string light/Mason jar combo. MY FAVORITE THING EVER. (And yes, I may bribe my kids with candy corn pumpkins every now and then.) 

Thank you, Sears, for having a spectacular sale when I needed a new stove! It's got five burners on the top so I can put my tea kettle on the middle back eye and keep the water hot while I drink cup after cup after cup of hot tea this winter. (Or coffee- because I wouldn't want to hurt either of their feelings by playing favorites.) 

Also- families of three or more: GET A TOASTER OVEN. I got one for Christmas last year and it has been a game changer. I can fix over SIX SLICES of toast. At once. My life has been forever changed for the better. Thank you, Hamilton Beach. 

 My ice box and pantry. 
(And no, I wasn't going to give y'all a shot of the open pantry. Because nobody needs to know just how many bags of Community Dark Roast I store in there.) 

One word: MAGNETS. 
My friends and family know how much I love magnets so they'll sometimes add to my collection for me. My Mom just went on a trip to Natchez, MS and brought me back an awesome Gone With The Wind magnet. I also have a magnet I got from the last restaurant we ate at the night before Nathan was born. (Because I'm a sappy sentimental fool that way.)

Also- the first addition to the kitchen: A brand new fire extinguisher. That I have been shaking like Just in case. 

Another view from the breakfast nook looking toward the pantry and ice box. If you take a left right at that red stool, you'll walk into our dining room. 

A view standing at the pantry door of our breakfast nook. Check out my awesome spray painted Pinterest creation. I really love my light, y'all!

And this is Nathan's favorite part of the kitchen: the pot drawers. I didn't have these before, and I've gotta say- I love them as much as he does, too. I have so much more usable storage than I did before. That bottom drawer has an 8 qt. crockpot inside! Mind boggling, right?!?! 

Also- check out his thighs. They are down right bite-able, aren't they? Man, he's a cute kid. (In my own opinion, anyway.)

Now that you've seen the fancy schmancy "perfectly cleaned kitchen" pictures, I thought I'd throw in a couple of "this is how my kitchen really looks on any given morning" shots, too. 

Just so y'all know I'm keepin' it real.


Lagniappe dishes left to dry from supper the night before. 
We'd just had two of my sister's in love over with their crews for spaghetti the night before they left for their Disney cruise. 

I could just about polish my cooktop every hour, on the hour. (How does it get so dirty so quickly?!) BTW- That stovetop cleaner to the right is the BOMB, y'all. 

 A mom's life, in picture form.

A cold cup of coffee she never got around to drinking that was stirred with an iced tea spoon because all of both the soup and cereal spoons are dirty. And supplies to bandage her freshly gouged hand after she cut it coring an apple for her oldest son with her brand new post-fire replaced knife set. (PSA: Brand new knives are REALLY SHARP, y'all.)

 Dishes and school work and coloring pages. 
All three are present on my table at any given moment during the day. Ring my doorbell unannounced and you can see for yourself. 

Y'all. I almost couldn't post this one. 

Bottles of Cokes from Luke's birthday party TWO WEEKS AGO that we will never drink but I haven't gotten around to pouring out and recycling. Breakfast condiments and a dishwasher FULL TO THE TOP of clean dishes that need to be put away. Also, an open cabinet door because, as much as I know it drives my husband crazy, I can never remember to close an open cabinet door. Or the microwave. It's an illness. 

How my sink really looks. Half the time I forget to drain the water and it gets cold. The other half I forget to turn off the faucet and the bubbles rise above to cover the top of the faucet. It's a 50/50 shot either way.

Last shot of the post. This'll be my favorite part of my kitchen because it's evidence of who I get to cook for: MY FAMILY. My kitchen may be a mess, and those pictures on the wall may not get hung tomorrow, but to me- it's still perfect just the way it is. 

There will be (and already has been) jelly smeared on the cabinet doors. Water will overflow the sink and somebody is gonna drop a cup of chocolate milk onto the floor any second now

But kitchens are for living. And living is messy business. Especially when you've got three little ones you're living with. I'm gonna treasure my new kitchen. I'm gonna polish my new stovetop like a maniac. I'm gonna wipe off the cabinet doors like I'm the Karate Kid. And I'll scrub out the crusty bits of dried cereal off the table tops. I'll wipe down the syrup smudges off the breakfast nook chairs. EVENTUALLY.

 But, if you drop by sometime and notice that there's a coffee ring on the countertop or crushed Cheerios on the floor or if the chairs feel a bit sticky- it's because we've been living in our new kitchen. Because that's what kitchens are for. 

Now get in your car and come over for coffee, wouldya!