Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols

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Goodbye 1978

Renovation is a rewarding yet daunting task. I love the entire process, and I enjoy seeing the immediate results of my labor. We moved into my grandparent’s home two and a half years ago, and yesterday, we completed the final indoor project. The home was built in 1978, and hosted 4 layers of linoleum in the kitchen, 2 layers in each bathroom, wood paneling, disgusting carpet, original wallpaper, a harvest gold toilet and shower, and more doors than any home needs. There was a door to the hallway, a door to the kitchen, 2 doors in one bathroom, etc…. We have chosen our projects out of necessity as well as affordability. Before we moved in, we tackled replacing the wood paneling with dry wall, removing all of the wallpaper, painting every wall, changing out every light fixture, replacing each outlet cover as well as light switch covers, and replacing bathroom fixtures and faucets. These simple changes brought the home into the 21st century and gave us a home that we were proud to come home to. These were extremely inexpensive changes, but the large, expensive tasks of flooring and countertops still awaited us. This year, we have finally tackled these projects, and the results are overwhelmingly beautiful.

tile beforeIdeally, we would have replaced the flooring before we moved into our home two and a half years ago, but due to time and budget constraints, this wasn’t an option. At the beginning of June, Adam, our dear friend Chuck, and myself spent a couple of hours ripping up all the carpet in the house, and Adam and I spent another week scraping up linoleum in the kitchen and bathrooms. This was the worst part! I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you! There is no magic tool or easy way to remove linoleum. The first 3 layers in the kitchen were extremely easy to pull up, but once you get down to that last layer that was original to the house, you are convinced that it was attached with some sort of glue that a scientist from NASA invented! We tried all the “tricks of the trade:” a heat gun….useless, pouring boiling water over the paper backing…..HA, purchasing the big, heavy-duty scraper from our home improvement store…..we took it back after one attempt! The only thing that worked was getting on our hands and knees and using a handheld scraper and tapping the back of it with a mallet. Adam would take a turn, and I would take a turn until finally, we got it! We weighed all of our options when picking out flooring. Laminate was cheap, but it looked cheap and low quality. I have a house full of boys and a dog. I needed something timeless that would stand up to baseball cleats, running, jumping, tackling, reenactments during football games, and all things moms of boys look for when picking out flooring. We had a budget of $4,000.00 for the entire house, so hardwood was out of the question, and carpet wasn’t even an option. I love stained concrete, but after all of the different layers of flooring, old pet stains from previous owners, and 36 years of wear and tear, we knew we wouldn’t get the results we were hoping to achieve. A friend had recently built a home and installed porcelain tile that resembled the look of hardwood, and it was beautiful! After visiting many different suppliers of this product, we found that Home Depot offered the most bang for our buck! We ordered 63 cases of tile, 20 bags of mortar, and 5 bags of grout from our local Home Depot, and we came in right on budget. The flooring specialist at our local store, Jeff, was invaluable. He knew a multitude of information about not only the products he sold us, but he also made himself available during the process for any questions that we had. This is not a weekend project. We lived room to room in our house for two weeks, and it’s messy, which isn’t conducive with being a neat freak, but I made it, and I certainly did my share of the work. I vacuumed 3, sometimes 4 times daily to keep the dust to a minimum. I changed the air conditioning filter weekly, because it was just saturated with dust following the carpet removal as well as all the dust that accumulated from the entire process. Laying the tile wasn’t something that we had ever done on our own, but we couldn’t afford to contract out the labor, so I proposed that we ask Adam’s father to help us. He came down, and I assisted him with laying two and a half bedrooms of tile before he chose to go back home. We are thankful for the work he helped to complete, and we are also thankful that he allowed us to borrow his wet saw and other tools to complete the job. Our precious friend, Chuck helped us everyday for two weeks. When Adam was at work, I would lay tile by myself, and when he got home, I would assist him, then when Chuck got off of work, he would come to our house and all 3 of us would sling tile until midnight some nights. This may not be everyone’s preference for a workday, but when you are living in the chaos and are trying to maintain some sense of normalcy and are working around work schedules and such, you have to be willing to give 150% to the task at hand. The bathrooms were by far the slowest rooms, due to all of the cuts that had to be made, but once we got into the living room and kitchen, boy were we flying!!! We have quite a large living room, and Adam, Chuck, and I laid the entire room in about 4 hours, and it looks phenomenal!

living room 1living room 2These are photos of the living room from two different angles. Originally, there was a wall separating the living and dining room, and we removed it prior to beginning our flooring project. Overall, we laid this wood-grain tile in all 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, the hallway, living room, and kitchen…1350 sq ft. to be exact. We were emotionally and physically drained at the end of the project, but every morning, I still wake up and walk down my hallway and whisper to myself, “Our home is so beautiful.”

bath 1 bath 2Following the completion of our new floors, the only indoor project left was new bathroom and kitchen countertops. We had already refaced the cabinets and updated hardware when we moved into our home. My precious granny approached Adam and I and offered to bless us with new countertops and a kitchen backsplash because she was so proud of us for all of the hard work and time we had put into our home, and basically, she just wanted to be a blessing, and she was, immensely! The kitchen and both bathrooms had….you guessed it….laminate countertops that were original to the house. After doing some research, granite was definitely the best option, and after shopping around, our friends Gigi, Lamar, Carole, and the entire team at G & L Granite were the vendor of our choice. They were the only vendors that explained the pricing of the granite, differences between granite and marble, how to care for the granite, and their entire team was phenomenal. I always thought granite was just outrageous and completely out of budget for anyone other than the wealthy, but nothing could be further from the truth. When you consider the quality of the product as well as it’s sustainability, the price was actually quite affordable! We chose a Builder’s Grade (the cheapest, not because of quality, but because of rarity). It was called Classico Azul. We chose a standard edge to tie into the clean lines and modernity of the home. We also chose under-mount sinks for the bathrooms, but we reused our faucets since we had just replaced those when we moved. In the kitchen, we chose a single-basin, under-mount, stainless steel sink. I don’t understand the need for a double-basin sink, unless you have a drain board in one side. I absolutely love being able to lay an entire sheet pan flat in my sink. We had purchased a faucet on clearance from overstock.com prior to moving for only $75, but it was made for solid surface countertops so we had saved it in hopes that we would one day have the kitchen of our dreams, and now we do. Adam and I took the old countertops and sinks out ourselves, but obviously, we left installing the 500 lb. pieces of granite to the professionals. Due to choosing the under-mount sinks, we had to reconfigure the plumbing under all 3 sinks. The plumbing was original to the house, and every time Adam would touch one of the old pipes, it would crack. So, as any old home renovation goes, we now have all new plumbing under all of our sinks. Have I mentioned that my husband is amazingly talented?????????? Seriously, he’s brilliant, and I have loved assisting him with all of our projects.

kitchen1kitchen 2As with every other aspect of our renovation, we searched high and low for the right backsplash. I didn’t want something trendy. I wanted something that would withstand time, and I wanted to make sure it would enhance the beauty of the countertops as well as tie into our paint choices. A tip is to take your paint swatches with you to pick out your countertops and wait until your countertops are installed before choosing a backsplash. What draws your eye in the store may not translate on your walls, and once it’s up there, it’s there to stay. We found our backsplash at Lowe’s, and it is an oblong ceramic tile that looks ivory in certain places but also looks barely blue from another angle. It’s breathtaking! Laying this backsplash was a great weekend project! Adam and I covered the countertops with newspaper, and we began by drawing a center line under the hood of our stove and worked over and up in one direction and then went back to the center line and worked over and up in the opposite direction. The tile came in 12×12 sheets, which made laying it a cinch. We didn’t have a wet saw, but we thought with as few cuts as we would have to make, we could just buy a tile cutter from Lowe’s for $20 rather than paying $55/day plus a $100 deposit to rent a wet saw. The tile cutter worked beautifully! We now wish we would have had it when laying the floor tiles! It was far less time consuming or as messy as a wet saw. So for those of you thinking of tackling a backsplash, do it!!!!! It’s super easy, and completely changes the look of your kitchen. I knew I didn’t want white grout. It’s so gross, and impossible to keep clean, despite how often you clean and seal it! I chose “Silverado,” which is basically, light grey, and it’s so lovely! Our kitchen and bathrooms look drastically different from their original façade, and they are just a dream come true!

kitchen 3 kitchen 4My photos don’t even do our floors, bathrooms, or kitchen justice. We just feel so immensely blessed, and we are so thankful that the inside of the home renovation is complete. We still need new windows and a new front door, but due to the expense of those projects, we will just enjoy one another’s company and enjoy entertaining our friends and family inside our lovely home. Adam and I can never express our gratitude to my amazing parents, my sweet granny, our dear brother Chuck, and Adam’s father for the assistance they gave on one or more of these projects. I don’t think you know how strong your marriage really is until you renovate a home together. I’m so thankful for how much we’ve grown as a couple during this process. There have been times that we’ve both cried, gotten frustrated, and even disagreed….yes, healthy marriages have disagreements…but we’ve talked about things, worked through things, turned together toward God for that extra dose of strength, and most importantly, we’ve been a team. Overall the experience has been wonderful, and there’s nothing I love more than snuggling up on the couch with my man clan and enjoying this beautiful home that we’ve created. Through these projects, we haven’t only increased the value of our home by over $20,000.00, we’ve also increased the way in which we value each other. Thanks so much to those of you that have followed our journey! Come back next week for a topic in which God has been speaking to me about for a couple of years now……our words…..warning, it’s deep. Have a great week!!!


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Long Break With Large Changes

My goodness, what a loooooooooong break from blogging I’ve taken. My Aunt Starr was in town a few weeks ago for my dad’s 60th Birthday Bash, and she told me how much she missed my blog, and my friend from church tells me the same thing every Sunday. So, I’m back!!!!! I promise you that I have not been spending my days and nights twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do. My family and I have been busy, busy, busy! From baseball in the winter and spring to home renovations and football practice all summer, we have been at full speed since my last post. In this post, I will play catch-up and give you a small glimpse at what our life has consisted of over the past 10 months.

ChristmasChristmas was wonderful last year! Adam was extremely busy with work. Banks passed all of his semester exams and ended the semester with all A’s in all subjects. Weston was finally able to appreciate all of the lights, the tree, and was bursting at the seams to open everyone’s presents! We switched things up a bit, as a family, and we decided to give Banks a list that gave him 3 blanks to fill in with the item of his choice. It read, ” I want ________, I need _________, and I would like to have ____.” We did the same thing for Weston, but because he couldn’t read or write, we made the decision for him. This worked out beautifully, because by the time my kids received gifts from family, friends, and Santa, there were so many items, they would forget what they had been given. Adam and I came to the conclusion that if 3 gifts were good enough for Jesus, the same amount was good enough for our children.

After such a wonderful Christmas, the new year met us with some opposition. On January 9, Adam went into work as usual, and he worked all day, as usual. At 5pm, the owner’s son called Adam into his office and told him that they had decided to do away with his position as well as some other positions within the company in order to make the company more profitable. We were stunned, to say the least! Adam spent 80 or more hours each week at work, and he had been an intricate part of them having their most profitable year to date. At any rate, this didn’t take God by surprise, and we firmly believe that He allowed it. Twenty-one days following his dismissal, he began a new job with an amazing company! He is now the Food and Beverage Director for the Courtyard Marriot here in Dothan. Adam has completely revived the food and beverage department at this hotel. He is thriving, and we love how much family time he has, and as I mentioned, the company he works for as well as his co-workers are an amazing team. His achievements were actually published in the Marriott newsletter last month, as a very important guest sang his praises. I’m so proud of him, and he’s always been destined for greatness. I love him so much!

National Honor SocietyWinter wasn’t always so gloomy! Banks was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. He was one of only eleven of his  classmates awarded this honor. The eleven students had achieved and maintained a GPA of 3.75 or higher, and they must continue to maintain this GPA for eligibility. He was truly beginning to mature, and we were noticing how much responsibility he was beginning to take on juggling academics, sports, and a social life. His future is certainly BRIGHT!

baseball 1baseball 2With winter coming to an end, Banks was heavily involved being a 7th grade starter for his Junior High Baseball team for his school, and Weston was his little shadow, knowing and believing that he had the capability to be just as great as his older brother, who he holds in the highest esteem.

easterThankfully, spring was in the air, school was winding down, and summer time (my favorite time) was rapidly approaching. We celebrated our risen Savior, and the picture above is of my handsome fellas on Easter morning before church. Banks has truly grown into the most handsome red-headed teenager. You all know how it goes with red-heads, they’re either really ugly or really attractive. There is no in-between, and I’m so thankful that God saw fit to make him really attractive! Weston is absolutely adorable in his hand-smocked Jon-Jon and knee socks. I smocked his Easter outfit, and I’m so thankful for the timeless art of smocking my mommy taught me. Both boys have such different personalities, but love each other so much, and I pray that their friendship will only grow as they get older.

chrissySpring also brought a new addition to our family, our adopted rescue Beagle/Hound mix, Chrissy! Awwwwww she’s just wonderful!!!! She’s the little girl that I’ve always wanted! I put bows in her hair, take her on walks, brush her hair, and she gives me someone to talk to during the day. How in the world did we ever make it this long without her??? Banks has asked for a dog for years, and we always told him that once we got a new fence, we would get him a dog. Well, we got a new fence, and we had to make good on our promise to our son. We went to our local Humane Society, and walked a few dogs, but lying in a corner was the most docile and beautiful Beagle. Banks took her for a walk and decided immediately that she was the one! She was owner surrendered, house trained, and so incredibly lovable. She is the perfect dog!

summer footballswimming 1swimming 2Finally, school was over, and summer was here!!!! Banks finished the school year with all A’s in all subjects, and with a few tough losses during the baseball season, he and his friends were excited to move on to summer football workouts in hopes of a great football season in the fall. He had practice 4 mornings/week with two-a-days beginning in August. He celebrated his 13th birthday at the end of July, and overall he has really matured a lot over the spring and summer. It’s really great seeing him become such an amazing young man. Weston spent his summer continuing to adamantly resist the idea of potty training but insisting on wearing big boy underwear on top of every diaper. Adam and I spent the majority of our summer on home renovations and finding out just how strong our love for one another is, which I will give you an in-depth look at during next week’s post. We ripped up 1700 sq ft. of carpet and linoleum (4 layers in the kitchen), and we laid wood-grain porcelain tiles throughout our home, with the exception of Banks’ room, where we stained the concrete subfloor. Our love and my character was attacked this summer by another family member, but throughout the trial, we stood arm-in-arm and supported one another and only grew further in love with one another when it was all over. I suffered some major medical issues at the end of July with a 6cm cyst on my right ovary, but despite the hustle and bustle of our summer, we still found time to spend as a family, which were the best parts of our summer. We swam and grilled out nearly every weekend of July and August. It was overall an exhausting summer, both emotionally and physically for all of us, but the good times definitely outweighed the tough times, and as always, we are as strong as ever. We concluded our summer by celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday, and it was an absolute blast! Sadly, summer was bound to come to an end, but with the start of a new school year came some great surprises!

schoolfootballfootball 2The school year began with Banks entering the 8th grade. He is taking Earth Science, English, World History, Honors Algebra I, Latin I, Fitness and Agility, and he has a Study Hall. His grades are amazing, as always, and he is playing Junior Varsity football again this fall, which he loves. He is number 1, which is quite fitting, in my opinion. He may not be the biggest or the strongest on his team, but he certainly has the most heart, and he always gives 100%. It is amazing at how mature and responsible he has become. 7th grade was so weird, and at times, it was as if he had lost his mind, but finally, it’s like he’s back in the land of the living, and he’s thriving!

potty trainingbriberyWith the start of a new school year, Weston and I could get back into a daily routine that worked for us. As he was napping one day, I was reading an article on Mayo Clinic’s website explaining how to potty train a stubborn child. Weston marked off every question of readiness. He would wet or soil his diaper and take it off of himself and bring it to me for months, but he would have a complete meltdown when it came to Adam or myself trying to teach him to go to the potty. In actuality, he knew all along how the process worked, he just continued to resist because he was in control. Well, his control was about to come to an end. After reading the article, I told him that the next day there would be no more diapers, and he would need to go to the potty. He thought I was kidding, but he was wrong. I threw away the last 5 diapers he had at home, and that morning, I put big boy underwear on him. I sat him on the potty every hour on the hour. He screamed and cried, Banks and Adam were pulling their hair out from exhaustion, and I sat on the bathroom floor with him singing songs, reading books, holding his hand trying to get him to go to the potty. The first two days resulted in 12 pairs of wet underwear, but I made him take each pair off, wipe up the floor, and take his soiled underwear to the washing machine, and I would ask him, “Weston, where does poo poo and tee tee go?” He would respond, “In the potty, mommy.” He was still in control at this point, but he would soon relinquish control. We had told him that when he went to the potty, we would take him to the toy store and buy him a prize. Well, on the third day, at 6:30pm, he FINALLY went tee tee in the potty!!!!! Banks was finishing his shower after football practice, so when he got out, we loaded back up in the van and went to the toy store. Weston chose a gumball machine as his prize, and now he gets a gumball every time he goes to the potty. Parents of toddlers, don’t buy books and movies on potty training. Good, old-fashioned bribery is the key! Definitely wait until the child is ready, but having a prize at the finish line is sure  to work. He has only had 2 accidents since that evening, and that was just 10 days ago! He now tells us when he needs to go to the bathroom, and he hasn’t wet his bed at all throughout this entire process, which isn’t unusual for him, because he had been waking up with a dry diaper for at least a year prior to potty training. We are so incredibly proud of Weston, and he is certainly proud of himself! Adam and I are also thankful that we no longer have to purchase diapers anymore!!!! We got a raise!!!!! With his third birthday approaching, Weston has his sights set on a bicycle that he pedals all over the toy store every time we are there. We are looking forward to the fall and winter holidays now that he knows exactly what is going on and does not hesitate to voice his opinion on everything. It should be a very exciting time for us all!

I hope that you have enjoyed catching up with my family and me. I pray that I never find myself so busy that I choose not to find the time to write. It is such an outlet for me as well as a gift. I pray that this fall weather finds all of my readers well, and stay tuned next week as I show you the dramatic renovations that we have taken on with a new fence, tree removal, new flooring, and new kitchen and bathroom countertops and backsplashes. It’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!!!