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Oct 20, 2014

Plumb Crazy

Steve managed to sqeeze in one last DIY project before Connor was born.  The good news is that he managed to fix something that's been broken since we bought the house!  The bad news is that we hadn't planned on DIYing this project at all, but were driven to from a series of odd events.

Our hose bibs have been messed up from the get-go with this house.  We knew when we purchased the house that the hose bibs lacked knobs to turn the water on and off.  No biggie, we thought.  Hose knobs are easy to come by and not terribly difficult to install.  So when it came time to buy the correct knob, a closer inspection of the hose bib revealed that a new knob wasn't what we needed.  The gasket the knob would normally attach to was completely stripped.  This was the same for the spigot in the front of the house and the one in the back.

Stripped.

We knew at that point that we'd likely need to replace the entire spigot, and this was confirmed by a couple different plumbers when we were gathering estimates for our bathroom reno (you can read about that here).  But way back then, we had other, more pressing projects going on, so we saved our money and went with a stupid-simple hack that only cost us a few bucks.

Stripped and clamped.

That tiny clamp served us well as a makeshift knob for two years.  And then one of the clamps got lost.  And then I planted some things on the north side of my house.  And then the spigot that still had a clamp-for-a-knob started to shoot water from the gasket, which meant that the scary-pregnant lady that lived in our house had to water her window boxes with a watering can.  I broke down in early July and informed Steve that I'd be calling some of the plumbers we talked to last fall to get an estimate and schedule a time for our hose bibs to be replaced.

I called the plumber that we were talking about using last fall before we decided to DIY the bathroom and left a voicemail.  His Yelp account showed a few more very positive reviews since the previous fall, and he was one of our cheapest estimates (plus a generally polite and well spoken guy), so I was excited to get him out to our house ASAP.  Four days later, I still hadn't heard from him so I called and left another voicemail.  A week later I still hadn't heard from him so I called and left yet another voicemail.  He called me back the same day to tell me that he had been on vacation, and would give me a call when he got back into town the following Monday.  I thanked him for getting back to me and agreed.  Well, the following Monday he called to say he had just gotten back into town and would call me later in the day to schedule an appointment.  He never did.  I tried calling him one more time and never heard back from him.  So disappointing.  A few more phone calls to local plumbers meant we'd end up spending about double what the non-responding guy was going to charge, or we'd have to go with someone we didn't really trust.  

So we did what we usually do, which is watch a ton of youtubes and just give it a go ourselves.  We figured if we really screwed it up, we'd just end up calling a plumber and spending an arm and a leg anyway.  At least if we tried it ourselves, we'd have a chance to saving some money.

Steve decided to try the hose bib in the back of the house first.  It would matter less if it ended up not being aesthetically pleasing, but most of all the plumbing was exposed in our garage.  It was easy to get to and would cause far less damage to the house if we screwed things up.

A series of tubes.

Steve ended up replacing most of this section of pipe- the pipe to the left goes through the back of our garage and out to the hose bib.  I won't pretend to know how he did it, but after a few hours, $80ish worth of materials (take that, $400 estimate!), and a few magic swear words, we had a brand new hose bib WITH A KNOB that worked perfectly and didn't leak.  I could finally water those window boxes with a hose instead of schlepping around a watering can!

Hooray, a functional knob!

It's not sexy, but it finally works!


The hose bib in the front still needs to be fixed.  We waited for a couple of reasons.  The pipe behind our spigot in the front of the house runs in through the coat closet near our front door and will require cutting through drywall to access, so the risk of damaging our house is much higher.  That also means it will require patching the drywall when we're done, which is a pain in the butt.  Also, I had a baby about 4 days after Steve fixed the hose bib in the back, and we haven't had a lot of free time since then that hasn't been consumed with being completely exhausted.  Steve has promised me he'll fix the one in front by the end of October though, so that we don't have to worry about the pipes freezing when the weather turns.  Cross your fingers we get it done uneventfully!

Oct 14, 2014

The Birth Story

Well hello there, internet!  Nice to see you're still around.  I've been neglecting you in favor of working on our family's biggest and best looking DIY project... Mr. Baby finally arrived!  Now that he is two months old (?!?!), I've finally had some time to get into enough of a routine that some aspects of my life before baby have returned.  I figured there would be no better way to return to the blogging world than to introduce our little fella.  So let's cut to the chase, eh?

A few hours old.

Meet Connor Dixon Anker Williams!  Born on August 15th at 5:55 p.m.  Weighing 8 pounds 10 ounces, 21 inches long, and a giant 14 inch noggin circumference (It's like an orange on a toothpick!).  We chose the name Connor because it's always been a favorite of Steve's, that it paid homage to my Irish background, and we liked its meaning- "wise hound-lover.".  We're hoping he'll be the sort to make wise decisions.  And be a dog person, obviously.  And it passed the ultimate teacher test, I've never had any naughty kids named Connor in class.  Connor has two middle names because both Steve and I have two middle names.  Dixon honors my dad and grandpa, whose middle names are also Dixon.  The meaning behind this name is that my grandpa nearly died when he was born, and the nurse gave him whiskey and water and he was revived.  My great grandparents were so grateful to the nurse, whose last name was Dixon, that they named my grandpa after her.  Anker honors four generations of men on Steve's side of the family, is a nod to his Danish heritage, and is literally translated to "anchor" (read: totally awesome).

40 weeks and so over it!

Connor had a long road getting here.  I was due on August 6th, which came and went uneventfully.  Since I was past my due date, I was to come in on the 13th for a nonstress test and an ultrasound, to make sure baby was still doing fine.  I was warned when I scheduled the appointment that if the staff found anything was awry, I'd be admitted to the hospital.  So when I went in for the test at 11 a.m., I brought my hospital bag with me just in case.  Steve met me there and we headed in.  My nonstress test went quickly and smoothly.  Baby had a strong, regular heartbeat and showed no signs of distress.  Next up was the ultrasound.  We were excited for this part, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mr. Baby.  As we watched the monitor, we were shocked at how BIG that baby was compared to our last ultrasound (around 20 weeks).  The tech took several photos of the amniotic fluid and then excused herself, at which point I already knew what was going to come next.  When she returned, she explained that my fluid levels were too low, and very close to what is considered dangerous, and that the OBGYN on staff recommended we be admitted and induced immediately.  I had really hoped to avoid induction, as I had several friends who'd been induced with pitocin and ended up having long, difficult labors and c-sections.  But after a phone call to the midwifery office for a second opinion, they also recommended immediate induction.  So we decided to get the show on the road.

Oddly, the show got on the road very slowly.  The tech walked us over to triage and I calmly supplied all of the necessary information to the lady behind the desk.  I was told that they were very busy and no rooms were ready yet, so I could have a seat in the waiting room.  It was so surreal.  No contractions, not dilated, not effaced; just knowing when we left the building we'd have a whole extra person with us.  Steve and I called our families and after about 30 minutes, we were collected and shown into our room for labor and delivery.

Ready to roll!

Once I was changed and had a line put in, I was started on oral hormones to see if my body would get the memo and start labor on its own.  After all, I was 41 weeks prego.  Every few hours I'd take a pill.  Family arrived and hung out with us.  I walked the halls trying to get things going.  After eight hours of this, I was having some mild contractions, so I was disappointed when the midwife's check revealed I was still dilated to less than 1 cm and 20% effaced.  At the midwife's recommendation, I dozed as much as I could overnight, and managed an hour or two of cumulative sleep.  At about 3 a.m on the 14th, the midwife came in to try to induce labor with a balloon.  I'll spare the details because I am cringing just thinking about it, so you definitely don't want to read about it.  I continued to experience mild contractions, but by 7 a.m. the balloon was still in place, and I was put on a pitocin drip.  And then things really started picking up.

My contractions grew more intense and by the twenty-four hour mark I had dilated to about 3 cm and the balloon was removed.  The contractions continued to intensify.  I bounced on a labor ball.   I stood in the shower and Steve ran hot water on my back.  Steve was an absolute rock, coaching me on breathing, constantly getting me ice chips, and letting me squeeze the life out of his hand every time a contraction hit.  By early morning on the 15th, I couldn't take anymore and asked for an epidural.  Let me tell you, epidurals are magic.  It was wonderful to watch my contractions on the monitor without feeling like my midsection was in a giant trash compactor.  I finally felt like we were making some progress, and the nurse on duty said she was sure we'd have a baby by morning.  I was urged again to try to get a few hours' sleep, even though I was sitting upright in the hospital bed with my legs spread-eagled.  At that point I was so tired, and the relief of the epidural so great that it didn't matter and I was able to sleep for about 3 hours.

I woke at 6 a.m. in the worst pain of my life.  Because I had spent the last few hours sitting upright in my sleep, the anesthesia had seeped down.  My legs were completely numb but I could feel everything acutely from mid-thigh up.  I spent half an hour crying and vomiting before the anesthesiologist showed up to put a second dose in my epidural.  The relief was intense, except for a small section just to the left of my bellybutton- I had a "window" that the epidural wasn't reaching.  Based on the pain I had experienced, I was sure that I must be close to fully dilated.  A check from the midwife, however, showed that I was still only dilated to 5 cm.  I was so disappointed!!

I continued to labor with ever-increasing levels of pitocin getting pumped into me.  By mid-afternoon I had finally dilated to 9 cm but was still not fully effaced.  Thankfully Connor's heart rate remained steady and normal through all of this.  By 4:30 p.m. I had been in labor for just less than 48 hours, was on 30 units of pitocin, and finally began to feel the need to push.  The midwife and nurse appeared and checked my cervix- I was stalled at 9 cm and still not effaced.  The midwives presented my options: continue to labor but move to my hands and knees in an effort to reposition baby and deliver vaginally, or opt for a c-section.  At this point, several things went through my head.  Did I have enough energy to continue laboring to fully dilate and THEN push?  Would the baby be safe to wait that long if I could feel his head bumping into my pelvis already?  People aren't supposed to stall out when they're nearly fully dilated- what if I wasn't physically able to dilate past 9?  Would I be doomed to repeat the circumstances of Steve's birth and end up doing an emergency c-section because the baby was in distress?  In the end, I had a terrible feeling about what waiting might do to the baby, and I was fairly certain that I wouldn't have enough energy to push effectively.  I asked for a c-section.

As soon as that happened, my room filled with people.  The anesthesiologist arrived to give my epidural enough oomph that I could safely be operated on.  Unfortunately he had quite a difficult time getting my "window" numbed up.  Once the window that still had feeling went away, I was wheeled into the OR while Steve changed into scrubs.  I felt so cold.  I was shivering uncontrollably while I was prepped for surgery.  I can remember panicking about shivering while they were making the incision.  I was finally able to tell someone that I was cold and soon I had piles of warm blankets on my arms and chest.  I stopped shivering so violently, and someone from the other side of the sheet said, "Tell me if you can feel this."  I could feel them making the initial incision right over where that stupid window the epidural couldn't touch, and it felt like the worst papercut ever, so I responded with "Ow, ow, ow!"  At this point I was informed that I would be put under general anesthesia, a mask was put over my face, and I drifted away.

Fresh off the boat!

When I woke from the anesthesia, I had a hard time making sense of what was going on around me. The first thing I remember is someone holding a paper with two tiny footprints in front of my face, but I couldn't figure out whose footprints those were or why someone would show them to me.  I desperately fought the mental fog, trying to figure out if our baby had made it out safely and if he was OK.  I didn't hear any crying, which scared me.  Finally I caught a glimpse of Steve holding a tiny bundle and I was filled with relief!!  That must be our baby!  And he must be OK!


Mystery tootsies.


Being born is hard work.

The rest of the details I was filled in on later.  Connor was born at 5:55 on August 15th (he shares a birthday with my friend Katie!), which means I had been hospitalized for 52 hours and in labor for about 48.  The team in the OR was headed by the hospital's lead surgeon and they let Steve stay despite putting me under general anethesia, which was against protocol but very kind of them.  Other than a raw-looking goose egg on the left side of Connor's forehead and a serious case of cone-head, Connor did just great, scoring a 9 on his apgar.  Steve got to cut Connor's umbilical cord and did a fabulous job of caring for him almost exclusively for the first couple days of his life while I was under the influence of heavy duty opiates and unable to sit up or walk unassisted.






There were so many parts of Connor's birth that I had wished to avoid- a long labor, having to be induced, the use of pitocin, getting a c-section.  But none of it mattered in the end because Connor weathered the storm like a champ and arrived safely.  We are so happy he's here!!


Aug 8, 2014

Look What the Stork Brought!

Mr. Baby's due date has come and gone, and he has yet to make an appearance.  But after nine months-ish of hard work, we do FINALLY have a finished guest bathroom!  Yes, you read that right.  We are probably setting the record for the longest DIY bathroom reno in blogger history.  But I don't care because A) IT'S DONE! and B) IT GOT DONE BEFORE BABY ARRIVED!  What started as replacing a cracked and broken tub and shower surround ended up becoming a full bathroom overhaul in preparation for our family's changing needs and I couldn't be happier with the results.  As a reminder, we were aiming for: higher quality materials, surfaces that are easy to clean, a richer color palette that would complement Mr. Baby's nursery, and better functionality that will last us for a few years of Mr. Baby growing up without sacrificing the needs of our guests.  So let's get on with the fun part, eh?  Pictures!!


The view from the hallway.


Lots of fun blues and greens to break up all the white.


I am in love with this picture.


The opposite side of the bathroom.


Between the vanity and the shower.


Couldn't resist a little bathroom-related humor.


Extra hand towels, wash cloths, travel size toiletries, and a bin for Mr. Baby's bath items.

I love how cheery and functional this space turned out to be.  The bead board is a dream to clean with a microfiber cloth.  It'll be nice when the time comes for us to move as well, because almost all of the permanent fixtures in this room will create a nice neutral palette for the future owners to personalize as they see fit.

And as a fun parting shot, here's the evolution of this bathroom from move-in to current day:

Realtor's photo

Year One...

Year Two...

...and Now!
Fun side note... while my photography skills still leave a lot to be desired, it's nice to look back at photos across a long span of time to see that I'm at least improving!

On to the nitty gritty breakdowns for you detail-oriented people.


Sources for the bathroom (links provided where applicable):
American Standard Americast Princeton tub- Lowe's
Subway tile and grout in Delorean Gray- Home Depot
Pfister tub/shower trim kit in nickel- Home Depot
Danze "The Pottie" toilet- Costco (no longer available)
Cape Cod style bead board trim kits- Home Depot (available in store only)
Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl" paint in low-VOC Harmony line- Sherwin Williams
Broan bathroom fan- Lowe's
Behr's "Twilight Chimes" paint- Home Depot
Valspar spray enamel in "Gloss Tropical Oasis"- Lowe's
Over-toilet shelves and brackets- Home Depot
Diaper sprayer- Zulily
Shower curtain, towels and washcloths, soap dispenser, rugs, towel hook bar, clock, small picture frames, and almost all items on shelves- Target
Printable artwork- Oh So Lovely
White vanity, vinyl flooring, builder-grade mirror frame, light fixture, shower curtain rod, large photo frames, hand towel ring, robe hook, green candle holder- existing.

Grand total for the complete bathroom reno: just a smidge under $1700.  Still cheaper than all but one estimate we got (and that was only for replacing the tub/shower surround with another fiberglass tub/shower surround, and not including labor for demolition or drywall repair).  And since it took us SO LONG to complete, we ended up spending an average of less than $200/month across the whole span of the reno.

Just found us?  You can check out the whole long, drawn-out saga by checking out all of our posts labeled "Guest Bathroom."

Check out more fun projects at The DIY Mommy's Motivational Monday Link Party!

And even more projects at Thrifty Decor Chick's Before and After Party!