There are 3 things unexpected items that have helped a lot during this kitchen renovation. The first is a zipper -
This is the plastic that hangs between the kitchen and the living room. It is essential to keeping all of the dust and splinters and nails from coming into the living room. I think every kitchen renovation has the plastic. But, I had never heard of putting a zipper in the plastic. I didn't know they even made zippers this big. (It was my contractor's idea.) The zipper makes it so easy to reach my washer and dryer, which the crew has graciously worked around.
The second item is the toaster oven -
You could go with a microwave, but I think the toaster oven makes a meal taste like real food. Our favorite meal so far was salmon (seasoned with lemon pepper from Trader Joe's), sweet potatoes, and brussel sprouts. Coming in second was a combo of Italian sausage (which I sliced so it would cook faster), mac and cheese (from Trader Joe's frozen foods section), and pre-sliced mushrooms, onions, and asparagus (also from Trader Joe's).
The third item that has made our renovation go smoothly is a good project manager. I didn't take a picture of him, but he really is key to this whole operation. The project manager is the person who schedules all of the different parts to be done at the right time - demolition, framing, insulation, drywall, electrical, plumbing, floors, cabinets, countertops, appliances, painting. Your contractor could serve as the project manager, but if they have multiple projects going on at once, it is awesome to have a dedicated project manager who is on-site everyday. You could serve as the project manager on your own renovation, but it is a little bit of a nightmare to arrange all of those groups so that everything runs smoothly - especially if you don't know in what order they should be installed.
As a side note, I was talking to my mom about my crooked ceiling, and she said, "Well, just don't tell anyone about it and probably nobody will notice." Too late. I did hesitate before I posted that, but I decided that I wanted to share whatever might be helpful to someone else in the same situation. At the end of this project, whether it turns out good or bad, I hope this "renovation diary" will give someone more information for their own renovation.