Thursday, June 08, 2017

We bought a new van!

On Tuesday we traded in our trusty 2002 blue Dodge Caravan, Ramona, for a just-about-brand-spankin-new 2016 black Grand Caravan, yet to be named.

We hadn’t planned on buying a brand new vehicle when we started our search.  We just knew it was time to trade in the old for something newer because Ramona needed at least $2000 worth of work done, and given we were at almost 185,000km it was only a matter of time before even more issues would crop up.  

It ended up making the most sense to get something new, because then we have more security that we won’t have problems, and we’ll be able to keep this van a lot longer hopefully.  We had Ramona for 5 years, but I’m hoping this one could last us for 10!  We’ll see, but I can say for sure I do NOT enjoy the process of buying a new car!

Ramona served us well, and I found myself emotional about giving her up.  I had a brand new vehicle to drive away in, complete with ‘new-car-smell’ but I felt so sad leaving our old van behind.  It was the first vehicle we owned as a family, it was the van I was driven in while in labour with the girls and the vehicle we brought them home from the hospital in.  It was the vehicle that got me driving on the mainland, which I never thought I would do given I’d only ever driven on the island before that.  Andrew had his seat at the back with all his stickers on the window that he collected from pre-school and wherever else.  It was hard to let go of that van, because it felt like we were letting go of a part of our family.  I know that probably sounds totally ridiculous, but that’s how I felt.  And the kids were feeling sentimental about it, too!

Once we got into the new van and drove home, and I’ve started driving it and getting used to it, I have to say I’m definitely glad we’ve upgraded.  I feel safer because there aren’t so many weird sounds coming from the front end anymore, I love that the turn signal works on its own (since the day after we got Ramona the turn signal was broken and had to be manually shut off after every use...which we got used to and it just became second nature, to the point we found ourselves still doing that with the new van at first, but I’m getting used to not doing it now!)  It's also amazing that all the windows actually go down - in Ramona, the passenger side window didn't even work. And if it was a hot day, the passenger sliding door would only unlock manually. There were a lot of little idiosyncrasies to Ramona!  

Both the brakes and the gas pedal on the new van are way more sensitive than Ramona’s, which is still taking a bit of getting used to, but it just shows how much we were compensating for what wasn’t quite functioning up to par in the old van.  I still have to get used to the way this one drives, but I’m already feeling more comfortable after a day of a few practice runs.  And I am completely in love with the stow and go seats!

One of the main reasons we wanted to upgrade to a grand caravan was for the stow and go seats.  With 3 kids, we can’t get away with having just one bench in the van for all 3 to fit in, but we don’t generally need to have the full 7 seats, either.  This way, two seats can fold right down (and super easily, might I add!) in the back so we’ll have the space we need to fit all our camping gear, or even just to make it a whole lot easier to do a big grocery shop.  I love it.  


I still feel a little sad for Ramona, not really knowing where she’ll end up and not wanting to think she might just be used for parts but not really driven again.  She was great while she lasted, and I’ll always remember our first family van - with our awesome zombie family decal that said 'We Ate Your Stick Family'.  But I’m sure our new one - that we’ll have to come up with a good name for - will help us create many more family memories in the years to come!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Not as overwhelmed these days

Lately I’ve been finding the kids so much easier.  Not saying I feel like I’m breezing through the days, I still have my bouts of total exhaustion and my moments where I’m ripping my hair out/counting down the minutes till James gets home to help me.  Andrew has also in particular been having some issue with anger and not really getting along with everyone lately, which sometimes makes things tough (although as of this past week I think we’re getting a handle on that, and this week has been pretty amazing with him, I must say. He also has a 'new best friend' which I think has been really good for him, and she lives right down the street which is nice).  

I think it’s just that now with Andrew being 8.5, and the girls being 4.5, they’re all getting to better ages for activities seeming less overwhelming.  Especially with having multiples, it was so challenging for such a long time because the girls would be here there and everywhere and when there’s only one of me and 3 kids, two the exact same age...it’s tough.  I feel like so often I just didn’t leave the house because it wasn’t worth how stressful it would be to take them out.  Now it feels like the little errands that used to seem impossible are feasible.  I can pop into a store for something and not feel overwhelmed, and the kids are usually very well behaved and good about whatever needs to be done.  Not that they weren't when they were younger, it's just that it always felt way too complicated.

I think every stage naturally comes with its own set of challenges, and maybe that’s a good thing because it forces us as parents to stay on our toes.  But I admit that as much as there are times where I really CAN’T BELIEVE how BIG and grown my kids are getting, I also feel relieved that the baby stages are over and we can reason with them, they know about safety and being careful, and I don’t have to do absolutely every single little thing for them at all times.  (And as much as twins can be challenging in their own right, it's true that the fact that they always have someone to play with and have each other is super helpful, because everything doesn't always fall on me when it comes to entertainment!)

I may be speaking too soon, because let’s face it, kids have a way of KNOWING when their parents start to relax and think things are easier and they do everything in their power to kick it up a notch and make things complicated!  But I’m hoping there will be more time to relax this summer because the kids are at an ‘easier’ stage than what we’ve been accustomed to.  Not ‘easy’ by any stretch of the word,  but ‘easier’.  

I sort of feel like it’s a stage to really make sure I enjoy as much as possible, because all 3 kids are still young enough to be innocent and just children and still like cuddles and spending lots of time with me.  They’re old enough to not be causing me the insane sleep deprivation of being babies or toddlers, but young enough to still feel like babies at times because they’re still little (especially the girls, of course, but Andrew is still somewhat cuddly, too!)  It’s sort of the best of both worlds.  Soon enough they’ll all be way more grown up and won’t need me as much as I might realize I want to be needed, so I know this stage is one to hold onto for as long as I can.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just lounging in the backyard

Everything seems better on a hot, sunny day.  I feel so refreshed with the change in weather, and of course it also helps that I’m actually feeling healthy for a change.

After school drop off this morning, the girls and I came home and they immediately started playing nicely together and didn’t mind in the least that I was getting some chores done and the computer ready to purchase tickets for Andrew’s year end dance performance.  Tickets went on sale at 10 this morning and I was SO NERVOUS we wouldn’t get the seats we wanted, but it turned out that I obviously clicked the refresh button at just the right moment, and scored front row center tickets!  The best of the best!  I’m soooo excited, and relieved to have the tickets bought so I can just relax until show time.

I got the van all cleaned out, vacuumed, and wiped down inside, and then the girls came out to help me wash the exterior.  Our first at-home car wash this year!  They had fun helping, and up until the end when things went a bit awry, they were relatively helpful to me!  I was happy to get Ramona (our van’s name) spruced up for the season.  Although we’re kind of hoping to trade her in soon for something better and more spacious, since we didn’t know about stow away seats when we bought her.  Sadly a regular sized minivan isn’t quite cutting it for us, particularly with all the camp gear we’ve now acquired for some summer trips!

Right now we’re sitting outside, or at least I am, writing this, while the girls play.  We filled up the pool and they’ve been sliding into it over and over, giggling and chasing each other.  This is the last spring they’ll be home for, since next year at this time they’ll be in school.  And it’s going to be our last summer before they start, so I really want to enjoy it.  Not that we won’t enjoy each summer moving forward, but I feel like in some ways it will seem more challenging to me in the coming years because I’ll be ‘used’ to the kids being in school, so the long breaks will be welcome in the sense that I enjoy our days together, I just won’t be used to going back to having zero time for anything else the way life is now!  The kids will also be that much older of course, and not as babyish as they are without yet being in school.  I swear time just flies by in the blink of an eye, I can’t believe how grown up they all are already. It's so important to enjoy the little moments, and right now I am.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May long weekend fun

It’s the May long weekend, and what a difference it makes having James home for an extra day AND having such amazing weather.  We haven’t had much nice weather in general for MONTHS and the weekends have tended to be particularly drab, so it’s nice that the weather gods finally got this one right.  I think we may actually be getting a stretch of warm weather, and well-deserved!

On Saturday we met up with some friends at Maplewood Farm in North Vancouver.  When we were asked on Friday if we’d like to join them, I looked up a coupon I’d bought through Social Shopper (similar to Groupon) because I was sure I’d bought one for the farm near the end of last summer, and then we’d never gotten there again.  It turned out that Saturday was the very last day for me to redeem the coupon without losing the added savings, so it was like we were destined to go there!  The kids of course had a blast.  I personally find it way too expensive to go there as a family of 5 without some sort of coupon so I was pleased as punch that we were able to go at a fair price!  It was also the first really hot and sunny day and the start of a long weekend so it felt extra special somehow.  After the farm we let the kids play on the playground at the school across the street for a little while, and then we hit up McDonald’s for some ice cream.  

I was really nervous to eat the ice cream because my sore throat had gone from bad to worse.  I even went back to the doctor on Friday because the pain had been so severe Thursday night I literally started to feel like I was dying (not exaggerating, it was that bad).  He said there was nothing more he could do until I finished the pills and to see if I was better in a few more days, although he was concerned that the pills hadn’t started helping yet.  I was still in a lot of pain with it on Saturday and would have enjoyed our outing more if I’d felt healthier, but it turned out the ice cream did wonders for my throat!  I was actually able to swallow it without too much pain, and it froze my throat enough that I got a few minutes of relief before it went back to hurting.  

I had wanted to have my parents over during the long weekend to have a visit/smorgasboard of yummy food as per our usual tradition on the 24th of May long weekend.  But I told James on Saturday night that even though I’d gotten food in for the occasion, I didn’t think I felt up to hosting anything because my throat was ruining everything.  I took a Gravol that night to help me sleep because I’ve been sleeping HORRIBLY with being in so much pain, and also waking up coughing every night still, and that seemed to help and I got a lot more sleep than usual.  I woke up on Sunday and could swallow with less than half the pain I’d been having, which felt like an absolute miracle.  I ended up feeling so much better that I got a bunch of cleaning done, and made a potato salad and decided I was well enough so we invited my parents over for dinner that evening.  

In the afternoon, after Andrew’s dance class, we went to Canadian Tire and bought a camp stove, some more bark mulch for the yard (that I’d bought some of on Friday but needed more) and a few other odds and ends for camping.  When we came home we filled up the pool in the backyard and the kids played out there for a while, and we just hung around and then I got everything ready for dinner.  I made artichoke dip, and mac n’ cheese, tomato and bocconcini salad with basil from our herb garden, and we had some hor d'oeuvres, the potato salad, and some veggies.  It ended up being a yummy array of foods, and Andrew even said it was his favourite meal ever and he even liked it better than tacos (and tacos are by far his favourite food!)  My parents brought a delicious maple cheesecake and a to-die-for caramel ice cream cake for dessert.  I was just amazed, and so relieved, that I was able to enjoy everything, too.  Lately I’ve only eaten a tiny amount and only when my stomach got so empty that I felt like I had to eat just to survive, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to actually enjoy food.  I realized it in the afternoon when we tested out the new camp stove in the backyard and made some Jiffy Pop, I was actually able to eat some without thinking, and that made it dawn on me that there was no pain!  

It was a nice visit with my parents, who we haven’t seen very much of lately even though we live so close, because one or more of us has always had some sort of virus preventing us from seeing each other.  Fingers crossed we’re heading into a healthier season.

After I got the kids to bed and cleaned up last night, I sat outside till it was dark out and it was so peaceful to be outside enjoying the fresh air for so long.  And this morning James and I enjoyed our morning coffee together sitting in the backyard, for the first time this year.  Around lunch time we packed up the kids after getting them into their swim gear and slathered with sunscreen, and we went to a splash pad and park for them to run around.  They all had a great time, and we all got some sun.  We’d filled the pool up in the backyard before heading out so it was warmed up by the time we got home.  The kids still had their suits on so they went straight out into the yard to go down the slide and splash into the pool, and I got a bit of gardening done while James went for a short bike ride.  So nice to have our living room extended out to the backyard again!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trying to get healthy...

Last Saturday I went to Burlington with a few girlfriends for a day of shopping and hanging out.  It was much needed.  It had been over a year since we’d done that trip, so over a year since I’d had an entire day out to do stuff without any responsibilities.  We checked out all our favourite stores that we don’t have here in Canada, and in all honesty I think my favourite is Joann.  The home decor selection there isn’t huge, but I really love the stuff they have there.  We also had a yummy dinner at Olive Garden, where we looove the breadsticks and salad to start.  I know we have an Olive Garden out in Langley but I would never think to drive that far for a meal, so it’s a treat to go there when in the US.  I just wish the dollar wasn’t as bad as it is.  I got $150 American at the bank before we went, and it cost me just over $211 to get that!  Ouch.  Still, it was totally worth it for the experience.

I still wasn’t feeling 100% when we went, but did really well considering that.  But by later that evening I knew something wasn’t right with my throat.  I managed through Mother’s Day but definitely wasn’t feeling as well as I’d have hoped for the day.  Still, it was a special day.  I really appreciated that James was cool with me being gone for the entire day on Saturday, and then on Sunday he barely got a break, moreso because I wasn’t feeling great than because it was Mother’s Day, but still.  When I got up in the morning the kids were excited to greet me, and after enjoying the breakfast James had made special for me, I opened the kids’ presents.  Their cards were priceless.  I loved the ‘All About My Mom’ page that Andrew had made for me at school, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I opened up the card Margaret had made me at pre-kindergarten to see what message she’d had her teacher write in it for her - “Dear Mommy, I love it when you give me your phone!  Love, Margaret.”  LOL  Emily’s said that she loves it when I tuck her into bed.  But Margaret’s was hilariously fitting, I have to say.

After James and Andrew got back from his dance class, I went over to my mom’s with the gifts I’d gotten for her at Joann.  My parents are currently in the works of painting their place to freshen it up, and my mom’s been doing some redecorating, so she was thrilled with the stuff I picked out for her.  After we had a little visit there we went out for lunch, and then I came home to relax for a few (and drink some mimosas!).  Then we took the kids to the theatre to see the Boss Baby movie.  It was the girls’ first ever experience at a movie theatre, and they did so well!  I was so pleased that we could all go to a movie together and it went amazing, not even any bathroom breaks interrupting the show!  The kids loved it, and we had popcorn for dinner so that was fun.  I was ASTOUNDED by the cost of it all, though.  I’m not much of a movie goer personally and really only go to the theatre every few years at most.  We get gift certificates every so often from my uncle and that tends to get us out to a show, but beyond that it just doesn’t happen.  And I realize now more than ever, it’s a good thing I don’t want to go more often, because there’s no way we could afford it!  LUCKILY we happened to have a gift certificate James had got for his birthday, as well as some money left on one that we’d got last Christmas, so out of the $52 it cost for us to get in, we only paid $4.  I can totally live with that!  Then one large popcorn and 3 small slushies (I brought water for me and James so only the kids got drinks) cost over $20.  It was insane!!  It was basically $75 for a family of 5 to go to a movie, and that’s sharing food and not even getting a drink for everyone?!  How is that affordable?!  It was an experience for sure, and I’m so glad that we went, and that we weren’t actually that out of pocket, as I don’t think any movie would be worth spending that much for, in my opinion.  But wow, it’ll be a while before we get to go back!  It was really cute watching the kids’ reactions to the movie, though, and sitting next to Margaret I got to hear her little banter here and there about different parts (she was the most vocal of the 3, but not to a point of being disruptive for other people around us!)

By Sunday evening my throat was getting worse, and I had a pretty rough sleep because I was starting to feel like I couldn’t swallow properly.  It wasn’t like a usual sore throat pain, but felt more like it was swollen inside.  Whatever it was, it was hurting, and by Monday it was so bad I was pretty sure I needed to go to a doctor.  I resist that in general because our family doctor is so far away downtown and only works maybe one or two days a week at that clinic, so I know it’s going to be a random stranger doctor at a walk-in that I’ll have to go to.  I hate waiting at walk-ins and not knowing who I’ll end up seeing.  I decided to give it one more day and see if maybe a decent sleep on Monday night would do the trick and by Tuesday I’d be better.

Instead, the pain got so severe that even my teeth felt like they were hurting (and I just had a dentist appointment a few weeks ago and know there’s nothing wrong with my teeth!)  My whole face was hurting and my throat felt like it was completely seizing up.  I left a note for James telling him I’d been up pretty much all through the night and needed to go to a doctor in the am, so he worked from home and took Andrew to school so I could get myself sorted to go to a clinic.  Luckily the one nearest our house ended up having almost no wait time at all, and the doctor I saw was pleasant.  He said it seemed like a sinus infection, though it could be strep throat but he really didn’t think so.  I didn’t think so either as I’ve had strep throat before (not for 22 years...LOL...but I remember what it felt like!) and it felt different than that.  He said that the antibiotic he wanted me to take would help either issue anyway, so get going on it right away and hopefully that would take care of it.  

So I’m on day 3 now of the pills and I’ve noticed some improvement, but then late last night it got so bad again that I was beside myself from the pain.  Two Tylenol seemed to help a bit to take the edge off, but I slept terribly and kept coughing through the night as well.  I don’t know how much better I really am, truthfully.  I’ll give it till tomorrow to see if I need to go back, as they said if I’m not showing a lot of improvement by day 3 I should do that.  I really hope the pill I took this morning starts to do it’s job quickly.  I feel like this illness has been going on for SO LONG and I can’t stand it anymore!  I just want to feel well.

Late last night Andrew came running down the stairs and informed me that he had a cold.  He was full on sniffling and said his throat hurt.  I thought, oh great, here we go again...But this morning he didn’t mention it at all and seemed fine, so I’m REALLY hoping it was just a fluke and it’s not going to turn into anything.  Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A river runs through it

I decided not to go the route of arbitration with our management company, even though I DO feel it was warranted, and I have a strong feeling we’d have won a decent amount if we went that route.  Just the emotional turmoil alone for what we’ve been through here warrants compensation.  But I was finding the process adding so much to my stress level that it just wasn’t worth it to me.  Now I have to come to terms with my decision, because it makes me feel like ‘they’ve won’ in the sense that I KNOW they expect people to react just how I did and cave and not go through with the process, even though they know darn well we’re in the right.

We will be getting $200 off our next month’s rent as well as reimbursed just under $44 for one can of the paint we had to buy to re-do the walls.  And that’s it.  It’s a total slap in the face, and I told them that word for word.  They really don’t care, which is sad, but it’s the truth.  They do this to EVERYONE who rents from them, and there are people in even worse conditions than us I’m sure of it.  Which is wrong, unfair, and it makes my blood boil.  I’m still dealing with the effects in terms of worrying EVERY SINGLE DAY that there will be another leak, and not wanting to go to bed at night for fear a leak will happen and we’ll wake up to another lake to clean up.  It’s affecting my dreams, too - I’ve had quite a few nightmares the past month where we’re dealing with leak/flood situations.

My heart really goes out to those affected by the flooding in Quebec right now (and of course other areas dealing with floods).  I know how it affected me dealing with so much water and damage to our home, but ‘at least’ it was ‘clean’ water, and ‘only’ a few inches deep.  Yes, there was some damage, but it could have been SO MUCH WORSE.  I can’t imagine being woken up and told I have to get my entire family out of the house in 10 minutes tops and take anything with me of value and have several FEET of muddy water invade my home.  That’s so devastating.  I guess I have to thank my lucky stars that we had the type of flood that we did, and not something that would make our home unlivable forever, and ruin all of our belongings.

That being said, I also know it’s all relative, and what we’ve been through still isn’t right.  The long document I posted a few posts back that I had sent to management with pictures - literally the only thing that got done was putting a seal across the doorway separating the flooring between the hall and bathroom, and they replaced one vinyl plank that had been cut ridiculously by the front door, and added the baseboards to the downstairs bathroom (which they weren’t actually going to do, but I asked if they could please do that, and they managed to ‘find one baseboard somewhere’ so they were able to get that done…)  Literally everything else was either done by myself, my dad, or is still left unfinished - and I know they have no plans whatsoever to come back to do any of it.  

I’m still trying to feel good about still living here despite everything.  There is so much to love and enjoy about our home (the stuff we’ve done ourselves to make it feel like our own) and our neighbourhood, too, but it’s depressing the low morale around here (since other tenants are dealing with the same or similar issues).  I don’t see that changing, as I’m certain management isn’t going to change, so I just have to figure out a way to somehow be OK enough with it that it doesn’t eat me up inside!  I know I’m not the only person in our neighbourhood that’s affected by it to this degree, it’s not just me being sensitive.  But it is what is is, and all I can do is focus on doing what I can to make our home what I want it to be, and remember to always keep off the floor what I’d want to save should another river run through it…!

Kids new swim suits

Yesterday after dropping Andrew off at school, I took the girls to Walmart to find them new bathing suits.  Their 4T’s were starting to fit quite snug and they were complaining after last week’s swim class that they weren’t comfortable in the water.  I told them they could pick whichever suit they wanted, within reason, and Emily said, ‘Yeah, depending on how much it costs!’  So cute!  I was thinking more along the lines of what style they would want, but definitely the price also has to be right!!

At first Margaret said she wanted a Paw Patrol suit (they don’t even like the show AT ALL but have one paw patrol toy they’ve been playing with recently so that must have been on her mind when she saw the suit!)  I was about to see if they had it in a size 5 when Emily saw a Barbie bathing suit (they both love Barbie) and when Margaret saw it she had to have that one, too.  They had 2 size 4-5 and it turns out it’s a great fit with a bit of growing-in room to spare.  I thought it was really cute that they wanted the same suit (even though I know their swim instructor would probably prefer they were different, since even though THEY ARE NOT IDENTICAL TWINS people still seem to have a difficult time knowing who’s who (which is crazy to any of us who know them, because they are soooooo different in soooooo many ways, it’s obvious who’s who if you spend just a few minutes with them!)  

I used to always dress the girls the same because COME ON how freaking CUTE are two babies/toddlers/little ones wearing identical outfits?!  It’s one of those twin things you get to do, and to me, the cuteness factor was through the roof.  I still buy two of everything so they have the option of dressing the same, but I don’t force them to by any means.  I let them choose their clothes for the day, they dress themselves, and some days they choose wildly different outfits.  But I notice that it’s not uncommon for them to announce that they want to be ‘twinsies’ and they put on the exact same outfit and will mention to each other throughout the day how they’re twins and hold hands or hug.  It’s really adorable.  I love it when they choose the same things, just because I do find it so cute that THEY want that, it’s not just me projecting that onto them like people have said in the past when they didn’t have a choice because they were too little make that choice for themselves.  They like it that way, too, and on the days that they don’t, that’s totally fine!

What I find hilarious is that Andrew has such a tiny waist that he is still wearing a size 4T bathing suit!!!  So his suit is actually smaller than his sisters’ suits, and he’s double their age!  He wears a size 8 pants, but they only fit in the waist if they have those button things where you can cinch them in (which is the best invention ever for kids’ clothing!)  Even though I think he may be a bit short for his age, his pant length seems to be appropriate, it’s just his little waist.  He was a chunky monkey when he was a wee thing but with all his dancing and moving around - I should call him Tigger for how jumpy he is because he seems to just need to keep moving at all times - he really doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him!

May the 4th be with you...

(I wrote this on May 4th but never posted)...

It’s super sunny today and AMAZING, it feels good just to have the light shining in and the door open for some fresh air.  I just wish I was feeling better.  About a week ago I started to feel ‘not quite right’, like the cough was getting a bit worse again that I thought I was almost done with, and my throat felt scratchy.  By Saturday night I started getting a headache that turned into one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had, and it persisted till yesterday morning when the Tylenol finally decided to do it’s job.  I can’t even count how many Tylenol I had over the span of those 4 days, but I’m positive it was more than the recommended dosage.  Not good at all.

The headache was so killer that there were several times I wished it would be an easier process to get to the hospital, but the reality was that I’d either have to get James AND all 3 kids to go with, or I’d have to get my dad to take time off work to take me.  Or call an ambulance and spend $50+ dollars for that.  None of those options appealed to me, so I stuck it out.  I remember my doctor telling me that if my headaches ever got that bad I should get to the hospital right away, but the reality is, it’s not always easy to do, and when you’re in that much pain the last thing you want is to be sitting in an ER for gawd knows how long just waiting to be called in.  

So luckily the headache left, but I was also feverish off and on for over 24 hours (edit: the fever came and went several times more after I wrote this...), and the achiness throughout my body nearly did me in.  I ended up coughing till I threw up the other night and it seemed like right after that the achiness left my body, which was kind of strange.  I’ve never experienced that before.  But then the headache flared up so bad I couldn’t handle it.  Now I have a full head cold and feel like I’m hopped up on drugs.  It’s not fun, especially when there seems to be one thing after the other that I’m supposed to attend at Andrew’s school and I have to try to keep my distance so as not to infect others, but also pretend I’m feeling a lot better than I am.  

Enough already!  We’ve all been sick far more than what I feel should be our fair share!

Especially if the weather is finally going to be nicer, I want to have energy to feel like I can get the kids out playing and doing Spring things!

Edit: May 11th now and I'm still not over this cold. I'm definitely better than I was, but then yesterday felt a little worse again and am so tired today. Still coughing a lot, stuffy nose...seriously, ENOUGH ALREADY!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Summer plans and waiting for sunshine

The days fly by, as per usual.  We’re all relatively healthy now, so knock on wood it stays that way for a good long while.  Most of us still have a bit of a lingering cough but nothing compared to how it was.  My mom, on the other hand, has a touch of pneumonia and then just when she thought maybe she was noticing a bit of improvement, she came down with a head cold.  This winter has been brutal!  And I just realized I’m still referring to it as Winter when in fact it’s been Spring officially for weeks now…

Our weather just hasn’t been very spring-like.  Of course, we don’t have snow like some places are still getting, but we’ve had more rain than our fair share and I’m pretty sure we’ve beat long-time records for most rain in a month.  We had one really sunny day in the past week that was GLORIOUS, it was actually so hot that it felt more like summer than spring.  It was a shock to the system, but a good one!  I could definitely get used to that.  We just get these little teasers of a bit of sunshine and then the wind and rain force their way back.  It’s annoying.  Fingers crossed we have a hot summer, I think we deserve it!!

This past weekend I booked us a place to stay for two nights in Seattle after we go for a camping trip somewhere nearby for a family reunion.  Yes, we’re gearing up to be able to camp, and so far have a tent, a few air mattresses, and a few other supplies, but we have a LOT more to get before we can actually go.  I want to say I’m excited...I’m excited for the kids and want to try to enjoy it for their sake.  It’s just that I’ve never really been a camper - I’ve literally camped 3 times in my life.  Once was an overnight on Newcastle Island (off Nanaimo) during a summer camp I was in, and I think I was maybe around 7 or 8 when I did that.  I remember absolutely HATING it.  The next time I went with my boyfriend at the time and his family, when I was 16 or 17.  I somehow think it was only one night as well.  I shared a tent with my boyfriend’s sister and I remember we heard a wild animal outside our tent in the night and the next morning found out from the park ranger that it had been cougars.  It was an OK experience overall but the actual camping-over-night part I could have just done without!!  And the last time I camped was in 2001, with James, his brother, and his dad and his significant other.  It was OK and again, I enjoyed the outdoor activities that we did during the day time, but I remember disliking very much the sleeping-in-a-tent aspect.  I’m even more concerned for myself now that I’ve had children and seem to need to go to the bathroom OFTEN...but don’t want to use outhouses...and yeah...kinda creeped out by the idea of sleeping outside, truthfully.  But I’m sure I can get used to it?!!!

We’re going to do a trial run camping trip sometime soonish, once we’ve bought all the supplies we need, and then in the summer we’ll be more prepared (hopefully) for that two night trip.  What I’m really looking forward to, though, is staying in a house for 2 nights afterwards that looks SO nice and will be a prime location for all the places we want to visit, which include the Woodland Park Zoo, and all the main attractions in Seattle Center.  

We’ve never taken the kids on a trip that wasn’t to the island to visit family, and while yes part of the trip will be for a family reunion, it’s with James’ bio dad’s side, which we don’t see often (most of that side of his family I’ve literally met once), and it will be a huge adventure just because of the camping aspect.  And the nights in Seattle will be exciting because we’ve always wanted to be able to take the kids there.  

So I’m happy we have something fun to look forward to this summer, and I can’t wait to be able to spend more time in the yard.  I’ve started my yard cleanup, and we’re starting to get things out on the back patio.  I cleaned up (almost all) the leaves from the front yard area and have some plans for what plants and things I want to get.  I got my decorative birdhouses back up (and some finches have set up home in a birdhouse Andrew made a few years ago that’s attached to the carport, which is SO CUTE!  We never put food in our birdhouses because we don’t want to attract rodents, but they’ve obviously taken it upon themselves to build a little nest in there because I often see the mama coming and going and it’s the sweetest thing EVER, even more so because Andrew made the house himself!) and some solar lights by the driveway and have it all looking quite nice.  I’m still having a bit of a time emotionally because there’s a part of me that doesn’t even want to try to make things look nicer around here after everything we’ve been through with the house and management...but at the same time it does make me so much happier to have it looking better.  I can’t live like a total slob, it just makes me feel worse about everything.

All we need now is for the sunshine to come back so we can get out there and enjoy it!

My letter to management

When I wrote my last post I realized that I hadn’t actually blogged about the whole insanity of the house being ‘fixed’ after the flood.  I’m posting the letter I wrote to management on April 7th about it...3 weeks ago tomorrow and they have yet to respond.  I’ve sent two more messages since asking for a response but still nothing…They had responded to my initial request for monetary reimbursement but were offering us $200 off our next rent...which is a slap in the face given our next rent is when our increase happens and that’s $62 a month.  Plus they owe us for a can of paint they said they’d reimburse for, which was almost $50.  So the ‘compensation’ would be a few dollars at best.  Unacceptable.  Also, I speak of the back door and window getting replaced in this letter...it has yet to even be discussed when that might actually happen.  They had people come in to finish the vinyl flooring (adding a strip to separate the floor from the bathroom, and to switch out a few planks that were cut really jagged, and to add baseboards to the downstairs bathroom which wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been able to ‘find a baseboard somewhere’.  When they were here they told me they were also told to ‘patch up’ the area by the back door but I refused to allow that because if they did that, I KNOW they would claim the back door no longer needs replaced, even though in reality it needed replaced before we even moved in over 4 years ago, and besides that it wouldn’t fix the problem of the structure of the building ROTTING AWAY because they keep doing nothing about it…

Anyway, here’s the letter...

April 7, 2017

ATTN: Management
(company name removed)

I appreciate that you responded to my letter.  There are a few things I wish to clarify and hope that we can re-negotiate what is being offered, as we feel $200 is not an acceptable amount given the circumstances.

While normally I would agree that ‘flooding due to the pipe failure could happen at any property,’ the reality in our case is that this time around it was avoidable.  We had a leak in the exact same spot in December of 2014.  I remember it vividly and I saw exactly where the pipe was that was ‘fixed,’ and it was in the exact same location this time around.  If the job had been done properly just that short time ago, the fitting should not have been able to break apart so soon.  I honestly, and sadly, believe that the shoddy workmanship is what is to blame for this happening.

Living in the state our home was in for two weeks, and nearly the entire time without walls in many places, was extremely challenging, in particular with three small children.  They basically couldn’t go downstairs unless absolutely necessary, and certainly never unsupervised, or without wearing shoes which they sometimes forgot and ended up with scrapes on their feet from some areas of the concrete.  There were days when we could use the kitchen for some things, but it wasn’t entirely functional for cooking proper meals because of the amount of dust that was on everything and the stuff that we were storing on the counters, etc.  Believing in the beginning that it would only be a few days before the drywall would be going up, it didn’t make sense to do a lot of deep cleaning to ensure a safe space for cooking larger meals, as it would just be getting dirty again.  (I did clean in that time, but  there was no way around a lot of things being dirty, or inaccessible).  The fridge and stove also had to be pulled out for some time in order to dry the sides of the cabinets and walls where the water had seeped in, so during that time we couldn’t access the kitchen at all.  We definitely ate out more than we ever normally would in that span of time, and not because we wanted to but because it felt necessary.  We didn’t have access to our dining area for most of the time either because we had nowhere else to pile a lot of our belongings but in that space.  The downstairs bathroom also offered zero privacy for that entire duration as there was a hole in the wall large enough you could look out the living room window from the toilet!  Basically the entire downstairs was unlivable for much of that time, and given the amount of belongings we had to bring upstairs from downstairs, much of the upstairs was in total disarray also.  We literally lived in the master bedroom for that time.

In terms of the efforts made to deal with the flooding…unfortunately ‘effective’ is not a word that comes to mind.  The drywallers were given one day to do the entire house, and we didn’t find out they would be working till 9pm until they showed up to start the job.  It’s impossible to do that much work between two people in that many hours and be completely effective (for example, drywalling around a shelf without actually removing it to do it properly).  They also told us upon leaving that no painting should start till later in the afternoon the next day at the absolute earliest because the drywall wouldn’t be dry yet (which makes perfect sense).  Yet the ‘painter’ (I have to use the term loosely since the job he did still horrifies me to think about - I’m not exaggerating) showed up shortly after 9 to start priming and painting.  I told him the walls hadn’t been sanded, and I also told him several of the walls still felt wet.  He went ahead and started painting anyway...Mind you, he started with the walls that didn’t need painted, and like I said before, got paint on my curtains and did a sloppy job in general.  The one and only wall that he actually painted that NEEDED to be painted ended up with the paint cracking and splitting apart by the next morning due to having been painted when the drywall wasn’t yet dry.  I will attach a picture, which only shows the portion above the shelf that we ended up putting in that spot so as to cover the hideous wall, but the whole length of where the new drywall is has completely split from the wall and the entire thing will need to be stripped, sanded, and redone.  

When he was about to start painting yet another wall that had no damage and didn’t need painted at all (which I had told him several times by that point), I had no choice but to tell the ‘painter’ to stop and that I would do the painting myself later once the new carpets were installed (even though that was supposed to be done the next day) not because I wanted to do the painting myself, but because he was not doing a good job, and kept painting things that I told him not to paint.  I literally couldn’t take it anymore.  I have since managed to paint all the main walls and all under the stairs, and in the hall closet, but haven’t had the time yet to do the bathrooms because of all the other work I’ve been doing to try to get our house back in order.  The thing is, as much as I don’t want to have to paint the bathrooms myself either, I feel like I don’t have a choice unless I want to run the major risk of having our personal property damaged, since that seems to be the norm with the workers.  It causes me too much stress to deal with.

Unfortunately everything has not actually been done within 15 days of the incident.  I will include pictures below with examples of areas that still need attention, such as the closet door for under the stairs that was broken from its track and is currently propped up against the front hall closet because when it was propped in the living room it nearly fell over when our kids were playing, which obviously is completely unsafe.  My dad has since gone out and purchased parts to fix it for us, which he plans to do this weekend, because it needs to be done sooner than later.  He also had to bring us a special cleaner and spent about two hours scrubbing away the primer paint that one of the workers had tracked from the front door right to where the carpet starts.  I am very upset that we weren’t even offered for someone to come and remove that for us.  Yes we received brand new floors, but they shouldn’t have been left damaged for us to deal with ourselves.  Primer is meant to stick, so you can imagine the elbow grease required to remove footprints of it off the floor.  Another example of something not completed is the back door issue, as currently there is a big hole in the corner where the wood is rotten, and we can’t even attach the cover to the furnace vent because of the damage.  I was told someone would be coming to look at it at least a week ago but haven’t heard anything since.  (That being said, we do appreciate that the back door and window will be getting replaced - could we please get a timeline as to when this will be happening?)

Our time is worth something, too, which is one of the other reasons I feel that we’re owed more than $200 for compensation.  My husband having to take a ‘vacation’ day, in part to help with the craziness of the day of the flood but in larger part because his computer power cord drowned in it so he couldn’t work until he replaced it.  Those two things alone equal more than $200, not to mention having to eat out when we normally wouldn’t.  But it’s also bothering me a lot that my time seems to mean nothing.  The massive amounts of clean up I’ve been having to do have already taken many, many, many hours and will take many, many more before everything is back to the way it was before this happened.  There is drywall caked on to several of the panels that cover the lighting in the kitchen (picture for reference, which shows a couple of the spots), there are chunks taken out of the paint on several of our cupboard doors, which the only way to fix will be to sand and re-paint them, and I know that will fall on me to do.  There is still dust on everything as it continues to settle, and I am constantly finding more areas that need to be cleaned.  Because I was told by a worker that it ‘wasn’t necessary’ to remove anything from under the bathroom sink, I had to take everything out and wash each item because there was dust covering literally everything.  That was totally avoidable as I could have much more easily just removed everything and kept it clean.  Even the driveway is disgusting and we’re still tracking drywall dust back into the house constantly because it’s all over the driveway, which would need to be power-washed to properly clean now.  

I had our house in excellent condition before this happened, so it’s not like I needed to be doing a deep clean of everything.  Now I’m finding myself plugging my kids into the TV and am not as focused on them because I’m stressed out about all of this, and trying to pick up the pieces and fix the house so it doesn’t feel so dirty and unhealthy to be in.  We’ve all had eye issues in the past several weeks, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence given the amount of dust we’re dealing with.  I was not once offered help with any of the cleaning throughout this entire process.  Had I hired someone to do all that I’ve already done myself it would be many hundreds of dollars, so why is it that I feel I’m doing it for free, (not really for free - it’s costing me money for all the cleaning products!) when again I strongly feel that this all could have been avoided if the work had been done properly a few years ago?

I realize this is lengthy but I feel I have to offer such details to show you where I’m coming from.  After enduring as many leaks as we have over a short number of years living here, and the way things have been done this time around in particular, I truly feel we are deserving of more compensation than $200.  I hope you will take this into consideration in your reply.  (Please see pictures below).

Sincerely,

Elizabeth
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This is how the drywall was left under the stairs, which I then had to stuff with steel wool as it’s a gaping hole.  Especially in light of the fact that our neighbours on that side had a mouse infestation while all of this was going on, I didn’t feel comfortable with big gaps in the walls.  To me that was left unfinished, and I was left to do something with it.
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This is the way the drywall was done in the laundry room.  Around a shelf, rather than removing the shelf and actually drywalling the wall.  If  we ever decide to remove our shelf, the wall will be an absolute mess where it’s visible.  When it comes time to paint this room, it’s also going to be a challenge figuring out what to do with this area.
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Shards of razor blades I found strewn across the vinyl floors after all the workers had ‘completed’ their jobs.  Not safe whatsoever - what if my kids had found them before I did?  There were also several of these in our carport, which could have also been a hazard to our kids, the neighbours’ kids, not to mention our tires as well!

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This is some of the primer paint that took several hours to scrub from the floors after trying three types of cleaning methods.  Not a job we should have been left with.
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It was like this throughout the entire hallway.
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Areas where I told the ‘painter’ NOT to paint, and in particular because it would be the wrong colour - and yet he painted anyway, and got the wrong colour in places so that I had to go back and fix things that were fine to begin with.
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Drywall caked onto the panels by the kitchen lights.  Several of the other panels also have this, which is going to take a lot of time for me to clean.

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The pipes for the toilet in the downstairs bathroom.  This looks unfinished.  As well as again with the issue of a gaping hole, perfect for rodents to come through should our neighbour still be dealing with her infestation.  Stuffing this with steel wool (which I don’t have any more of and will have to go out and buy) will help, but will be an eyesore.  Shouldn’t this have been drywalled?
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Yet another gaping hole I found while removing everything from under the sink to clean because there was dust on everything in there.  Also needs to be filled/covered.
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This is right by the front door.  The vinyl planks are cut all misshapen.  Actually, there are many areas of the flooring that were cut uneven like this.  I thought they would be coming back to put some sort of strip there to cover this?  They told me if water gets underneath the planks they will lift up and need replaced, which concerns me for washing it when it’s like this, because water will easily go underneath areas like this.
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The baseboard is sitting beside where it’s supposed to be attached, and the two baseboards here don’t even match up no matter how we try to configure them. This is in the front door area.

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Not attached.



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Our closet door to under the stairs currently sitting in our front hall area because the track pieces were broken when the workers took the door off.  

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The area between the hall and downstairs bathroom needs to have a strip that separates the two floors.  The part on the left already looks like it’s starting to lift because it’s not properly attached to the ground.  I was told people were coming back to finish that, and in fact the people who did that flooring said they’d be able to put the new baseboards in the bathroom to match up with the hall, since it still has the gross rubber ones, but that never happened.
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One of the spots on my relatively new curtains that has paint dripped onto it.  That is completely unacceptable.  Who paints a wall with the curtains still up, and a wall that was said did not need painted??!  Our personal belongings should not be damaged by workers (as well it reminds me of my great grandmothers’ antique sugar container that had been used as a step stool and as a result the lid is now indented...I’m not OK with that).
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This is the current state of our back door area.  I had been told that this would be dealt with before the carpet was installed but that didn’t happen.  The wood is clearly rotting, and the furnace vent can’t be attached.  I do hope that the door and window can be replaced soon so that this issue is dealt with.
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The line across the cupboards in the kitchen was not there before all of this work started.  Because of the ugly condition of the cupboards when we moved in, and with permission from management, I sanded, primed, painted and even updated all the cupboards with proper knobs a couple of years ago.  I put a lot of time, energy, and money into the project, and as a result have taken very good care of the cupboards because it meant something to me to have them nice.  The only way to fix problems like in the picture above would be to sand it down and start all over again.  So we end up having to just live with it (or re-do all that work ourselves, which hardly seems fair), when it’s not something we caused damage to, and something that wouldn’t have been damaged if the workers weren’t so careless.  
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This is the kind of mess I am up against.  Look at my children’s toy guitar, for example.  That will take an insane amount of time to clean.  If the workers had covered our belongings like I thought they were going to (I saw them cover one chair so figured they would keep going, but in reality that chair was literally the only thing they covered!) this stuff wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t be left completely overwhelmed with trying to clean and fix everything.
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This is the aftermath of one small portion of the wall where the drywall wasn’t dry enough to be painted but the ‘painter’ went ahead and did it anyway.
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I would need help to move the shelf we put in front of the ugliness of that wall, but suffice it to say, this is what it looks like along that entire strip of wall.  That alone will be a time consuming job to repair the damage that wouldn’t have happened if the jobs had been spaced out enough to ensure they could all be done properly.

Thank you for your time and consideration.






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