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.




Thursday, April 20, 2017

It has been A TIME.

This past month-and-a-bit has felt sooooo looooong.  Between the flood and the aftermath of that and all the crap we’ve had to put up with in terms of how things were ‘repaired’, and everyone in this house getting sick with cold/flu bugs and the kids transferring pink eye (or some sort of eye issue) back and forth with seemingly no end, it has been A TIME.


I did so well and didn’t come down with anything through the worst of the ‘renos’ but just before Easter (so about a week ago) I ended up getting whatever this bug is that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do.  Usually I get a certain feeling in my throat and a bit into my chest at the onset of a cold and after a day or two that feeling subsides and the cold hits me.  I find that ‘certain feeling’ the worst part of the virus, usually, because it makes me feel unwell in a way that’s more debilitating than the stuffy nose part.  This time around, that feeling lasted for nearly a week and today is the first day I haven’t felt it, at least not yet.  Fingers crossed I’m on the mend, although I still feel very weak, extra tired, and have a really annoying cough that I KNOW will linger for weeks to come because everyone in my immediate family as well as my parents have all had it for weeks already and still haven’t managed to shake it.  Good times…


Despite feeling flu-like and waking up with a nasty headache yesterday (because OF COURSE The Curse is out to get me now, too!) it was James’ birthday so I had to shake it off and get things done because I wanted it to be a special evening for him.  He had to work, unfortunately, but I went all around with the girls looking for a nice cake for him in the morning.  I was wanting to get a cake from an Asian bakery that James and I used to go to for treats occasionally years ago, but we got to the store it used to be at only to find it was no longer there.  We hit up another Asian bakery in the area but the cakes there are made to order, and while they could have had one made the same day, it would have meant having to come back at dinner time to pick it up.  Not happening.  We ended up getting a big trifle from Safeway, and a small slab of red velvet cake, mostly for the kids in case they didn’t like the trifle (but it turned out everyone enjoyed the trifle, which from now on we will be calling ‘the custard covered fruit’ because that’s what Andrew was calling it and I think the name has now stuck!)


My parents came over in the early evening, and James came home an hour early from work.  First he had a glass of Sangria (as per his request) and opened his prezzies.  Andrew gave him tickets to a Lego Convention happening this weekend, the girls gave him some random camping gear as well as some rechargeable batteries (just because he’s been mentioning a million times lately that we need some), my parents gave him money and a big bottle of liqueur, and then he got his ‘big’ present, which is a new Smart TV.  It was a more extravagant gift than we’d normally do for a birthday, but I thought it was also an ‘investment’ in the sense that eventually we’re going to feel the ‘need’ for two TV’s (which I feel is silly to say because obviously no one NEEDS TV’s, but…!)  We’ve never had more than one TV, ever, and I think a lot of households have more than that.  It still feels like a luxury to me that isn’t totally necessary, but at the same time I thought it would be fun for us to have a TV upstairs as well as downstairs.  So now we do! James of course was THRILLED with it, because to him it’s like a fun toy to be able to set it all up and get apps on there and everything.  It’s pretty cool to have a TV that has everything on it that we need or want (and more!) without having to have at least one external box to go with it.


After the excitement of gift opening, we had Eggplant Parmesan, which I’d made the night before just in case I’d been feeling too unwell to make it the day of, and I’m glad I did that because I would have been way more tired if I hadn’t.  There was also a salad and a herb bread to go with.  My parents left shortly after dessert as they’re still not feeling great either, especially my mom who has a touch of pneumonia...Yes, we’re a really healthy bunch right now!


All in all I think James enjoyed his birthday, and even got to go out for an expensive lunch paid for by the company because someone else on his team was leaving so they were having their goodbye party.  I felt a bit jipped not getting to see more of him on his special day, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I’ve just been feeling so foggy-headed this past little while, as well as mentally AND physically exhausted, so I haven’t felt up to writing much (although I have done a pretty good job of documenting things in case I still have to go the route of arbitration with our management company here...which is looking more likely at this point, unfortunately…)  I still feel like there are a million and one things I need to fix/reorganize/DO around the house to get it back to normal after everything that happened.  The flood REALLY threw me for a loop, and I feel like it has caused me to become more fearful/even less able to fully relax than how I was before.  Not that it’s the first time this house has made me feel that kind of unease, given all the many other leaks we’ve had, but this one was pretty severe.  James and I were playing a videogame (L.A. Noire for XBOX 360 - I love it!  Not often I truly enjoy a video game but this one is awesome!) the other night and at one point the character we play had to go downstairs in a house to investigate, and it was flooded so you could hear him sloshing around in the water.  I know it’s not like the water in our house was up to our knees or anything (THAT would traumatize me on a whole other level, I don’t even want to imagine it) but it definitely made a sloshing of water sound when we walked around, and now I just feel anxiety when I hear that sound.  I guess it will take a while to process it and move past it.  Which probably would have been made somewhat ‘easier’ had the workers done a better job and been more respectful of our stuff in the process.  The way things are handled in a negative situation can totally make a difference in how it affects a person, and sadly our management is incapable of doing things in a way that make any sense at all or make a person feel better in any way, shape or form.  

Anyway...hopefully there will be time for more writing soon, once I have a chance to clear my head.


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