Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A new chapter – part II

Saturday: Rise and shine around 6:30am thanks to the little alarm clock named Aiden next to my bed. My parents whipped up some breakfast for everyone so we could be energized for the full day of moving we had in front of us. We decided to leave Scarlett at their house for the day so we could freely move things in without having to make sure she didn’t run off. Mommy B and I took the kids over to the new house to get to work and so they could begin getting transitioned to the new place. A neighborhood friend from the old ‘hood came over to help me move the rest of the larger items in. It only took us an hour or so, but that was just to get the truck emptied. Mommy B and I knew we were still going to have to shuffle things around and decide how certain furniture was going to be arranged but at least the heavy lifting was over with. Good thing too, my back was screaming at me already. Around lunch time, my parents came over to help with the kids while we got things organized and put away. It was quite the feeling driving that empty truck back to the U-haul office and tossing them the keys. We had successfully moved our entire lives from one place to another, and even though it wasn’t that far of a move, it still felt like mission accomplished.

On Friday, we had noticed that the HVAC system hadn’t really done a great job of warming the place throughout the day. We just chalked it up to the fact that we had had the door open all day moving stuff in, so didn’t think too much of it. But just to be safe, I called the company that had done the last servicing for the inspection since they would be familiar with it and booked an appointment to come take a look at it on Monday. In the meantime, we had set the system when we left on Friday night figuring that when we came back on Saturday morning the house would be the correct temperature. Yeah, not so much. That’s when I knew something was amiss and it had to get looked at. Luckily the temperature that weekend had been mild, so we weren’t all that uncomfortable.

Aunt Bacon and her boyfriend “Cap” came over to help out as well, even helping with the kids and putting beds together for us while we moved stuff around. Alli skipped her nap that day since she had a birthday party to go to, but Mr. Light Switch went down without a fight and zonked out for a couple hours. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting as much put away and set up as we could before everyone passed out. Oh, and my parents brought Scarlett over so she could begin sniffing her new home. It had been a long, busy day but at least we knew everything was moved in and that was a great feeling. As night #1 in our new house began, we were tired yet excited to slowly begin making it our home.

Sunday: We spent the day doing more of the same – unpacking and organizing. Mommy B and I joked about how many times we would ask each other, “Hey, do you know where such-and-such is?” The answer was always, “No.” One of the big issues that we quickly realized we needed to address ASAP was the lack of shelf space in the master bedroom closet. After filling up the few wire shelves that were in place, we still had half our clothes sitting on the floor in our bedroom… some still in trash bags since we ran out of boxes towards the end of packing. Pops came over that day and took measurements on the closet and began drafting up some designs for us so we could maximize the available space. The first floor has 9’ ceilings; you’d think the builder would have installed more than one row of shelving. Anyway, we tried to make the most of it and took plenty of breaks to play with the kids that day. We figured that since they were in a new house and all it probably wouldn’t go over well if we ignored them completely while we unpacked. It took some wrangling that night, but we eventually got them both in bed and had our first Sunday Night Family Dinner at the new house with the rest of the family. We thanked them all for everything they had done for us during this transition, and hopefully they understood how much of a burden they had lifted in taking care of the kids for us while we packed, closed, moved, and unpacked. I honestly don’t know if we could have done it without their help. Well, we could have… but I’m confident that a nervous breakdown for each of us would have likely resulted.

Monday: Aiden didn’t sleep well the night before, so we decided it was time to take him to the doctor. Having an RN for a mom basically means that our kids don’t go to the doctor unless they are on the verge of death. Well, Aiden wasn’t that bad, but he was having major sinus issues (just like his daddy used to) and couldn’t sleep well because he couldn’t breathe well. Thankfully my mom was able to take him to the doctor while I took Alli to school and went to back to work. The doctor agreed that he was having some bad allergies (typical for this time of year) and gave us a few things to relieve his suffering.

Also coming to the house that day was AT&T to reconnect our cable and Internet as well as the HVAC guys to see what was going on with our heat problems. The issue we were experiencing was that the thermostat on the first floor would kick on to get heat flowing down there, but I could feel it coming out of the vents on the second floor. This resulted in not enough heat getting to the first floor to turn the thermostat off and the second floor feeling like a sauna. Everything went well as far as we were told – the AT&T service was connected and the HVAC guy said he reset the damper motor in the air handler so we could get proper air flow to each floor of the house. He only charged us a $65 “diagnostic fee” since they had been out to service the house a few weeks ago. Well, when I got home from work that evening, I noticed that things felt better in the house, but not quite where they should have been. But again, we dealt with it and luckily the temperature outside cooperated.

Tuesday: I called the after-hours line for the HVAC service and told them that whatever they “fixed” on Monday hadn’t worked and that we were still having issues. They informed me that they could have a guy come out that day and I agreed since Mommy B was off work. After spending a couple of hours in the attic fiddling with the system, this new “technician” informed us that the damper was broken and the damper motor was worn out from improper functioning – both of which should be replaced to the tune of $350 plus labor. Well, I had already put a call into our agent informing him of this whole issue and telling him that this should have been something that was addressed prior to closing and should be the seller’s expense. He agreed (somewhat) and informed us that we needed to get a claim in with American Home Shield warranty that we had purchased at closing before any work be done. Unfortunately the service that had now been out to the house three times was not included in their list of preferred vendors, so yet someone else was going to have to come take a look at the system. Furthermore, the rep at AHS had informed our agent that technically dampers are not covered by their warranty. To make matters worse, the seller’s agent was telling our agent that since this was a “new issue” with the HVAC system, the seller’s wouldn’t be liable for compensation. Well, our agent raised holy hell (finally) and pulled some strings and was able to schedule an appointment the next day with a trusted vendor he had used in the past who was covered by the warranty. He advised that we hold off on the financial part of the issue and just focus on getting things properly diagnosed and fixed.

Wednesday: I get a call from the new HVAC guy, Chris, about noon stating he had talked to our agent and would be out at the house sometime that day. He warned that since it was late notice he would have to try to squeeze us in sometime, but at that point I didn’t care if it was 10 o’clock at night, I just wanted the darn thing fixed. So about 6pm Chris rolls in and I give him the rundown. He also looked over the stack of invoices from the previous “technicians” to see what they had done already. He said, “Bottom line, we’ll figure it out. And if we do in fact have to get replacement parts, I’ll force something so that y’all are comfortable in the meantime.” After about 20 minutes of adjustments and another 5-10 minutes of testing, he had the system running completely normal. He informed us that the damper and the motor were just fine and didn’t need to be replaced. In fact, he said the damper motor was brand new and appeared to have been just replaced a few months ago. The issue was that the damper motor hadn’t been set properly – likely the result of a bunk installation – and the previous technicians were just telling us things to get into our wallets. This was causing the damper to not open and close properly which was resulting in the incorrect heat distribution to the entire house… no new parts needed, at all. I gladly paid him the $75 co-pay for the warranty service fee, and thanked him not only for his proper diagnosis and repair work, but also his honesty and transparency. We all slept much better that night with proper temperatures in both floors of the house – what a concept, right?

Thursday: I gathered up my invoices and work summaries and scanned them all to send to my agent. I informed him that I was now out $140 (and a few nights of decent sleep thanks to the kids being uncomfortable in the second-floor sauna) to correct an issue that should have been addressed by the original HVAC company before the house was sold. It was their shoddy installation that botched this job in the first place, and I would not be paying them a penny for their “work” and I didn’t appreciate them trying to take me to the cleaners saying things needed to be replaced when they clearly did not. He promptly contacted the seller’s agent and the previous HVAC company and informed them of our findings. The seller’s agent finally got back to us and said that the company would not charge us the $65 and that the seller’s would cut us a check for the $75 co-pay. Well thank god for small favors. Things finally seemed like they were falling into place for us.

Friday: Pops came over that night after the kids were in bed and showed us the master bedroom closet designs he had drawn up for us during the week. I had removed the clothes and ripped the wire shelves off the walls already, so he did a quick spackle job to patch the holes. That way we could hit the ground running the next morning with sanding, painting, and installing the new shelving.

Weekend: I spent the majority of both days in the closet with Pops, doing what we do best – remodeling. I sanded while he nailed, then I cut in while he rolled the paint. At the end of the first day I felt like I had been in a casino – no windows, only artificial light; people only popping in every couple of hours to see if you need anything; and before you know it, it’s night time and you haven’t seen daylight at all. We wrapped things up on Sunday morning and I slapped a little more paint on a few areas that needed it. We let it dry for a few hours while taking the kids out to play in the nice weather. It was tiring work, but well worth it in the end. By Sunday night, Mommy B and I were finally able to get all of our clothes off the bedroom floor and into a closet we could only have dreamed of. There is plenty of hanging space now and more shelf space than we know what to do with. Except for a shoe rack (or two) that we’re debating installing next, we’ve utilized just about every square inch of space in that closet. Not only is the closet itself a sight to behold, but we finally have a bedroom floor again! This means that we can begin organizing our room to look the way we want it – rearranging furniture and hanging things on the wall. And who knows, maybe even a little more painting could be in order. I’m very happy how things turned out, and I know it will become a major selling point of the house years from now when we decide to move again. But now that things are looking up after a rocky start to the week, I’m hoping that doesn’t happen for many, many years.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A new chapter – part I

Week 1 in the new house is in the books. And my, what a week it’s been. Let’s rewind to the middle of last week and I’ll fill youse in on the week that was…

Tuesday night: Mommy B and I packed up my mom’s car and my dad’s pickup truck with as much stuff as we could and made a few trips to the new house. Luckily, it’s only about 6 miles away. We signed an agreement allowing us to store things in the garage before we actually closed on the house in order to get a head start on the moving. We knew that if we didn’t begin taking things over before the big day, we’d never fit it all in one U-haul truck. So Pops and Tatsy played parents for the kiddos that night while we took 3 loads each to the new house. Oh, and since I happened to be celebrating my 2nd Annual 29th birthday that day, Mommy B surprised me with a six-pack and had pizza delivered to the new house while we were unloading. It was kind of weird having a delivery guy show up to a house that we did not yet own or even get in the door. At least he didn’t have to walk very far to the garage where she had set up a table for us to celebrate. She’s always full of surprises, that one. And that’s why I love her.

Wednesday night: Mommy B and I get home from work at our usual times and take a load over to the new house. We decided since that night would technically be the last night we all were going to sleep at the old house we would bathe the kids and put them to bed. It only seemed right. AmIrite? So after the babies went down and Tatsy resumed her babysitting duties, Mommy B and I emptied our own garage and put as much stuff from inside the house into the cars and filled the garage at the new house. After a couple more runs, we called it a night.

Thursday: We both took the day off work to take the kids to school and get everything packed up. After a lovely breakfast at IHOP, I drove the 26-foot U-haul to the old house and the movers arrived shortly afterward. We spent the next few hours loading the truck with as much stuff as we could. The two moving guys were excellent – quick, efficient, communicated with each other the whole time, and didn’t damage any of our furniture. After packing up the U-haul and taking a couple more carloads over to the new house, our old house was completely empty. We met up with our agent at the new house for a final walkthrough so we could see what kind of shape the house was in after the previous owners had left. I was expecting the worst in hopes that I might be pleasantly surprised… and boy was I. Not only had they patched all the holes in the walls, but they had also sanded and re-painted all the rooms except two that they didn’t have the paint for. The house looked immaculate, which only heightened our anticipation to get moved in. The husband even left us a note explaining trash pick-up schedule, extra keys, new garage door opener and their phone numbers. We felt so welcomed even though no one was there, and it was right then I knew we had made the right decision on buying this house.

After the walkthrough, we decided to go get the kids together and bring them back to the old house one last time. This way they could not only run around in a big empty house (which is fun in and of itself), but also to visually see that their old house was empty and that we “no longer lived there”. I don’t know if Aiden really understood it but Alli seemed to grasp the concept, especially when she saw her empty room. We had been explaining to both of them for weeks that this day was coming and that we’d be moving to a new house soon.  They had both seen the new house before, so I’m hoping that they put the ideas together. We told them that we’d be spending the night at Pops and Tatsy’s house for a couple days until we were able to get moved into the new house. They kind of liked the idea of a slumber party, so we just let them roll with it.

After taking them to my parent’s house, getting them bathed and in bed, Mommy B and I made one last trip the old house to make 100% sure we had gotten everything out and to take one last sentimental trip around the ol’ homestead. And wow, was it emotional. From the moment we walked in and saw the house looking like it did the day we moved in 6 long years ago it was a tear-fest (especially Mommy B). We slowly walked around the house, reminiscing on our fondest memories from each room. We recalled the week we spent sitting on our patio furniture in the living room after we sold our couches too quickly and our new one hadn’t arrived yet. There was the flooring we replaced in the powder room, decorating our bedroom and hanging the family pictures in the hallway. I pointed to an empty spot near the kitchen where our table once stood and said with a lump in my throat, “That’s the spot where both our children ate their first meal of real food.” I had to wipe my eyes on my sleeve. There was the wainscoting Scarlett chewed up (that I fixed), and the stain on the hardwood floor around her water dish (that I didn’t fix). There was decorating the nursery, then decorating Alli’s room, then redecorating the nursery, then decorating Aiden’s room, then changing the nursery back into a guest room. Mommy B and I remarked how much time we had spent in that room, feeding infants and rocking them back to sleep. I had to bite my lip to avoid a full-on meltdown. There was the spot on the wall where for a while only our wedding pictures hung… but they didn’t have to feel lonely for long as pictures of children quickly filled in around them. There was our bedroom, which needs no explanation. Over here is where our first Christmas tree stood, and over there is where both kids took their first steps. If you look out back, you’ll see the dog’s holes and the extra fence Pops had to install to keep her out of the neighborhood retention pond. If you look out front, you’ll see the little palm we planted when we moved in now becoming a tree. We thought about taking it with us, but decided to leave it as our little mark on the neighborhood. It’ll be cool to drive by in a few years and see how it’s grown, much like the family that planted it there. After checking all the rooms and wiping our tears on each other’s shoulders, we locked up the house for one last time and said goodbye.

We were physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. We wanted nothing more than to head to my parent’s house and hit the sheets. But we couldn’t… we both laid in bed staring at the ceiling thinking about how much we still had to get through over the next 3 days.

Friday: We eventually dozed off, but it was short-lived. Anyone who has lived in Charleston during spring knows what time of year this is: Pollen Season. Well, staying true to form in being my little Mini-Me, Aiden’s allergies flared up and he awoke at 1am coughing. We tried everything – cough elixir, milk, readjusting him, you name it. Nothing worked. I hadn’t packed many clothes for our short stay at my parent’s house, so there I was walking into Harris Teeter at 1:30am holding my dad’s shorts up so they wouldn’t fall off, no socks in gym shoes and wearing a jacket 3 sizes too big. I returned with some Children’s Benadryl and proceeded to hold Aiden in an upright position in my parent’s living room while he coughed his little lungs out. He eventually tired and I was able to lie him back down for a bit, but by 6:30am or so both kids were up and ready for the day. Aiden didn’t seem all that worse for wear, but Mommy B and I were. Closing was at 9am, so we schlepped ourselves into the shower, got dressed, dropped the kids off at school and headed to the attorney’s office.

The buyer had done a walkthrough that morning and had found the water stain on the hardwood (darn you, Scarlett). At this point I was so over the entire process that I told our agent I was not going to pay for anything else to get fixed. We had already addressed every single item on her inspection report without question – you don’t get to have another inspection the day of closing, sorry lady. Our agent informed us that he would take care of the matter separately so as not to hold up the closing process. We actually signed all our paperwork before she even showed up, so we exchanged handshakes when she arrived and saw ourselves out. We needed to run to the bank to get our closing check for the new house anyway, so we decided to take our time and enjoy being “homeless” (and debt-free!) for a few minutes. We then went back to the office and signed our lives away to the bank closing on the new house… ah, what a feeling! We exchanged pleasantries with the previous owners, Craig and Erin Wattie, telling them how gracious they were to leave the house in such good shape. They were very friendly and seem like a couple we would really get along with given the right opportunity. They have two children as well, just a few years older than ours. Needless to say, they already had the bedrooms decorated in a way that will make Alli and Aiden’s transition into the new house that much smoother. Everything went off without a hitch, we said our goodbyes and we made our way back to my parent’s house. It was a combination of elation and exhaustion as we drove home, but we were both definitely glad that part of the process was over with.

Even though all I wanted to do was take a nap, I knew that our time without little ones around was running out, so we decided to fight the fatigue and head to the new house to officially begin moving things in. And that is exactly what we did for the rest of the afternoon into the evening. My parents picked up the kiddos for us and took them back to their house so we could continue working. We basically emptied the garage and began unloading some of the larger items out of the U-haul.

With the babies in bed and Mommy B and I unloading everything we could carry ourselves, we called it a day to try to get some sleep. We switched up the sleeping arrangements that night in hopes that if Aiden was up all night coughing again, he would only keep me up. Luckily, that point was moot as he slept through the whole night. I was running on fumes by the time I finally went to bed, but I knew I was going to have to rally fast as the next two days were going to be busy. We still had 2/3 of a U-haul truck full of heavy items left to move in, and no movers coming to help out (Johnny Thinwallet here said no). I had one friend coming to help out, and perhaps another if needed – but most of the heavy lifting was going to be on me. No pun intended. It had been a long few days, and there was still much work to be done.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Circus time!

Last weekend before the madness of moving hit, we took the kids to see The Greatest Show on Earth. That’s right Followers, the “family” circus was back in town! I posted about taking Alli to her first circus just over two years ago when she had just turned one, but now it was Aiden’s turn to go take in the spectacle that is the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus for the first time. In addition to taking our kids, my brother’s wife came to town and brought their two kids as well. I don’t recall if their oldest has been to the circus before, but you can never see the circus too many times.

I was a little worried about taking Aiden to the circus, as he doesn’t get quite as entranced with things the way Alli did at that age. If something caught her attention that she really liked, she could sit there for hours and just look at it, taking it all in. An almost-two-year old boy doesn’t work quite like that… So needless to say I was a little anxious to see how everything was going to play out. Luckily, we had reinforcements – Tatsy, Aunt Bacon and a friend of Mommy B’s came with us to help corral the kiddos for the duration. I wasn’t worried about Alli, as she’ll sit and watch full-length movies now without batting an eye. Ah, how times have changed since having to swap out Elmo’s World every 22 minutes.

But all my nerves were put to rest when the lights went out and the music started. The kiddos were completely spellbound once all the performers started coming out to do their various acts. All the lights, colors, sounds and sights were enough to keep their attention for an extended period of time. Basically all I had to do was keep handing Aiden snacks (go figure) and he would just sit in my lap or the seat next to me and just stare. During one section of the performance, he must have really liked the music as he got up on his seat and started to dance. He also got really excited when the elephants came out to do their stunts. He held his arm up to his nose like a trunk and did his best elephant sound. It was adorable to watch… just like when we took Alli for the first time.

I don’t know how they do it, but the folks that run the erstwhile family circus now really know how to put on a show. They have acts and find performers that simply amaze me every time I go… and that’s saying something coming from someone who’s been going to the circus for the past 30 years. Not to mention I’ve read a few books on the subject, so being able to impress someone who’s ancestors started the friggin’ thing is quite the accomplishment. Even if I didn’t have kids to take, I would go just because of the pure entertainment value.

All in all, it was a great afternoon had by all. Alli was a saint just watching the show and munching on popcorn, and Aiden behaved himself long enough to make it through the show. Every time we go, I always think about how the performers and management are oblivious to the fact that there are actual Ringling descendants in the audience. When we walk in, there’s no backstage entrance or special viewing section. And when we walk out, we have to walk past the protesters who claim the animals in the show are abused – just like everyone else. Yes, we have to pay full price for our tickets. No, I didn’t punch any of the protesters. But my mom flipped them the bird… which was entertaining to see.

I remember taking Alli to her first show, and trying to describe the overwhelming feeling of pride I had seeing her face as she watched. Well, I got to experience that feeling again this past weekend as I watched Aiden witness everything for the first time. Hopefully one day they’ll get to share that same feeling with children of their own. And if not, I just hope they can appreciate what their ancestors started over a century ago and see that their dreams still live on in the smiles of the millions of people that attend each year.

My family has always been a clan of entertainers, and that’s exactly what the circus aims to accomplish. Well guys,
mission accomplished. Can’t wait to go back the next time you’re in town.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Homework assignment

In light of all that Mommy B and I have going on next week with the big move, I'm going to give you all a little homework assignment to entertain yourselves with until we're able to make time for the blog. I don't anticipate getting much sleep over the next week or so, which means your favorite blog will be on a short hiatus for the time being. I'll try not to neglect youse guys too much because I'm sure you're all just dying to know how much of a pain in the rear end this move will be.

So, without further ado, here's your assignment. It won't require much of a change to your daily activities:

I just want you to watch and observe how certain people are portrayed in the media these days. Specifically, how men are portrayed versus their female counterparts in television commercials. You know the kind - car commercials where a heterosexual couple is looking to buy a car, or they're looking to save hundreds on insurance, or even going to the store together. It doesn't even have to be commercials or shows where both male and female characters are present - just carefully watch how men and women are portrayed on TV in general and see if you notice a trend.

I've mentioned before that I'm a pretty observant person... at least I think I am. Over the last couple of years, I've noticed certain attributes embodied by the overwhelming majority of male characters (and that's a key term: character) in TV commercials and many shows these days. I'm going to withhold my personal observations until a later time as I don't want to influence your thus far unbiased and completely objective opinions. I'll reveal my thoughts on the subject and tie it in with some other things I've noticed as well.

Wish us luck, y'all.. it's going to be a busy week!