Monday, May 23, 2011

Visiting the Lillards

Jeremy and I took a trip out to California this past weekend to visit our friends who are currently living out near LA. Not only did we want to see Ami, Randy and Resse again, but we couldn't wait to meet their new baby girl, Avery.

After waiting in the airport for 4 hours, we were finally on our way, and landed in LA around 11pm. Fortunately, the traffic is not bad this late, so it didn't take us long to get the car and make it up to their place.

Night 1: bedtime at 12am

Around 6:30am the next morning I heard the pitter patter of little feet running around upstairs and a cute little voice yelling "it's orange, it's orange!"

Let me explain.

In an effort to keep Reese from getting up at 5am each morning, Ami bought this cool little nightlight. It stays blue until a certain time, and then turns orange. So for Reese, Ami set the time at 6:30am and he is not allowed to get out of bed until the nightlight turns orange. Hense the "it's orange, it's orange" call at 6:30.

On Friday we packed up the cars and headed to Disneyland. Not only was this my first trip to Disneyland, but it was my first time at Disney with two little kids. Both Reese and Avery did so well. They made it from 10 am to 11 pm without any trouble.

We went on the rockets, space mountain, small world, mr. toads wild ride, peter pan, haunted house, and a few others. We missed out on pirates, but that's just because none of us felt like waiting in the long line. I was surprised how long the lines were for a friday. Seriously, do they not have school in CA?

Around 5pm we headed over to California Adventure. Think of this as the MGM/Animal Kingdom of Disney World. Just as we were leaving Disneyland we saw Goofy. Of course there were pictures to be taken and knuckles to be given.

Oh, and Jeremy and I had to take our picture outside Disneyland.

Since it was already 5, we didn't do too many rides, just Monsters Inc and Tower of Terror. We mostly just walked around and grabbed dinner before the evening water show, which we learned, you need a fastpass for. Unfortunately by the time we found this out, the 9:00 show was already out, so we got tickets for the 10:15 show.

I will say, the show was fairly entertaining, but no where close to the shows that Disney World puts on. I think that we all thought it was 'okay,' but we probably would have enjoyed the fireworks show at Disneyland better.

Night 2: bedtime 12:30am (note - that's 2:30am CDT)

Saturday we just hung out and relaxed. We checked out 2 farmers markets, went to Trader Jos, and stopped by this awesome little bakery near their house. Okay, it's not so little, and it's very well known. It was packed and you could barely move. The nice man at the counter gave me a free sample of their cheese pastry. Randy asked for 2 to go, but after one bite of that, I knew we'd need at least 4. Mmmm, delicious.

At night Ami and I went to go see Bridesmaids. It's was pretty good, definitely has its funny parts, but its a little long in my opinion. I think this movie would have been much better if it was only 1 1/2 hrs long instead of 2 hours. There was a lot that really didn't need to be in the movie.

Night 3: bedtime 12:30am.

After 3 nights of staying up WAY too late, and getting up WAY too early, we were exhausted. Sunday morning we went for a run in Griffin Park and saw what we could of the Hollywood sign through the fog. Ami and I ran together while the boys took the stroller. The trails were REALLY hilly and I bet they had a tough time pushing the stroller back up to the top. I had a tough time just walking back up. Oh, and check it out, Ami and I have the same shoes.

After brunch, Jeremy and I went to Venice Beach for a few hours before heading to the airport.

Venice beach is, um, interesting. I was happy to go and see it, and now I'll be happy to never go back. The beach itself was surprisingly clean, but the "strand" was super dirty. I felt like I needed a shower after visiting.

Thanks Ami, Randy, Reese, and Avery for having us out for the weekend! We had so much fun!

Monday, May 16, 2011

1 week later... and a wedding.

First, A wedding!

This past weekend one of my good friends from college, Kristen Shehab, got married! Her wedding was like a mini college reunion. It was great seeing everyone again and catching up. The wedding was a lot of fun and we even managed to squeeze in a walk around the Yale campus during our very short 36 hour stay in Connecticut. It's a pretty nice campus. I mean, it's no Penn State, but the buildings are really old and beautiful.

Congratulations Kristen and Donny!

Next, the house update:

I received an email this morning from my head contractor letting me know that my house was the #1 priority this week and that they would be finished by Wednesday. Of course, this was before I sent them my "to do" list, so I'm going to give them until Friday. We'll see what happens.

After getting back from Connecticut this weekend, I did notice a few things had changed. All the doors in the house now close (yay), but some of them are still on the wrong hinges. This after having told them, no less than 3 times, that the closet door and the bathroom door had to be switched. I know this for a fact, since the bathroom door should have the hooks that are currently residing in the closet. Not a big deal, yes I can go buy some more hooks at home depot, but now it's just a matter of principle.

I was also given permission by my insurance to replace the refrigerator and the dishwasher. The dishwasher still smells like smoke, and the fridge seals are all jacked up from the heat of the fire. They do still seal, but they are so bent up that you have to open the left door in order to open the right. It's annoying. And, apparently, it's just as cheap to buy a new refrigerator as it is to replace the doors. Go figure.

Today is Monday 5.16.11. When I get home, I will assess their progress, and hopefully, they have more of the items in the house fixed by the time I get home.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The pains of working with contractors

It has been 6 1/2 months, 195 days to be exact, since the lint built up in the back of my dryer and my garage caught on fire. 195 days since the folks at Paul Davis Restoration showed up on my doorstep and said "Hi, we are hear to help you and to make this transition easier." 195 days ago, they lied.

For the first 2 months, there were constant problems between the contractor and the insurance agent. My Nationwide agent, also not the brightest bulb in the pack, and Paul Davis were both working off separate systems and it took them over a month to figure this out which explained why their numbers were not matching up. This coupled with the fact that it took over a week for my agent to respond to any emails or calls. Okay, fine. End of December rolls around and we finally have a clear plan and a check from Nationwide to start the reconstruction.

Demo goes fairly smoothly except for one thing. The contractors never once took pictures of anything before the tore it out. You can imagine how this would be a problem later in the reconstruction phase.

Over the next few months, I realize that my contractors lack the ability to multi-task. They just can't seem to do more than one thing at a time, and about 80% of the time, when they complete one task they wind up breaking something else. Here are some examples. When they redid the wiring on the A/C unit outside, they moved the box and broke a piece of the siding. They claim it's because the siding is so brittle, which it is, but it's really because they just screwed it in without drilling a small pilot hole first. If I, not a contractor, can screw something to the side of my house without breaking a panel, I would think they could. Also when they installed the range hood, they put a hole in the wall that then had to be fixed. When they took out the interior drywall, they put a hole in the siding on the front of the house. When they hired their roofing contractor to replace the roof, they broke the skylight and it took over 6 weeks to get replaced and even now, it looks like a 6 year old installed it and it needs to be redone. And these are just a few tidbits that I can think of off hand.

I also realize that the contractor's contractors seem to be fairly inept. They really need a full time supervisor, which I have become. Funny, because I thought that's why I hired Paul Davis. Apparently not.

Remember how I said that they never took pictures? Yea, about two months ago, that became a problem. First, the plumber. When he re-plumbed the kitchen he put the sink connections back IN A DIFFERENT PLACE! Seriously. Apparently he thought I could just move that however I wanted. No matter that the granite only has a hole in one spot to put the sink in. Also the electrical in the kitchen was rewired completely differently. So much so, that they had to redo the whole back panel of the cabinets under the sink because the holes didn't line up anymore. Again, pictures would have been helpful. Or measuring. Huh, what a concept. I mean, the cabinets were always in the house, if you really didn't know where something went, just measure the cabinets and you would have figured it out. Idiots. Oh and when they put the upper cabinets back into the house, they didn't put them the normal 18" up from the countertop, they put them on the ceiling. I walked in and I couldn't even touch the cabinet nobs to open them. Pictures.

Just before move-in the paint job was completed on the walls and the trim was stained. First thing I noticed was that the trim color was the wrong color. Well not "wrong" per-say, just not right. They did use the cherry minwax stain, however, they only did one coat of stain instead of two. Then the put the finish on and so now there's pretty much nothing one can do about it. The annoying part was how they lied to the head contractor about what they did. The painter was there the day I walked in and saw the trim. I asked him why the color was different and then I asked him how many coats of stain they put on. He said "one, that's all we do." However, after I pointed out to my head contractor (the "supervisor") that the color was wrong because they didn't do the typical two coats of stain, the painter then said to the contractor "oh, well we did 2 coats on the baseboards and 3 coats on the trim." LIAR. Listen, you made a mistake, you admitted to me your mistake, there's nothing you can do about it now, so just admit it. Don't lie to cover your ass. I know the truth, you told it to me a week ago. The trim turned out okay, just not as dark or the color that I wanted it. The interesting part is that they had a sample of what it was supposed to look like, and when they stained next to the sample, and realized it wasn't right, they just continued to put the finish on the wood instead of calling someone and saying "hey, this doesn't seem right to me, are you sure you want me to do this."

So yesterday I moved back into my house. It was a very exciting day for me and very stressful. Fortunately I have some awesome friends who helped me make the move a little easier. Thanks Mark, Christen, and Merrick.

First thing I noticed were the blinds. They were missing. So was the shower curtain rod, the closet rods, the closet shelves, the curtain rods for the master bedroom. Apparently instead of putting all that hardware into a bag and marking it "needed for move in," they just threw all that away and thought "oh well, we'll just buy new ones." Seriously I can't imagine how much all these little mistakes are costing the contractor.

The next things that I noticed, in progressive order, with the last being noticed at 11pm were 1) the refrigerator doors don't seal properly, 2) the front door is a pain to open and close (which I've been telling them about for the last 4 months) 3) the garbage disposal is on the wrong side of the sink (even after I told the plumber what side to put it on) 4) the shower doesn't work 5) all the doors are on the wrong frames so none of them close anymore 6) the toilet doesn't work.

You can imagine how I feel today about all of this. I also had words with the city inspector asking him why he didn't do his job, because the plumbing inspection, which was done on monday, should have NEVER passed with the shower and the toilet not working. Also, interestingly, I was told that the garbage disposal is about to fail and I should consider replacing it. Um, yea, that worked fine before you touched it, and funny, you admitted to me that you had trouble disconnecting it in the first place, so you had to pull at it hard to get it off. Any chance you broke something in the process? Hum, I think likely.

Lesson - don't let your house burn down.