Monday, February 24, 2014

My Second Favorite Holiday?!

I have a confession to make.  

I spent today in bed instead of earning my keep.


Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging like that.  If you've been reading for a long time, you may remember that I have extremely sensitive ears.  Yes, in terms of hearing, but even more so in terms of the other functions of ears, like balance and equilibrium and not feeling like you're falling off a flat surface all the time.  My balance issues come and go, swinging wildly from no problems at all to landing in the ICU a decade ago with atrial fibrillation brought on by acute labyrinthitis.  Good stuff.

One of the things that worried me about the move was what would happen to my ears.  I was moving from a very dry climate several hundred miles from any sizeable bodies of water, to a town right on the ocean.  I wondered what the humidity and elevation changes might do to my ears.  Much to my delight, I had almost no issues for the first couple of months after the move. 

Unfortunately, that didn't last.  I've had several bouts of vertigo lately and have been generally wobbly, bumping into things here and there and feeling a little unsteady.  I've just been riding it out, because eventually it always goes away.  Sometimes it takes hours.  Sometimes it takes weeks.  This morning, though, I woke up to a severe bout of it, and I just could not force myself to try to stay upright.  So as much as I hate to do it, I called in sick, which is something I hate to do and that I haven't done in many months.

I'm not at liberty to discuss the day's activities (*cough* naps, Lifetime movies and HGTV *cough*) except to say that for the first time in a long while, I hopped on to Pinterest.  Ohhhh, Pinterest.  You know, the place where we all pin outfits we love, recipes we can't wait to try, and craft ideas we have no intention of ever actually doing anything with?  Yeah.  That.  I only made it through the first half dozen pins in my feed before I ran across something that made me grin...

So we made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas (which I should blog about - since they were my first holidays away from home, ever) and Valentine's Day... which means that my second favorite holiday of the year is coming up.  I didn't even think of it until Pinterest pointed it out.  

EASTER!

Okay, yes, it's two months away.  (Who decided it should be so late this year?!  I'm going to write to the committee.)  I can start getting excited now.  Executive decision.

I love Easter!  I love the meaning of the holiday, the explosion of pastel everything in the stores leading up to it, coloring eggs, picking out goodies for baskets, having excuses to bake and eat adorable things... I love it all.  And this year will be exceptionally fun for our family, for reasons I will blog about later.


So when I saw this picture of Bunny Bum Pancakes on Pinterest, I nearly squealed in delight.  Quietly, you know, so as to not upset my ears.  But still.  I'm thinking Aidan will need to have these soon.  He'd love them!  You should go grab the recipe from The Chick'n Coop and make some too.

What's your favorite thing about Easter?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dun Dun Dunnnnn... (The Daycare Saga)

One of the biggest reasons I was hesitant to commit to the move is because Aidan was in an incredible daycare/preschool back home.  He'd been in the same place since he first entered daycare at four months old.  The teachers knew him, the administrators knew him, and a bunch of the other parents did too.  This school had the perfect mix of structure and freedom for him.  His teacher (from when he turned two until we moved) absolutely adored him and obviously loved her job, too.  It showed.  She pretty much potty trained him for us.  I trusted her implicitly with my child - and the number of people on that list is very small.

I battled with this, constantly, for a long time.  What if we moved and didn't find another good school for him?  What if uprooting him from this school damaged him or set him back in some way?  Sure, he's only three, but you just never know.  There was so much around the corner, beyond where I could see, that I began to wonder if I could be sure of anything at all anymore.

But what was the alternative?  To stay where it was familiar and predictable and stable... and where we were hemorrhaging money each month, with our reserves rapidly disappearing?  Where he could only play outside for half the year?  Where we'd be choosing to stay in the rut we were in, with no opportunities to better ourselves on the horizon?

Ultimately I had to take the plunge, but the anxiety and guilt involved was immense.  I had a friend tour a couple of daycares for me ahead of time.  I also learned that an old friend from high school had her kids at one of those two centers, and absolutely loved it.  She gave me details about the place, the teachers, the atmosphere, and it all sounded perfect for us.  Between those two very strong recommendations, I went ahead and paid a deposit to save a spot for him.

The plan was to arrive in the new city on Sunday night and to visit the new daycare on Monday to let him get used to it.  In fact, we planned to visit each day that week so he would (hopefully) feel comfortable attending all day on our first day of work, the following Monday.  As you know, that's not how things happened.  I believe it was Wednesday before we got to go visit.  We were invited to come for lunch time and stay with him while he ate.  I loved this idea!

The admins at the new center were very friendly and welcoming.  The classroom was clean and brightly decorated, which made me happy.  The teacher seemed very nice.  But within five minutes of walking in, we both felt uptight.  The room was just in chaos.  Of course, if you put 20 three-year-olds in a room together, you're going to have a lot of activity going on.  But this was beyond that.  They were just sort of running around like crazy people, with no direction at all, and the teacher didn't seem at all bothered by this.

We watched this same sort of thing continue for almost an hour.  I noticed the kids were rough with each other, and there was one kid in particular who was downright violent.  Within 15 minutes of sitting down in the classroom the first time, I saw him pull a little girl's hair, chuck a toy halfway across the room, shove another kid down to the floor, and club a kid over the head with a plastic airplane toy.  My stomach knotted.

Aidan was nervous and didn't feel comfortable jumping in to play.  This was a red flag, of course, but as I always seem to do, I second guessed it.  "We can't compare this to the room back home because that was a two-year-old room and this is a three-year-old room."  "We need to keep an open mind."  "We're just extra anxious because of all that's happened with the housing situation."  "He's just thrown off because of the move."

When it was time for lunch, the kids all scurried to the tables and sat down.  The teachers donned plastic gloves and passed out paper plates and cups.  Then out came the food.  I was excited to see what the food was like.  I found myself displeased with the menu.  That first day, it was bologna sandwiches consisting of white bread, a slice of bologna, a slice of cheese (the Kraft singles, individually wrapped type).  There were also baked beans straight from a can and pineapple rings.

Once again, I forced myself to try to have an open mind.  "It's only one meal a day."  "I grew up on food like this, it's fine."  "We're saving over $150 a month from the old school, they have to cut costs somewhere."  But I just never quite got over that.  At the very least, couldn't they use a whole wheat bread and some sort of real meat?!

I spoke with both the teachers in the classroom as well as both of the center's administrators about the aggressive child's behavior.  The teachers acknowledged there was a problem and said they would talk to the child.  The administrators only offered an explanation of, "well, his mother works here..."  I didn't see how that was relevant, and I also thought it was inappropriate to use that as an excuse.  But again - we were sort of stuck without any other options for a short time at least, so we reluctantly decided to go ahead and enroll him, and see how it went.

The next two days' visits went very much the same as the first... including extremely similar lunch menus.  I noticed that the food being served was not the same as the food on the menu that the school sent home each month.  The menu suggested there were hot meals being served, but I never saw anything like that in the classroom.

We eventually made it to our first day of work.  Much to my shock and relief, Aidan didn't cry when we dropped him off.  He seemed a little nervous, but the teacher was ready to help and he seemed okay.

That would be the very last time he willingly accepted being dropped off at that school.

To make a much longer story short, we started seeing red flags all over the place.  The biggest problem was that the violent kid we had observed in the first visit was actually even worse than we had seen.  Over the next few days, in just the few minutes we spent at the school picking Aidan up, we saw this child:

  • Throw another child on the floor, climb on him to pin him down, and hit him repeatedly in the head
  • Chase another child around the room until that child gave up and stopped, then make a fist, rear back on one foot, and throw his full body weight into a punch to that child’s face
  • Follow a child around the room kicking his legs
  • Grab a child’s wrist and hit the back side of his elbow repeatedly, trying to bend it backwards
  • Throw a child on the floor, place the child in a head lock and hit him repeatedly

That wasn't the worst of it.

We found ourselves particularly disturbed by the fact that the way these incidents were handled – if even seen by teachers – was a simple, distracted, non-emphatic, “don’t do that.”  We never once saw this child engaged in a conversation with a teacher about his behavior, nor in a time out or other disciplinary action.

Once again I expressed concerns to both teachers and administration.  One teacher did inform me that there are problems at home.  She went on to tell me that the child’s father was absent when he was born, then came into the child’s life, then left again recently. While we had sympathy for this child and what he must be going through, the center appeared largely uninterested in actually addressing this very inappropriate and unsafe behavior which, to us, was unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Aidan was in a constant state of agitation and anger that we'd never experienced before.  He stopped sleeping well and cried out in the middle of the night a lot.  One evening during his second week there, our barely three year old told us, "my new friends not nice, my new friends hit me.  I want a new school."  That was much more direct and articulate than he'd ever been before.  We were stunned.  And then I couldn't stop it.  I lost it.  The guilt was ridiculous.  I'd known better, and I'd shoved my gut feeling to the back of my mind instead of listening to it.  And it was having a negative impact on my kid.

Parental guilt is the absolute worst.

The morning after he told me he wanted a new school, I began frantically calling all over town looking for new places.  We drove by three different centers after we picked him up that night.  We both instantly got a good feeling from one of them.  We toured it the next morning and enrolled him that afternoon, a Thursday, for a start date of Monday.  The new place reminded us a lot of the school he attended back home, which was a very good sign!

The guilt struck again as I realized that he would have no transition period at all.  We were both in our second week at our new jobs and I knew that taking time off would not go over well.  So that day and the next, we raced to pick him up after work, then raced to the new school to hang out there for the 15 minutes prior to closing so that he could at least see the place and meet his new teacher ahead of time.

Monday morning came and, once again, I was a ball of nerves and guilt.  I remember repeating to myself, "this cannot possibly be a step down from where he's been for the past two weeks."  I remember reassuring myself that at least NOW I was following my gut, which had to be a good thing.

Right?

Right!!  We dropped him off that morning and he was happy as a clam to be there.  The relief was almost as powerful as the guilt had been.  At pickup, same thing.  Happy boy!  The sleeping problems, attitude issues, hitting, and general difficulties with him vanished almost immediately.  It became really obvious that it wasn't the move that had caused those issues.  (Wouldn't you be pretty cranky if you got the crap kicked out of you at work every day and couldn't tell anyone about it??)

He's been there for three months now.  His language skills have completely exploded and he's learned so much new stuff!  He loves all of his teachers and tells us every night what kind of fun stuff he got to do that day.  And whether he was the line leader or not (that's his favorite!).  I can't quite explain how much easier it is to concentrate on work when I know my kid is happy and well cared for.

Another moving complication bites the dust!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The New Design is Up!

Well, how do you like the new look?!

First, my hat's off to Ashbee Designs and Custom Blog Designs for the custom characters and blog design, respectively.  I'd never worked with Ashley at Ashbee before, but I was blown away by what a great job she did capturing all of our appearances and personalities!  She was super easy to work with and obviously loves what she does.

And, this is probably the 5th or 6th blog design that Diana at CBD has done for me and she always does such a great job.  Plus, she's a super nice lady who once drove a motorhome all the way to Alaska to meet me.  Okay, maybe that wasn't the purpose of her trip, but we did meet in person while she was here.  So she's extra special to me.

I was actually kind of sad to see my old design go.  I had that basic design for over 3-1/2 years and I kept it that long because I loved it.  However, as the kiddo has gotten older, and some other things have taken place, I have become more concerned about privacy and making sure that I'm not rolling out the red carpet nutjobs on the internet to find my family.  Therefore, I decided that the photos of us in my header image had to go, and that custom characters would be a fun substitute.  And because of their more 'cartoony' appearance, they just wouldn't have looked right with my old header and design.

I also abandoned my old tagline, which was "enjoying the gift of parenthood through open adoption."  This also wasn't a decision I took lightly, because in a way it's accurate.  In another way, though, it's not entirely true.  We do still have an open adoption (and would never change that) but it doesn't look like I had hoped it would.  We don't have as much contact as I'd like and... well, to respect everyone's privacy I suppose I shouldn't say much more.  I also found myself feeling pigeon-holed into only writing about parenthood or adoption, while also feeling awkward and sort of guilty about writing about nothing else.  And that's a big part of the reason I haven't blogged much the last year or more.  

The new tagline, seen in the header above, makes me feel much more free to write about a variety of other subjects, which makes me really happy.  I wanted badly to write about my involvement in the Baby Veronica case, for instance.  And I'm excited to feel like I can write about something in the news, or something I saw on TV, or whatever.  Writing is enjoyable for me and it's cathartic, but for a while now I haven't felt like this was the right place to do it.  So I changed that.  

Which brings me to a quick comment on our Valentine's Day. We're not huge Valentine's Day people anyway, but this year we didn't even go to dinner or anything.  We had to work all day and then decided to spend the evening as a family, playing trains and eating take & bake pizza.  Romantic?  No. My favorite way to spend an evening?  Pretty much.  Besides, nothing could have outdone the gift I received the day before.  Aidan (who is 3, for any new readers I may have) was standing at the bathroom mirror brushing his hair.  When he was done, I asked him how he looked.  He said, "happy!" So I flashed a cheesy grin in the mirror myself and asked, "how does Mommy look?"

"Pretty!!"

Cue the melting.  That's not a word we use a lot, so I'm not sure where it came from, but it hit me hard!  Just the other day, he told me that he got hurt and went to the doctor (we are big on making up stories lately) and that the doctor gave him a big bandaid, and then I kissed the owie and that made him all better.

My little boy thinks I'm pretty and that my kisses can fix him up better than a doctor can.

Hate to say, no amount of flowers or candy can top that.

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Have I Ever Mentioned I Don't Love Change? (Part 3)

If you haven't yet, read parts one and two of this story first.

We arrived in our new city on a Sunday evening.  We were mentally, physically and emotionally drained after the flurry of chaos over the previous five weeks.  We couldn't wait to get our hands on the keys of our new rental townhouse, procure some dinner and crash for the night so we could start fresh in the morning.

We had the entire week planned and scheduled.  Visits to the new daycare.  Unloading and unpacking all our possessions.  Shopping for (required) new wardrobes for our new jobs.  Getting keys to our new PO box and changing our address everywhere.  Signing up for phone and cable service.  You know the drill.  It was to be a very busy and exciting week!

When we pulled up to the house we had rented, the property manager was waiting there for us.  We were so excited.

Then we went inside.  Everything changed.

Looooooong story short, between the time we had friends do a walk-through on this place and the day we arrived, it had... changed condition.  Before we even walked in we were concerned by this:


Those are 2+ inch gaps at the bottom of the garage door.  Aidan could stick his hand all the way into the garage through these gaps, and the door was bowed out in the center.  It looked as if someone had backed into the door from inside the garage and never finished fixing the damage.  Obviously this is a security concern, but also, we were to be paying for heat!  There's a lot of room there for heat to escape and that raised some concerns right off the bat.

The first room we went into was the garage, where we found that someone had dumped or spilled a gallon of deck stain or something.  It went across the floor and into the floor drain, presumably clogging it.


This could be a problem, because in Alaska, we get a ton of snow on our cars and if a floor drain is clogged, you could potentially end up with a lake in your garage that might not go away.  Also, the garage had a ton of furniture and building materials in it.  You can see a bookshelf, some sheetrock and a shop vac just in this one picture.  We started to wonder if the place was actually intended to be rented or not.

Okay, whatever, we'll figure something out.  Then hubby noticed that the garage door opener was attached to the mounting brackets by one bolt.  ONE BOLT.  Those things vibrate in normal use.  I asked what's to keep the thing from falling on my car or on my head?  The property manager's answer was that we just shouldn't use it.  Oh, and did I mention the absolutely disgusting extra refrigerator in the garage?  Not only was it filthy inside and smelled like a dumpster, it was situated directly in front of the breaker panel for the house, so you couldn't shut off a breaker in case of an emergency.  Code violation!

Then we saw the rest of the downstairs, including these gems:


It's sort of hard to see there, but when our friends did the walk through, this wall had a nice big shelf on it which would've been totally acceptable.  But by the time we attempted to take occupancy, they had ripped the shelves off the walls - MANY of them - and hadn't bothered to patch, paint or even clean where the shelves had been.  Every room in this place had at least one wall that looked something like this.


Yeah, that would be an electrical outlet with no plate on it.  And that wasn't the only one.  Serious code violations!  Just above that was a window.  We soon learned that it was not operational and could not be opened in case of a fire.  So we went to the only other downstairs window and it was the same way.  It could not be opened.  Another code violation.  Three or more code violations on the first floor, good start??

Other issues downstairs included a filthy washing machine and a shower head that was hanging loose, though by this time I was in too much shock to have the presence of mind to take pictures of those.

We hadn't even been upstairs yet and we were both horrified.  I think the biggest thing getting to me was, "if there's all this neglected stuff that we can see, what on earth can we not see?!"  We brought each and every one of these issues up with the property manager as he filled out the move-in inspection.  For each one he had a handy dandy fix - for US to do.  "Oh, you can just put some weather stripping around that garage door."  "If you guys want to paint I can ask the owner for permission but you'll have to buy the paint."

By this time, we had both become incredibly anxious and filled with dread.  I kept second guessing myself.  I'm just tired.  I'm just scared because of the move.  I'm used to being a homeowner and forgot how to be a renter.  I'm being too picky.  I'm being unreasonable.  But I could not stop the feeling of dread.  Hubby was even more upset than I was.

We made our way upstairs.  On first glance, the kitchen looked better than the downstairs.  Good sign, right?  Wrong.  Upon closer inspection we found dust and dirt all over and damage as well.


That's a broken door on the microwave which had been half-heartedly glued back together.  Because who doesn't want stray microwave... waves... bouncing around in their kitchen?

I peeked in the dishwasher and found it was dirty and the drain at the bottom was full of debris.  Here's what the property manager pulled out of there in just the first couple of minutes.


"I'm sure the drain is fine," he said.  "I don't know how that got in there but I'm sure it's just fine.  If you're that worried about it, we can start it and see what happens."  Continuously downplaying everything that was wrong.  I expressed concern once again about the condition of this house.  His response was, "well, the rental market is so tight here that owners don't make any money on their rentals, so there's no money to fix things or paint between tenants."

For a minute, I believed him, despite the totally backwards logic.  But a little voice in my head kept telling me I was right to be worried and that I should start running and not look back at this trash heap.  But where would we go?  Now it was 7pm on a Sunday night and we were - technically - homeless except for this trash heap.

We wandered into the living room where we found:


Exceptionally dirty walls - not even a basic wipe-down after the previous tenants vacated...


And burned, stained, broken doors on a fireplace.  The knob on the right fell off in my hand when I tried to pull on it.  Super safe especially with a toddler and two dogs in the house, right?  There was also a bizarre piece of furniture left in the living room.  It was wood and yellow and a big square (with rounded corners) and about two feet tall.  A ghetto coffee table, maybe?  Who knows.  But it was just left there as if no one felt like carrying it downstairs and out the door.  And a random bookshelf.  Because I definitely want someone else's furniture in my house.

In my mind I was frantically trying to think of alternatives to staying there for even one more minute.  We could go to a hotel... but what hotel will have room for us at this hour especially with dogs in tow?  We have family here but again, it would be one thing if it were just hubby and I. The toddler and two dogs kind of change things especially on short notice.

I walked into the master bedroom to check that out.  There were 20+ holes in the walls, but it was a nice size and, bonus, the window was functional!  Finally, I thought.  One room with some redeeming qualities.  Then I made the mistake of walking into the master bathroom.

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly see anything worse in this dump... I did.


Now, let me explain.  This picture was actually taken the next day, after it was flushed once by the property manager (I'll get to that in a minute).  I did not take a picture of the condition I found this toilet in when we first saw it because I was completely horrified by it.  The bowl was full - FULL - of some sort of black furry substance.  I have never seen anything like it in my life and I darn near lost my cookies when I saw and smelled it.

I don't know if it was mold or a gorilla shaved and dumped the hair in there or WHAT, but it was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in person.  And I used to work in operating rooms, so that's saying something.  The property manager's response to seeing the toilet (not in that improved condition you see in the picture but in its original state when we saw it) was, literally, "W. T. F."  Not the expletive words, just the letters.  It was the first time he'd seemed to think anything was wrong with the place.

I began to pace angrily.  Furiously.  I try to always be nice to people.  Always.  I fully believe that being rude gets you nowhere (except sometimes pushes you backwards).  But I'd had enough.  I was honest - but civil - with the property manager.  I told him this was not what we had signed up for, I told him I had to wonder if a band of meth heads had been living there for the past three weeks (which was the period that we had paid rent for), and I told him that I didn't feel safe staying there for even one night.  I said the place was disgusting and that his suggestions for us to fix everything weren't going to work for me.  He said he'd talk to management in the morning (which would be a Monday) and see what they could do about fixing all the problems.

Then he finished his move-in inspection sheet and vacated the premises.

Hubby and I paced some more.  We fumed.  We stressed.  We debated.  We hugged.  We may have cried a little.  Or maybe that was just me.  Probably.  We tried to take cues from the kid, who thought a big empty house was a lot of fun to play in!

But we just couldn't get there.  By this time it was after 8pm and we had to figure out where we were to lay our heads for the night.  We'd been on the go for 14 hours and we were all getting loopy.  In a last ditch effort to salvage the rental situation, I called the friend who had walked through and asked her to come look at it with us and tell us if this was the condition she saw it in.  If she said yes, then we'd know we made a huge mistake and we would have to deal with it somehow.  But if she said no, maybe we'd have some recourse.

When she arrived, she was every bit as horrified as we were.  She verified that it did NOT look like that when she saw it.  (I knew it didn't, because we FaceTime'd during her walk through.  The connection was pretty bad, but I saw enough to know it wasn't like this.)  Hubby and I debated what to do.  Both of us felt physically ill over the thought of staying there even one night, mostly because of the kid.  Just the toxic I-don't-even-know-what coming from that master bedroom toilet made me feel like I'd be harming his (traditionally sensitive) lungs by making him breathe that for a night.  Furthermore, with the way the place had been trashed treated in the previous few weeks, I had to wonder who might have keys to it and wouldn't think twice about barging in at 3am and doing... who knows what.

Our friend insisted we come stay at her house.  So by 9pm, less than 2 hours after the property manager left, we departed that dump and headed to her house.  The next morning I had a chat with the property manager's boss, told him what was going on, and why we would not be able to move in to that home.  

He was a complete and total jerk.  He said this was all my fault for signing a lease on a place I hadn't seen in person (lesson learned), that my standards were unreasonable, that they were entitled to a 'few days' to fix the things that were wrong, and that I should 'start acting like an adult.'  My head nearly exploded on that last one.  I had been nothing but completely professional with him, and with his minion as well.  I was mad, but I was still civil, not rude, and certainly not mean or childish.  He eventually agreed to meet us at the 'crack house,' as we had begun affectionately calling it, a couple hours later.  

We met him there.  It was awkward and uncomfortable and he was acting like a cranky teenager. He somewhat begrudgingly made a list of our 'complaints' and at the end of the tour he told us he could have everything cleaned up and ready for us in a 'few days.'  We had already had our entire schedule turned upside down as a result of them thinking this was acceptable in the first place, so we found ourselves unconvinced and unimpressed by his offer.  Truth was, we didn't have a 'few days' to sit around at our friend's house while he put bandaid fixes on things.  And besides, what would happen the first time we needed something fixed down the road?  Would he even address it then?  He also informed me that he could have the place re-rented immediately at the price we were paying for it.  Because of my extensive research into housing prior to our move, I knew this to be untrue.  But I didn't tell him that.

Our friends were so kind and gracious to put us up for two days and two nights while we frantically searched for new housing!  Just over 24 hours after our meeting with the guy from the property management company, we were in the office of a different company across town signing a lease on a new place.  It was built twenty years more recently, is in a better neighborhood, has a better layout, and it's clean and safe!  But I think my favorite part about it is this view:


Yup.  Never gets old!  We took possession of the new place immediately and notified the movers of the new address.  Then, more bad news.  Whereas they had been scheduled to deliver our stuff on Tuesday (remember that we got into town on Sunday evening)... because we had to re-schedule, we were now looking at Saturday.  And our jobs were to start on Monday.  Bummer!

Thankfully things worked out just slightly better than that, logistically, and our stuff was delivered on Thursday afternoon.  In the meantime, an email exchange was taking place between myself and the 'slum lord,' as we began to call the property manager in charge of the crack house.  I was citing parts of the state Landlord-Tenant Act that I (still) believe clearly spelled out that we were entitled to our money back.  I should probably mention here, so that the rest of this makes sense, that between first and last month's rent and the security and pet deposits, we had given this scumball several thousand dollars.  And we desperately needed that back.  We had moved because we were out of money, and that was the last bit of our savings.

Anyway, I was making my case with this jerk that we were owed the majority of that money, if not all of it, back.  There were a few exchanges followed by one lone message from the owner of the property management company himself:
Please stop sending these e mails. Your an adult. You signed a contract and obligated yourself. I think your attorney and court sounds best. My staff has no more time to spend with you on these e mails. Once you fully breach the contract we will file court action against you and the attorneys can present the facts to a judge and we will follow the judges orders.
"You're an adult," really??  Oh, I'm sorry, it was "your an adult."  Oh my goodness!  I remember the moment I first read that email.  My response was not pretty, but it was just hubby and I, so that was okay.  Ha!  I still can't believe the snotty and condescending attitude I got from these people throughout this process.

I'll try to shorten the rest of this obscenely long tale.  We saw an attorney.  The attorney told us we were in the right, but that our best strategy would be to wait until the house was re-rented, so that we would know exactly what our damages were.  Whereas the slum lord had told me he could have the house re-rented immediately, the reality ended up being (as I knew would be the case) that it would take a month and THREE different decreases in the rent amount before someone could convince themselves to move into that dump.  And that is in a city where rentals have a 3% vacancy rate currently.  

Once the house was re-rented, I emailed them back, the first contact since "your an adult."  (Picture me rolling my eyes at that once more, because I am.)  I asked them how this was to be handled financially.  They basically said that they would be sending me a refund for the money they felt they owed me after they took out all they felt entitled to.  By law they had 14 days to do this.  As it turns out, they mailed it on the 12th day.

Can you guess how much of my four thousand dollars they returned?  I'll give you a hint, it was less than $200.  I had expected them to send almost exactly that amount based on what they had said they planned to deduct for, so I wasn't surprised, but I was angry all over again.  I eventually got back in touch with the attorney, who told me that for that amount of money, he just couldn't be sure he could get it back for me without costing about that much in fees.

ARGH.

So, currently, we are tossing around the idea of pursuing this in small claims court.  Part of me wants to, mostly on principle.  Another part of me just wants to be done with all this.  But seriously, I could really use that almost-four-thousand bucks.  It makes me nauseous when I think about these scumbags sitting on piles of our money.  I feel like they pulled one over on us, and I HATE THAT.  I hope we'll have a final decision in the next week or so on whether we're going to pursue it.  If we don't go down the road of legal recourse, then I have other ideas about hitting him back where it hurts.  Don't worry, nothing illegal.  But I know how to get my point across.  (Now picture my best innocent grin.)

In retrospect, it was nothing short of a miracle that we got through the past three months without having to sell a vehicle or something.  Our house back home sat empty (while listed both for sale and rent) for over two months of that, so we were covering our mortgage plus our new rent AND we had lost several grand to the slum lord.  The new income level definitely helped, but some other unexpected things happened, too, that really saved our bacon.  It's funny how that works out, isn't it?

Now, our house back home is rented without issues (so far), we are a few months into our new jobs and learning so much, the weather here is so much better than the weather back home, we have the kid in a great preschool (though we had drama with this too... watch for an upcoming post), we love the shopping here and the views and so much other stuff.  I love that I live three minutes from a Target instead of 8 hours from one!

We have finally been able to relax a little bit here, just in the last month or so, and enjoy some of the things we moved here for.  We took the kid to a cool Christmas event at the zoo.  We don't even have a zoo back home!  We've seen family we rarely got to see before.  Last weekend we spent some time at the museum here which beats the pants off the museum back home.  There's just so much more stuff to see and do!

This winter we plan to make some weekend road trips!  We haven't been willing or able to travel outside the city since we moved here, with all that's gone on, and now needing to build our savings back up.  But hopefully we can make a few short trips to what I believe are some of the most beautiful places on this planet!

After all of that drama - and I still haven't told you all of it - I ask myself daily: was the move actually the right decision?

For the first time in five months, I'm finally sure it was.

Our future looks so bright here.  Literally, because there's more daylight.  But figuratively too!  There's some exciting stuff coming up for us and I can't wait to overshare share with you.