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July 21, 2018

words to live by: I DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT AND I SHOULD HAVE JUST SAID NO

A few more notes worth mentioning before I get to the big ugly:

1.  Geraldine texted me in Sept of '16 and asked me if the Love's could use their backup sitter, so that she could bring her sick children to my house.

This was my second year of babysitting, and I had added the Love family.  (that link is totally unrelated to this story except that the germ baby in this case was Joey Love).  Mr. Love was a PT with Coach.  The mom a teacher.  We were at their wedding and they were excited when they learned that I was babysitting.  In the fall of '16, I eagerly agreed to watch 16 mo old Joey (whose parents hated their daycare) along with Theo and Carter.  Sweet baby Bailey, Joey's little sister joined the gang in Jan '18 after her mom's maternity leave.

Anyway, Geraldine WASN'T supposed to bring sick kids to my house.  She knew that the Love's had grandparents who COULD help them out, but the Love's certainly didn't want to use up their 'help-us-out' card with their grandparents needlessly. The nerve.

2.  Gerladine got stuck in a snow storm visiting a friend out east.  She texted me late on a Sunday night (1/8/17) and asked me to pick her and Carter up from the airport the next day, because their Sunday flight was cancelled.  I remember the date because the next day was Reggie's birthday.  I was relying on nap time to make his birthday meal.

I would still have Theo, who was in town with pushover-dad.  The pickup was in the middle of nap time and my high school kids had one last day of Christmas break left.  They agreed to stay with sleeping Theo while I drove to the airport.  I DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT AND I SHOULD HAVE JUST SAID NO.  (words I now live by).  Coach heckled me over this and was like, 'Oh, you can do that.' .  . . so, by the way, can an Uber driver.  It boiled my blood, but I did it.

I jogged to Midway, grabbed her and Carter, stopped off at my house, loaded up Theo (who was with my teens- Geraldine never paid them for watching sleeping Theo - my boys didn't care, but to me it was a sign of utter inconsideration), and then drove them to their house.

On my way back to my house, I called the library because I realized it was the story time sign up day.  I was at a stop light.  I didn't have the bluetooth car, because I needed the big van for the carseats.  'Can I sign up over the phone or is it all online now?'  I could do it over the phone, Ms. Library told me.  The light changed.  I was on my phone.  For a moment.  I got pulled over.  I GOT ANOTHER TICKET, PEOPLE!!!!  I had been ticket free for, well, like several months.  Geraldine didn't increase my pay for the out-of-the-way-airport-shuttle service.

This is on of many dirty hair days.  
3.  Geraldine admitted to me a few months ago that she only bathes her kids about twice a week.  TWICE A WEEK!  Theo wipes himself.  These are boys.  They get dirty.

One day the boys showed up and Carter's hair was still full of the food that had been in his hair the day before.  I honestly considered skipping our scheduled outing because he looked dirty.  I didn't want people to think he was my kid.

I may not have worked out of the home when my kids were young, but I don't think I would've sacrificed the 10 minutes it took to bathe them.  Um, she has two kids.  I managed to bathe 6 - no matter how busy I was.  Besides, she picks the boys up at 4:00.  Plenty of time to give a bath before bed.  Theo liked to tell me about the movies he would watch when he got home from my house (after not watching TV at my house the entire day!) - but no time for a bath?  I can count on one hand how many times my kids missed a bath - EVER.  Seriously.

July 19, 2018

never wake a sleeping baby vs race to the door

Babysitting for Theo and Carter wasn't all bad.  They listened to me.  Dealing with their folks and their unique 'style' of parenting, again a term I use loosely, was a struggle.

An ongoing issue for YEARS that almost made my eating-their-breakfast-trying-to-mind-their-own-business kids lose their appetite, was the door dilemma.  Once Carter could walk, Theo struggled because Carter might run to the garage door and open it BEFORE Theo.  Imagine the lawlessness of it all!!!

Geraldine and her equally walk-all-over-me-please husband Simon tried to 'fix' Theo's issue.  They promised him that he would open the door the next time.  They would bring him back out to the garage so that he could open it himself.  There were other tactics.  It was mind-blowing.

My approach, since Theo was now over 3 years of age:  'Oh well, that's life.'  This is how I ended up with kids who didn't cry if they didn't get the coveted (insert favorite color here) cup at meals.  Cry all you want, kid.  Not gonna change anything.  This was still happening on one of the last days of this school year when Theo was well over 4 and a half years old!!!!  I thought Coach was going to blow a gasket one morning in June when it happened AGAIN.

Hey, I am NOT a perfect parent.  Remember:  my kids are far from perfectThey keep a gross bathroomThey forget that this isn't a college dorm.  But for heaven's sake.  This toddler stuff is elementary, right?

Of course, Theo could've been crying about the door thing because he was TIRED.  When he was 3 1/2 his folks asked me to start waking him up.  They decided that if his naps at my house went too long, he struggled to go to sleep at night.  I did that.  I started limiting how long his naps were.  He was dazed and confused, and sometimes tearful because he still wanted to sleep when I woke him.  It felt a little nutty. What's that saying, 'Never wake a sleeping baby'?
Joey, Carter, and Theo playing
at an awesome nature center. 
Sometimes it was a struggle to
 keep them awake
 in the car on the way home.
 How do you go from that to no naps?

I wore these kids out.  We did stuff.  The park, the zoo, the forest preserve place with an awesome hands-on nature learning center.  (same place I called when the raccoon issue arose, 'member?)  We kept busy.  Nap time was essential.

In the fall Theo turned 4.  He was a premie, mind you.  A tiny kid.  My Laddie was a huge kid, but napped thru kindergarten.  Eddie was done napping (much to my chagrin) by the time he was about 2 1/2.  They are all different.  No rhyme or reason.

Anyway, Geraldine announced to me one day at pick up that they decided that they didn't want Theo to nap anymore.  My response, 'Oh, well there will always be nap time at my house.  I mean, we can make it quiet time for Theo.  I can give him some quiet toys and books to look at in the room he usually naps in.'

Geraldine had no poker face.  She was NOT in agreement with me on this.  After she left, I called my friend and fellow babysitter, Caroline.  Caroline was on the same page as me.  'I would've said the same thing to her.  Nap time or quiet time.  Call it what you want.  Still part of the program.  No way around it.'

After that, things took an interesting turn.



July 17, 2018

I guess that's what they are calling it nowadays

I tried working outside our home.  I substitute taught.  I also worked for 3 years as an advancement director at a Catholic grammar school.  My take on the Catholic school administration thing (my kids once went to a different Catholic School from the one I worked in and we switched to public school, so I have experience with more than one of these places) - everyone has their own agenda.  No one is on the same page.  Communication sucks.  Why not stay home and be frustrated (and be slightly poorer, but only slightly)?

My kids would call me to say they forgot their lunch, or they missed the bus, or they couldn't find something.  I would arrive home to find our garage door up, the milk out, and the kitchen a disaster.  When I wasn't trying to read the minds of the powers that be at Saint-This-Place-Is-Full-of-Politics, I was stuck in traffic and racing to beat the school bus home.  Yes, this is where I scored my first of the string of tickets that caused me to lose my license for 7 weeks.

Three years ago in Sept '15, I started to babysit for a kid named Theo while his mom worked in a school  (I realize after looking back at older posts I am sharing that I sometimes refer to her as Gretta and sometimes I refer to her as Geraldine - same nutty parent different alias).  I found the parents a bit odd.  Understatement of the year.  She was about to have baby Carter.  After her maternity leave, I was watching both of her boys three days a week the first year and four days a week the two years after that.

I took this photo in Sept of '16. 
He had already worn
them EVERYDAY the school year
 before.  What kid fits in the same
 shoes for over a year? 
These people were not destitute.
They both have decent paying jobs.
 Just cheap.
 Buy your kid a pair of shoes!
Theo wore thread barren shoes.  The same pair for well over a year, and they were used when he started to wear them.  What 2 year old can fit in the same shoes for over a year?

Eventually my physical therapist husband informed her that she should be buying him new shoes.  She was prone to used shoes.  Used shoes might be okay for special occasion/single use shoes, but not a great idea for a kid who is a new walker who needs support, etc.

She used cloth diapers.  I rolled with it.  She wanted me to change Theo into pajamas for his afternoon naps.  I went along with that for a few weeks, and then I ceased the wardrobe change for a 2 year old's nap.

The list of weirdness is fairly endless.  She spoke to Theo and eventually to Carter in a way that made me cringe.  I hear parents at the grocery store talk like this, and it is all I can do to stop my old-school self from correcting them on the spot.  When Theo tried to interrupt her when she was talking to me during pick up one day, she squatted down and made him feel valued.  I guess that's what they are calling it nowadays..  In a sickly sweet voice, she told him, 'I hear what you are saying and I am sorry you are sad.  I am almost done talking to Ernie.  I know that you are ready to go home, and I will be ready in another moment.  Thank you for your patience.'

A finger (NO, not that finger - I'm not that bad), raised up in the kid's direction would have been all my kids needed to understand that they needed to wait a minute.  Geraldine was like that though - never interested in upsetting the youngster.  Offering long, squeaky explanations where I felt none was necessary.  Bending over backwards to make Theo's needs met.  'Needs' a term I use loosely.

Memory - sometimes we play it and sometimes we don't.  
Is the game 'Memory' a need?  One day Geraldine showed up just as we had set up a game of memory.  Theo was not happy.  Geraldine texted me the next day with her ETA.  She wanted to allow us enough time for memory.  Newsflash:  just because a game works one day, doesn't mean I have time for it the next day.  Curly had homework and I was finishing my dinner prep so that we could bolt for our soccer games that night.  I did NOT jump thru that memory-game- hoop and force a quick game to appease both mother and son.  Not the way the cookies crumbles, people.

I promise this leads somewhere . . .


July 15, 2018

not much - but enough to make me crazy

Tank and I walked out to the car.  The cops were nice.  They came over to my great white van a minute later where I was waiting to pull into traffic.  I told them that if I lived closer I would be driving here regularly and heckling potential clients, 'Don't go in there!'  They said that wasn't a good idea, and they assured me that the place was usually empty anyway.

Fridge drawers with cabinet covers that
won't stay on.  Hard to
open a drawer without the
panel because there is no handle.
I broke down a bit when I described my full life and how this has become an exhausting process.  The cop felt bad about what I was going thru.  He asked me how much of the job was left.  'Not much,' I admitted.

Things could be worse.  The flunkies could have stopped showing up back when we didn't have running water, or before the cabinets were in.  It isn't like the kitchen is only a third of the way done.  The thing is that I feel duped.  The fact that all those last little pieces of the job aren't getting done is crazy frustrating.

This happened the end of May.  It is now July.  JULY.  It is time consuming to call around and try to piece together the last bits of the kitchen.  I feel like we spent way too much on the job for me to be trying to figure out what is left to do and who is going to do it.  A guy, who came highly recommended, was going to work on a custom hood for us.  He set up a few appointments in mid June, but never showed and now won't return my calls.  Maybe one custom hood is too small a job for him.

Bathroom.  I was planning to do a
gray color in there.  Coach thinks
it would be easier to just
use the same color.
 And cheaper.
I still have to figure out someone to measure and order the barn doors.  Coach's approach is like, 'Do we NEED those?'  See, that is the other issue.  Coach is willing to throw his arms up and call it a day on lots of things - like the paint in the bathroom.  'Just leave it the color it is, because we probably still have the paint color.'  This is why I was working with what I thought were professionals.  So I didn't have to go thru Mr. It-Looks-Fine-To-Me.

We take pictures of everything.  When things aren't completed or when they are done incorrectly, we are scrambling to redo things or find someone who knows how to do what we need.  For instance, the cabinet panels to the fridge drawers in the mini-island snack bar thing won't stay attached.  We are now going to pay the appliance store that sold us the panel-ready appliances to re-attach the panels.
Ah, a completed deck.

The main two cabinets over the dishwasher don't open at the same time.  If I am unloading dishes from the dishwasher, then a kid cannot open the adjacent cabinet with the cups in it at the same time.  I described this issue to the cop that day when he stood at my car.

No spacer between these cabinets.  The
 doors buckle and then pop
 open and whack together if they
are both attempted to open at the same time.
He said it sounded like they failed to put in a spacer between the cabinets.  I would guess that self-taught didn't put the necessary spacer in the drawings.  I had been telling flunkies since December that those cabinets weren't working right.  Flunkies just kept shrugging and saying that is how the cabinets were made.  They knew damn well that they hadn't hung them with the proper spacer.  Hell, the cop figured that out without even having seen the kitchen.  This isn't a Home Depot kitchen, damn it.  All of the cabinets should open properly.

See how close the cabinets are. 
Needed a spacer.  To add one now would
involve taking these cabinets down
and would impact the crown molding, etc.
$$$$$$
Our neighbor-lawyer has been a huge help to us.  He drew up the paperwork to have the contract terminated.  When I emailed Paulie to let him know that our lawyer was drawing up the contract termination papers, he emailed back.  He wrote that he would be gathering information on us.  As if.  Like he was going to sue us or expose us as the crazy people who made it impossible for him to do his work.  That email was rewarded with a half a chuckle.

Oh how I wish that this industry wasn't SO impossible to regulate.  I have heard many, many stories about jobs dragging on longer than humanly possible.  Horrible work.  Terrible communication.

Coach and his dad completed our deck in time for Mini's graduation party.  It ended up raining for the entire day, so the deck wasn't needed but it looked great.  It is also no longer the home to raccoons.

Coach has a patient who builds.  We used his plumber to install the gas line that needed to be put in before the deck was finished.  This patient has agreed to finish the kitchen for us, if we get him the materials.  I did locate and order the tile that we needed to complete the back-splash behind the stove top.  I am hoping that this other guy will come and look at our hood issue SOON.

Baby steps.

Oh yeah, Tank created a fake email address.  Under 'Connie Burn' - something he likes to say - Con and burn.  Not sure what the heck it means but it has something to do with 'in your face, I just burned you'.  He wanted me to email all the people whose emails I took note of in the office.  He was like 'The fake email account is tied to my cell phone, Mommy, so they can't trace it to you.'  Hmmm, not quite.  I ditched my initial plan to send out an email.  I did blast the flunkie company on Yelp though.

See, this is why it took me so long to write about.  Do you feel drained?  I do.  At least I had my 'yippee ki yi mother beeper' moment when Babs left us alone in the showroom.

July 13, 2018

like a kid in a candy store, plus cops

Tank and I looked at each other wide-eyed.  We were alone in the flunkie contractor's office.  I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to.  Totally bazaar.

Tank immediately walked thru the office to see if we were in fact alone.  We were.  I tested out a tall file cabinet.  It was unlocked.  I glanced around at papers on various counters and desks.  I felt like a kid in a candy store - only I didn't know what was candy and what was poison.

Babs poked her head back into the door about 6 minutes later.  I jumped.  I was standing in front of the tall file cabinet jotting things down on a notepad.  'Um, just be sure you lock up when you leave,' she requested.  WHAT?  What would I lock up with?  I didn't have a key.  Obviously.  What kind of crazy job security does this chick have?  Are these people all on drugs? 

I texted Paulie immediately.  'We are alone in your office.  Babs left.'  He texted back in record time.

He was definitely sweating.  Tank called out, 'Don't respond to him.'  Oh, I had no intention of responding.  I hoped he would show up at his showroom.  I had some things I wanted to say to his face.  Of course, I hadn't threatened anyone.  

I started jotting down names from a file that I found in the file cabinet.  This was a file of prospective clients.  These people wanted Paulie to get back to them, or start their job, or give them a quote.  I so wanted to send an email and warn them.  'Go with another contractor.  You're welcome.'

Then we started snapping pictures with our phones.  It was faster.  There was an invoice from a plumber.  Snap.  Attached was a bright colored sticky note.  'Plumber says he won't go back to the Whelan job until he is paid for the Ryerson job.'  Interesting.  Paulie was robbing Peter to pay Paul.  As suspected, he wasn't paying his subcontractors.  This is why progress on our job had stalled so frequently.  There was also a collection notice for $1,800 from some company.  Snap.  

Long story, but I met another family via YELP who was experiencing similar issues with our flunkie contractor.  They were the Whelan family, whose job the plumber wouldn't return to until the plumber was paid.  I called up Mr. Whelan. 

'You'll never guess where I am!' I squealed into the phone.  I described the plumber invoice.  Whelan couldn't believe that Babs had bailed AND asked me to lock up.  (Whelan was the one who pointed out to me that the guy who tiled my back-splash is not in fact a tile guy.  Swell.) 

Tank kept busy removing the batteries from the clocks.  He hid their land lines.  He wanted to mess with Paulie's computer, but I pulled the plug on that.  Tempting, but no.  

Tank started to get nervous that the police would show up.  I was ready.  I had nothing to hide.  Once I hung up with Whelan, I called Coach at work.  I told him how crazy it was that Tank and I were in the office alone.  That's when I noticed that the police were getting out of their car.  'Oh, I gotta go, Coach.  The police are here.'  Coach later described the kicked-in-his-gut feeling when I informed him that the police were there and then quickly hung up.  

The cops asked what was happening.  I told them all of it.  I pointed out how crazy it was that Babs had run off, and that despite Paulie's claims, I hadn't threatened anyone.  They chuckled about the threatening part and told me not to worry about it.  I wasn't.

They called up Paulie.  The cop told him, 'I can't make people talk nice on the phone or send nice emails.  Let me know what you want us to do.  Are we going to ask Ernie to leave, or are you going to come and give her the materials that she has paid for?'  Then the cop said, 'OK' and hung up.  

He looked at me and said, 'His exact words were:  Tell her to take me to court.'


July 11, 2018

when things go from frustrating to weird

May 30th the flunkie company emailed me to let me know that they were working on addressing my list, and that I would hear back from them in 24 hours.  Hearing back and completing the work didn't sound like the same thing.  Shock.

Mini was graduating from 8th grade on Thursday the 31st.  After she attended graduation practice in the morning, she was dismissed.  Tank hadn’t made it as far as graduation practice.  Remember?  The morning before, as Mini got ready to attend the final field trip, I teased her about whether or not she thought she might start a ruckus which could lead her to getting kicked out of graduation too.  Of course we both knew there was no chance little miss straight laced was going to follow in Tank's footsteps.  

Maybe it is the time of year for us Shenanigans, or maybe it was just the year-long reno project but I was feeling antsy by lunch time.  No word from the flunkie contractor.  Life was pretty damn hectic (thanks in part to one of the families I sit for - more on that later), but I paused a moment and decided:  enough is enough.  Mini was at her friends' house.  I called her.  'If you two hang out over here, then you can babysit during nap time and I can drive to the flunkie contractor place and demand my materials.'  

This is one of the items
listed on the punch list. 
A phone jack that wasn't complete.
I did state in my email that I was coming to pick up my already-paid-for-materials on the 31st if they hadn't delivered them, so that is what I decided to do.  Action felt better than sitting around doing nothing.  Tank walked in from mowing a few lawns.  I invited him to hop in the great white van.  'You are to use your phone for video footage if it gets ugly.'  Tank was all in.  

The showroom is a 25 minute drive from our house.  I tried to remind myself that there was very little chance that this adventure would end with me walking out to my car with my barn doors, my hood, etc.  Sometimes you gotta just go for it though.

I called to let the flunkies know I was planning to be there in under an hour.  I stressed that I meant business.  Babs, the newer office manager whom I had never met, tried to tell me that this was a showroom and my stuff wasn't there.  'Oh, no problem.  Just give me the address of the storage facility.  I will go there and you can have Paulie meet me there.'  I told her I would call back shortly to get the info on where I was to meet Paulie.  I used Tank's phone to call back, because I figured Babs would be screening her calls.  She didn't know Tank's number, but she didn't answer anyway.    

Mystery wire.  No idea what this is for. 
Never asked to have this stick out of the wall
 of the buffet.  They made a hole
 in the tile to accommodate this wire. 
WHY?????
The front door was locked, but Babs office was in the store-front window, so we saw her.  I knocked HARD on her window.  She let us in.  Then it got crazy weird.  Babs asked me if I had gotten her most recent email.  She had just sent it 2 minutes before I arrived, so -no, I hadn't gotten in.  I was driving, not checking email.  Oh, that reminds me.  Before I left and while I was driving there, Paulie sent me some crazy text messages.  How interesting that all of a sudden he was trying to communicate.

Babs handed me a printed copy of the 2 page email.  It was their response to my punch list.  I requested in my punch list that they install a phone jack and explain what the other exposed wire was for.  We had only one phone jack in the plans but there are two different spots where wires jut out of the tiled walls.  No idea why.  We aren't thrilled that the tile behind the buffet has a big hole in it to accommodate this mystery wire.  Their response on this email that Babs handed me:  'contact AT&T'.  Huh?

A closer look at the mystery wire and how horrible
 the tile will look if we have it removed now.
Babs' phone rang.  She shoved the phone in my face, 'It's just a personal call.'  I told her, 'Listen (crazy lady - didn't actually say that, but it WAS implied), I don't care who is calling you.  I am going to wait here until Paulie comes and gives me my shit.'  

'I have to watch my grandchildren.  I can't stay.  I need to go,' she called as she raced out the door.  It was early - like 3:30.  Hardly quitting time in my book. 

Tank, my heavy, and I just looked at each other.  What in the world?  We found ourselves alone in the office.  ALONE.  IN. THE. OFFICE.  

T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!

July 9, 2018

wait, you think we owe you what, and more red flags

As anticipated, the email that I dreaded stated something to the effect of:

We just realized that we only charged you for the baseboard in the front hall for $750.  The crown molding cost is $1,900.’  Red flag.  Why, oh why, had we allowed the previous red flags to slap us in the face and not flee from this group?!  Groan.  

I mean I KNOW why.  We just wanted the kitchen done.  And, hey- they had our money.  They had the plans, the crew, the materials, etc.  They were going to finish, right?

The woodwork had been done months ago.  I had already been billed, and I had already submitted my payment.  If they wanted to change the amount that I owed them, they were out of luck.  There were a few other pricing increases.  

We reached out to a neighbor, who is a lawyer.  He is a great guy.  He was Tank’s first lawn-mowing customer, and he was Tank’s confirmation sponsor.  He agreed to sit down with Coach and I that weekend.

The most earth shattering revelation was that Lawyer-neighbor told us that if our contractor was subcontracting out to get the work done on our job and not paying his subcontractors, then these subcontractors could take out a lien against our house.  Alarming!
If you are a regular reader here, um - thank you,
then this pic is old news.  It is just the most in-your-face
 reminder that the kitchen has not been completed.  

I drafted an email to the contractor and stated that we wouldn’t make another payment until he provided us with waivers of lien.  Lawyer-neighbor instructed me to include a date that we expected the work to be done.  If they didn’t complete the job by then, we would hire someone else and deduct the costs from what we owed them.  

Lawyer-neighbor checked over my email and then I sent it.  Just before I sent the email, the contractor sent his own email.  This email included a few of the adjustments that were glossed over in his alarming $25K email.  Now his total of what we owed was closer to what we thought we owed.  It was $13,000.  

This is probably old news too,
but this is the door to our deck. 
A bit of a struggle to walk
out there -a concern with
Mini's upcoming graduation party. 
 
I sent my email May 15th demanding waivers of lien and with the expectation that the work be done by May 31st.  The actual work (not including the punch list of little issues and incomplete aspects of the job):  

1.  install the hood (I have the appliance part sitting in boxes) and custom hood surround, 

2.  Put the glass doors in the two cabinets on either side of the stovetop, 

3.  finish building the deck, 

4.  and hang the barn doors that are supposed to slide in front of the recessed calendar.  

Then we waited, and we received this little gem of an email.  I do wonder if maybe the guy is on heroine.  He is MAYBE 112 pounds sopping wet and he never stops moving, plus he doesn't make sense lots of times.  Exhibit A . . .

Ernie and Coach,

As I expressed in my last e-mail, before we can move forward, it's best to resolve remaining balance extras that we need to settle as I expressed in the past several weeks.

As we are preparing more details to reply to your last e-mail, which you will have by the end of the day.

Sincerely,
-- 
Paulie
President

May 31st was quickly approaching and we had heard nothing.  I sent a follow up email clarifying what specific things needed to be complete by May 31st.  If they didn't complete the work, then we expected them to either drop off the materials that we had paid for (have an email stating this)- or we would come and pick them up.  Use your imagination to see where this is headed . . . that is a challenge, but trust me - not in your wildest dreams . . .