Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nothing Is Safe!

I took these pictures yesterday but I wanted to post the video first and I didn't want to overload everyone with cuteness. : )

The subject of this post is climbing. Eli and Jude have been climbing onto the couch (and anything else they can find) for about a month but it has gotten ridiculous in our new apartment. We thought we were pretty baby-proofed right off the bat but we were wrong. It has taken some adjusting but I think we're finally set again. But before we had gotten everything moved and re-arranged to the current set up, Travis said he caught Eli standing on the kitchen counter. Travis was doing the dishes and looked up to see Eli standing in front of him with a "What?" look on his face. Luckily I was not in the apartment or I probably would have freaked out.

Despite the lack of high places to climb now, Eli and Jude are still OBSESSED with climbing into the papasaun chair. They climb into it and then stand on one side to make it shift and then try to grab things off of the kitchen counters. I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of them yesterday because they were simply too cute!

Eli in the papasaun.

Jude had to get in on the fun too!

Of course, Jude then wanted to climb higher than Eli...

And then Mommy decided it was lunch time.

Smarter Than Cats?

So, Travis's Uncle Mike once told us shortly after the babies were born to alert him when we thought Eli and Jude became smarter than cats. He claimed that babies and cats are both inherently smart but cats are more advanced than babies for a short time at the beginning of their lives. We told him that we thought Eli and Jude surpassed cats when they could walk... but then they still do things like this...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fresh Start!

There's not much to say right now because we've been so busy moving! We moved into our new apartment - and it's AWESOME! - yesterday and Travis and I have been trying to unpack as fast as we can so the boys have some place to run and play without breaking themselves or anything important. Tomorrow we turn in the keys to the poop-filled apartment. I went by this evening to do a walk-through with our complex's accountant and she told me we won't be charged for any kind of damages... even the ones we deserve to be charged for. That's one nice thing about having your apartment flood with sewage, I guess. So, I pulled the last of the nails out of the walls and tomorrow we're going to throw out all of our destroyed possessions and forfeit our keys to SB. Good riddance.

Today Travis has also been working on our insurance claim for all of our damaged items and it's very detailed and challenging. They want the model name, brand, price, and age of every item so I've been running all over the internet trying to find prices on shoes I bought three years ago and t-shirts I bought five years ago. I'm sure there's plenty of good reasons for this, including avoiding insurance fraud. At least we HAVE the damaged clothes to refer to, I can't even imagine what this would be like if we'd had a fire or something similar where everything was really destroyed!

I promise a better post in a few days once things have calmed down a little bit. And maybe even pictures of the new place!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I Walk

Given the rant-y nature of the last few posts, I thought I'd take a moment and talk about the March of Dimes. I'm participating in the March for Babies in 27 days for so many reasons. The March of Dimes itself is a fantastic charitable organization with the goal of funding research for healthy pregnancies and providing support to families of premature infants and infants born with serious illnesses and birth defects. Their mission is to have every baby born healthy and give doctors and nurses the resources they need to care for the ones that are not! I think this is a lofty goal, but one that I can stand behind with my whole heart.

Many of you know that Eli and Jude are preemies. We were incredibly lucky to make it to 34 weeks gestation - just six weeks shy of their due date - when so many twins are born at 32, 28, and even a stunning 24 weeks. My perinatologist even awarded me a "bronze medal" when I made it to 32! March of Dimes has funded and pioneered research that helped me reach those milestones and also the research that helped Eli and Jude come home from the NICU four weeks earlier than the neonatologist originally predicted. I honestly believe that the work March of Dimes has done to educate doctors of the importance of kangaroo care had a huge impact on their NICU stay.

I also walk for my friends and family who have lost their babies before getting the chance to meet them. Recently I've met a shocking number of women who have lost babies late in their pregnancy or shortly after birth and it breaks my heart. These women - and their significant others - are everywhere and wear silent scars. I cannot imagine the pain they feel and can only hope that continued research will prevent other women from suffering such a loss.

The March for Babies is coming up fast and I'm working hard to raise money for this amazing cause. Seriously, who wouldn't support a group that strives for healthy babies? I'm not one who likes to ask for money but... DONATE PLEASE! I still have a long way to reach my goal but every dollar makes a difference. If you want to donate but don't want to give directly to me, please donate to my team - The Austin Moms of Multiples. You can click on the sidebar here on our blog, or visit my personal fund raising page here.

I too hope that one day, all babies will be born healthy. Please help me help the March of Dimes in their work to make that goal a reality.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slightly Better News...

Well, I'll do a quick update from the rest of the day. The health inspector came by the apartment finally, joined by SB (stonehearted bitch, remember?) and another office employee and the looks on their faces when I said that I had pictures of the unsanitary carpet dripping disgusting water on our patio and the bushes yesterday was PRICELESS! Honestly, it was the most gratifying part of my week making her look like an idiot. I will treasure those moments for a long, long time.

Also, the insurance representative came by to take a preliminary look at our furniture and damaged clothes to get a plan for tomorrow. He's said that it looks like most of it can be salvaged - YAY! - and what can't will be replaced. They're sending my clothes to a professional cleaner who specializes in removing smoke, water, and sewage damage from clothing so we're hopeful that most of it will survive. The same will be done for our damaged furniture, but there's not much of that. The guys are coming tomorrow to wipe down everything with anti-septic and get it all moved to a clean unit, then they'll move it directly from there to the cleaners or our new apartment. It's so nice, we don't have to pack much of anything!

Finally, we received written confirmation that we won't be held responsible for any lease-breaking fees but it took Travis calling SB's boss's boss to get it done. The lady at the top was shocked to hear about our plight and said it was the first time she was hearing about any of it. Travis also stated he felt a thorough investigation should be launched on SB and her business practices and corporate lady agreed. At least someone at the company has a brain.

The really terrible part of today though was discovering our basket of keepsakes from Eli and Jude's NICU stay is completely destroyed. They may be able to save the clothes they came home in by sending them to the cleaner's with mine, but the paper signs from their isolettes and their first bottles are trash now. Upon this discovery, I became inconsolably furious and distraught. Those "firsts" keepsakes mean so much to us, especially the bottles, because eating and coming home are huge milestones for preemies. I know it seems so small, but that's what really pushed me over the edge today. THAT is why I wanted to humiliate SB like never before. THAT is why I suddenly have no problems with bringing legal action. THAT is why I'll do whatever I can to get her fired. A good part of the damage to our priceless keepsakes and even the replaceable possessions like furniture and clothes could have been prevented. It makes me all riled up again just thinking about it. Maybe I'm crazy, but she brought this upon herself. She wanted a fight, and now it's ON.

Roller Coaster of Emotion

Since we last left you, things in the poop-filled apartment drama have both gotten better and more frustrating.

Tuesday morning I met with our complex manager - let's call her "Stonehearted Bitch" (pardon my language) or "SB" for short - and she said that her boss told her to "do everything they could to accommodate us" and she'd work on lowering our lease-breaking fees. I also filled out our intent to vacate forms and gave them a letter regarding the issues from Travis. I left the meeting feeling like SB had finally come around and was willing to work with us. We continued our apartment search and found our new home, ready to move in on April 13th. I continued my afternoon in a pretty good mood and took my brother to class and picked up my sisters. I retrieved a few more necessities out of the poop-filled apartment and noticed it was still stinky and parts of the contaminated area still uncleaned. I called SB to find out what her progress was on the financial front and she told me that the complex was "not going to approve the move-out and will expect a full lease-breaking fee." She claims her grounds for this decision are that we did not give the 60 day notice of our intent to vacate, as dictated by our lease. I told her that we would not pay it and would likely file legal action against her and the complex and SB said, "I'm sorry you feel you have to do that." I wanted to scream and curse, but I did not and just spent the rest of the evening fuming.

Tuesday night was one of the longest nights I've had with the boys in a VERY long time. Travis spent the night on his friends' couch and I stayed at my mom's house with Eli and Jude. They were exhausted and went to sleep with little trouble. Then Eli decided that it was time to wake up and start the day at 3:30 am and I tried to ignore him so he'd go back to sleep. About 45 minutes later, I simply couldn't lay 3 feet from him ignoring his cries any more and held him and rocked him to sleep - something I haven't done in probably 9 months. When I put him back into his pack 'n' play, he woke up screaming louder than before. Now Jude is awake too. They both scream at me, shaking their pack 'n' plays as I'm trying to soothe them both at once for almost an hour, before I give in and let them just sleep in my bed with me. I had trouble falling back asleep because I was so worried that one of them would fall off of the bed. The sun was rising by the time I finally let my eyes close - with one hand awkwardly on each baby's back. I may have slept another hour before we all woke up at about 7:15 and I decided to just let the boys get up and play.

Wednesday was almost immediately better. Our renter's insurance company called and informed us that whoever we spoke to on Monday was wrong and we are covered for all of the damages and a hotel stay until we move or our apartment is livable. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off of our shoulders. They said they'd send an adjuster out to look at the damage that afternoon. I spent the morning with my mom and brother, then went to get a few more things from the poop-filled apartment - still stinky and parts of the carpet STILL WET!!! - before checking into our extended stay hotel room. Travis walked the apartment with the adjuster who said she "hadn't seen a flood this bad in an apartment ever, let alone sewage" and was stunned at how we'd been treated. She took note of all of the things that were not to code and told Travis that we should try to stay out and wear face masks whenever we entered. She went to go talk to SB to try to expedite the gutting and repair of our apartment. SB was out of the office and the staff shut her down. The adjuster said she had never dealt with anything like this and could not believe they were treating their TENANTS this way. She told us to keep a detailed record of everything that we find damaged and wrote us a small, preliminary check for some damaged linens, towels, and the deposit on the new apartment. Travis and I then went to go sign our lease in our new, awesome apartment complex. It's so cool, it deserves it's own post. I'll talk about it later. Wednesday evening at about 5:30 pm, I get a call from SB. She sounds apologetic - though I'm sure it's all an act after our previous meeting - and says that Travis or I need to drop by in the morning to sign a form saying we'll move all of our electronics and valuables out of our apartment by 1:00 pm on Thursday (the next day!!!) so they can replace the damaged carpet. I say "I wish I'd known about your plan to replace the carpet earlier in the day, so I could have been looking for a storage facility," and she replied, "I only just found this out right now." We called our adjuster and were told to start getting things if we choose to, but SB's required to give us 24 hours notice for things like that so we don't need to worry about the 1:00 pm deadline.

This morning (Thursday) started pretty normally. Travis went over to the apartment to start to disconnect all of our electronics and pack them up so it's easy for him to reconnect everything next week then had to go to his doctor's appointment. I've stayed in the hotel with the babies, playing and reading. They're now napping. But, Travis told me that our fears of continued damage have been realized. There appears to have been some seepage on the wall behind our dresser that we couldn't see. Because it went untreated, it spread on the carpet and has destroyed most of my clothes. I was in the process of washing and organizing my entire wardrobe to see what fit me and what needed to be sold/given away. I haven't been in to look yet, but Travis said that the casualties also include at least one pair of my shoes (likely two or three, if I remember what was in that corner correctly). Luckily our dresser was still on top of plastic from when we moved in and the carpets were still wet from being cleaned so it may not need to be professionally cleaned/thrown out. On the bright side, it gives me an excuse to buy some new clothes! The adjuster also said that she's looking into a packing company so that we spend as little time as possible in the contaminated rooms - especially Travis who is immune compromised - so hopefully we'll hear about that in a few hours.

I just want to wrap up by saying that I cannot stress enough how important renter's/homeowner's insurance is. We are so lucky that Travis decided to buy our policy A MONTH AGO! If this had happened to us before we'd had insurance, we'd be responsible for replacing and cleaning all of our furniture and clothes, our new deposits, and our hotel stay. We also wouldn't have a professional advocate on our side when dealing with SB. The day that we didn't have the help from our insurance was so stressful that I was almost ready to give up and give in to SB's demands. I'm so glad we did not.

Sounds like Jude's awake, so that's all for now! Stay tuned for the next exciting developments in the poop-filled apartment saga!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today has royally sucked. I can't remember a single day recently when I have felt so angry. I will tell you why...

On Friday we placed a maintenance order for our A/C unit in the boys' bedroom because we FINALLY figured out that the crazy black dust was coming from the actual unit, not the vents. We then left town. We assumed that the A/C unit would be cleaned and all would be good. This was not the case.

It appears that the first problem is that our maintenance request was never received. Why the complex would have the online maintenance request form sent to a defunct email address is beyond me, but I digress. So, nobody entered our apartment over the weekend and they didn't fix the black dust problem. Little did we know, this would not be the real issue. Secondly, the leak that could have tipped us off WAS reported to our maintenance manager months ago and he said that they knew about the problem and were working on it. I should have made a bigger deal about it when the water damage slowly got worse, but hindsight is 20/20. And thirdly, I should have filed an EMERGENCY maintenance request last night - rather than leave a message for the management to get in the morning - when we got home and the carpet was soaked through and inspected the entire apartment. I really didn't look carefully because it was dark and I wanted to get our sleeping babies into bed. If I'd looked better, maybe I would have realized the serious problem we were having.

When we woke up this morning, the entire apartment smelled like urine and the flooding was worse. I immediately called the emergency maintenance line and they sent the maintenance manager right over to look at our problem. The floor in the boys' bathroom was covered in yellow fluid, their bedroom's carpet and the dining room's carpet completely soaked through, and the water damage on the baseboard in the hallway I'd reported months ago was seriously worse. We quickly left the apartment for the day, fearing that it was a sewage leak. What a shock, it was.

Our complex manager tried to jerk us around all day, first telling us that the complex would not reimburse us for a hotel while they fix the damage, then saying they didn't plan to replace the carpet at all. Finally, after realizing she was breaking the law and basically telling us to live in a literal cesspool she offered us to stay in the model apartment for a few days. Never mind that it has minimal furniture, no linens, no baby proofing, and is on the third floor. We were happy to take her up on her meager offer since our options were low, but quickly realized that we wouldn't be able to stay there without some work. Right now, the babies are sleeping in the living room and Travis and I are holed up in our bedroom with every window in our apartment open until we can figure out a new plan.

You may be asking, "Why aren't you in a hotel?" Great question! After our complex manager oh-so-nicely suggested we call our renter's insurance company to file a claim and get them to pay for the damaged furniture and our hotel, we did just that. Things seemed to be finally going okay. We were set up in an extended stay hotel suite and told that our policy covered everything. Less than an hour after feeling a little less stressed about our sleeping situation, we got the devastating call. Turns out that "sewage seepage" is excluded from our policy. It is a separate contract in Texas - not in other states, apparently - that we were not told about by our agent. So, NONE OF THE DAMAGE IS COVERED IN OUR PLAN. No hotel. No kitchen table and chairs. Nothing. If we want to stay in a hotel it is out of our pocket and our budget is simply too tight to swing it.

We are planning to move out. We spent our day apartment hunting because the whole situation is so insane. At the end of the day, I spoke with one of the leasing agents at our current complex - don't get me wrong, we hate the manager, but the actual staff of the complex is very accommodating and nice - about getting out of our lease. He was unable to give me an answer about whether or not we could break our lease without the financial repercussions since he doesn't have the authority. But, he did tell me that the actual cost of breaking our lease right now would not cost the $1000 we expected but a whopping $3000! Apparently, it is the policy of our complex to charge the remaining rent on your lease (two months worth for us since we're ten months in) and all of the rent discounts you've received on the apartment. Because we signed our lease during a big sale, they want us to pay the $200 per month we've lived here that they didn't get from leasing it at market price. THEY ARE CRAZY!!! We have a meeting in the morning with the complex manager to try to get out of the lease but she's been a total [expletive] up to this point that I can't imagine her doing anything to help us now.

So yeah, today's sucked. I hope you had a better Monday than we did.