Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy December 26

It was a good Christmas at Chez hok, all things considered. We had gifts and food and time with family. Ella's favorite present was a slide whistle from Santa that has restored her faith for another year. Lily's favorite gift was a new case for her American Girl doll. Campbell spent the whole day making his new Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen toys talk to each other. Ella beat Gran in a game of Scrabble, and Lily taught Gran how to play Go Fish.

Today we're basking in the glow of yesterday's fun. Runnerdude and I started the day off with a run on the Trail (he left me in the dust, but we won't talk about that), and the girls have been happily creating great masterpieces with their new art sets and playing card games. Campbell's been doing puzzles and drawing with his new crayons. There's a big pot of turkey soup simmering on the stove.

Peace rains supreme here, with the occassional sibling spat. Life is pretty good.

Now if I can only get my Christmas New Year's cards in the mail.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Discussions with Ella

As I mentioned, Ella is doing her best to keep believing in Santa, despite having many friends at school who have told her the "truth."

Yesterday we invited the kids from next door over to decorate cookies, and I had fun eavesdropping on their conversations. Ella and her buddy L, who are in the same class at school and who have been buddies since they were 18 months old, were discussing Santa and how kids in their class don't believe in him. I laughed at this part of the discussion:

Ella: We Googled his e-mail address last night, and he has one, which means he's real. I mean, you can't have a gmail account unless you are real.
L: Exactly! They don't let people who aren't real have e-mails.
(This doesn't bode well for our efforts to keep them away from Internet predators or Nigerian scam artists.)
Ella: Plus, if Santa wasn't real, that means my mom would have had to buy TWO scooters AND a pogo stick last year all in one night. That's a lot of money, and she was home all night on Christmas Eve.
L: Yeah, my mom and aunt would have had to buy four video games last year all in one night. It would have been expensive, and they couldn't have done it all in one night.
Ella: So Santa has to be real.
L: Definitely.

I had a hard time not laughing while listening to this exchange. I'm pretty sure that Ella and L know that Santa isn't real, but they're not willing to give up believing just in case it means they won't get presents anymore.

*******
Sunday afternoon the girls and I were out and about trying to find the clips that hold Christmas lights on the roof to replace the ones that disintegrated because our lights stayed up all year. While we were driving from one store to the other, the girls were in the wayback singing songs and chatting, and I was listening to the "Glee" soundtrack. Suddenly from the back Ella popped out with a question that almost made me wreck the car.

Ella: What does virgin mean?
Me (gasping for air and wondering where this is coming from): Ummm, it's someone who's never had a boyfriend or girlfriend before.
Ella: Why do they call Jesus's mother the Virgin Mary?
Me (still gasping): Ummmmmm . . . (deciding to just be clinical because we've had all the talks about where babies come from with the girls) . . . because Mary was pregnant without ever having a man put his p.enis inside her.
Ella: Well in the song, what do they mean by "Round yon virgin"?
Me: They're saying "Around that virgin, over there."
Ella: Well, who are the "mother and child" in the song?
Me: They're talking about Mary and the Baby Jesus. The song is about when he was born.
Ella: Ohhhh

Fortunately, the girls moved on to singing "Jingle Bells," which doesn't have any lyrics that need translation. I'm not sure my nerves could have handled any more questions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tracking Santa

Ella has been pestering us with questions about Santa and whether he's real. She's been trying to trip us up or catch us in a lie. It's like she's trying to believe with all her might.

Tonight the girls were asking whether Santa had an e-mail address, so we Googled it, of course. We also came across the official site for NORAD's Santa Tracker. The men and women who work at NORAD have put a lot of time and effort into their site, and my girls loved it. I could only get them off my computer by promising to let them go to the site again tomorrow. I think this one site may have strengthened Ella's belief a little bit longer.

Anyone who has kids who still believe should visit - NORAD Santa Tracker. I particularly like the story of how it all started.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Felting Fail

Last week, because the Yarn Harlot raved about them, I decided to attempt these felted slippers. The Yarn Harlot said they were simple and easy to knit, which they were, and that it was a quick project, which it was. Unfortunately, my end result bears no resemblance to the cute things in the pictures on the pattern.
All the pieces knit and ready to be sewn up. I swear the sewing took longer than the actual knitting.

All sewn up and ready to go in the washer for felting. I tied them into a pillow case, per instructions, but the pillow case came untied, and the slippers ended up floating around in the washer. Perhaps that has some bearing on how they turned out.


The final result, but without the cute straps sewn on, mostly because the straps are not the same size and I can't figure out how to remedy that short of knitting and felting new ones. As you can see, the slippers don't match each other in shape or size. They sort of fit me, but they don't stay on well when I shuffle around in them. Right now I'm so disheartened by the whole project that I can't even bear to de-fuzz them, which they desperately need.
I like felting, in theory, but I think I need to find a less fussy pattern for slippers - maybe some that are a bit more shapeless. Or I need to take lessons on felting from someone more expert than I.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two new toys

I have two new toys in my life, and I feel like a little kid with them.

The first is a vacuum cleaner. I know it sounds odd to be excited by a new appliance, but given how much I vacuum, having one that makes the job easier is a big deal. I first fell in love with this vacuum at my parents' house this summer, when I had to use it multiple times a day to clean up the crumbs that my children scattered far and wide.

When my mother was here last month, she bought me the vacuum as a gift, and I was thrilled. It's a Hoover stick-vac deal, and the best part is that it's cordless. Plus, it switches from floor to carpet mode with just the push of a button. I'm able to vacuum from one end of the house to the other without have to stop for anything. It's also light enough that the big girls are able to use it, which means they've been given the task of vacuuming the kitchen each night after dinner.

My second toy arrived yesterday, and it's also a gift from my wonderful, wonderful, kind, generous parents. It's a new camera - an Olympus SP590. The camera is halfway between a point-and-shoot and an SLR. It has both automatic and manual shooting modes, so I'm able to take great pictures right out of the box, but I will also be able to learn more about aperture and ISO and such as I get better.

This picture alone makes me love the camera. Normally Campbell is a blur in my pictures because my little point-and-shoot wasn't fast enough to catch him as he zipped by. But now, I can capture him even when he's at full speed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When will this end?

This is our last week of school before the holidays. Campbell's last day was today, but he's home with pink eye, which ruins my plans for running a few last errands this morning. (When I told him he had pink eye, he said, "But I don't want pink eye! I want bwoo eyes.) The girls' last day is tomorrow.

I desperately needed this week to finish Christmas preparations and to gird my loins for three weeks of four children in a house that gets smaller by the day. Instead, I'm spending all my time prepping for and attending school holiday events.

Monday Campbell had his Christmas party, which started 11:30, effectively taking up my whole morning considering that I had to run to the grocery store to buy a veggie tray and a Secret Santa gift because I left the present I'd already gotten at home. And then school ended early for the day, which meant I had an extra half hour of Campbell time at home.

Last night I attended Ella's Winter Sing-along and concert at school. And this is where I reveal myself as a horrible mom - I hate going to things like school concerts and plays. I'm just not one of those parents stands there with video camera in hand recording everything. Don't get me wrong - I love seeing my kids perform. It's the sitting through an hour of it that I can't stand. Last night's event had an overflow crowd in the school cafeteria, and instead of sitting in the front row with my mother-in-law, I hung out in the back with the parents of one of Ella's good friends. The mom and I kept ourselves amused by joking around about bringing spiked egg nog to the parties in order to survive them. Every once in a while, my friend's husband would turn around and give us the hairy eyeball and ask why we weren't singing.

Today's events include not one, but two parties at school. Ella's is from 12:00 - 1:00, and Lily's is from 1:00 to 2:00. I'll be sprinting through the halls to make sure I'm on time. And instead of running errands this morning, I'm baking and frosting gingerbread muffins.

I had originally thought that today's events would be the last, but I found out yesterday that Lily's class is doing a holiday-themed "Readers' Theater" tomorrow morning. Lily's teacher, whom I otherwise adore, decided that it would be too much to do a performance AND a party today. I wanted to pinch her cute little head this morning when she explained the change in schedule. At least tomorrow's Readers' Theater doesn't require any baking.

Time to head off to school to help set up. Pass the egg nog, please.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When will I learn?

Sunday afternoon I decided that it would be a great idea to dress the girls up in the Christmas outfits my mother-in-law bought them and to wrestle Campbell into something respectable in order to take picture for our Christmas New Year's Easter Holiday cards. You would think that I had learned my lesson last year. But no, I managed to torture everyone in the process. B refused to participate, calling it a fool's errand.

I simply could not get all four children looking at me and at the very least not crying for one single picture. I think next year I'm going to have to go with a collage card. Or a card without pictures. Or maybe no card at all.



"Wait. Someone's missing. Where's Ella?"

"Girls! Stop doing bunny ears! Campbell, take your hand away from your eye."

Close. I think this may be our winner.

And now we've lost it. Things got sillier from here.

I tried again in a different location, and while I got some decent pictures, there were terrible shadows over the kids' faces.
Next year, I'm definitely doing card without pictures.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The goodness of people

I know this should be a love Thursday post, but the day got away from me. On Wednesday, I received affirmation that people are essentially good and kind and nice.

A woman who works at a title agency that B uses for his work called him on Tuesday to see how he was doing. She had heard about his multiple neck procedures and wanted to check in. After she had chatted with B for a few minutes, she asked how I was doing. She told B that one of her daughters has four young children and that she has seen first-hand how chaotic having that many kids in the house can be. Then, and this is the part that gets me, she offered to bring us dinner to help ME out.

B accepted her offer, which I would have never done. I would have said something like, "Oh, we've got plenty of food in the house. We're just fine. Thank you for your offer." Because the only thing I'm worse at than accepting help when it's offered is asking for help when I need it.

Wednesday afternoon the woman showed up with enough food to feed a small army. There was a pot roast that was so good B almost cried, steamed carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls and an apple crumble. Plus she brought two bags of kid-friendly snack foods like yogurt and cereal bars and, to my kids' delight, pop-tarts.

She said she had cooked up a huge batch of everything and split it between our family and her daughter's.

I was, and still am, blown away by this woman's thoughtfulness and generosity. I have never met this woman - ever, and B's only contact with her is the occasional work-related meeting, and yet she made and delivered this huge meal because she'd heard we were having a rough time.

Now I'm determined to pay it forward. When I hear of someone having a rough patch, I'll do something unexpected and helpful. I'm not sure it will involve cooking a meal, because I'm not a good cook (really, I'm not), but I will find some way to help.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Done, done and done

My Christmas knitting is officially finished as of today. In the past month I have knit:

3 wool watch caps
1 beautiful Noro sock yarn shawl
3 bits of fluff
1 pair of mittens
1 "One row" scarf from The Yarn Harlot's site

I have everything that I haven't already given away in a pile on the desk in my room. It's been great fun adding to the pile over the past few weeks. But the best part is that from here on out, all knitting is optional. I have a few projects that I want to knit for me, and I might just get a wild hair and knit pickle ornaments for the neighbors, if I can get my hands on green wool in time. Of course, given last year's lumpy snowmen, which never got distributed, I may change my mind about that.

I do know that my kids will be glad to not have me say, "I'll do it after I finish this row!" every time they ask me to do something.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So, so tired

Elizabeth seems to be on a sleep strike. After a few nights where she slept really well, she's kept me up for hours on end in the middle of the night. Last night she was up and down from 8:00 until 2:00 am. I guess she's making up for all the nights she didn't do this to me when she was teeny.

In the meantime, I am so, so tired. I wake up each morning and count down the hours until I can go back to bed. I'm even spacier than usual; yesterday I put the milk away in the pantry. The worst part is that I'm cranky and irritable with the kids, which isn't fair to them.

I'd write more, but my brain has ceased all meaningful functions. Keep your fingers crossed that tonight is better.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

In which we prove - again - that I'm an idiot

You would think I had learned my lesson the last time I took a sideways video, but no. I managed to take a whole series of videos of Elizabeth this weekend, all of them sideways. This one should have been the best - she walks, she hugs her Curious George, she says "thank you" and "hi." But you can only see all of that if you cock your head to the side.

In my defense, when I'm filming it on my camera, it looks right-side-up on the viewer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow?

Technically, it did snow on Friday. There were some flurries that came and went for about an hour. But there was nothing like the inch of accumulation that the weather "forecasters" were predicting on Thursday night. In fact, when we drove to school Friday morning, they had already downgraded their predictions, much to the dismay of all the kids in the car.

I let Campbell and one of his little friends outside to play every time the snow started falling hard enough to at least see it, and they had a grand time running around with their tongues hanging out. One neighbor told me he could tell each time it started snowing because he could hear Campbell yelling with delight.

The girls' teachers let them outside to play in the flurries, which was a relief. I was very worried that I'd end up with two very upset girls after school. And as a bonus, Ella's teacher told them on Thursday that they wouldn't be able to go outside if it snowed unless they were dressed in weather-appropriate clothing. So Ella voluntarily went to school in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt AND a jacket. I was relieved to not have to fight with her about it.

I loved watching the snow fall. There's just something so magical about the white flakes fluttering down. I was disappointed that we didn't get enough to stick and that it didn't last longer. I haven't seen real snow since 1993, when I was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during a blizzard.

To soothe the girls' disappointment yesterday, I foolishly promised that the next time it snowed someplace in Texas, we'd hop in the car and drive to see it. So we may be driving to Dallas sometime this winter just so the girls can throw a few snowballs. Whee.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It had better snow

Monday night's newscast had the first mention of the possibility of snow on Friday, and all week the chances for snow have gone up. Last night's news said there was a 70 percent chance of at least an inch of snow, which in Austin is a BIG DEAL. The weather people are all adither, and the way they're talking about it you would think we were getting a blizzard.

My kids have never paid more attention to the weather forecast than they have this week, and they're not the only ones. Conversation during this morning's carpool was about which weather forecast was giving the best odds and how much is predicted to fall and when.

Last night at dinner we were discussing the possibility of snow, of course, and Ella asked if I'd let them outside to play in it. She and Lily were thrilled when I said that they could play outside until their fingers fell off from frostbite. But then I rained on their parade by asking what would happen if it snowed while they were at school. Their little faces fell, and Ella said, "You mean we have to go to school even if it snows?" I had to laugh at that. I lived up north when I was little and remember all too well having to go to school in the snow. The girls perked up when I told them that I was sure their teachers would let them out to play if it really did snow.

I hope for the weather peoples' sake, it does. Otherwise, they're going to have to bar the doors of every TV and radio station in town to keep out the hordes of disappointed kids who want to have a little "chat" with the weather people.

Truth be told, I'm hoping it snows, too. I get as big a kick out of snow days as the kids do. Of course, if I lived up north and had to wrestle four kids in and out of snow gear on a daily basis, I'd feel differently. But one snow day every two or three years is just fine by me.

Here's hoping for snow!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fellowship of Knitters

Twice recently, I've struck up lovely conservations with complete strangers, which is a big deal for me. Normally I'm very shy in public, and I'd rather eat glass than talk to someone I don't know - heck, I have a hard time talking to people I do know. But for some reason, when knitting is involved, I can get over my shyness.

Last Tuesday I arrived at Ella's climbing practice a few minutes early. I had a squirmy toddler with me and no knitting or reading, so I wasn't looking forward to the 10 minutes I was going to have to wait. But there was a woman sitting knitting, so I marched right over and asked what she was working on - it was a market bag. Then she showed me a scarf she had just finished, and it was the same pattern my mom had just sent me that afternoon and that I was planning to make for a Christmas gift. So I picked her brain on the pattern and whether it was worth knitting. Then we started talking different yarns, and she showed me some lovely hand-spun stuff she had gotten at a fiber festival the previous weekend in Boerne - which I didn't find out about until after it was over (grumble). The ten minutes flew past, and Ella ended up having to drag me away because she was hungry.

We spent Thanksgiving at B's cousin's house, feasting on a wonderful meal prepared by Aunt A. Once everyone had finished eating and the kids were upstairs playing, I pulled out my knitting bag and started working on this cool puckered scarf I'm making out of this gorgeous pink and purple yarn - I love this scarf so much that I'm going to be selfish and keep it. Aunt A's aunt sat down next to me and started talking knitting. I gasped out loud when she told me that she had knit her own wedding dress on size 1 needles. For non-knitters, size 1s are really, really tiny. She said it took her every minute of six months to finish the dress and she almost didn't have it done in time for her wedding. I can't even imagine.

Aunt A's aunt teaches at a private school, and the students have to do volunteer service hours each year. So she teaches the kids to knit preemie hats for the local hospital and gives them three hours of credit per hat. I think it's a brilliant plan - she's passing on a love of knitting and teaching them to help others all at the same time.

I'll end with one last knitting story - the other day I came around the corner to find Elizabeth sitting on the floor with a pair of circular needles, fortunately without any knitting on them, and she was clicking the ends together like she was trying to knit. Ella and Lily both know how to knit, and it looks like Elizabeth will be a knitter, too.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The best husband EVER

He's the smartest, handsomest, kindest, nicest husband in the history of husbands.

Why?

Because he saved my computer.

I'm back up and running, sort of. My e-mail is functioning, and I'm able to connect to the Internet, which is more than I could do yesterday. B has run every virus scan known to mankind, and he thinks, knock on wood, that he's gotten all the nasty little bits of the virus that kept mutating out of the system. He's also installed a program that scans my computer constantly for bugs. He had it on his computer, which escaped infection (at least so far), and he's hoping it will both prevent further viruses from taking hold and attack any remnants of this one that might still be on the machine.

In the meantime, I'm letting my computer recuperate and the scanning program do its work. I'm not visiting any websites, not even Facebook or Twitter, out of fear of reinfection, and I'm checking e-mail only sporadically.

So I may be quiet for the next few days while we make sure there's nothing damaging left on my computer. I'll be happily working my way through my knitting queue and drinking tea, enjoying a few more days of being offline.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Offline

I'm still without a computer, thanks to that $*&@*(&# virus. B has spent the whole afternoon researching fixes, trying the fixes, and cursing when the fixes don't work.

It turns out that being without a computer has been good for me. I didn't realize how much time I was spending in front of the monitor checking e-mails, looking at Facebook and Twitter and reading blogs. I've gotten a lot more done around the house, and I'm finishing Christmas knitting projects way ahead of schedule. I've also caught up on movies I wanted to watch, and I beat B four times in a row at Trivial Pursuit on his iPhone.

I've tried to go whole weekends without being online before, but in the end I always end up turning on the computer for a "quick check" of my e-mail. Now that I don't have the option of checking e-mail, unless my husband lets me use his computer, which he only does when he can stand over my shoulder and yell "don't click on any links!" it's much easier to stay offline.

Whenever my computer is repaired, I'll be making a much more concerted effort to spend less time on it (for at least a few days).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dead in the water

Of course this happened with only three days left in Nablopomo. Pretty much our entire home computer network has taken ill with a nasty virus. It started on Tuesday with the laptop, which started giving me error messages saying there was a virus and did I want to run a scan. Fortunately, I recognized that the "virus protection software" trying to run wasn't our normal stuff and shut the computer down. Unfortunately, the virus still took hold, and the laptop may be completely dead.

B has been giving me a hard time about visiting p*rn sites, because that's where people usually pick up this type of problem. Plus, until he disabled the wireless card, the laptop kept opening p*rn site after p*rn site. Even more embarrassing, B's been telling our friends and family about my new "habit." Sigh.

This morning I turned on my desktop and got the same error messages as on the laptop. I didn't touch anything and yelled for B, who started swearing - loudly. He then disconnected the computer from the network in the hopes of preventing the virus from spreading any further.

Right now I'm camped out on his desktop, which seems to be problem free for the moment. He's doing lots of backing up of everything on the network and then disconnecting back-up drives. B's poor neck is still giving him problems (he's going in for an epidural this week), and he's had to sit at the computers all day today trying to fix everything, so far without any luck.

Keep your fingers crossed that we can disinfect everything. I don't want to think what the alternatives might be. New computers aren't exactly in the budget right now.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No "Black Friday" for me

I am not going anywhere near any malls or stores today. In fact, I'm not leaving the house. The big three are with their grandmother, and the baby is napping. I've got a hot cup of tea, several unwatched movies, and a bunch of Christmas knitting to work on. I'm happy as a clam right here at home.

Besides, I did the "Black Friday" thing once, and it was enough to scare me off for the rest of my life.

It was 1987. We were visiting my grandparents, who lived in New Port Richie, FL, which is in the Tampa Bay area. The week before Thanksgiving, my mother and I had been searching the stores for a dress for me to wear to my best friend's debutante party. We had found a lovely embroidered linen skirt and blouse that were perfect for the party's tea dance theme, but mom decided that we should hold off on buying it and look for other options Thanksgiving weekend when we were at my grandparents' house.

So the day after Thanksgiving we loaded up the station wagon, with me and my sister riding in the rumble seat in the way back, and headed to Countryside Mall, which was considered a BIG deal back then - it had lots of stores AND an ice skating rink. The plan was for my dad and grandfather to take my sister skating while mom and grandma and I shopped for dresses - on the busiest shopping day of the year.

I was in no way prepared for the agony the next two hours would bring. While my mom and I were on pretty much the same page in terms of what kind of dress or outfit we were looking for, my grandmother kept bringing me dresses that were too frilly or too flowery or too frilly and too flowery. I'd have to try them on and then find some excuse to explain why I was vetoing them - the sleeves were too long, the arm holes were too tight, the skirt was too short, etc. - to keep from hurting her feelings. It slowed the already insane shopping process down considerably.

Two hours later, we met back up with my dad, grandfather and sister, who had pink cheeks and a hot chocolate moustache from her skating adventure.

I had a headache and the very same skirt and blouse I had picked out the week before at the store in Sarasota. Two hours of shopping madness for the very same outfit - and it wasn't even on sale.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Post

Lots of bloggers are writing beautiful posts about all the things they're thankful for, and I tear up when I read them. But when I try to write a similar post, it just doesn't work. I'm not really a sappy, sentimental type - at least not in my writing.

Here are the reasons I'm thankful, in pictures.



Elizabeth - for being the best surprise baby and for making our lives happier

Ella - for being a great kid and a good big sister (even if she does like to take upside-down pictures of herself when she gets her hands on my camera).

Brandon - for being a great husband and father and for making me laugh on a daily basis.



Lily - for being my twirly, girly, freckle-nosed Bear.


Campbell - for being his nutty, loving, funny little self and for taking close-up pictures of his nose every time he gets his hands on my camera.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your day be filled with fun, family and lots and lots of pie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A tale of two teeth

We've reached a weird sort of stasis around here on the tooth front.

Lily lost one of her top front teeth this past weekend, and it's amazing how different one missing tooth makes her look. I teared up when she grinned at me the next morning because her smile - her real smile, not this goofy one - is so different. She also has a funny lisp going on that cracks us up. We've taken to calling her the Toothless Wonder, which makes her giggle.

And just as Lily lost one tooth, Elizabeth got another. A second tooth has poked through on the bottom, bringing her grand total up to three - two on the bottom, one on the top. You can barely see the new tooth next to her other one, so she still looks a lot like a cute little pumpkin.


The hat she's wearing is one I just finished knitting for B. I popped it on her head and told her to take it to daddy. Instead, she wore it all afternoon. The little nut won't wear hats that are custom-made just for her, but she'll protest if I take off one that is so big it falls over her eyes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saved by Runnerdude

As I was fighting pre-Thanksgiving traffic on IH-35 on my way home from Ella's rock climbing practice, I was beginning to panic about what to post today. I have several things swimming around in my brain, but I haven't been able to sit down today to actually write them out. Elizabeth is sick, and all she wants to do is cling to me. Plus I had a two-hour meeting for a work project that sucked up all of my "extra" time today.

So imagine my joy when I got home and found the following in my in-box, courtesy of Runnerdude, also known as The Dad. Thanks, Dad, you saved the day with silliness. I laughed the whole way through, as did the big girls, but they didn't get the humor on the same level as I did.

It's a little slow through the first 90 seconds, but then things pick up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Campbellisms

Over on Twitter (yes, I tweet, but I'm not sure why), I've been posting quotations from Campbell. Without meaning to be, he is the funniest little guy. Here are some of my favorites.

I already did was my hands - in my mouth!
I'm wiping the window - with my tongue.
I need dinner. Dinner makes me fast and fat.
My tummy is sad. Riding my new bicycle would make my tummy happy.
My pe.nis is cold. I need a diaper.
Thank you for our food. Happy birthday. Amen (While taking his turn to say the blessing at dinner)

There are times when Campbell hams it up for us, but he's never quite as funny as when he's just being his normal little self. B and I often have to clap our hands over our mouths at the dinner table to keep from laughing out loud. His sisters already give him too much applause when he's being a nut, we don't need to encourage him further.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A 3 1/2 hour nap

For the first time ever, we allowed my mother-in-law to take all four kids with her to B's grandmother's house for the afternoon. This meant that for the first time in almost 14 months, we had a completely child-free house.

I celebrated by sleeping.

B and I had been watching a movie together - "Duplicity," and goodness Clive Owen is beautiful - but I couldn't keep my eyes open. So I toddled off to bed, leaving B to his own devices.

I fell asleep at 2:30, and the next thing I knew it was 6:00. I had slept like the dead - I don't think I moved the entire time.

To say that I am chronically sleep deprived would be an understatement. I don't think I've had more than 6 continuous hours of sleep since before Elizabeth was born. She's getting better at sleeping through the night, but it's pretty much a guarantee that if she sleeps through, one of the other kids won't. Campbell is particularly prone to waking up with nightmares.

So, yes, the nap did me good. And, yes, I could fall back asleep right now without any problem at alzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My new Saturday routine

Lily has taken ballet for the past three years. For the first two, her classes were on weekday mornings, which was perfect. Last year, she went to class on Monday afternoon, which was awful. As soon as she got home from school I'd have to cram a snack in her, rush her into her tights and leotard and then bolt out the door with at least one other child in tow. Class ended just as afternoon traffic was getting bad, and the 10-minute trip usually took at least 20. As soon as we got home, I'd have to get dinner started with four tired, cranky kids at my feet. I began to loathe Mondays.

This year, despite my initial hesitation, I decided to sign Lily up for Saturday class. We generally have slow, relaxed Saturday mornings with lots of cartoons and cereal in the living room, and I didn't know if I wanted to give them up. But this change in schedule has worked really, really well for me, and now I look forward to my Saturdays.

Lily and I head out at 8:40, leaving all the other hooligans at home. There's no traffic and parking is a breeze. If I didn't run earlier in the morning, I head over to the Trail while she's in class and do a loop around the lake. If I did run, I wander across the street to the farmers' market and grab a cup of coffee and a breakfast taco while I wander around. I almost always bump into someone I know, and I can have a nice chat without kids pulling on me.

This morning was dreary and rainy, so I grabbed my breakfast, went back to Ballet Austin, worked on a knitting project and listened to my iPod. It was a lovely way to spend 40 minutes, and I found myself wishing that her class was even longer, just so I could have more time to myself.

I think I'll be keeping Lily in Saturday classes for as long as possible; I love my new routine.

Friday, November 20, 2009

First steps

Elizabeth is on the verge of really walking. Here's a not-so-great video clip of her scooting around the room and then finally walking. I kept having to move backwards as she walked toward me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas knitting

Last year I set out an overly ambitious Christmas knitting plan, and I failed miserably. My first mistake was waiting until the week after Thanksgiving to start. My second was in trying projects that were too time intensive - scarves and hats and mittens for everyone! Instead, I got one scarf, one hat and two pairs of mittens completed, and only the scarf and one pair of mittens were actually finished in time for Christmas.

And I can't forget about the cute little felted snowmen I planned to knit for all the neighbors. I managed to complete two rather lumpy little guys - they took much longer to knit than I anticipated. When I was finished with them, they looked so pitiful that I couldn't bear to give them away for fear that they looked like a craft people at homes for the insane would make, if they were allowed to even have pointy sticks in the first place.

This year I have set out a much more sane plan, and I started several weeks ago, which means I'm already ahead of the game. I have one hat, one shawl, and one scarf already finished and one hat half way done. I have one more hat, two more scarves and two pairs of mittens to go.

I know it sounds like a lot, but the scarves are my little bits of fluff, and I can knit one in two days without a problem. The hats are simple watch caps that are knit on big needles with thick yarn and take no time at all. The only tricky things are the mittens. Those involve actual patterns and some more complex knitting.

My incentive for getting all the gifts finished quickly, aside from Christmas, is that I have several projects in my queue that I want to knit for ME. I've given away pretty much everything I've knit for the past six months, and I'm feeling a bit selfish.

And now I'm off to knit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Here we go again

In the past, I've written before about Ella's aversion to wearing long pants in cold weather (here), and there have been incidents I haven't written about because they were just so awful - like the morning I put her out on the porch in 29 degree weather wearing shorts just prove to her that it was cold out (which didn't work at all). Now that we've entered Texas's other season, called "Not Summer," I'm gearing up for more fights.

Yesterday morning it was in the high 30s when the kids got up, so B and I made Ella put on pants, which she didn't like at all. She got even with us by wearing a short-sleeved shirt and carrying her sweater instead of wearing it.

This morning, it was in the 40s, so I let her wear shorts, but I insisted she wear her sweater. Ella grumbled all the way to the car and refused to talk during the ride to school. I resisted the urge to point out that every other kid in our car pool was wearing long pants, long sleeves, AND a sweater or coat. I knew that would just make her angrier.

In Ella's defense, the weather here can be tricky. We can start the day with temperatures in 30s and have things warm up to the 70s in the afternoon. But it never gets so warm that she's going to roast of heat exhaustion like she claims.

I think to survive the winter I'm going to have to come up with some sort of temperature/clothing chart - if it's below 35, you have to wear x, y, and z; if it's below 40, you have to wear x and y - just to avoid the fights.

At any rate, I'm glad we don't live where it get truly cold. Ella would sooner succumb to frost bite than to admit she needed warm clothes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 17

Well, it's hit. With 13 days left, I officially have writer's block. I've started three different posts today and deleted all of them in disgust. I know WHAT I want to write, but I can't get the words from my brain to the page in the way I want. I'm frutrated enough that I've considered hopping on one foot with my head tilted to the side, like when I have water in my ears, to see if I can shake the words loose.

Even though this post is totally lame, I'm publishing it so that I can stay in the running for Nablopomo. I'm justifying it by reminding myself of all the writing I did today - at least I wrote something, even if I didn't publish it.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow will be better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Landry Team

A few weeks ago, Ella and Lily (mostly Ella) came up with their own "landry" business. I found Burma Shave-esque signs all over the house - on the back of Elizabeth's high chair, on the door to the garage, on my computer monitor - advertising their services.

I thought the signs were pretty funny, even if the girls didn't understand why. Here are some samples (sic all):

A landry free day is your dream! Come to room RR now! (room RR was the girls' bathroom)

Room RR at your service!

Moms! Hate doing landry? Come to room RR!

You deserv a day of rest. Come to room RR.

Contact the Landry Team at ella@xxxxx.com (except it was Ella's real e-mail address)

I submitted a few orders for laundry, via e-mail, and Ella replied in a very business-like fashion, giving me her rates: 50 cents per load for wash and fold, 25 cents for fold only. Once we'd negotiated my order and their prices, they set to work folding one basket of laundry that was already in the dryer and getting two new loads going.

And that was where it stopped.

They left one load in the dryer and one in the washer, and I couldn't get them to do any more, not even with the promise of higher pay.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend, and she and her daughter were folding laundry together. When I lamented the fact that I just can't get my girls to do laundry, she pointed out that she can't her daughter to clean up the kitchen after dinner, which my girls do every evening after dinner.

I suppose I can handle laundry for a bit longer without their help if it means I don't have to clean up the dinner dishes. But at some point soon, the Landry Team will be called back into service.

****
On another note, it's Day 16 of Nablopomo, and I can't believe I've made it this far. There have been a few close calls where I've dragged myself out of bed to post something. I'm more than half-way there, and I hope I can keep it up.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

He's screening my calls

Friday afternoon, while I was working at my desk and Campbell was coloring on at the kitchen table, the phone rang. I glanced at the handset on my desk and saw that it was a sales call, so I didn't answer. Campbell, however, grabbed the phone on the kitchen table and answered. I heard him yelling into the phone, "Hewwo! Hewwo! I want to talk to you!" at the top of his lungs.

I think the caller had already hung up, but if he hadn't, he sure got an earful of an enthusiastic three-year-old. Campbell was disappointed that no one talked back when he answered the phone.

Next time a salesperson calls, I'll make Campbell's day by letting him answer. He can be my very own secretary.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Speaking truth to power

All day yesterday I stewed about the inappropriate and inaccurate response I received from Senator Hutchison's office. At first, I didn't have any plans to send another message to her, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. I am one of her constituents, after all, and I do have the right to have my voice be heard, even if I don't agree with her position.

Last night I went back to her online message form, and sent the following:


Last week I contacted Senator Hutchison about problems I am having with my insurance company and expressing support for health care reform measures currently being considered by Congress.

In response, I got a form letter that made it very obvious that no one on Senator Hutchison's staff even read what I wrote. Her response doesn't address my concerns and ignores completely that I don't support Senator Hutchison's actions. I wrote to the senator hoping that my voice would be heard, and it's obvious that it wasn't at all.

You ought to be embarrassed at providing such poor service to your constituents. I used to supervise the Citizens' Assistance center for a statewide elected official, and I would have NEVER allowed such an inappropriate response to be sent.

Shame on you.

I'll be interested to see what kind of response, if any, I get back. Who wants to bet that I'll get the very same form letter again?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Constituent response - FAIL

Last week I sent messages to Senator John Cornyn, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Congressman Michael McCaul about issues with BlueCross BlueShield. I explained my situation and expressed my support for the health care reform bill currently working its way through the legislative process. I told each that I was writing because I wanted them to know that not all of their constituents are anti-reform.

I got immediate form e-mails back from Cornyn and McCaul thanking me for writing, and I haven't heard anything from either since. Last night I got a response from Senator Hutchison, and it's obvious that the person at her office responsible for handling constituent inquiries just looked at the subject line of the form I submitted and sent a standard response.

The e-mail thanks me for contacting the senator and then launches into an explanation of everything she is doing to prevent passage of the health care reform bill in the Senate and lists the "advantages" of the bills she is sponsoring. The e-mail closes with this:


You are among thousands of concerned Texans who have written to express their views on this topic. You may be assured that as health care reform legislation comes for consideration before the full Senate, I will continue fighting against the Democrats’ proposal to enact a government takeover of our health care system.


And that's the part that really pisses me off.

In my life prior to being a freelance writer and editor, I worked for the Texas Attorney General's office (back in the day when Senator Cornyn was the attorney general and Congressman McCaul worked for him; I've actually met both men). One of the many hats I wore was supervisor of the Citizens' Assistance Section. The AG's office received tens of thousands of letters and e-mails every year, and our section responded to all of them that weren't related to consumer protection issues and child support collection - other sections handled those.

I would have NEVER allowed a response like the one I received to be sent. Never.

People wrongly assume that the Attorney General of Texas is the attorney for the people of Texas. Instead, he is the attorney for the State of Texas. But people would write to us looking for legal advice, asking for referrals to attorneys, asking for help with landlords or doctors or whatever. And every single response we sent was appropriate to the request. If we couldn't directly help the letter writer, we'd supply a referral to someone who could, whether it was another state agencyor the writer's state legislator or a lawyer referral service or a tenants' rights group.

And if a constituent sent a letter with an opinion that was contrary to the attorney general's, we'd at least acknowledge that the person had an opposing viewpoint. The staff worked very hard to make it clear that we really did read each and every letter and e-mail that was sent. We also kept stats on the number of messages we got on either side of issues and reported them to the attorney general.

That's what makes me so mad about the e-mail from Hutchison's office. There's not even the pretense of having read my message. There is no recognition that I hold a different point of view or that I don't support her efforts.

I sent the message in the hopes of having my voice heard, and it is apparent that it wasn't at all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Answers

I've gotten a number of questions about yesterday's post on getting B.otox for migraines. Here are some answers.


Why are you spelling it B.otox? I'm doing it to keep my blog out of the results for any searches for the term. People searching for cheap B.otox injections in strange places aren't my target demographic. Not that I really have any idea what my target demographic is.

I've never heard of getting B.otox for migraines. Does it work? Women who got injections for wrinkle removal started reporting that they no longer suffered from migraines. B.otox is a neurotoxin that paralyzes nerves and muscles, which is how it gets rid of wrinkles - it paralyzes the little tiny muscles in the face, allowing them to relax. It also prevents those muscles from doing things like lifting eyebrows.

Doctors discovered that it also paralyzes the nerves that cause pain when a migraine hits. It doesn't stop migraines, it just deadens the pain.

Does insurance cover it? No. Because it's an "off-label" use of the stuff, insurance does not cover the injections, which run about two hundred bucks. But I could end up evening things out if I don't have to pay 35 bucks a month for my Imitrex.

How long does it last? The doctors that I've spoken to have said the injections last anywhere from four to six months.

How long have you had migraines? I remember having them when we lived in Massachusetts, which was when I was seven. They've gotten more severe as the years have gone by.

Have you tried . . ? Yes, I've tried everything. I have taken a laundry list of medications - from daily preventives to stuff that supposedly stops the migraines when they start. I have yet to take a daily medicine whose side effects don't make me more sick. The only thing that has worked consistently has been Imitrex, and that works about 70 percent of the time. When it works, it's great. But when it doesn't, I end up in bed for hours, if not days. The pain is bad enough that I understand why in ancient times they bored holes in people's skulls to let the bad spirits out. I had a migraine last week that was so bad that I would have been willing to take a drill to my head.

You realize you're just one step closer to looking like a Real Housewife of the OC? I still have a few more steps to go - like giant fake boobs, bleach blond hair, fake tan, sugar daddy for a husband/boyfriend.

Will you post before an after pictures? Yes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Never say never

Today I made an appointment to do something I swore I would never, never do. I'm getting B.otox injections into my forehead.

But . . .

I'm getting them to stop migraines, not to get rid of wrinkles.

Really.

My mom offered to pay for a round of injections for me and my sister since we both get pretty debilitating migraines. I've always sworn that I'd never allow someone to inject neurotoxins into my head, not even to get rid of migraines. But after spending four days last week in pain, I decided to take my mom up on her offer.

I had an appointment today with my neurologist, and I asked him about B.otox. He said that patients have had great success with it, and that he'd far rather have his patients get the injections than have to take medicine to prevent and stop the migraines. After we finished with my appointment, he took me down the hall to meet the doctor in his practice who does the injections. She's going to order the B.otox and then schedule my appointment when the stuff comes in.

When I told my neighbor, she rolled her eyes and said, "Whatever," like I'm using my migraines as an excuse to have B.otox. But when I pointed out that I am just about the least vain person in the world - I don't wear make-up on a daily basis, I don't color my hair despite the growing amount of gray, I spend most of my time in jeans and t-shirts - she said she believed me. Besides, I hate having shots with a passion, and I've heard that these injections HURT.

In a week or two I'll have a smooth forehead, and I won't be able to lift my eyebrows. But I also might be able to go several months without being in bed with a migraine. And that's worth the pain of the injections and the teasing I might have to endure.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Any day now

Elizabeth is on the verge of walking all by herself. While B and I were at the surgery center for FIVE hours yesterday, Elizabeth spent lots of time walking around the front yard either holding on to someone's hand or pushing this little trike around.

My mom and Ella both claim that Elizabeth took 8 steps on her own, but I have yet to see a repeat performance.

Life is going to change around here once Elizabeth is really up and walking. Any day now, Elizabeth will be making the switch from baby to toddler. Sob.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Keeping my mouth shut

B had more surgery on his neck today - the same type of procedure he had last winter. We spent two hours in the waiting room before B was taken back to pre-op. CNN was on in the waiting area, and health care reform was the prime topic. During that time, I had the fun of listening to two people whose spouses were back having surgery talk about how Obama is going to ruin this country with his health care proposal and how in five years people won't even be able to go to doctors' offices anymore because they won't exist.

The more they talked, the faster I knitted, just to keep myself from shouting at them.

Later, while B was in surgery, I was in the waiting room with just one other man. At one point, CNN was interviewing a legislator about the House health care bill that was just passed, and the man shouted, "What if Americans don't want reform?" and looked at me to agree with him. Again, I kept my mouth shut and knitted.

The kicker was that all of these people looked to be the right age to be on Medicare, which means they have government-run health care. The hypocrisy makes me want to scream.

One a positive note, I finished a shawl I've been knitting for a while.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Sesame Street

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. I've been showing the kids clips on Youtube of the original Sesame Street bits, and this one is definitely our favorite. The kids laugh hysterically and then beg to watch it again. And now, whenever Campbell sings the ABCs, someone yells "Cookie Monster" at random intervals, which drives Campbell insane. "Dat's not how da song goes," he yells, while we all laugh.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Surrender Dorothy

Ever since Lily was about three months old, we've said that she could actually be my sister's child. There is a strong resemblance between the two - Lily has the same big blue eyes, fair skin and high forehead that my sister has. She also has the same ulta-fine slippery hair that refuses to stay braided no matter how much my mom yells at me about S's messy braids. They are both fairly similar in personality. My sister, when she was Lily's age, had some (ahem) drama queen tendencies, just like Lily, who can cry on cue.

When S was about 5, she became obsessed with "The Wizard of Oz," specifically Dorothy. S wore a plaid dress and always wanted her hair in braids (see above complaint about her hair). She also carried a basket with a little stuffed dog named Toto.

As S got older, she outgrew the Dorothy obsession, but that didn't mean the rest of the family did. For her 21st birthday, mom gave her a Madame Alexander Dorothy doll, and one year for Christmas I gave her a talking Dorothy Barbie.

But now Lily has taken up the obsession and is carrying on the torch for her aunt. S gave Lily a pair of super fancy sparkly red shoes for Christmas that Lily cherishes, and she has two stuffed dogs named Dorothy and Toto. When we started discussing Halloween costumes, Lily asked to be Dorothy. I sent out an e-mail to several friends asking if any had a Dorothy-esque dress that Lily could borrow, and a friend had a great one. Then I found Lily an official Dorothy wig at Walmart that completed the look.

And here she is, in all her Dorothy glory, except I didn't manage to get the shoes in the picture.



And my sister is officially jealous of Lily's shoes and wig. She's going to get Lily a Dorothy dress for Christmas. Shhhh - don't tell her.

Friday, November 06, 2009

This is why I don't make costumes

For the past three years, Ella has been Hermione Granger from "Harry Potter." She has an authentic Hogwarts cloak, a real Hermione Wand, and a Griffindor House tie. But this year Ella has short hair, which meant she couldn't be Hermione "because Hermione doesn't have short hair."

For weeks Ella has agonized over what to be for Halloween, and all of my suggestions were met with eye rolls that make me fear Ella's teen-aged years. Finally, Ella decided to be Pippi Longstocking, provided we could find some way to make red braids. I offered to find Ella a wig that we could transform, but she didn't want to wear a real wig "because they are itchy."

So I spent hours trolling the interwebs looking for instructions on making a wig out of yarn. Pretty much all of the sites I found were worthless - they recommended using a hat and attaching yarn to the inside of the hat. Everyone knows Pippi doesn't wear a hat.

Eventually I cobbled together a plan based on several different sets of instructions and set to work. First, I had to go buy a pair of pantyhose because I haven't owned any in years. Then I cut the legs off and sewed the hole closed. After that, I trapped Ella on the kitchen floor, put the sewed-up pantyhose on her head, and started gluing strand after strand after strand of red yarn to the pantyhose. Ella did not like this process one bit, especially after the glue started seeping through the pantyhose onto her hair.

The front of the wig went well enough, although it did occur to me that Ella was going to have one heck of a comb-over.

Things got harder in the back. I couldn't get the yarn on fast enough, and the glue dried up a bit, which meant the yarn didn't stick well. Plus, Ella got extra wiggly, which just made things worse. It was at this point that Ella asked if we could just buy a wig, paint it red and add braids. I almost strangled her with the red yarn. Instead, I reminded her that she had said she didn't want a real wig because they are itchy. She said that if she had known making a wig from scratch would involve sitting on the floor for an hour with glue seeping into her hair, she would have asked for the real wig from the beginning.

We finished the wig finally, and on Halloween, B added the braids and wire to hold the braids up. It all looked pretty pitiful. So Ella and I made a last-minute run to Walmart to see if we could find another Dorothy wig like Lily's to alter. We couldn't find one, but we did have an entertaining trip, which is a post for another day.

Here's the finished product. Ella wasn't thrilled with her costume at this point, but she soon forgot her woes thanks to the fun of our pre-trick-or-treating party and the actual trick-or-treating. I pulled the wires out half-way through the night because I was afraid she was going to poke someone in the eye with them, and Ella didn't seem to care at all.


Even though her braids were wonky, Ella was still a pretty cute Pippi. And next year - I'm buying the girl a wig.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

My book blog

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be continuing with my Halloween posts, but I've been out of commission all day with a migraine that has knocked me flat. But, I don't want to fail on day 5 of Nablopomo, so I'm going to cheat and just have a post pointing you to my book blog, which I'm in the process of updating.

In and around raising four kids and running (not that I'm doing much of that lately) and knitting and working, I manage to read a lot. Right now I'm wading through Dickens' Bleak House, which I'm actually enjoying a lot.

So take a look, and let me know if you have any good recommendations.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ladybug

And now back to our regularly scheduled Halloween costume posts . . . if I have to write or think any more about the BlueCross BlueShield insurance fight, I'll start crying again. Thank you to everyone for your comments and e-mails of support. They have helped.

Here's a cute baby to make everyone feel better. Elizabeth dressed as a little ladybug for Halloween. Lily wore this same costume when she was Elizabeth's size. There's a hat that goes with it, but Elizabeth refused to keep it on.





Before we went trick-or-treating, we had our annual pot-luck with several other families. The big kids left a whole row of empty juice and milk boxes on one of the benches. Elizabeth cruised along the bench, testing each box to see if she could slurp up any of the remnants. She was so proud of herself that she kept giving us huge grins and showing off her one tooth.


Elizabeth hung out in her stroller while we trick-or-treated, content to watch the kids run back and forth. Next year, though, she'll be toddling right along behind them.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

At war with BCBS

I know I said that I'd have a post about the cutest lady bug ever today, but I'm going to have to delay that until tomorrow.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my ongoing fight with BlueCross BlueShield of Texas to get Elizabeth's delivery covered. Yesterday I went another round with the insurance company.

I received a letter in the mail telling me that my appeal had been denied because my situation didn't match any of the items on their list that would allow them to pay for the delivery. So I girded my loins and called BCBS. As soon as I got a human on the phone, I asked for a supervisor. I had the bad luck of being connected to Kelly C.

Here's where having a photographic memory for conversations comes in handy.

****

Me: I'm calling about my claim, which was denied.
KC: That's right. Your condition doesn't meet any of our requirements for being covered.
Me: Can you explain that please?
KC: We will pay for treating complications of pregnancy, but we won't pay for delivery.
Me: Did you get the letter from my doctor?
KC: Yes, we have it. But doctor's letters don't matter. Only medical records matter, and yours don't show that we should cover the delivery.
Me: When my son was born three years ago, you paid for his delivery because he was breech.
KC: We've gone back and reviewed claims, and it turns out the company paid for a lot of claims it shouldn't have. You son's delivery probably shouldn't have been paid, but we're not going to try and recover the payments.
Me: With this delivery, you paid for the claim from the anesthesiologist.
KC: That was a mistake, and if you ask for a review of this claim, we could end up reversing that decision.
Me: So I'd have to pay back the payment to the anesthesiologist?
KC: That's correct.
Yes, she did essentially threaten that if I pursued this they might make me pay more money.
Me: As my next step I'm going to be contacting the Department of Insurance, an attorney and my legislators.
KC: You can do that, but it won't do any good. No one in medical review is going to approve this claim.
Me: How can you work there and still sleep at night?
KC: If you're going to attack me personally, I'm going to terminate this call.
Me: Please put your supervisor on the line.
KC: There's no one higher than me.
Me: Bullshit. I want to talk to your supervisor.
KC: No one here is going to approve this claim.
Me: I don't care. Put someone else on the phone now. I'm finished talking to you.

After a few more back and forths where she claimed there was no one else to talk to and I told her I didn't care and that she needed to find someone immediately, she put me on hold. I sat there crying while listening to perky, cheerful hold music.

After about 10 minutes, Tanika got on the phone.

Me: Kelly told me that BCBS would pay to treat complications of pregnancy but not delivery. My complication was five weeks' pre-term labor with fetal distress. Now I'm not a medical person, but it seems to me that the treatment for that complication is to deliver the baby.
T: I'm not a medical person, so I can't explain why the medical section made this decision. But that seems reasonable.
Me: BCBS also paid for my anesthesiology bill without any protest. It was just paid automatically.
T: That's odd, because medical review says no claims from this date of service should have been paid.
Me: What do I do next?
T: You can file a second appeal - you're allowed two appeals. (Something KC never told me.) When you file your second appeal you need to include any other information that you feel is relevant, and have your doctor do the same. Anything you can give us that would help your case. After that, you can also contact TDI for help appealing this.
Me: Thank you so much for at least listening to me. Kelly C wouldn't even do that.

I felt like Tanika was sort of telling me, without actually telling me, how to get the claim paid. Kind of like the scene in "The Incredibles" when Bob Parr tells the little old lady exactly what forms she needs to file. And while Tanika didn't approve my claim, she did at least listen to me without being rude or telling me that the claim would never be paid.

*****
After I spent about 15 minutes sobbing on the kitchen floor with Campbell asking, "Why you sad mommom?" I pulled myself together enough to call my doctor's office. The woman who deals with the insurance companies wasn't in, so I left a message for her to call me today. Maybe she has some further thoughts.

After I got off the phone with the doctor's office I cried some more. This has just worn me out. I feel helpless and out of control dealing with this immense company. I know the medical review section is nothing more than pencil pushers going through checklists without putting any thought into whether their decision actually make any sense. There is no reasoning with people who can only see checklists.

But yesterday also made me mad, not angry, MAD. I'm going to fight this as far as I can. BCBS has stolen my time, energy and joy at having a new baby from me, and that's what really upsets me.

I also truly believe that anyone who thinks our health care system is fine the way it is has never had to pay for his or her own health insurance and has also never had a claim denied. Anyone who has had to fight with an insurance company should know that the system is broken.

Tomorrow, a cute ladybug. I hope.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween, Part I

Since I think I am going to make a run at completing Nablopomo, I'm going stretch out my Halloween posts into a few days, just in case I run out of things to write about or something.

Last year, Campbell was not at all interested in Halloween. After stopping at a few houses, he came home with me and handed out candy, provided the trick-or-treaters weren't wearing masks. If they were, he retreated behind my legs and closed his eyes until I gave him the all-clear.

This year was a different story, however. Campbell LOVED Halloween. I took this picture as Campbell walked away from his third house, and it was the moment that he made the connection between saying "trick-or-treat" and getting candy. He looked at me and said, "Mommom, the peoples gave me candy!" From that point on, there was no holding him back.




At another house, the couple handing out the candy complimented Campbell on his costume. When he got back to the sidewalk, where I was waiting, he said, "Mommom, the people really like me!" The other parents with us dubbed him Sally Field for that one.


He and I, with Elizabeth in tow, did two blocks before heading for home. After that, Campbell handed out candy without any fear of kids in masks. But he did correct their manners. As one little boy walked away, Campbell shouted, "You asposed to say 'Good-bye!'"



A lion says "Rawr!"


And is it only Campbell, or do all three-year-old boys have a permanent smear of schmutz across their face? His seems to be made up of snot, milk and peanut butter, and it sticks there no matter how often I wipe his face.


Campbell loved Halloween so much that he woke up Sunday morning and asked when we were going trick-or-treating again. He didn't like it when we told him the holiday was over. He also really wanted to wear his costume to school today. Since it was on loan from a friend, I vetoed that request.

Tomorrow - the cutest little lady bug ever.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

To Nablopomo or not to Nablopomo

That is the question. Today is the start of National Blog Posting Month, Nablopomo for short. I've participated the past two years, but I'm torn about this year.

It sounds simple enough - write a post a day for 30 days - but I've been slacking off on my blogging lately. I have so much going on, do I really want to add yet another thing to my plate?

At the very least, now that I've posted this, I can continue if I want to. It would have been a shame to have failed the challenge on the first day.

Halloween pictures tomorrow. And later this week, an account of Ella's very first, and possibly last, trip to Walmart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

He'll hate me for this some day

Lily is going to be Dorothy for Halloween, and I found her this great wig. Yesterday, just for grins, I popped it on Campbell. I think he looks a little too much like a girl.

He thought it was hysterical at the time, but I'm guessing that when he's a teen-ager, he'll hate me for this picture.

Also, check out my book blog. I've been updating it, and there are more to come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gran and Granpa

My dad (runnerdude from the comments) was here for a visit this weekend, which made my mom (knittergran) very jealous. She couldn't come because she had already planned to go away with members of her knitting coven.

Mom is desperate to see the kids, and one of my friends had what I thought was a brilliant suggestion. She said I should send Campbell home with Granpa for a visit, and then when Gran comes in a week or two, she can bring him back with her. Oddly enough, my parents didn't go for it. Perhaps it's because I've been telling them too many potty-training stories. Campbell would have loved to go on the plane with Granpa and then visit my parents and be spoiled rotten.

Watching my dad with the kids made me think about how differently my parents react to their grandkids, and the differences are pretty amusing. Here are some examples collected from years of watching my parents be grandparents.

Scene 1: Lily is requesting a piece of bread and butter an hour after leaving the table without finishing her dinner.
Granpa: No Lily. Dinner is over. No bread and butter.
Gran: You're still hungry? How about I make you some oatmeal? Or a sandwich? What would you like?

Scene 2: Ella is having a huge tantrum because her fancy flower cookie is the wrong color.
Granpa: Ella, if you're not going to eat it, I will. (And then he did.)
Gran: Your father shouldn't have eaten the cookie! He should have gone to the bakery to get her the color she wanted!

Scene 3: Campbell is sitting on his potty. He scratches himself and then grabs a handful of goldfish crackers.
Granpa: Your mother would never have survived having boys.
Gran: Oh, gross. I think there are things boys do that I just wouldn't have been able to watch.

Scene 4: Elizabeth is standing up all by herself and clapping.
Granpa: Look at her! The programming is just amazing. She is just driven to make these developmental leaps at all the right moments.
Gran: Oh I wish I could see her! I bet it's so cute. Wait until you see the teddy bear I got her at SAFF - it's baby alpaca and it's so sweet because she needed something soft and sweet.

I guess the point of all this is that it's so funny to watch my mom, who was very no-nonsense when we were growing up, turn into a puddle of goo around her grandkids. She thinks they are the funniest, cutest things ever and will do anything they want - like make oatmeal at 9:00 at night or go to the bakery for special cookies or search stores for a replacement tea-party doll for Lily after hers broke.

Dad, however, remains his calm, analytical, engineer self. Which isn't to say he's not a good grandfather, because he is. He spent hours sitting outside with the kids while they rode their bikes and scooters back and forth, and he walked around and around the block with Campbell while he rode his bike. He took Campbell on a boys' trip to the hardware store and taught him all about hammers. He also taught Lily to ride her two-wheeler without training wheels, and he has worked wonders with the kids at the swimming pool. He just doesn't turn into a puddle of goo like mom does.

Dad went home yesterday, much to Campbell's dismay. He came charging out of his room this morning asking for Granpa. My parents will be back at Christmas, which may not be soon enough for the boy's taste.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scenes from potty training

Warning, this is a blatantly "mommy blog" post. Read at your own risk.

Campbell came home from preschool a week ago with strict instructions from his teacher that it was time for him to wear underpants from now on. I wanted to throttle the teacher, whom I otherwise love dearly. She also had Ella and Lily in her classes, and next year Elizabeth will be with her.

Since then, we've been in the throes of potty training the boy. If it had been up to me, I would have left him in diapers until he was old enough to change them by himself. I remember just how miserable the first month or sp of potty training is - puddles on the floor, loads of extra laundry, the threat of puddles on the floor in public places - and I just don't have the energy for it all. But now that we've started, we can't go back.

The first few days, Campbell peed on the floor more than in the potty. He'd sit on his little potty for ages - I'd let him watch SpongeBob as long he was on the potty - but then get up and walk across the room and pee on the floor. I wanted to tear my hair out.

We had a few temper tantrums (from Campbell, not me) about diapers. One morning he was crying for a diaper, and when I told him that his teacher said no more diapers, he said, "But my penis is cold!" I answered that underpants would keep him warm, but he wasn't convinced.

Half an hour after that, he came in the living room an announced that he had peed. I knew he hadn't been in the bathroom, so I asked him where the puddle was. He proudly said, "In the backyard! I peed in the grass."

Things are getting better, but I'm developing a Tourette's-like condition where every ten minutes I ask anyone in earshot if he or she needs to sit on the potty. I just now told Lily it was time to sit on the potty, when I meant send her to take a shower. She just looked at me and sighed.

Last night B walked in the living room and cracked up. Campbell had built an entire layout of his GeoTrax trains, and he was sitting on his potty with his remote controls spread out in front of him, running all of his trains. B declared it a little boy's dream come true.

While I'm glad that I'll soon have only one child officially in diapers, I am a bit sad about this. Campbell looks so much bigger wearing his underpants, especially when he pulls them all the way up to his rib cage, and he's lost that duck-like waddle that kids who wear diapers have. Plus, it's one more sign that my baby boy is getting bigger.

But my wistfulness will disappear when I have the extra $40 a month in my budget that I'm not spending on diapers. First, I need to get Campbell past the puddle stage.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

She's a GIRL

Yesterday Elizabeth and I met Wendi Aarons for lunch. Wendi and I have both been feeling a bit housebound, so we decided to eat our body weight in Tex-Mex, because that always makes everything better, at least temporarily. I decided to skip having a margarita since it wasn't yet noon.


The waitress was one of those super chatty types who wants to tell you her name and life story, which I HATE. She made the fatal error of looking at Elizabeth, who was dressed in a red shirt with heart-shaped buttons and black leggings with hearts on them and saying, "What a cute little boy!" When she saw the looks on our faces, the waitress quickly asked, "He is a boy, right?"


She then stammered something about how she was going to say he was a beautiful boy and that Elizabeth was a very pretty girl. Wendi and I smiled politely, and the waitress made a quick exit. I could tell she knew her tip was shrinking by the moment.




But honestly, how could anyone think that this sweet little thing was a boy?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Coffee with sugar, hold the salt

Two weeks ago, B snuck in while Ella was taking a shower and dumped a cup of cold water on her. She screamed and then promised revenge.

We expected it to be immediate and to involve shaving cream, but she didn't do anything. B and I both figured that Ella had forgotten the incident, so we did, too.

Saturday morning, B got up before I did and made coffee. When I came into the kitchen, he asked me to taste his coffee. It was horribly salty. So he threw it out and poured a new cup. We both smelled and tasted the cream, thinking it was the problem, but it was fine. He poured it in, added sugar and went on his way, getting ready to meet a client.

About 10 minutes later, he came into the kitchen, laughing. He had figured it out. Ella, as her revenge for the cold water incident, had poured salt into sugar shaker. B hadn't tasted it when he made his fresh cup of coffee because most of the salt had gone into the first one. I can't believe it took us both that long to figure it out. We truly had been stumped.

When Ella got up, B mentioned that his coffee had a strange, salty taste. She kept a straight face for a few minutes before cracking up. Ella was so proud of herself. She had planned and pulled off the revenge the night before while making popcorn for our Friday night movie.

I thought it was all very funny until I ended up with salt in my coffee. I had poured out most of the sugar from the shaker, but the salt had gotten very mixed in.

I'm hoping this is the end of the prank war for the time being. I'm afraid that innocent family members will get caught in the crossfire. But knowing Ella's and B's personalities, I'm guessing we'll all have to endure a few more tricks before they declare a truce.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Scenes from a slumber party

Last weekend we had Ella's birthday party. She had requested a camp out for her celebration, so at the last minute, we invited four of her friends and hoped for the best.

It turned out to be one of our best parties yet. We tend to go low tech and low stress for parties and end up having the most fun.

Some snippets from the night:

  • Third grade girls are exceedingly noisy. The five girls made more noise while putting together their own pizzas than a whole classroom of preschoolers. They giggled at EVERYTHING and talked so fast I didn't understand most of what was said.
  • Third grade boys, even if they don't understand why, crave attention from girls. L, who lives next door, was allowed to join some of the festivities but not sleep over. His participation consisted mostly of being chased around by the girls. I thought he'd get tired of being tackled and of having the girls try to pull down his pants, but just kept coming back for more. B watched it all, shaking his head. "Poor kid," he said. "He has no idea why he wants the girls to pay attention to him."
  • One should never underestimate the sheer will power and determination of five girls to stay awake as long as possible. All five girls were awake until at least 2:30, and two claimed to stay awake until 4:30.
  • Five girls can get along without fighting. I expected a certain amount of sqabbling and at least one incident of hurt feelings and tears, but there were no problems at all.
  • You don't need expensive favors or elaborate party activities to have a good time. The girls spent most of their time running around and singing songs, and the tent and camp fire provided tons of entertainment. B and I didn't really have to do anything to keep them busy.
  • Sitting by the campfire in the morning is a great way to start the day - even if it's in your own backyard.

Another successful event!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Himself

Campbell has developed this interesting habit of referring to himself in the third person. He also can't say the "K" sound, so they end up being "Ts." A sample?

"Tammell needs Tammell's mama to get Tammell some milk."

or

"Tammell needs Tammell's mama to take Tammell's baby (Elizabeth) out."

I say he's practicing to be royalty. My mom's good friend, who is retired Navy, says he's destined to be in the Marines, because they always speak in the third person.

But before he can be royalty or a Marine, he needs to get potty trained.