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


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."


"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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Today is Ella's birthday, and I can't believe she's 9 already. It seems like just yesterday that B and I brought her home from the hospital and then looked at each other in terror. Surely we weren't old enough to be responsible for that little, pink bundle.

We have both learned a lot about being parents in the past 9 years, and we couldn't ask for a better big girl to learn from. Ella is proving to be a bright, funny, caring and energetic person, and as I watch her grow up, I feel that we are doing something right as parents.

Eight was a very good year with Ella. She reached the age of reason, and we were able to calmly discuss situations and problems and reach agreements on what needed to be done - most of the time. There is still a hole in the ceiling over her bunk from one thermonuclear meltdown this summer.

I am a bit worried about 9, though. We're already seeing signs of pre-teen attitude with the eye rolls and tone of voice, and I've had more than one sit-down with Ella where I've explained that I love her too much to let her behave badly.

But these problems are few and far between and are vastly outweighed by her sunny, funny self.

We celebrated Ella's birthday this weekend with a slumber party Saturday night with four friends from school. Ella requested a camp out, so B set up a tent in the back yard. Much to our amazement, the girls spent the whole night in the tent.

B also set up a camp fire for them, and we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores and sang Beatles songs around the fire. Once the marshmallow roasting was done, they all dressed in black clothing and ran around the back yard playing tag in the dark.

At 10:00, in an attempt to settle them down, B took the laptop out to the tent and set up a movie for them. Two girls fell asleep during the movie but were woken up at the end by the other three. B sat out by the fire with them until midnight, when he made them climb into their sleeping bags and go to sleep - which didn't work at all.

I woke up at 2:30 to singing and laughing from the back yard. When I went to investigate, I found all five girls wide awake. I threatened to make them come inside to sleep if they didn't settle down. After that, I didn't hear any noise, but Ella and another friend claimed that they stayed awake until 4:30.

After a pancake breakfast, the girls headed home, and Ella fell asleep on the kitchen floor. B moved her into bed, and when she woke up three hours later, Ella declared it her best birthday ever.

Today Ella will get her presents from us and then spend some special time with her grandfather, whose birthday is also today. And I'll make sure to give her extra snuggles at bedtime. Before I know it, she'll be off to college.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The continuing saga

It's been months since I last wrote about my ongoing battle with BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, and, unfortunately, the problems are no closer to being resolved.

In mid-April, BCBS sent a letter to the hospital, copying me, stating that my claim for Elizabeth's birth was denied because there was no evidence that the situation met any of their definitions of complicating factors. Once I stopped sobbing, I called the insurance company. The woman I spoke with told me that no one should have ever told me the delivery would be covered because they were just in customer service, not medical review. So I asked how to appeal the decision and whether I had a deadline.

My next call was to my doctor's office, and I sobbed on the phone to the nurse about how I was having continued panic attacks every time I got the mail and saw another hospital bill or insurance envelope and every time I saw the hospital billing office number come up on caller ID. She passed a message along to the doctor and then called back to say that the doctor would be sending an appeal letter on my behalf.

That was in April, and I hadn't heard anything back since. I called once last month to find out what was going on and was told the claim was pending. I called again on Wednesday, and this time the woman I spoke with (and yes I have notes on whom I spoke with and when for every call) told me the claim was denied as of mid-April. That denial was the one that caused me to call my doctor's office in tears.

I told the woman that my doctor was supposed to have sent a letter about the appeal, and she said they hadn't received it. The BCBS woman assured me that I hadn't run out of time to appeal, and I told her I wanted it clearly marked in my records that I am officially appealing the denial.

Then I called my doctor's office. The nurse promised that the letter had been sent and even read it to me. She said that insurance companies "lose" letters all the time and that she would re-send it. So now I have to call back next week to make sure BCBS has received it and that whoever is supposed to be reviewing it actually is.

I mentioned this whole saga to one of my editing clients, and he told me that my next step should be to pay an attorney to write a letter to BCBS, copying my legislators, informing them that I am not willing to give up on the claim. I never wanted to HAVE to hire an attorney, but I will if it comes down to it.

My stress level about all of this had dropped drastically in the past few months. I haven't had a panic attack while getting the mail in ages. But it's all come back now; I've been upset ever since the calls on Wednesday.

I'm also amazed that the hospital hasn't been calling or sending letters looking for their seven thousand dollars. They called at least once a week and sent regular collection letters in the early weeks of this fight, but I haven't heard a peep lately. I'm a bit scared to call them and check on the account, though. I figure that if they haven't noticed me, I'm not going to call attention to the account.

On Wednesday I tweeted (I'm still not sure I like Twitter) that I wished I had Dooce's influence. She posted several tweets about a broken washer and her failed attempts to get it fixed or replaced, and within hours her washer was fixed AND she had a company offering to send her a new one for a give-away. If I had more than a million readers and followers, maybe someone at BCBS would pull his head out of his a** and fix this.

I hate, hate, hate that I am having to go through this again. I really feel that I lost out on some of the joy of Elizabeth's first few months because I was so worried about insurance and medical bills - and we actually have insurance. I can't imagine how hard it must be for those who don't. And every time I hear someone at a tea party or at an anti-reform rally saying that they don't want the government running health insurance, I want to kick them. If we lived in pretty much any other industrialized nation in the world, I wouldn't be going through this. There would never have been a question about whether the insurance company would pay for the delivery - it would have just been taken care of.

I need to stop writing and thinking about this now. I'm on the verge of panicking all over again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letting the pictures speak for themselves

After a few tentative tastes of frosting, Elizabeth dove right into her first-ever cupcake. For the record, she painted herself with frosting all on her own, no help needed.


Monday, October 05, 2009

In the blink of an eye

One year ago today, I wrote this post, and then 13 hours later, this happened.

Goodness how the year has flown. It's hard to believe that the tiny, four pound, 13 ounce bundle who gave us such a scare is one now.

Elizabeth has changed and grown so much, but she is still has her sweet little personality, with a lot of spunk thrown in for good measure. She is definitely holding her own in our family, including screeching at Campbell when he swipes toys from her.

She still doesn't crawl, but she has mastered pulling on everything she can get a hold of, including, but not limited to, the coffee table, my pants legs, kitchen chairs, and the toilet (eww). Elizabeth is now also cruising around the coffee table and along the edge of the sofa. I don't think she's going to be walking on her own any time soon, but this is a good start.

Elizabeth is a world-class flirt, and she definitely knows what the camera is and performs for it. I was hoping to get her one tooth in the picture, but Elizabeth didn't want to cooperate that much.

I'm working on weaning Elizabeth, but it's slow going. She still views bottles and sippy cups at toys rather than sources of nourishment. She is very good at eating finger foods, though. Scrambled eggs and cheese are a particular favorite, and this afternoon she'll be experiencing cake and ice cream for the first time.

I confess, I've been a bit sad this week about Elizabeth's getting older. She's definitely and for sure my last baby, and she's getting so big so fast. I feel like I missed a lot of the joy of having a baby in the house with the stress of hospital bills and insurance fights and the exhaustion of managing four kids. The first six months were particularly rough.

This past week, though, Elizabeth has been especially snuggly at night, falling asleep with her head on my shoulder after her 10:00 pm feeding. She almost never does that, so it's been a special treat to have this sweet time with her. I hold her for as long as I can, feeling the rise and fall of her breaths and watching her eyelids flutter as she dreams. Before I know it, she'll be like my almost 9-year-old, who is getting too cool to let me cuddle her.

Happy birthday tiny girl! I hope the next year is as wonderful as the first.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How am I?

First, thank you to everyone for your comments and e-mails during the past two weeks of illness. I really, really appreciated them all.

I'm feeling a bit better, but definitely not as much better as I thought I would after finishing a course of antibiotics.

Last night I felt awful, and my mother, keeper of all medical horror stories, was urging me to go to the ER and demand a chest x-ray as soon as B and Ella got home from a climbing competition in Dallas. Instead, I hung out on the sofa with them and ate pop corn and watched a "MythBusters" marathon. It was much more fun than spending hours in the ER.

I went to bed early, and laid there awake, picturing worst-case scenarios, as is my habit. I figured going to the ER would have one of two possible outcomes. First, they'd look at me and decide I was a hypochondriac buying into the whole swine flu hysteria and send me on my way. Or second, they'd decide I was desperately ill and admit me to the hospital immediately.

This morning, I woke up feeling a bit better and a bit more like I'm suffering from allergies instead of something worse. So I took allergy medicine and pulled myself together for a Target run with Ella and Elizabeth. About halfway through the store, I thought I was going to collapse. I had to stop and lean on the grocery cart for a few minutes and pull myself together.

That's when it hit me that part of the reason I'm so worn out is that I haven't eaten much for the past two weeks. I have had absolutely no appetite lately, and my diet has largely consisted of soup, soup, soup, crackers, more soup, more crackers, cupcakes (thanks LCH!), and a cheeseburger (thanks MBC!). After we finished at Target, I stopped and picked up lunch and gobbled a hamburger and some fries.

I'm going to keep taking my allergy medicine and hope that I improve. But if I don't, I'll be back at the doctor's for sure. I'm ready to be healthy again.