Thursday, February 26, 2009

What do you think I do all day?

Lily is home from school today. She's that annoying level of sick - she doesn't feel well enough to go to school, but she doesn't feel sick enough to be flat on the sofa watching movies.

She spent most of the morning following me around, driving me insane. Lily pestered me to read with her, to do art projects with her, to play games with her. I was trying to get real work done, and she wanted to me to entertain her.

At one point I turned to her and said, "Lily, what do you think I do all day while you're at school? I have actual work to do, you know." She looked stunned.

It dawned on me that she and Ella probably think I spend all day sitting here, staring at the door, waiting for them to get home from school.

After that, Lily stopped following me around and switched to asking me if I was done working yet every 15 minutes. I escaped to a lunch meeting and left B to entertain her.

Now she's in "rest" time while Campbell supposedly naps. With any luck Lily will be begging to go back to school tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not in front of the kids

It's Carnival Wednesday over at One More Thing, and the topic is "Not in Front of the Kids." I know others might write about sex but I'm kind of a prude in that way, plus my mom, dad, sister and possibly one uncle read this blog. So instead I'm going to write about other things I try my best not to do in front of the kids.

1. Swear - When I'm in the mood, I can swear like a sailor, which seems to surprise people. I guess I don't look the type to let loose with a string of foul words when provoked, but I learned from the master - my mother. My dad never swears, but my mom is a pro. Once, about 14 years ago, my mom accidentally cut my dad's hand open with pruning shears while they were working in the garden. I just happened to call home that day and got this report from my sister, "I don't know what happened, exactly. They came in, and mom was crying and dad was swearing - and you know how he never swears."

I realized that maybe I hadn't been watching my language enough the day Ella asked me how to spell fuck. And then there was the day I dropped a huge container of blue berries in the produce section of our shee-shee grocery store, and I heard Lily say, with her best little southern accent, "Son of a beeeech!" People within earshot were either smothering their laughs or looking appalled.

It might be too late for the girls not to pick up on my cursing, but maybe I still have a chance with Campbell and Elizabeth.

2. Eat candy - I have a huge sweet tooth for candy - gummy bears, jelly beans, candy hearts and the like. I try not to binge on them, but some days it's hard. If it weren't for the fact that I chase after a ton of kids every day and that I come from a race of tall, skinny people, I'd probably weigh 300 pounds. I have a stash of candy in a bowl in the bookshelf in the kitchen. The girls know it's there, but my goal is not let them catch me eating out of too often - or to catch me eating cake for breakfast.

It's not that candy is forbidden in our house. The kids get treats on a regular basis, it's just that I want them to be older before they develop a sugar addiction.

3. Watch trashy TV - I know there are families who don't own TVs or who don't let their kids watch television. We aren't one of those families. We usually don't let the kids watch during the week, but on the weekend they do get to watch their fair share of SpongeBob, Dirty Jobs, AFV, and The Simpsons.

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I love The Real Housewives shows on Bravo. The women simultaneously crack me up and horrify me. I don't want the girls watching such tripe until they are old enough to understand the camp value.

But they totally watch Top Chef (go Carla!) and Project Runway with me.

4. See the extent of my migraine pain - I generally try not to let the kids see just how much pain I'm in when I have a migraine. There's no real reason other than not wanting them to worry that I'm going to die or something. Both girls have fertile imaginations, and it wouldn't surprise me if at some point one of them decides that I have a tumor and am going to die.

Here are some things that the kids see me do on a regular basis.

1. Hug and kiss their dad
2. Read - I firmly believe you can't teach kids the value of reading if you don't read for pleasure yourself.
3. Knit - ditto the reading (I was so thrilled the day Campbell pointed to someone on TV and said "Knitting!")
4. Exercise
5. Get frustrated or angry without resorting to throwing a tantrum
6. Have mild disagreements with their dad and solve them without resorting to screaming or yelling
7. Laugh and tell jokes
8. Do paying work
9. Do housework
10. Shower - I sincerely wish this weren't true, but I haven't managed to impress upon the girls that the ONLY reasons they should bug me while I'm in the shower are if the police are banging on the door or someone is bleeding profusely - and no Lily a papercut doesn't count
11. Tell them how much I love them

Those are my lists. What are yours? If you decide to create one, leave me a comment and let Kate know. She'll put a link up on her blog, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ella's "Speech"

Ella came out the other night, dressed all in black, to deliver a speech she had written. But at the last minute she handed it to B, told him to read it, and disappeared into her room embarrassed by the attention. Here's the speech, sic all:

DEAR FELLOW PARENTS, I feel I shoud get an allounce. I have been deeply thinking about folding landry fifty cents a week. I hope you agree. I so pleese sghen below.

Sincerily,
ELLAG.

Once B and I stopped giggling at her spelling and choice of words, we called her out of her room. We told her it was a very polite request and that we would discuss it. Then we talked about how "Fellow Parents" really only applied if she was also a parent. She giggled at the idea of being a parent.

So this week we're going to experiment with laundry folding and see how she does. It's worth the fifty cents she's asking, considering I'd have to pay my cleaning lady a lot more to fold the laundry. Of course, once Ella sees the mountain of clothes, she may change her mind or request a raise.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No longer willing to be patient

I have been dealing with hospital bills and insurance claims for Elizabeth's birth since mid-December, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

Insurance coughed up for Elizabeth's 7 days in NICU. The total bill was along the lines of $22,000, and insurance paid for 80% leaving us with the rest. I've arranged a reasonable payment plan for the amount and should have Elizabeth paid off before she gets to kindergarten.

The problems lie with my c-section. Our insurance plan doesn't cover pregnancy or delivery, so technically, BCBS wasn't supposed to pay for the delivery. However, Elizabeth's early arrival constituted a "complicating factor," which means BCBS is supposed to pay. They paid for the anesthesiologist without a problem and then denied the c-section because the hospital coded it as a scheduled delivery instead of an emergency.

On the advice of the insurance company, I called the hospital and askend them to resubmit the bill with the proper coding, which they did. Insurance denied it again, so I called them back and was told that the hospital needed to submit my medical records to prove that it was an emergency. It would have been nice if they had told me that the first time.

I called the hospital and gave them all the information they needed to submit the medical records - claim number, fax number, contact name, etc. Next thing I know, I'm getting recorded calls from the hospital demanding payment. I call the hospital and am told that the request for medical records needs to come from the insurance company directly. Again, it would have been nice to have been told that during my last call. I tell them they are now responsible for getting the request from the insurance company. The "supervisor" I spoke with promised me he would and that he would call with an update. That was two weeks ago, and I still haven't heard from him.

In the meantime, with the help of two friends who work at the hospital, I got the name and contact number of someone in the business office who helps with such things. I left her four messages over two weeks before I get a call back. She couldn't find any record that I have insurance. We have switched insurance in the past few months, so I no longer have my BCBS insurance cards. I gave her all my BCBS policy information, but she wasn't sure that would be enough to submit the claim. I pointed out that BCBS has paid for Elizabeth's stay and the anesthesiologist, which means they got my insurance information from hospital at some point. She said she'd research it and call back. You guessed it - I haven't heard back. I left her a message on Friday.

Today I decided to become the unhappy client from hell on this. I'm tired of being polite and patient. I'm tired of not knowing how much money we're going to end up owing. And I'm stunned that the insurance company is willing to pay but the hospital can't get its act together to collect the money.

I called to talk to Michael G, the "supervisor" who promised to call me back. Big surprise, he wasn't available. So I asked to talk to his boss. The man who answered my call came back on the line to tell me that all the managers were in meetings. So I said I wanted a call back today. But this traps me in the house. Even though I gave them my cell phone number, I can't exactly spread out all of my paperwork in the produce aisle if that's where I happen to be when someone calls. I'll give them until 1:00 before calling back and raising hell. And I'll be calling the woman at the business office again.

I'm done with being patient and nice.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Out of such a sweet little mouth

The other night the girls were reading a story, and two of the characters were having a fight. B asked them what they thought one character should do to solve the problem. Out of Lily, all pink cheeks, freckles, blue eyes and missing teeth, came this suggestion:

He should kick him in the nuts!

My mom and B gasped for air, trying not to laugh, as I choked out, "Where did you hear that!!???" Lily looked up matter of factly and named a girl in her class who has a third-grade brother.

She's learning more at school than I want her to.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Perhaps I should become one

My mom was here this weekend to witness the insanity that is my life these days. She was amazed, and not in a good way, at the level of chaos that is pretty constant around here. Tuesday afternoon was particularly bad. The girls had come home from school bickering about everything; Campbell had woken up from his nap on the wrong side of the universe and was following me around sobbing and saying, "Up peese!"; Elizabeth was having tummy troubles and was wailing; and B's father had dropped by with belated Valentine's Day treats for the kids, which caused another round of bickering. Plus B was flat on his back in pain from the nerve ablation he had three weeks ago that doesn't seem to have helped his neck at all. So he was no help.

My mother looked at me at one point and said

I'm surprised you're not an alcoholic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Regrets

Kate over at One More Thing invited me to be part of a blog carnival, whatever that is. Today's topic is "Regrets." Since listing out the things in my life that I regret would send me down a dangerous path considering my current state, I'm going to list the things I don't regret. It seems a healthier option for me.

Moving to Austin
In August 1994, I helped drive B's then girlfriend's car (a really, really long story for another time) out to Austin. I spent two weeks here and absolutely fell in love with the city. I had decided not to extend my coaching contract at UF (another long story) and had no job and no real plans other than to move to my parents' house in Atlanta and pull myself together. Instead, I decided to move to Austin. Over Labor Day Weekend, B and I drove from Austin to Gainesville, loaded up my stuff, and drove back to Austin - we left Friday evening and were back Monday evening - I don't recommend such a trip. I've been here ever since.

Things were rocky at the start. I didn't have a job, so I was doing temp work and volunteer coaching for a local swim team, hoping it would turn into a job. I was also burning through savings at alarming rate. But just as I was about to throw in the towel and give up, I got a real job (not coaching, but hey, it was a job), and things started to turn around.

I have never regretted my decision to make a leap of faith to an unknown city and start from scratch. I believe pretty much everything good in my life right now - my husband, our kids, our friends - stems from my decision to move here.

Not running the 2000 Motorola Marathon
I had run the marathon in 1998 and 1999, and for the 2000 marathon I had been running with a great group and training under a coach. I had a spectacular racing season, including running a personal best half marathon by 12 minutes. I had done my last long run of 21 miles by myself and had survived it and the head games that came along with running alone for that long. I was ready to go, and if the stars aligned there was a chance of my qualifying for Boston. The stars did align, but for a different purpose. Seven days before the race I found I was pregnant. My OB gave me permission to run the marathon given that my body was in marathoning shape, and I spent several days going back and forth on whether to run. In the end, and much to my husband's relief, I decided not to run. Even though I still feel like I have one more marathon in me, I've never regretted not running that race. If I had, and something had happened to the baby who turned out to be Ella, I'd have spent the rest of my life regretting the decision.

Staying home full time
After Ella was born, I was able to arrange things at work so that I was in the office from 7-12 each day and then working from home in the afternoons. I loved the schedule. Ella was home with B in the mornings - he was coaching diving at that time and didn't need to go to the pool until after lunch - and home with me in the afternoons. I felt like I had the best of both worlds - time in the office with other adults and time at home with my baby. But when I was pregnant with Lily, we realized that the arrangement would no longer work with two kids. For one, B had changed jobs and even though he had flexible work hours, he was having a harder time being home in the morning. We knew that we wouldn't be able to afford child care for two kids. Also, I had begun some limited freelance work for the textbook publisher I still do work for, and that gave me hope that I'd be able to pick up work to supplement B's income.

Two months before I had Lily, I announced my intention to take a permanent maternity leave. The reactions of my coworkers were interesting. The women who worked full time and had kids in day care predicted I'd be bored and begging for my job back within six months. Coworkers of my parents' generation congratulated me on my decision to stay at home, saying that they or their wives had done the same thing and had loved it. Coworkers who were younger thought I was crazy. My beloved bosses just sighed, having known all along that it would come to this.

It's been six years now, and while there are days when I long to escape to an office, I have never once regretted the decision to stay home. And I've certainly never been bored. I do realize how fortunate I am to be able to stay home. I have a husband who's supportive, freelance work that keeps my brain engaged, and a community of other SAH moms who provide much-needed support and friendship.

***
There - three major things I don't regret. I'd write about more, but it has taken me an hour to get this far because of requests and interruptions from children and a crying baby, who is crying again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The cutest baby hat ever



Elizabeth has some gorgeous knit hats courtesy of real-life friends and blog-world friends, but this one from my mom knittergran takes the cake. Every time I was out in public with Elizabeth while she was wearing this hat, people would stop me to rave about the hat and the baby. Elizabeth had it on today when we went to a local knitting store, and the women there just went nuts over her.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Campbellroo

At some point when Campbell was a baby, he was given "Roo" as a nickname. We had no idea how apt a nickname it would prove to be. Local singer Joe McDermott has a song about a baby kangaroo who likes to bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce some more. The girls and I have decided it describes Campbell exactly.

One day last week, when Campbell was sick with a really bad case of croup, I heard him wake up from his nap, and then I heard some suspicious noises. I went in to his room, video camera in hand, to see what was up. Notice his very dramatic coughs.

video

If this is him sick, imagine what he's like when he's healthy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In praise of good friends

I am, by nature, something of a recluse. I'm happiest at home in my nice, safe, predictable environment. But the last few weeks with sick kids have tested my Howard Hughes-like nature. Since last Thursday I have only left the house to take a child to the doctor and to go to the grocery store and pharmacy. I even did a three-day stretch where I didn't leave the house at all.

Last night I ran up to the corner drug store, with Elizabeth in tow, to get Valentine's cards for Campbell's party at preschool today. When I got back in the car, I just couldn't make myself go home, so I decided to go for a drive, knowing that Elizabeth would probably sleep the entire time. I turned on my 80s music playlist and headed for the freeway. After 20 minutes of driving, I accepted that I wasn't feeling any better.

I decided I needed to visit with a grown-up, someone other than my husband (no offense meant, B, but I needed a change). I pondered whom I could call and realized that it was bed, bath and story time for all of my friends who have little kids, so that narrowed my options. Then I had a stroke of inspiration and called my good friend O'Pine. He and his partner don't have small children, so I knew I wouldn't be interrupting any bedtime routines. Besides, O'Pine is always up for a visit.

So I staggered into his house and basically collapsed. And then I just started unloading on how hard this mother-of-four gig is and how I feel like I'm spread so thin that I can't do any one thing right and on and on and on. It felt so good to vent. He listened and offered suggestions and moral support and made me laugh, which was exactly what I needed.

O'Pine's partner S loves, loves, loves babies, so he held Elizabeth the whole time. She cooed and laughed at him, while O'Pine and I visited. The conversation eventually moved from my pity party to a debate on which Top Chef contestant was hotter - Stefan or Fabio - and a general consensus that Tom Collichio, Eric Ripert, and Anthony Bourdain were dreamy.

I left after about an hour and a half feeling so much better about myself and the world in general. It was a much needed break.

Thank you O'Pine and S for letting me crash at your house. You both did me a world of good. I am fortunate to have such good friends.

Happy Love Thursday.

Side note - if you do go to O'Pine's blog, keep in mind that he's not nearly as cranky as he seems. He just doesn't tolerate stupidity.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Talking with Daddy

Elizabeth has turned very smiley and interactive in the last month. She loves to sit on our laps and "talk" to us. She especially likes it when we make hooting noises at her. Last night, she and B had one of what will be many, many father-daughter talks.




The cuteness just never stops around here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shouldn't be allowed, #2

You know what shouldn't be allowed when you are already so sleep deprived that you can't remember your own name?

Insomnia. With a middle of the night migraine thrown in for fun. That's what.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Shouldn't be allowed

Do you know what shouldn't be allowed when you are already so sleep deprived that you can't remember you own name?

Insomnia. Full-on, toss and turn, wander the house in the middle of the night insomnia. That's what.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Professional Big Sister


Now that Ella has become a big sister three times over, she's become quite the pro. Campbell adores her and will accept her as a substitute for me when I'm not immediately available.


Elizabeth loves her, too, especially when Ella sings to her. Here, Ella was singing and Elizabeth was cooing back to her. The sweetness of it all just made my heart melt.
Happy Love Thursday.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Brought to you by the letter . . .

I saw this on Calicobebop's blog - it's called "Brought to you by the letter . . ." She was assigned the letter C and had to write 10 things she loves that begin with that letter. I requested a letter, and she assigned me S. If you'd like a letter, leave a note in the comments and I'll send you one.

Ten Things That Start With S

1. Sisters - My sister and I are almost 7 years apart in age, which means we weren't close as kids: I was the mean big sister, and she was the pesky little sister. But my older girls are just two years apart and are very close. One of the best things about being their mother is watching them be sisters. They have their moments when they hate each other, but 95% of the time, they are best buddies. When we're out for a walk, they'll hold each other's hand without any prompting. And one of their favorite things is having a slumber party with each other, which is pretty funny given that they share a room. When they have their slumber parties they get out their sleeping bags and make a big nest on the floor and giggle until all hours. I'll be interested to see how Elizabeth fits into the sister dynamic around here when she gets bigger.

2. Keeffer - I know this doesn't start with S, but it's my sister, and her name does start with S and I don't know that she'd want me publishing it for all the world to see. Even though she was the pesky little sister when we were growing up, she's turned into a really cool adult. She was 11 when I moved out for college, and I still tend to think of her as being a kid. But she's all grown up and living in Los Angeles with a real job, at which she's very good. I'm very proud of her and what she's accomplished.

3. Shoes - Specifically, running shoes. I don't get all that excited about every day shoes; I suppose it's because I work from home and don't have to get dressed up. But I have yet to lose my kid-like enthusiasm for new running shoes. I often wear them home from the store. I have a very hard time getting rid of pairs once I've run them into the ground. Currently, there are 8 pairs in my closet, which represents 3 years' worth of running.

4. Suburban - I love my new car. Yesterday I took Lily cupcakes at school for her birthday and picked up all the carpool kids at the same time. I had 6 kids in the back of the car - the four school kids plus Campbell and Elizabeth - and there was room for everyone. I figure I'm making up for my carbon footprint at least a little by being able to drive everyone to and from school; I'm saving two other families from having to make trips.

5. Sand - I grew up in a small beach town on the west coast of Florida - at least it was small when we lived there. It's now apparently grown beyond all recognition. I spent a lot of time at the beach, and it is still my favorite place to be. I love the sand in my toes and the salt in the air and floating in the water. Even though last year's trip to the beach was a bit of a disaster, I'm counting the months until we go again in August.

6. Sun - I'm pretty sure I'm solar powered. I love being out in the sun. During my years as a swim coach in Florida I spent entire days out in the sun (coated in sunblock, of course). I think part of the reason summers here bother me so much is that it's too hot to be out in the sun. I end up getting cabin fever from being trapped inside.

This is getting hard . . .

7. Stories - I love stories, both telling them and having them told to me. One man I used to work with once told me that he could tell what kind of mood I was in by the stories I told him. Unfortunately, my love of stories has not led to any kind of talent for creative writing. I'm very good at analytical writing, but I can't write something creative like a short story, and believe me, I've tried.

8. Snapshots - I love taking pictures and always have my camera close at hand. I'm not a good photographer, and I know nothing about taking pictures from the technical side. I rely more on the law of averages - if I take enough pictures, some will turn out well. My beloved camera died on me last month, and it killed me to not have it working. I dithered and dithered about what to buy to replace it, and then I saw a review of a new Olympus model that's coming out in March. It combines all the best of a point-and-shoot and an SLR, and it sounds perfect for me. Unfortunately, I couldn't go that long without a camera, especially not with Lily's birthday and a smiley baby in the house. So yesterday I bought a cheap point-and-shoot to tide me over. When I get my new camera, I'll give the little one to the girls to use.

9. Silliness - I am, at heart, a very silly person. I love silly jokes and movies. I usually wake the girls up in the morning by singing them songs I've made up with silly rhymes. Ella has gotten old enough that she just rolls her eyes at me, but Lily still giggles. I'm glad I have two more kids to be silly with once the big girls outgrow me.

10. Son - When I had Campbell, everyone warned me that boys are different, and I didn't believe them. Now I get it completely. Boys have such a different energy to them, and there's definitely a different mother-son dynamic. Lord help me, because I adore Campbell. If I'm not careful, he's going to get away with murder in the house because I just can't resist his curls and his big dimpled smile - and he already knows it.

Phew - 10 things that start with S. Let me know if you want a letter.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In the blink of an eye

Six years ago today, they placed this tiny bundle in my arms. It's hard to believe that she's gone from looking like this . . .
to looking like this.

Lily is absolutely my girly-girl. She's all about pink and princesses and sparkles. She loves her "ballelet" classes and any excuse to dress in something twirly.

When she was a toddler, she wasn't much for cuddling or snuggling, but now she's definitely the snuggliest of my kids - she loves hugs and kisses and sitting in my lap.

Lily was a very quiet baby. She didn't coo or talk much until she was almost 2, then a switch flipped, and we haven't been able to get her to be quiet since. She loves telling us very long, complicated stories about her day and her friends. She also loves making up plays and puppet shows, although those usually descend into pure silliness, with lots of costume changes.

Her birthday party on Saturday is going to be a Princess Tea Party. We've invited six little friends, and I'm getting out my grandmother's pink rosebud tea set for a real tea party. I'm going to serve heart- and dancer-shaped finger sandwiches and fruit. The girls are going to decorate their own tiaras and cupcakes. It should be lots of twirly, princessey fun.

Lily was so excited about her birthday that she couldn't sleep last night. She crawled onto B's lap at 11:00 p.m. and snuggled with him. He's such a sucker that he didn't make her go back to bed right away like I would have. I'm taking cupcakes to her class today, which Lily is just thrilled about.

So Happy Birthday Lily-bear. We love you bunches!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Day of rest, my a$$

When I read A Year of Living Biblically, I was intrigued with Jacobs' struggle over observing the sabbath. According to Jewish tradition, he wasn't supposed to do any type of work at all - no cooking, no driving, no checking e-mails. It was supposed to be a day of rest and reflection and worship. He had a very, very hard time with taking Saturdays off, and I think I would, too.

Sunday is generally my day to catch up on things that didn't get done during the week. We usually spend Saturday playing or going to birthday parties or doing family things, so Sunday is my only day to get things done. Plus, B makes a real effort to not work on Sundays, which means he's home to marshall the troops.

Take yesterday, for example. I folded a record 11 baskets of laundry - a 12th load is still in the dryer. I ran out of steam before I could get that load folded and everything put away; that's on the agenda for today. Plus I cleaned the kitchen twice and vacuumed the house and mopped the kitchen, office and living room. Of course, the kids, who had been playing in mud in the back yard, came tromping through almost immediately. I also went to the grocery store and bought what I hope is a week's worth of food. Phew.

But because I'd done all this work, I didn't feel guilty in the least about feeding the kids left-overs on paper plates. And I sat and knit for an hour without worrying about leaving chores undone.

The best part, though, is knowing that I'm starting the week caught up. All the laundry is pretty much done. The house is clean, and the pantry is stocked. For one day, I can feel like I'm on top of things.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reading update

I've updated my list over at my reading blog. Check it out!