Monday, March 31, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

I’ve been wanting a cat. We lost Cottons well over a year ago leaving BadCat as the only cat in the house.

Additionally, Peanut has been asking for a kitten since around Christmas.

But Mark kept saying we didn’t need another cat. That it would just add expense and stress to the household.

Recently, I finally wore him down and he agreed to get a new cat.

So we went to the open adoption a local Petfinder on Sunday. And lo and behold we came home with not one . . .


Not two . . .


But three new cats . . .


It was totally, 100% Mark’s idea to come home with more than one.

It’s a magic number, right?

Though at least one family member isn’t very happy about it:


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Health care in America: Big benefits, but not for us

I work for a small company that does not have the buying power of large firms when it comes to health insurance. And since Mark is self-employed, we must get our health insurance through my company.

To insure our little family of four, each month we pay a whooping $1,163.02 to Oxford Health Care. I understand from talking to other families in our boat that this is about average.

Each year in December, I brace myself for the inevitable news that health insurance costs are rising again. I hope against hope that they will not rise significantly, but each year without fail they go up. I have accepted that.

What I find unacceptable is the additional “out-of-pocket” (isn’t it all out-of-pocket?) we must to pay to receive benefits. For example, we must fork over a $40 co-pay each and every time we walk into a doctor’s office. In the last two months alone, we’ve paid out an additional $160 because every member of the family has had to go to the doctor for one thing or another.

Another example: prescriptions. Look at this picture:

That teeny tiny vial of medicine cost us $80 on Tuesday. Oxford was gracious enough to pick up $20 of its cost. Wow, Oxford. Thanks a lot. That’s really . . . something.

And what, you may ask, is that prescription for? Some strange or rare affliction? Is it an experimental new drug? Is it a vanity prescription like wrinkle cream?

Oh no. That itty bitty 3 milliliter bottle holds eye drops to treat my daughter’s pink eye.

Pink eye. An extremely common childhood infection.

Eighty. Dollars.

Honestly, I’m not sure how some families do it. I don’t know what the answer is, but something’s got to change. How much blood are we all expected to give to a broken system?

How much money do these greedy insurance companies need to collect? And let’s not even get into the topic of legitimate claims that are habitually denied, forcing you to fight tooth and nail with the bureaucracy to get them paid. That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and another post for another time.

People are in an uproar about oil company profits; what about the record profits recently being reported by health care companies?

They are making money hand over fist and at whose expense? Ours, my friends. All of ours.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter: A study in sugar's effects on small children

Date: March 23, 2008. Easter Sunday

6:45 a.m.—After threatening her not to get up too early (“The Easter Bunny may not have come yet, and then he won’t come at all,” I admonish the night before), Peanut rushes into our room asking, “Did I wait long enough?” Loaf hears this and wakes up too so we all head to the living room to hunt for eggs.

Looking for eggs

The hunt is on!

Examining the loot

7:10 a.m.—Eggs are found, baskets examined and we’re sitting at the kitchen table eating cold, colored eggs and cereal for breakfast. They are already asking for candy.

8:00 a.m.—Breakfast is over so each girl is allowed to open one plastic egg full of jelly beans. I get in the shower.

8:30 a.m.—I emerge from the bathroom to find that they’ve broken into at least two other eggs each and also eaten a few small chocolate eggs. They are running around the kitchen in small circles.

I take the remaining eggs and chocolate and stash it high on a shelf.

For the next two hours, they proceed to ask me for candy and/or jelly beans every two to five minutes. I hold firm.

10:45 a.m.—We are all dressed and ready to leave for Grandma’s house. I am trying to snap a photo of them in their Sunday best. Instead they are making faces:

No . . . no sugar buzz here.

Jumping up and down:

Slight sugar buzz

And refusing to look at the camera:

More jelly beans please?

Finally, I bribe them with the promise of another egg with jelly beans if they stand still and let me take one nice picture. Wonder of wonder it works:

Dressed up for Easter

11 a.m.— I give them their reward, we strap them into their car seats and off we go to Grandma’s house.

11:02 a.m.— With Peanut thrashing her head side to side and Loaf waving her arms in the air, I realize that perhaps it was unwise to provide them with more sugar right before an hour-and-a-half car ride. Ooops.

11:45 a.m.—We aren’t even out of New Jersey and Peanut has kicked the back of my seat 432 times. Loaf is even worse — she is screeching at the top of her lungs (granted, she’s happy as can be, she’s just screeching for fun) and flailing in her car seat. Her limbs are flying in every direction as the sugar courses through her body. This is the longest car ride ever.

1 p.m.—We arrive at Mark’s mom’s house, a lovely home filled with many tiny, breakable things. I glance back at the girls. Peanut is bouncing up and down in her car seat as much as the wide canvas straps will allow. Loaf has a glazed over look and is chewing on the sleeve of her coat. I take a deep breathe for courage, make a mental Sign of the Cross and unleash them.

They bound into the house and immediately spy the two delicate bowls of jelly beans on the table. Before I can even get my own coat off, they have eaten more candy. I start to grow really concerned.

1:15 p.m.— I discover Loaf under the dining room table with a fistful of chocolate eggs in one hand and several empty wrappers in the other. Her lips are coated with chocolate and she is humming and waving her feet in the air.

1:20 p.m.—I am forced to remove all the beautiful and delicate bowls of candy from the dining room table. The more sugar the girls eat, the more they want, and they have lost all measure of self control along with any ability to listen or follow directions.

They head into my mother-in-law’s living room, where they proceed to remove all the cushions from the furniture, jump around and spin in circles.

2 p.m. — Lunch is served. I manage to get something other than sugar into their bodies, which is a very, very good thing. I hope this counteracts the effects, but as I learn, this has about as much positive impact as the proverbial cup of coffee for the drunk. It doesn’t “sober them up” at all. Rather, it seems to give them another burst of energy. We decide now is an excellent time for the outdoor egg hunt.

Here's one!

Got one!

In addition to hunting for eggs, Loaf plucks every single budding crocus from my mother-in-law’s yard. Sorry flowers. Better luck next year:

Waging war on grandma's flowers

3 p.m.— We head back inside to get Easter baskets from Grandma and Grandpa. They tear them apart in about 15 seconds, then begin pillaging their newest Easter eggs for goodies. Some of the plastic eggs in their bags have broken open, and they are frantically stuffing loose jelly beans and Raisinettes into their mouths knowing I am about to take them away. And I do. But not before they get a goodly amount down their throats.

3:30 p.m.— Cupcake time. Because what these kids really need right about now? Is an energy boost.

Bunny cupcakes! Because we really need more sugar!

4:50 p.m. — Mark is helping his mom with her computer upstairs. I am attempting to read the girls’ new books to them, but neither can sit still. Loaf has head-butted me in the face three times and Peanut is rolling on the floor.

We head upstairs. My in-laws are in the middle of repainting their bedroom and the room is practically empty with only a few pieces of furniture pushed against the wall. It seems to be the ideal place for my kids, except that Loaf keeps opening the closet door and slamming it shut and both keep trying to climb on top of the furniture.

When they’re not doing either of those things, they are on the floor doing somersault after somersault and/or flopping on the floor like two fish out of water. Seriously, it appears they have lost complete control of their bodies – they are thrashing in every direction.

After Loaf slams the door one more time, I yell out, “THAT’S IT! GET OVER HERE.” My mother-in-law and Mark come in.

“I think it’s time to go because otherwise, I’m going to beat her,” I tell Mark. Which, is probably a really stupid thing to say in front of one’s mother-in-law. Um . . . Hi Pat. It’s me. I have never and would never beat either of my children – really. Just a little frustrated in the moment. Sorry!

5:30 p.m.—We are back in the car. Now, you would probably think by now they are ready to crash. In fact, Mark’s mom says, “Oh they’ll probably be asleep before you hit the Thruway.”

I would have guessed she was right. And under normal circumstances, she would have been right. But today, on a day when they have eaten more sugar than they normally eat in two full weeks, is an entirely different ball game. The sugar buzz is way too powerful. They are crying, whining, melting down and . . . Most. Definitely. Not. Sleeping.

I am talking on the phone with my mother. Loaf is in full-blown meltdown mode. She cries and screams for nearly 20 minutes before Mark (don’t-make-me-pull-this-car-over) pulls the car over on the freakin’ N.Y. Thruway, gets out, opens her door and says, “WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”

That’s it folks. We have officially crossed over into insanity. And what do they say? You have to hit rock bottom before you can rebound back. Loaf looks at him and screeches back, “NOOOOOOOOO!”

I calmly turn around and resume my conversation with my mother, who somehow doesn’t seem to hear any of this. (Or if she does, she is politely ignoring it).

6:30 p.m.—The car is silent. Both girls are sound asleep. Mark and I remark that it was like we had two different children with us today — children who did not listen AT ALL, were manic, hyper, physically insane and emotionally fragile. I have never seen anything like it. I really wish I had a video camera because I would play it again and again before every major holiday as a reminder.

Next year, maybe we’ll put coins in those eggs instead of jelly beans.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Potty training readiness: I suppose this is a good sign?

Yesterday while I dried my hair, Loaf pulled the shower curtain to one side and disappeared into the bathtub.

This is not really unusual. She often climbs in to retrieve one of her bath toys. What was unusual is that she emerged a minute or so later completely naked. Switching off the blow dryer, I turned to look at her.

Me: Why did you take off your clothes?
Loaf: ::Proudly:: I peed, Mommy!
Me: You . . . peed? Where? In your diaper?
Loaf: Nooooo. Right dere.
::points to tub::
I look in the tub to see a lovely little puddle of yellow pooled on the tubmat close to the faucet. Her sleeper and bone dry diaper are rumpled on the opposite end of the tub.
Me: Loaf, why did you pee pee there?
Loaf: ::ignoring me:: Mommy! I go pee pee!
Me: Yes, I get that part. But why THERE? That’s not the toilet. This ::pointing across the room:: is the toilet. This is where you should pee.
Loaf: Noooooo. Not dere! Here!

The debate as to which bathroom appliance was most appropriate for relieving oneself went for another minute or so before I ended it with a firm “please do not pee in the bathtub again.”

I suppose I should be . . . happy?? I mean, this is a sign of willingness to pee somewhere other than a diaper, right?

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Tantrum


Middle of a tantrum

Kicking the floor and everything

Click here to see more Wordless Wednesday posts.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

An overdue role reversal

Last week when I was working, Mark invited two fathers and their children over for an afternoon of play.

While the six children (four girls, including our two, plus two boys) disassembled my house room by room played, the dads shot pool and (are you ready for this?) . . . baked brownies.

Yep, that’s right. Three dads. In our kitchen. At 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. Baking. Brownies.

I don’t mean to make fun of this event. In fact, I think it’s incredibly cool that right there in our little New Jersey town there is a growing contingent of families with, shall we say, modern work and child-care arrangements.

As you may know, Mark and I both work part-time and share child -care so whoever is not working on a given day has the kids. One of the other dads who was there works full-time, but in a hospital where he logs nights and weekends. He cares for the kids on certain weekdays while his wife works a part-time job. And the third dad is full-time stay-at-home-father. His wife leaves the house in the wee hours of the morning and does not return until dinner.

I find it cool and inspiring that these “alternative” child-care arrangements are becoming more common. It sure has taken long enough to get to this point. As little as five years ago, the scene that unfolded in my kitchen would never have happened outside of silly movies staring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and that other guy whose name I can’t remember.

Five years ago, when Mark and I first started telling people what we planned to do the reactions were interesting. Everyone had encouraging words, but it was clear that not everyone truly felt enthusiastic. A fair number gave us a skeptical head tilt and a “that’s interesting” expression even as they said things like, “oh, that’s cool.”

Now when we talk about our arrangement, people zestfully praise us and often say something like, “I wish my company would let me do that.”

It really is a shame that more companies don’t allow flexible and untraditional work weeks. Because really, as long as the work gets done well and on time, who cares what time of day the employee sat down to do it? I bet there are lots of husbands out there who would love to bake brownies and hang with their kids on a Tuesday afternoon. And I bet there are lots of wives who would relish a job that allows them to think and talk to other adults for a few hours a week. Maybe someday we can evolve enough to let more of them do just that.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pondering life's great questions

After a particularly bad round of fighting with her sister:

Peanut: Mommy, was I happier before Loaf was born?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Well, crap.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thou shall not lie (when there are witnesses)

Last week, when it was warm, Mark took the girls out in the backyard for the first time in weeks. The snow has melted and they opened up the empty sandbox. Inside, among the shovels and pails, was a small red rubber crab. It was a pool toy last summer, and it was coated - completely - in black mildew.

Despite that, Loaf brought it inside and deposited it in the bathroom sink.

"You wash my crab?" she asked hopefully. "Peas."

I gave it my best shot, but after copious scrubbing, the icky black mildew was still caked all over it and worse, when I squeezed it, a giant blob of slimy, greenish black gunk came flying out of the bottom of it.

"Oh my God, it just shit in my sink," I thought. Knowing that mold is not exactly a health food, and knowing that my kids love to put stuff in their mouths, I gave up and while Loaf was distracted, tossed Mr. Crab into the bathroom wastebasket.

"Why did you do that?" asked Peanut.

"I'm sorry, but it's never going to be clean and that black stuff can make you sick."

A few minutes later, distraction over, Loaf came looking for the crab.

"Where my crab?" she demanded. "Where it go?"

Feigning stupidity (and wishing to avoid a huge meltdown) I pretended to look as baffled as she.

"Hmmmm. I'm not sure. I just don't know," I said looking around the bathroom. "Want a cookie? How about finger paint?"

But it was no use. I have known for a long time that Loaf is not one to be easily deterred, and this was no exception. I offered up a number of bribes, but none could take her mind off that stupid crab.

"I want it! I want my crab! Where is it?" she stammered. Now, this was precisely the scenario I was hoping to avoid, but at this point, there was no going back, especially since Mark had come in moments before and emptied the contents of the bathroom wastebasket into the bigger trash bag, which was now sitting in a barrel outside the house.

Just then Peanut came sauntering back into the bathroom. "Mommy, you know where it is. You threw it in the trash."

I shot her the stink eye, but it was too late. The damage was done.

As Loaf processed this information, her face slowly transformed from confusion to fury.

"MY CRAB! I WANT MY CRAB!" She peered into the empty wastebasket. "YOU GET IT! YOU GET IT NOW!"

"No," I said. "I'm sorry, but it was really dirty and now it's gone."

I had the next 10 minutes in which Loaf lay on the floor, kicked her feet against the wall and screeched bloody murder to think about what I'd done. And I'm proud to say I've learned my lesson.

I will not lie to my children again.

Unless I am really, really, REALLY sure there are no witnesses. Lesson learned.

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Thank you!

Hi all! Thanks for all the get well wishes last week. I'm back up and running again and will make up for lost time this week.

Hope you all avoid the plague.

Monday, March 03, 2008

*Temporarily closed due to flu*

Back ASAP.

Thanks for your patience.