Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cautiously optimistic

The whole country’s been following the health care debate, and I’m sure its been discussed ad nauseum on blog after blog. I’m not a political analyst, or a lawyer. I’m a mom.  Of a little boy who, though full of life (and mischief), also has several very serious medical issues which will follow him forever.
So I’ve been watching the health care debate too, with cautious optimism.
Quoting a Post Dispatch article from today (which I think is quoting someone else, who is probably quoting parts of the new law):
"children with pre-existing conditions may not be denied access to their parents' health insurance plan," and "insurance companies will no longer be allowed to insure a child but exclude treatments for that child's pre-existing condition."
I hope that this is good news for Trystan’s (and millions of other kids’) future.  We have been lucky to have obscenely wonderful healthcare coverage, which has paid for all of Trystan’s care with surprisingly little out of our own pockets.  And I live in fear of what happens if we lose that coverage.  Even with two good incomes, we couldn’t have afforded Trystan’s first three weeks of life, let alone three years. 
I still don’t trust for-profit companies to make decisions with their hearts instead of their wallets.  But I think it’s a start.  And a very timely one for us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And he cooks too...

A month or so ago, my husband and I preemptively spent part of our tax refund on a new fridge. (yes, our tax withholdings are horrendously out of whack if a brand new fridge claims only part of our tax refund).
So far, I love the thing. Love love love it. There wasn’t much wrong with the old one, except for a crotchety disposition when it came to the “auto” defrost, and a general lack of size. And storage space. It did look nice enough and was only about ten years old, with fairly good energy usage. So it took me a really long time (and a sizeable hunk of new-found money) to really commit myself to buying a new one. Don’t laugh too hard at that. Yes, I’d been drooling over larger models for a couple of years, but I’m an obsessive window-shopper.
The difference between the old fridge and the new one is about the size of a person. We now have six cubic feet more storage space. For comparison sake, I’d estimate that I’m about five cubic feet (probably less—my ankles aren’t that fat when I’m not pregnant). So you could stuff me and a kid and all of our groceries in the thing. And the energy usage? Almost identical to the smaller model (I mentioned obsessive, yes? I still had the yellow “Energy Guide” tag from the old fridge tucked away in the filing cabinet).
This fridge is so big that last night it had two gallons of milk, one of orange juice, one of apple juice, a 6-qt crockpot full of chili fixings (for tonight’s dinner), sodas, leftovers, our massive array of sauces (incuding like 6 kinds of mustard. We’re weird), big containers full of strawberries, grapes, leftover fruit salad, etc. And there was room left. Seriously. I’m not sure the crockpot even fit on a shelf in the old fridge.
The downside to all this stainless-steel wonderfulness? Access to the ice cream. The model we bought is a French-door one (which works great in the corner up against the wall that used to impede the old fridge door). And it has a bottom freezer. Which my 3-year old can open all by himself.
We have caught Trystan snacking on ice cream bars and popsicles all by himself more than once now. He’s sneaky about it too—just helps himself, throws away his wrapper. One day my husband caught him not just with unauthorized ice cream, but eating it at the computer desk (I think the computer was already terrorized by the little people and their penchant for button pushing…and we just added sugary stickiness to the risks).
And the frozen waffles. Oh the waffles. I think I should be less worried about him eating waffles than ice cream, except that he knows how to cook them. In the toaster. He has to take the toaster out of a cabinet and plug it in. And he can totally do that. Last time I heard him banging appliances around in the cupboard, he had the toaster out and was also checking out the metal grids for the waffle iron.
The biggest dilemma now?  Whether to punish him for messing with kitchen appliances, or promote him to sous chef.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Traffic Camera Traps

Last night, we made an after dinner trip to the park so Trystan could try out his birthday present, a new scooter (complete with Thomas the Train helmut).  Our driveway and the sidewalk outside our house both have too much slope to be safe for a 3-year old with wheels.  The park closes at sundown, and we stayed until the very last rays were disappearing, since the weather was nice and the kids were laughing.  We probably stayed too long, actually.  There is a gate that could be used to block the entrance to the park, but we did not get locked on the wrong side of it.  We were instead trapped by red light cameras.
The park exit is one side of a 4-way stoplight, and we needed to turn left to head towards home.  My husband pulled up into the left turn lane and we patiently waited for the light to go green.  We watched cross traffic drive unimpeded for a couple of minutes (it was spotty at best, not exactly a busy road).  Just when we started to despair of getting a green, I saw that the cross lane was turning red.  It did, and the cars opposite us (who were turning, not entering the park), got a turn light.  We did not.  Then the cross traffic got their green back.  This repeated 4 or 5 more cycles.  We never saw a turn light. If the light had a weight sensor, it should have noticed our car.  Its not like we were crammed onto a lightweight bicycle—it was a mid-size SUV.
The cross traffic was light enough, that we could have just made an illegal left turn (at the red light), or even driven straight (through the red light).  But they have a camera at that intersection.  How rude is that?  No left turn arrow (or even a green light to drive forward), and a camera that will tag you if you do it anyway.
We ended up backing up and taking a right, then making a u-turn farther up the road. What a pain. And what a poor use of cameras.  And traffic lights and sensors.  Maybe the city did it on purpose to catch loiterers hanging out in the park after dark (don’t send a cop to ask em to go, just ticket them when they try to leave)?  Because my husband and I and our two kids were clearly up to mischief.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Last weekend, my 3 adult sisters and I went to Vegas. We left our menfolk at home. We all live in different states, and don't often all get together, so it was a treat. And a bit of a pain, of course, as we all attempt to share sleeping quarters for the first time since the early 90's. We're all both too much alike and too different to do this for long.

I arrived on Friday, about 10am local time (noon St. Louis time), and I started out exhausted. The photo of the four of us was taken at dinner that night, at about 9 Vegas time. That day set the tone for the whole weekend. Watch? What's a watch? And food? We ate at the strangest times (for me). I was not really that hungry all weekend, nor could I figure out whether it was light or dark outside without actually going outside. Very strange. But, for once, Daylight savings time didn't absolutely kill me (hard to get upset about a time change when you have no sense of time).

I spent very little money gambling. Not zero. But not as much as my sister Amanda (far left) spent learning to play craps. I stuck with slots and a few rounds of video poker. I was pretty good on both counts of making the money last, but not good at winning money. I think I have too much strange luck in my life to have actual good luck at something like this. And I'm far too conservative to venture the kind of money that would actually pay something back. I had no problem whatsoever forking out money for food though.

Not just food, also souveniers for my kids. The M&M store was cool. 4 floors of M&M themed stuff of all descriptions. I also bought Vegas t-shirts for each kid, which they insisted on wearing to bed on Monday when I got home (and Trystan then insisted on wearing his to school the next day...guess he liked it)

Vegas is also famous for its shows, and we caught one. Yes, I saw (mostly) naked men. Very nicely formed (mostly) naked men. Very nice dancing. Very, very nice. Ahem. I did decline to go with Amanda and Allison (far right) to a strip club afterwards. More out of sheer exhaustion than prudishness, though I think I was pretty set for images of man titty and toned buns for one evening. titty. There goes my nice family friendly rating on this blog >:)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Birthday Dinner

For my birthday, we went out to Shogun, one of those Japanese teppanyaki places where they cook on the table. Hubby and I actually got our wires crossed--I thought we were staying home and he was grilling steaks (he's way better than most restaurants, and that's not just affection talking). He thought I wanted to go out and had no food purchased. So I took my time working out after work, and ended up rushing through a shower so I didn't have to sweat all over the place.

This was the first time at a place like this for the kids. Charlotte loved everything about it. Trystan wasn't so sure. Lots of noise and big flames. But sometime during the chef's spatula flipping, Trystan relaxed a bit. Knowing him, he was taking notes and will soon be attempting to spin various kitchen utensils.

I didn't get a good shot of myself or my husband, just the kids and the chef. The food was great, and I ate way too much. And then we stopped by Dairy Queen on the way home for ice cream in lieu of cake. Between our monthly birthday celebration at work (which happened to fall yesterday as well), and Trystan's 3rd on Monday, I think I'll get plenty of cake.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

This is the first wi-fi I've had since Friday when I left home, except for about 5 minutes on my sister's laptop yesterday. Expensive hotels should just include the darned service in the price of the rooms. Anywho.

I'm in Vegas! For another hour and a half. Local time: 4:30. I left the hotel at 3:30. And folks were just arriving to gamble.

I would totally post a photo, but I think I packed my camera cord in my big suitcase, and I'm not digging it out. I hope that's where the cord went. And my thumb drive :(

If I'm slightly incoherent, its not alcohol-induced. My body has no clue what time it is supposed to be. "The city that never sleeps" indeed. Since about 4AM friday when I left for the airport, I have totally lost track of when I should be eating or sleeping.

Speaking of incoherent, this is an upside down post, and its time I started at the beginning. I'm in Vegas for a long weekend with my 3 adult sisters. Its been a fun, crazy weekend. We left the boys at home :) We don't see each other nearly enough since we all live in different states, and may not all be in the same city again for another year now.

We stayed at the MGM Grand hotel, which is really nice. I was actually comfortable on the beds and my hips don't hurt, so that alone was impressive. And 4 women with suitcases and makeup bags didn't totally overwhelm the bathroom. That was nothing short of miraculous.

I am not normally much of a party gal, and was hands-down the most sober of the four of us. Nor am I much of a gambler. I lost a total of $23. I bet a total of $23. All slots, with maybe a game of video poker or two. At the craps table, I was merely a cheerleader (though I'm starting to understand the game, but still didn't feel like joining).

I'm off now to get my web fix before my flight leaves. Will post photos this week. Nothing incriminating, though, sorry. And I'm not saying that to protect the guilty, but because I don't think I captured anything incriminating by camera...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When smoke alarms attack

Our house is not on fire. I have checked. Every ten minutes for the past hour, while attempting to get the kids to bed.

We are fortunate to have those fancy smoke alarms in our house that are all hard-wired together. So when one freaks out, they all do. And so do small children.

This isn't the first time we've had trouble with the dumb things. They have occasionally declared a spontaneous family fire drill around 2am, just for the fun of it. No, not the kids. The smoke alarms.

Tonight, they waited until my husband was gone for an hour and I was reading the kids a bedtime story. They are loud. Especially since fire code demands that there be one detector per bedroom, and one at the top of the stairs. So at the top of our stairs, within a ten-foot radius, we have five smoke detectors. Wait, make that six. We also have one up there that is not hard-wired to the house, but is connected to the house alarm. No one sleeps through a fire in our house.

I think we have finally, within the last ten minutes, solved the problem. First, I removed every battery (one of our units beeps continually with a battery installed, so it had none to start). Then, I removed the two security system units, which freaked out the alarm panel (though the monitoring company didn't call to check on us, which annoys me). When the alarm went off again, my husband was just getting home. I jumped online and found info that dust and spiders can short the alarms.

I went downstairs to tell my husband (he was attempting to shut off power to the units...) and he found another detector that I'd missed, in the storage room, covered in spider webs. It appears to be the culprit. It has now been removed (so please don't start a fire in our basement for a few days, k?). The unit gave one last hurrah in my husband's hand as he carried it upstairs (Did I mention how loud those things are? What's that ringing noise?)

Upon further research, it appears that the manufacturer of our smoke alarms recommends replacing the whole unit every 10 years. Our house was built in 2000. You do the math.

BTW, its daylight savings time this weekend. Time to change your smoke alarm batteries.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A new workout

They say that the key to a successful workout program is variety. I’m normally a creature of habit. Nevertheless, I have tried something new.
Running. Ok, its not that new. Its not like every gym teacher though grade school didn’t make us run. And I’ve always hated it. Running is just so…boring. It’s the same motion over and over again. I always did prefer something choreographed. For the past couple of years I’ve been doing step aerobics once a week at the Y, and I’m not giving it up. But I do need a change now and then.
At the end of last summer, I staked my claim on a second night a week to workout. Charlotte had soccer practice after school on Mondays, so I had time to exercise after work before picking her up. After soccer ended, I started taking her with me and dropping her in the “hub”—their school-ager activity room—for forty five minutes or so while I hopped on a stair stepper and lifted a few weights. The problem there is that I pick her up from school at around 3:30, and the hub doesn’t open till 4:15. With drive time, forty-five minutes isn’t enough time to go home, but its too much time to just change clothes. So I have to entertain her for ten or fifteen minutes before she can go color pictures and play on the Wii (or whatever she’s going to do that day).
We started going to the indoor track that runs above the gym. We bring a pair of tennis shoes for Charlotte, and she takes off her school jumper (leaving her blouse and shorts, just like in gym class at school), and we walk or run around the track. Sometimes we talk (read: Char jabbers my ear off). Sometimes we race (she insists on winning). Sometimes she just wants to hold my hand and walk. Even on days where we arrive late and the hub’s open by the time we get there, she insists on having her track time.
Last week after I signed her into the hub, I decided to go back to the track and actually run it. Yowch. I think I’m a nut. It felt good, sort of. Until the sideache kicked in. And I totally lost track of how many laps I was running (after six or seven I noticed the sign saying there were eighteen laps to a mile…) I ran/walked for about 20 minutes and then did my weights and sit-ups. My legs hurt all week.
So last night I did it again. I lost track again of how many laps somewhere in the teens, but I think I hit at least a mile and a half. My side didn’t ache quite as bad. It helped that I bought a new armband for my iPod. (Insanely cheap because I’m now 2 models behind and the few places selling this size are practically giving them away), making the cords easier to manage than with my clip-on case.
I think it’s a good change from the stair stepper. I am definitely noticing aches and pains in muscles I haven’t been using lately. And I might have enjoyed running earlier in life if I’d been able to blare Nickelback or Bon Jovi or Evanescence while I did it. (Though I forget to count laps when I’m busy listening to the music). And for those of you who know my husband, no, I don’t intend to train for a marathon (or half marathon or even 5K).
So, yeah. Voluntary running. Next thing you know I’ll be volunteering for public speaking.

Monday, March 01, 2010

What were they thinking?

Did you see the closing ceremonies last night? 
I didn’t watch much of the Olympics.  I’m not a huge sports fan, and the broadcasts overlap way too much with the kids bedtime.  But I caught a few glimpses here and there.  Like last night.  I tuned in for about ten minutes of the closing ceremonies. What on earth were the Canadians thinking?
The part I saw started with a man dressed as a Canadian Mounty, singing something that sounded patriotic in front of a chintzy background.  And then on walked women dressed as Mounty hookers.  Spike heel boots, tiny red skirts, jackets unbuttoned to the sternum.  And they ripped the clothes off the singer.  Ok, so it was Michael Bouble (sp?) underneath there, now dressed as a lounge singer in a white dinner jacket.  But tear-away away uniform?  Yikes.  And then it got better.
More performers brought in giant blow-up Canadian Mounty dolls. Blow up dolls. After the clothing-removal.
And then came the giant inflatable beavers (pun possibly intentional here…). Wow. Just wow.
Was my mind just stuck in the gutter, or was this a really poor choice of performance “art”?  Or maybe they intended the joke.  In any case, by the time I clicked away, there were also lumber jacks, an inflatable moose, and women dressed as green worms (or perhaps it was stems) attached to giant maple leafs and hanging from the ceiling, waving their leaves like they were butterflies.  It was not an improvement.
I DVR’d the second half of the closing ceremonies (as NBC felt the need to interject Seinfeld into the middle of it).  But now I’m scared to see how they could possibly top the beginning.