Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spring Nostalgia

There is something about this time of year that makes me sentimental. And I know what that something is: the end of the school year.

The last time my first grader sings in a school concert. The last time my 3rd grader participates in Field Day. The last time they'll have their current grade school teachers.

Granted, they'll do all those things again next year, but next year they'll be a 2nd grader and a 4th grader when they do them. And time marches on. It seems like only yesterday this was the picture at our house.
Lindsey's 1st day of Kindergarten, Marissa in preschool
This was the day before that.

And this was only two days before THAT day.

Lindsey was "soooo big!"

I remember preparing to leave the safety of the hospital a few days after Lindsey was born. I kept waiting for a nurse to come in to my room and stop us from leaving with that tiny baby. "I'm sorry," I would imagine her saying, "But it has come to our attention that you do not have the qualifications to care for this baby, so we're going to take care of her for you until you're ready."

And honestly, I would have met that statement with some relief. Thank goodness SOMEONE realized it and stopped me before a terrible mistake had been made!

But that nurse never came. They happily whisked us out the door with discharge papers and instructions in hand (on how to care for the umbilical cord site, not how to raise that baby), with wishes of "Good luck!" and smiles on their faces. And I couldn't believe I'd gotten away with it. I'd actually convinced someone else that I was qualified for that job!

And now, now I ask myself, how did I get to be a parent of TWO grade schoolers? Am I qualified for this? I can tell Lindsey is tipping on the edge of being a tween -- I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for that.

You would think by now I would come to the realization that I always think I am never prepared for the next stage, but the next stage comes anyways, and guess what: I'm as prepared as I'll ever be.

Time marches on, and so I will savor and enjoy these last few days as the school work trickles down to nothing and projects and papers and all kinds of interesting treasures are brought home.

And some day I'll look back and say, "Aww, remember how cute they were when they were grade schoolers?" And hopefully my kids will have this blog to realize how much their mom enjoyed these days of their childhood.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Welcome to Our Home

Please watch your step over the toys. And the dog who is blind and deaf and can't hear you to get out of your way.

No, please, keep your shoes on, you'll want them as protection against the toys littered across the floor.

Oops, no toilet paper, you say? Ummm, let me go into the basement to get some more for you. Our upstairs closets are filled with bath toys. I don't know how it happens, I swear we go through a roll a day.

Excuse the strange smell upstairs, we don't know what it is either and aren't brave enough to investigate.

I know, I'm sure we could have healthier house plants, we're just happy the few we have survive at all.

And watch for the dog poop in the backyard. I picked up what I could find before you came, but he's a magical dog, he finds special places to hide it. Those shoes will come in handy.

Oh, but we are full of love, and laughter, and I know you don't really come to my house to see how much dust I have on my mantle.  You will feel comfortable and at home here, and laugh so hard it hurts. You will feel truly welcome and have a fabulous time while you're here.

Just keep your shoes on.

Welcome to our home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Favorite Month

You all know how much I like my birthday, right? And my family, too, I like them a lot.

Which is why I especially love the month of May, because three of the four members of my immediate family have their birthdays this month. We tell Marissa that she's so special she gets her OWN birthday month in July and doesn't have to share hers, like the rest of us.

What better way to celebrate than to have Aunt Kristi come to visit?

Yes indeed. There IS no better way than that!

The celebration began when I picked Kristi up from the airport on Friday and we went to both girls' schools to pick them up. The girls both jumped into Kristi's arms so hard her sunglasses flew off from where they had been perched on the top of her head.

On Saturday morning Lindsey and Wayne went down to Lake Harriet early for Lindsey's Girls on the Run 5k, and later on the rest of us went down to cheer them on. Lindsey was sprinting at the end of the run, she had so much energy left! She had clearly done a good job of pacing herself, as they'd been learning through the 10-week program.

Lindsey got special shopping time with Aunt Kristi that afternoon, and then we had a delicious steak dinner at home in the evening. Then I got special time with Aunt Kristi and some of my friends as we went out to Howl at the Moon, the dueling piano bar in downtown Minneapolis. What a ball that was. We danced and sang along until they kicked us out. Well...not really, but they were closing so we had to go.

Sunday Marissa had her special shopping time with Aunt Kristi, and then all too soon it was time to drive her to the airport to fly back home. But wait! Not before Lindsey has a spa/pillow party for Kristi to say "thank you" and "good-bye."

We always have such a great time when Kristi comes to visit, and this was no different. Thanks, Kristi, for spending time with our family!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Growing Up With Technology

I wrote recently about how I am simply amazed at how quickly our girls are growing up. While one part is sentimental about it, another part of me is excited to see the people my children are becoming.

Lindsey recently got a new bit of freedom with the gift of an iPod Touch for her birthday. Wayne and I debated this purchase for several months. Is she ready? Is she mature enough to make good decisions on how she uses it? Is she responsible enough to care for it?

We ultimately decided that she was all of those things and bit the bullet, not to mention the fact that many of her friends had already received iPod Touches for THEIR 9th birthdays (yes, even parents succumb to peer pressure).

We got it several days before her birthday and spent time figuring out how to set it up. I was relieved to learn that we could set restrictions and limit which apps she can see and what she can do with it. For example, she doesn't have access to YouTube. There are too many inappropriate videos that she can access that I will only let her on the site with close parental supervision. She also doesn't have the ability to download new apps or make purchases within apps without approval.

We also discovered that in order to set up the device in many cases we needed an email address. While we could set her up with our email address, we didn't want to get her information mingled with ours, and there's something to be said for a little independence. After all, she is growing up in the digital age; I had to learn phone etiquette growing up, she has to learn email etiquette.

Lindsey recorded us singing "happy birthday" to her with her iTouch
We opened an account for her and gave her the information to log in. Her first emails were from myself and other family members who we'd given her email address to, wishing her a happy birthday. Because we monitor her account (we're basically blind copied on incoming emails, so don't email Lindsey about a surprise for her parents!) we can see some of her interactions with family members. She set up a time to FaceTime with her Wisconsin grandparents, and kept her word and called them on time.

And I don't know why, but it warmed my heart to see an email from her, my daughter, in my inbox.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Am Always Amazed

It seems inexplicable to me that my children are as old as they are.  And nothing brings this to light like getting together with family who have little ones of their own.

It seems like it wasn't too long ago that this was our family photo out at the farm, with a toddler ooo'ing and aah'ing at everything, discovering the world for the first time.

What's even more amazing is that the dad in this picture is Travis, Wayne's nephew, who was our ring bearer in our wedding oh so many years ago.

He was six or seven at the time, about Marissa's age.

I remember when my kids were babies people would always say "cherish these moments, some day you'll realize how quickly they fly by." I always hated that -- yes, I know I should cherish them, but between diaper changing, nursing, constant laundry and intermittent sleep, it was always difficult to say that I would look back and say "wasn't that wonderful?" Even now, I have to say that I don't long for those days.

No one says that anymore now that I have school-aged kids. But now I can enjoy more, and actually cherish my children.

And so I will treasure the times when my kids ask to be picked up, or when they crawl into our bed at 2 a.m., thinking there's a worm in their bed. (True story, happened just last night.) I will appreciate the fact that when I'm walking down the street with a child by my side, there's a good possibility that a warm little hand will slip into mine, just for reassurance. And I will remember the sounds of Marissa or Lindsey playing on their own, creating their own worlds with trains, or babies, or Barbies or what have you, before that sound is swallowed by the sullen silence of teenagers listening to their music or texting their friends.

These are the days I will cherish. And I am always amazed at how quickly they are going by.

Monday, May 07, 2012

HomEc Revisited

Lindsey has a final paper for school that she's been working on for several weeks. It's a research paper on an ocean animal, with the added twist of a project to be presented along with the final paper.

Keep in mind the girl is in 3rd grade. I don't remember doing schoolwork like this in 3rd grade.

She's spent several weeks researching her animal. When we were on our way to Boston a few weeks ago I had to review her first draft, and she's had a few more drafts since then. And then she had to pick one of eight different ways to add on a project about this same animal. Her project could have been a diorama, a collage, a poster, but no, she picks...the pillow.

The pillow?

Yes, one of the choices is to make a pillow, either in the shape of your chosen animal or with a picture of the animal on it.

Oh, did I tell you what her animal is that she's doing her report on? The giant squid.

Or, as any adult with my upbringing will think, the giant penis.

I tried to steer her into a different direction, something involving paper. But she had her heart set on a sewing project, because she was pretty sure not many people were going to do one, and she wanted hers to be different.

Yeah well, when I have to sew it for her, it will definitely be different! Especially considering that I don't own a sewing machine.

On Sunday Lindsey and I went to Michael's to get supplies, and her idea of a pillow was something made out of felt. Oh, sewing with felt, I think I can do that.

So she cut out the squid shape, used fabric glue to put it on the pillow, and used self-stick felt letters to write the name of the animal on it. We'll attach yarn as the tentacles after the pillow is complete, but first I had a job to do: sew the damn thing up. 

After the kids went to bed one night I sat down with some TV, my sewing basket (yes I own one, thanks, mom) and the pillow case.

I had no idea that it was possible to sew pre-cut pieces of felt in such a way that you could make the edges NOT line up. Apparently it's possible. But when you turn the pillow case inside out, you can't tell. Now it'll be interesting to see how it looks once we stuff it.

It's a squid,dammit.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It's Called "Health" Insurance, Right?

As those of you who follow my blog probably know, my dad has had two battles with colon cancer, the first in 2007 and the most recent in 2011.

He is a wonderful soul, a great story-teller and an easy-going, great guy who has been through hell. From diagnosis in January 2011 to a final surgery in October, he spent most of last year battling this disease. He is now cancer-free but is taking a low-dose maintenance chemo pill right now, since this particular type of cancer has recurred once already for him.

My dad and I, April 2012.
I have had friends and family members who have had cancer of the lung, breast, bone marrow and blood, ovary, thyroid, skin, cervix and others. You name the body part, there's a cancer that can grow on it. I do not mean to minimize the hell that all cancer is, but I cannot imagine a cancer more difficult to treat and manage than colon cancer because of the loss of dignity that goes along with it. I won't get more detailed than that, except to say that if you want to know more about the challenges that go along with colon cancer, you should check out my dad's blog on the subject. He is incredibly open and detailed in sharing his experience in order to help others who may be going through it themselves. There's a lot about this particular recovery that doctors don't tell you about.

Thus I am motivated to get screened for colon cancer, even though I'm not yet at the recommended age of 50. My doctor recommended it based on my dad's history and wrote a pre-approval request to Blue Cross Blue Shield, my insurance company, that I get screened.

It was denied because I'm not yet 50, despite my family history.

Hmmm...that's odd, this same insurance company covered the same procedure for my husband when he was under 50, based on his sister's early diagnosis of colon cancer. Hers was found during a routine colonoscopy and did not need any additional treatment beyond the removal of the polyp during the screening. The biopsy of the polyp indicated that it had been cancerous, and her doctor told her she was lucky that she had gotten a colonoscopy when she did, because her doctor misread her chart and thought that she had already reached her 50th birthday. If he'd realized she was still a few years shy, he wouldn't have recommended the procedure.

They covered my husband's screening but denied mine. Odd. So I called. Twice.

The first time the "customer advocate" informed me that it was her understanding that this health screening was covered when there was a family history, and that the pre-approval had been declined because of the manner in which my healthcare provider submitted the paperwork. (Apparently there's a difference between a "routine" and a "medical" colonscopy.) She said she would call my doctor's office, have them re-submit the paperwork and that I should get approved. Great.

Two weeks later I still hadn't heard anything, so I called BCBS again to confirm that it was now approved, only to find that it has been officially and formally declined.

That's because my insurance policy does NOT cover screening colonoscopies under age 50, regardless of family history. Basically, the only way BCBS would cover a colonoscopy is if my doctor indicated that I had some symptoms that would require one; in other words, if my doctor committed fraud. Not that BCBS recommended she do that, but simply said that colonoscopies are only covered if symptoms are present. I have no symptoms, and from what I understand of the disease, by the time symptoms appear it often means cancer is present. That's why people get screened.

While I wasn't looking forward to the procedure, I was looking forward to the peace of mind of having a clean bill of health, and I'm frustrated and annoyed by this decision. We recently drained our health savings account due to appointments for other family members so we have no money set aside for this procedure, which we discovered costs around $2,500.

Our family is fortunate in that we have health insurance and we have the ability to save money on a monthly basis to cover our health expenses not covered by our high-deductible plan. Eventually I'll be able to get screened, and we'll pay for it out of our own pocket. But for low-income familes or anyone without health insurance, I have to believe that this is a screening that they would simply not get if insurance didn't pay for it.

Obviously BCBS understands that they are gambling that the majority of colonscopies performed on people under age 50, regardless of family history of colon cancer, will be negative. But if they are wrong, it doesn't seem fair that their customers get to pay the price with their health.