Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

This morning I ate breakfast with my son, something I don’t often get the chance to do. We had juice and cereal. I had orange juice but couldn’t get him to try it. And I really wanted him to try it for some reason. Probably because I love, love, love the taste of Orange Juice and Milk and Cereal together and I wanted him to experience that. Most people don’t like that flavor combination and it’s easy to understand why. It’s not the flavor combination so much as the memories it triggers.

When I was a kid, can’t remember how old exactly, sometime between the ages of 6 and 10 my mother would drive myself and my sisters up north to central Pennsylvania to see my Dad for a couple weeks in the summer. We had a station wagon, white maybe, with faux wood paneling–a faux woody, so to speak. Imagine, if you will, six females, five of whom are children, in a very small space over a looooong period of time (long at least to a mere child). To say that it was difficult would be an understatement. My mother would often try to drive it straight through, which if she was successful would shorten the trip into 24 hours. If she couldn’t do it, she would have a hotel reservation at the half way point somewhere outside of Knoxville, TN. But she was a tough lady and she often would push right on through the weariness. And when she did, that meant we all had to find a way to sleep. Thankfully this “faux woody wagon” had a foldable back seat. My oldest sister always sat up front, the twins and our middle sister would stretch out in the expanded back, and I, as the youngest and smallest, would curl up in that narrow in-between space on the floorboard with the hump in the middle.

How I did it never ceases to amaze me. Not long after this time period I became claustrophobic and since then I can’t imagine how I managed to stand being in such a small, confining space. I do distinctly remember the roughness of the carpet and the warmth of the hard steel frame underneath. I do understand, all too well, why I did it though. I simply could not stand to sleep shoved up against my sisters. No insult meant to them but even today I am not much of a snuggler. Also by that time I was sick to death of the endless poking, prodding, teasing and just plain fractiousness of my siblings. Basically I desperately needed to be alone.

The best way I can describe what it was like is to pose it as a couple of math problems. A car is traveling slower than a South American tree sloth on heroin, ie 55 mph, for 1,000 miles with stops every four hours with one adult female driver and five female siblings.

  1. Will the driver use the no-look back-handed slap to adjust behavior in the back seat:

a) before Nashville
b) after Nashville
c) before leaving Memphis city limits
d) All of the above

    2.  At what point will blood be drawn by one or more of the children in the back seat?

a) 1 hour into the trip
b) 6 hours into the trip
c) 12 hours into the trip at the halfway point
d) Never, they’ll skip bloodletting and proceed straight to choking

If you answered d to both questions, then you must have been a member of my family or have grown up in one just like it. But that’s what it was like. So my mother, understandably, did her damndest to drive straight through. At some point we would all fall asleep–the susurrus of the highway, emotional exhaustion and bleeding out will do that to you.

My mother would stop at dawn, usually at the same place, high up in the mountains. I would crawl out of the hot stygian darkness and sleepy breath-filled air of our car into the cold morning. Gasping at the air like a drowning person, I stumbled over to a silvered wooden picnic table. And there, sitting on that chilly, hard bench, I would try my best to ignore the sound of the highway traffic behind me and the grumbling around me.  As I ate my cereal and drank orange juice I would watch as the sun rose over the foggy tipped mountain range in front of me.   I was well on my way to being out of that damn car and my father was not far away.  And that, dear reader, is what orange juice, milk and cereal tastes like to me.


I haven’t ranted in quite a while so I guess I’m overdue.  My spleen cup overfloweth and thus I must vent.  I signed up for health insurance through the online marketplace (yes, I mean Obamacare, but technically it’s called the ACA….but you can also call it Romneycare mainly because it tickles the shit out of me that it was a Republican idea to begin with and they have been calling it the “Eeek!  Soshulizm!” plan).  But I digress.

I signed up the first year it was available for myself and my son.  For a year I paid our Healthnet insurance premium every month.  I don’t qualify for a subsidy to help pay for it.   In addition to the monthly premiums I paid full price for everything.  This included my prescriptions that I HAVE to have and the medical care for when I totaled my car, which included an ambulance ride that cost more than the fucking ER bill and full price for the crutches that are gathering dust in a closet as we speak.  Welcome to the Middle Class in America where you have enough to live in Suburbia and not receive any help from anyone ever but you’re always one disaster away from homelessness.

I got married in late October 2014 and the plan was for me to go on my husband’s health insurance and that I continue to buy my son’s plan through the Marketplace.  My husband, though I love him dearly, has one massive flaw.  He is a procrastinator of the worst kind. Since I also do this (but nowhere near to the same degree) it can cause problems.  But I didn’t procrastinate this time.  I bugged the ever livin bejeebers out of my husband to get the form, fill it out and take it in to work.  Well, he didn’t get it done until late Nov or early Dec.  AFTER the 30 day window.  The 30 day window we knew nothing about.  To say that I wanted to strangle him would be an understatement.

By December 2014 I said to myself, “Self, why am I paying Healthnet money?”  Then I received a letter saying that the shitty plan I had was going away and that I would have to pay Healthnet even more money for a worse plan.  The only other equivalent plan through the marketplace was also with Healthnet and it would cost $100 more per month AND they raised the annual individual deductible from $3,500 to $10,000.  If I didn’t meet the deductible the year before with ALL my son’s and my out of pocket expenses, I estimated that I  would have to get terminal cancer to meet the new deductible.

So I said “Self, let’s not do this any more”.  I cancelled my health insurance and prayed that nothing would happen to me before my husband’s employer has open enrollment in the Fall of 2015 and I kept the Healthnet plan for my son.  I called Healthnet up in December to set this all up. They made it VERY difficult to keep my son on his own plan.  Apparently the concept of insuring a child without an adult on the plan is hard for their very tiny brains to process.  They also made me wait until open enrollment for the Marketplace which was in January.

The communication between Healthnet and the Marketplace sucked balls.  Neither side really knew where the other stood.  They Marketplace kept telling Healthnet that I was on the plan even though I repeatedly corrected this with both parties.  I had to use the 800 number to communicate with the Marketplace, which took many hours to accomplish, because it wouldn’t let me log in for over a month, so I couldn’t even review my plan’s set up or other choices online even if I wanted to.   While I was doing this open enrollment thing I started getting letters from Healthnet that they were terminating our coverage for non-payment.

I called them up, explained to them again that I was not paying because I had cancelled my plan and I had been paying for my son who I was currently trying to enroll in a new plan.  February came along and it seemed to get straightened out for my son but not for me.  I was still getting letters that my plan had been cancelled from lack of payment.  I gave up telling them that I had cancelled with them back in December.  Clearly they had a problem and I had only so much energy for outrage.  Nevertheless, my son was taken care of.  He had the new plan–even received his card in the mail.

Then on March 1st, unbeknownst to me, they cancelled my son’s health insurance for lack of payment.  Except I had paid for February and I had until March 31st to pay for March before they could legally cancel his plan.  I didn’t even know anything was going on until they sent me an invoice in late March demanding payment.  Why?  If you’ve already cancelled it, why ask for money?  Well, ultimately I’m glad that I got the notice and I immediately paid for March and April online.  So, as of that point I was totally caught up.

Well Healthnet took my money and never updated my son’s eligibility.    Apparently the Billing Department is in East Timbuktu and the troglodytes there only speak Swahili and the Eligibility Department is on the moon and the miscreants there only communicate via clicks and glottal stops.    I was given further proof of their complete inability to internally communicate on even the most basic level a couple of days ago.  I got another letter saying that my son’s coverage had been cancelled for lack of payment.

So I called them.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me: “Why have you cancelled my son’s plan?”

Lady: “Oh we cancelled it on March 1st.”

Me:  “Yes, I have a letter in my angry, clenched hands here that says exactly that.  Why was it cancelled then when I had the entire month of March to pay and I had already paid for the month before?”

Lady: “I don’t know. I do see the payment for February”

Me:  “Good.  Do you see that I made a payment which covers March and April?”

Lady: “Yes, in the amount of $—-.”

Me:  “So I’m paid up to date?”

Lady:  “Yes”

Me:  “So my four year old son is without healthcare coverage because ‘you don’t know’.  Do you have any idea how frightening that feeling is for a mother?  If something were to happen to him, you know and I know that the quality of the care that he receives is directly proportional to how much I and his healthcare plan, which he no longer has, can pay.”

Lady:  “M’am, I don’t know why they cancelled it. Please hold.”

Me:  [silently fuming]

Lady:  “I’ve sent an urgent notice to the Eligibility Department to re-instate him today.”

Me:  “Okay, thank you.  Can you have them call me once it’s done.”

Lady:  “They don’t call customers.  They will mail you a letter.”

(Guess the clicks and glottal stops don’t translate well over the phone)

Me:  “No, that would take too long and who knows what could happen in the meantime.  I want to know right away.  Can they email me?”

Lady:  “Maybe, I will ask them to email you. But it will either be a letter in the mail or email.”

Then this was followed by my thank you’s and her have a nice days–all that polite bullshit we say but don’t mean in any way shape or form.  Who knows what will happen now.  I’m betting I’ll get another termination letter before the end of the month, even though the bill for May has yet to arrive.    Fuckers.

Kids say the darnedest things

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Family, Personal

Children have such wonderful, unadulterated minds and that often means they have no filter–much to our chagrin.  About three years ago I took both of my kids back to visit family in Pennsylvania.  It was a long, hectic day.  As we were getting ready to land at the Harrisburg Airport, I began putting on some makeup.  I hadn’t seen my family in ages and I wanted to look less like a harried, beset single mother and more like the happier, younger self my family probably remembered me as.  I was trying to be discreet about it because it’s kind of weird, I guess, to be putting make-up on a plane (at least it seemed weird to me).  There was this handsome man sitting across the aisle from me with whom I had exchanged smiles and maybe a joke.  Nothing more than simple “strangers in tight quarters” interaction as I am rather standoffish by nature.   I was, however, aware of his presence and cognizant of the fact that I did not want to look or act like an eedjit in front of him.  Behaving in a dignified and proper manner had been drilled into me by my mother to such a degree that it doesn’t take much to embarrass me.

My daughter, who was 7 years old at the time, was oblivious to all such considerations, of course.   My daughter also seems to be missing the gene that governs the ability to whisper.  She is legendary, far and wide, for what we like to call her “shout whisper”, which most people once having heard her would equate to a normal speaking voice.  Let me also add that she has a voice that can cut through white noise like a knife through butter.  With her natural noise cutting “shout whisper”, her age and lack of a filter and the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex what happened was probably inevitable.  While the plane was descending she began to pester me  about my make-up.  She expressed her displeasure.   I ignored her.  When that had no effect she began to liken my eyes to a raccoon.  I tried to explain to her that it was the “smoky look” but she apparently disagreed.  She speculated that it was more of a “raccoon” or “badger look”.  People began to look at me, particularly the guy in 36D, because they wanted to see if I did indeed look like a small hairy mammal of the weasel or coon variety with characteristic dark stripes around the eyes. I gave them a smile that was halfway between a grimace and an apology, trying to communicate silently the universally understood feeling of “what are you gonna do….kids say the darnedest things”.

To my daughter though, I gave the evil eye but she was oblivious and continued her speculation.  I began to blush, my ears turning quite an ugly shade of puce because what if she was right?  I started to take some of it off with a tissue.  She then proceeded to question why my ears had changed colors and began to give me tips as to how I should apply my make-up.  The redness moved to my face and my neck.  I tried shushing her to no avail.  She suggested that I go to the restroom and splash water on my face as it had become awfully red.   Needless to say at that point I gave up on the make-up because my entire face was the color of a female baboon’s ass in mating season.  There is not enough make-up in the entire world that was going to cover up my extreme mortification.

Alas, my daughter had become obsessed.  She made periodic comments as the plane rolled to the gate, as we disembarked from the plane, as we walked through the airport to the baggage area.    People from the plane continued to be amused all the way there including Mr. 36D.   At that point we spotted my sister and nephew.  Thanking all the gods that are and ever will be, I realized that seeing her cousin had distracted my daughter from what had apparently become her “cause du jour”.  Having a moment alone with my sister the first thing out of my mouth wasn’t, “So happy to see you!” or “Give me a hug”…it was instead, “Quick!  Do I look like a raccoon?”

This is the kind of effect our children and their unfiltered minds have on those of us who have a low tolerance for mortification.  Yet, there is another, more positive, side to their deficit.   The same unfiltered minds can produce simple statements of profundity and beauty that express what we as adults cannot.

My 3 year old son spent this weekend with his father.  These weekends are fun but tiring so that when I get him, he can be grumpy and whiny.   I had spent the weekend up near Flagstaff celebrating my Celtic roots and enjoying a break from the hell that is Phoenix in the summer.    As usual when I picked him up from his Dad he was quiet and withdrawn, wanting nothing more than to be left alone as we drove home.  I on the other hand, although tired myself, was happy to see him.  When he is gone on the weekends, I miss him in a way that is not easily explained.  It’s like there is a hole in my heart and when I see him again it is relief mixed with joy to see his face and a hunger to hold him close.   So I showered attention and affection on him as much as I could while driving but was rebuffed.  I believe his exact words to me were “Weev me awone.  I want to weed my book”.

Knowing that this state of affairs would likely last into Monday night, I did not anticipate much affection from him this morning and I expected that he would be slow to rise.  And he was.  I let him sleep in as much as possible, not just for his sake but for mine too.  By 6:40 am I knew I had to get us both moving or I would be inordinately late for work.  I went into his room where he slumbered, head under  the pillow and one long elegant foot stuck out off the edge of the bed.  I turned on his small lamp, sat down at the end of his bed and began stroking his foot.  He turned, stretched and then curled up, with his head down in my lap, butt up in the air, clutching his blankey.  I let him stay like that for another minute or two.  Then I rubbed his back and said, “Time to get up”.  He sat up and moved toward me for a hug.  As he fell into my arms he said, “I wuv you Mommy”, which was, as I just explained, unexpected.  I said with my heart full of affection and gratitude, “I love you too”.  He placed his head on my shoulder and relaxed into boneless contentment.

When I hold him like that, it is a sublime feeling of comfort, love, physical connection, and beauty.  I feel like I’m floating outside of time with him in this pure stream of peace and love.  This is not something I’ve ever expressed in words because even re-reading it now it sounds like a doped up hippy explaining how they feel about a rainbow.   It is so much more than that and my words fail. Just about every parent on the planet has probably felt this.  As adults, some of us are lucky enough to feel this way in the arms of a lover.  But do our children feel this way too?  I honestly didn’t know.  I certainly hope that they do.  And that’s precisely what I was thinking when I heard my son sleepily and quietly say, almost to himself, “Perfect”.

I was speechless and moved to tears.  There was my answer.  My three year old did feel the same way.  And he was able to express the inexpressible with one word.  Unwilling to let him or the moment go, I hugged him a little tighter.  I knew that he would move soon and it would be over and I wanted to let him decide when to end that feeling of perfection.  So he did and we got on with our day.

In the end, I’d endure a hundred embarrassments to hear them express one such transcendent thing.   Thank all the gods that are and ever will be that our children can share their thoughts with us without the filters that imprison us as adults.





   Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.
–Brendan Behan

Happy St. Paddy’s day to my large semi-Irish family and friends scattered all around the world!!!  I’ll raise a mental glass to you tonight after work.  In the meantime here’s Sinead O’Connor singing “Paddy’s Lament” — just in case you are in the mood for some traditional Irish despair and lamentations.  If you’d rather something happier, here’s a compilation of rousing drinking songs.  However you celebrate this day, here’s to your health!



It’s that time of year again

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Family, Health, Personal

It’s that time of year, at least in Arizona, where infectious pestilence (is that redundant?) flows freely through the populace, particularly those with small children. There’s nothing worse than having a sick, cranky, stir crazy toddler on your hands than being a sick, cranky, stir crazy adult with that same toddler. I’ve been down and out for the better part of a week with the Creeping Crud TM. But I’m alive and back in the saddle, sort of. My poor son had a double whammy…bacterial eye and ear infection along with the viral Creeping Crud TM. So it is taking him longer to recover than it is taking me. I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but at least I can sit upright and type. After nursing him Sunday through yesterday (with the help of my so awesome BF) I turned him over to Dad and got a good night’s sleep at last. Now I just need a good night’s sleep for a week and I’ll be golden. Not going to happen though…not in this lifetime. C’est la vie! Back to the grind.

How do I solve a problem like…

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Family, Personal

How do I solve a problem like Meghan.  7 out of 10 mornings I drop my 10 year old daughter off at school either angry, crying or both because we fight in the car on the way to school.  We fight about two things–what she is wearing (or not wearing in this case) and what she needs to remember for school.  I’m almost always angry with her because she has forgotten or lost something.   In the last month she has lost both of her winter jackets by leaving them at school.  She insists they are not in the “lost and found”, so that means we have a thief at her school obsessed with jackets or she’s lying.    In any case I’ve finally given up and I let her go to school shivering (because they make them wait outside until the bell rings and her hair is usually wet).  Now before you accuse me of being a negligent mother realize that it was over 80 degrees yesterday and will be in the 70’s today.  If I was still in PA, I couldn’t in good conscience let her go anywhere without a heavy winter coat regardless of what she wanted.  In truth, even when she has a jacket, she holds it in her hand and refuses to wear it.  So I’m angry that she lost it or won’t wear it.  

In addition to forgetting her jackets, she forgets things she needs for school almost every day.  This morning she forgot to bring a game to play (it’s a half-day, last day before Winter Break and they will be goofing off).   What made me lose my shpadoinkle is that she said it was my fault that I should have remembered it for her.  She is 10 1/2 years old.  She should be able to remember to bring a stupid game to school.

The reason this drives me crazy is threefold.  First, after I turned 7 years old and my oldest sister left home I took care of myself.  And I mean my mother was gone to work and I had to get myself up, cook for myself, get myself ready for school, walk to school, etc, etc.  There was no one to go over my homework to make sure it was done and done correctly.  No one to remind me to put my homework in my backpack. No one to remind me to put on a coat and to bring it home.  No one to make sure I was in bed on time, etc, etc.  If I could do it at 7, she can do some of those things at 10.  Second, I’ve got my own plate full.  Working full-time with a 3 year old, a 10 year old, my boyfriend and occasionally his 11 year old son I’m very busy and I have too many things to remember.  If it was just me and Meghan, I could remind her to do little things but I just can’t with my current situation.  Third, her father’s/grandmother’s parenting style is the exact opposite of mine.  I say grandmother here because she parents Meghan as much as her father does. She has become a substitute mother.  Perhaps he should have married his own mother, but that’s another post.  For the purposes of explaining his/her style, I will simply use “they”.

They look through her backpack every evening as soon as they get home.  They see what assignments she has, cleans out any junk, puts stuff back where it should go and sometimes will actually fill out things for her (like her Reading Log).  After she’s done her homework they will make sure that she put the right papers in the right folders.  Strangely, they don’t help her with her math homework while she is doing it but they will go over her written assignments as if they are a New York Times Editor and frequently forces her to re-write things using their words, not her own.  They have the school calendar notated and check the online grading site at least once a day.  She takes a lot of medication twice a day.  They prepare it, get out the pills, lay it all out on the counter and then stand over her while she takes the medication, and finally they clean up anything she leaves behind.  And speaking of cleaning, they clean her room and bathroom spotless–she never has to do that.  Up until a couple of years ago, one of them would actually go into the bathroom while she was showering and rinse the conditioner out of her hair because they didn’t feel she did it correctly.  If Meghan leaves something at school or needs something retrieved he calls his Mother who will drop everything and run out to do it.  If he needs a piece of clothing she doesn’t have, he calls his Mother who has two closets full of clothes from which she can provide a substitute.  They even pick out her clothes.  And for all of that, they don’t talk to her–they don’t interact with her on a personal level enough.  They are always running her from one activity to another without any downtime to just talk or rest or goof off.  She doesn’t tell them if she gets bullied.  She doesn’t tell them about her crushes.

My style is the total opposite.  I used to do the medication thing for her but not anymore.   I remind her in a general way to do her homework, to get ready for bed, to clean her room but I don’t tell her how to do it and I don’t do it for her.   I stay near her when she does her homework so she can ask questions.  For her written assignments I will read drafts over and note problem areas or spelling mistakes but to correct her I use a Socratic method to pull out of her a different phrasing, different reasoning, etc.  This frustrates her but it means that the words end up being her own and it means she’s thought about it more deeply than before.  If she has anything to do with art she will ask me how to draw something and I draw an example but I do not do it for her.  When we get a moment or two we will snuggle on the couch and watch something we mutually love.   We will read the same books and talk about the stories.  I know who she has a crush on and who she dislikes.  I know if someone bullies her.  If  she forgets something, then she suffers the consequences at school.  I don’t and can’t just walk out of work and run around fixing things for her.  You are probably starting to get the picture…..

Well, the result is when she is at my house she is constantly forgetting things but she is nurtured emotionally.  When she is at his house, her life is run like a clock but she is horribly lonely.  Am I being unreasonable?  Am I wrong in expecting her to remember basic things like her homework, her jacket?  Are all 10 year old’s like this?  Do I need to give her more structure and how the hell do I do that with my life the way it is?   Should I stop talking to her about it–because no matter what tone I start out with, no matter how reasonable I try to be, she gets defensive and spirals into  anger.  And once she is angry, I cannot speak to her at all.  She has a nasty temper and she won’t even look at me or let me touch her when she is in that state.  One thing I do know is that I’m very tired of having the same fights over and over again without making any headway on the real problem, which is her taking more responsibility.  Suggestions on Parenting 101 anyone?

Daycare Blues

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Family, Personal

I got a lovely little shock last night when I picked my son up from daycare. A stay-at-home mother who has run her own daycare business for 20 years out of her home has been taking care of Liam for over a year now. When he started there she had only four kids, two of whom were relatively close to him in age, which I thought would be good for him. Today when I picked him up she said that she won’t be able to keep him anymore. Mind you this is two weeks before Christmas….a terrible time to have to find child care.

Her reasoning was that he has been fighting too much with another child, who is about three months younger than him. Now I knew that they fought a little but she never indicated that it was anything more serious than typical little boy stuff. Well apparently it was serious enough that she’s decided that my son had to go. For the record this other little boy is learning disabled and his ability to talk is very limited. He acts about a year younger than he actually is. I know for a fact that the other boy has problems with his anger and instead of using words he will be too physical. I asked her why it was Liam who has to go instead of the other boy. She said Liam was older than the other kids and manipulating them, telling them to do things they shouldn’t (like go take that toy from so-and-so) and he refuses to share toys. Seems to me that someone with so many years of child care experience would know how to handle such a situation but apparently not.

Her other excuse was she has too many kids to take care of. She has taken on at least two more babies part time in recent weeks and now she is overwhelmed. Well she committed to taking care of my son first and it’s not my fault she chose to take on more kids. I thought that money might be a problem, but she never said anything about that either. If that was her reason for taking on more kids, she should have come to me and raised her rate. I would have paid it and gladly.

Liam’s dad called her later in the evening and she told him that she thought Liam was bored and ready for pre-school. I wish she had told me that instead of making up excuses like she did. I think that this is the real problem. He appears to be a very bright boy, even smarter than my daughter was at that age which says quite a lot. And I know he acts out when he is bored at home. But it would have saved some anger and hurt feelings if she had articulated this better. She didn’t handle the situation very well.

In any case I am stuck trying to find another “home” care provider who will probably bore him too or trying to find a preschool center that will take him only partially potty trained and won’t put him in a class with a 25 to 1 student/teacher ratio. My daughter went to an excellent pre-school but it cost over $800 a month and that was 10 years ago (and when I was married to her father who made six figures annually). I don’t have that kind of financial wherewithal now and I am dreading the search process in the coming weeks.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to stay home with him. It’s not in the cards, not in this lifetime. And it all just sucks.