Monday, January 30, 2012

What's in a name?

I just spent a fabulous weekend with my mom, her sisters, my sisters and brother, my dad, and other relatives celebrating my mom's 70th birthday. We had a great time telling stories about our very large family. And the more we talked, the more names were thrown around and it was hard to tell who was who and keep track of everyone. So, I decided to make a little cheat sheet. Here goes:

I am named after my aunts Mary and Leah. The hyphen makes it all one name (and confuses the hell out of everyone...I get called "Mary", "Mary Lee", "Maralee"...and no one knows what a hyphen is. Hint: it's not an apostrophe!). Mary and Leah are my mom's sisters. There's also a Laurie. And a Butch, Bill and Todd, but those are brothers. My brother's name is Todd. But we call him Doug. I married a Doug once. That made things confusing, until I got divorced and remarried a guy named Jeff Moore. I also have a cousin named Geoff Moore. Spelled different, sounds the same. I have another cousin named Demi Moore. Not the actress. But she looks like the actress.

My niece is named Sydney and my cousin's daughter is named Sydney. Growing up my cousins Alison and Jenny were best buddies. Jenny named her daughter Allison. Jenny also has a daughter named Leah. Jenny's middle name is Leah. After her mom, Helen Leah. After her grandma, Florence Leah. Can you see where this is going? We like Leahs.

My dad's name is Bill and I have an uncle Bill. I have two Aunt Jackies. My cousin's name is Danny, after his dad, Danny, but we called him Charlie until one day he mysteriously became Danny again. He has a daughter named Danielle (Dani). My grandpa's name was Charles Franklin Patton. They called him "Doc" because he was a doctor. His son was named Charles Franklin Patton, Jr. We call him Butch. HIS son was named Charles Franklin Patton, III. He's called Chas. HIS son is named Chase, and I'm pretty sure it's also short for the CF Patton name. Plus, there's another cousin named Chase. I have an uncle Dirk and a cousin Dirk. My niece is named Florence after her dad's mom and my great-grandmother. But we call her Flower.

And if that's not different enough, we have all sorts of unique names in the family....Blaceton, Presley, Skyler, Ava, Lila, Jackson, Kaden, CheyAnn, Taya, Tabor, Trista. I can't even remember them all.......

What is in a name, that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet ~ Shakespeare

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The doctor will see you now....but only for one thing...

I went to the doctor for my annual physical the other day. Everything has been fine and I really didn't have anything to bring up, besides the fact that my wrists have been killing me for months. So, we discussed it, she asked me some questions, watched me move my wrists this way and that, said I should go to a nearby hand therapy clinic (which she gave me the name of) and we moved on. She even mentioned a certain type of splint I would likely need depending on the diagnosis, which she said she would defer to the clinic. That said, I went on my way, and made an appointment with the hand therapy clinic.

The clinic was very thorough, emailed me paperwork, checked my insurance coverage and called to say everything was set. Then, today, I got a call from the doctor's office. The message went something like this: the doctor said you were in for your physical so she didn't really have time to make a diagnosis of your wrist, so you'll need to come in for a separate visit for that. HUH? That was the ONLY thing we talked about at the appointment, separate from the regular exam. And, I don't know, I guess it just got under my skin. Because the real reason they were making a stink about it is so I would come in again, pay another co-pay, just for the doctor to do the exact same exam of my wrists she already did, tell me the same thing she already said, and refer me to the same clinic she already referred me to. My appointment is this week. I couldn't even get in to see the doctor before the appointment if I wanted to!

So, I called back. And waited 15 minutes on hold. When I finally talked to a person, she said the nurse who called me was "busy" and could call me back. I said I was calling HER back, and if she called ME back, then she'd just leave me the same message. So, I left a detailed message with the office clerk. Several hours later, I received another call from the nurse, again stating that the doctor "didn't remember" talking about my wrist and according to the chart notes, she only mentioned it in passing. I reminded her of the very detailed exam and conversation we had, and let her know I would not be coming back in just to pay another co-pay. She tried to reassure me by saying she "believed" me but would have to check with the doctor again. Believed me?

And I have not heard back. I'm sure it will all get worked out, the referral (which I don't even need for my insurance) will go through, I'll visit the clinic, and my wrist will get a splint or therapy or whatever it needs to get better. But the point is, what a total waste of time. First of all, I am SO sick of doctor's offices' policy of "one problem per visit". I get it - they don't want people coming in and whining about every little hangnail, but an annual exam, by it's very nature, is a chance to "catch up" on health issues that may have arisen since your last visit. The doctor ASKS you if there are any problems. So, if there are, they want you to schedule another appointment to discuss them? Crazy! We have to pay $15 every time we see the doctor (and with a family of six that's more often than you'd think). After that, our insurance only covers 80-90%, plus deductibles, so we shell out a pretty hefty sum to stay healthy.

Truth be told, my wrists have been killing me for months. Since the summer, actually. I figured it was some type of tendonitis and would go away on its own. But it hasn't. So, why did I wait so long to get them looked at? Because I figured I could just wait till my physical and deal with it then. Sure, they hurt and bugged me, some days worse than others, but, unlike strep throat or a sinus infection, I didn't think they needed immediate relief and figured I could save the co-pay. I simply can't afford to pay $15 plus 10-20% of the office visit for every little thing that bugs me. Preventative medicine be damned. Who can afford it?

And doctors wonder why we take to the internet to diagnose ourselves on WebMD (or worse). Easy answer - because it's free. We don't get charged $15 for each answer that pops up. And I don't need a doctor to tell me that my wrist needs to be seen by a specialist. I knew that all along. But modern medicine requires me to pay a co-pay, set aside half a day, and pay hundreds of dollars for my family doctor to give my wrists a half-hearted look and tell me what I already knew.

I knew I should have been a doctor.............. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The way we talk........

The other day the kids and I were talking and something came up about the way people talk. More specifically, words and/or phrases that almost represent different dialects in different parts of our country. Some examples:
* Is it a "purse" or a "pocketbook". I, personally, have always carried a "purse" while my Jersey-born best friend from senior year in high school, always had to grab her "pocketbook" before we headed out to the mall.
* Is it a "sofa" or a "couch"? Or, for those of you who live in a pretentious East coast town, a "davenport"? My family had a hideous "couch" for years, with a large floral print in various shades of red, yellow, brown and orange. I miss that atrocity.
* Do you go on "vacation" or "holiday"? HAHA! Just kidding. That was for all the Brits out there.
* In our house we drink "pop" but you might drink "soda". Same diff.
* Do you eat a "cookie" or a "biscuit"? Just kidding again! More Brit humor.
* I, personally, wear "pants" but some people wear "slacks".
* To me, a "sweater" is an article of clothing made out of some type of thick knit, cashmere, rayon, acrylic or wool, that has substance and a bit of fuzziness. It's is not a "sweatshirt" which is made of fleece and looks much more casual.
* I wear "shirts" but old people wear "blouses". Hee hee.
* Shoes are a whole 'nother ball game. I like to refer to mine by brand, as in "where are my Danskos?" or more randomly as in "my brown flats". However, if they have an impressive name, I'll toss that around. My "sparkly black TOMS" and such.
* Which brings me to the shoes you wear for athletic purposes (or not for athletic purposes but you enjoy looking like you actually break a sweat now and then). Are they "sneakers"? "Tennis shoes"? "Nikes" (or other brand)? I have always called them "tennis shoes" but realize as I get older how completely stupid that sounds since I have never played tennis except for that one time my ex-husband signed me up for tennis lessons in a local park where I flailed about and discovered I had zero aerobic capacity in my lungs and virtually no hand-eye coordination. But I don't wanna talk about it.
* In the eighties, we called them "stretch pants" or, even more fun, "stirrups". A few decades later, we've lost the stirrups and now have an array of "leggings" which are a tighter, less-structured version of "yoga pants" which translates to "fat pants". Let's be real. Once a woman has experienced pregnancy and it's array of stretchy, forgiving apparel, who ever wants to go back to jeans? In an attempt to cover up our laziness and prevent incessant stomach holding-in, the industry has created all manner of stretchy "workout" wear that doubles as acceptable fashion while sipping a latte or shopping for groceries. God bless them.
* We call it "butter" in our house, even if it's a spread "high in plant stenols" called Smart Balance. (Shh...we also use real butter!). Inexplicably, my mom still enjoys saying "oleo" from time to time.
* And, just for fun, I'll throw in a little Seattle humor. I've always, my entire life, referred to the watery substance that falls from the sky as "rain" but here in Seattle it's often referred to as "showers", "partial showers", "precipitation", "rain showers", "chance rain", "accumulation", "misting" and, my recent favorite to describe freezing rain, "a wintry mix".

You say tomato, I say to-MAH-to. Except I don't. And who really does? Oh yeah, the Brits. I love them!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow day pictures!

 Icicle drop ~ photo creds to Arlie

 Pretty girl in the snow!

 Welcome to Narnia!

 Snowy path through Narnia.....

 Snow taste!

 My pretty Hannah!

 Warm hat and scarf for a snowy, cold day.

 It's me!

 Magnolia melting....

 No birds.

 Sock monkey hats!



 Beautiful girl.....

 Winter wonderland!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow day........

Snow Day

Sleeping late
Morning hush
Snow falls softly

House full of kids
Cinnamon rolls
Hot chocolate with marshmallow cream
Top Ramen

Wet boots
Cold hands
Melting into blankets and pillows
Movie watching

Night falls
Sleepy people
Full of snacks
Lazy day

Snow day

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In defense of the minivan.......

I know a few moms of young kids (Sydney, ahem) and a few moms-to-be who are still young and idealistic enough to say "I will NEVER drive a minivan!" We've all been there, we veteran minivan moms, back in the day when we had a cute body, a cute baby and a cute little car to drive around. Then came more kids. And let's face it, once you hit three kids, you NEED a minivan.

Why? you ask. Let me tell you a little story. Back in 1995, when I was nearly nine months pregnant with my second child, I was driving around a Honda Civic with no air conditioning. I loved that little car, and the gas mileage couldn't be beat, but I was very pregnant. It was summer. I was hot and cranky. I wanted a new car. Being proactive and a planner, I researched my options and VERY reluctantly decided on a minivan. It was all the rage. My friends had them. Why not join the club? Except I said I'd NEVER drive a minivan. So, to console myself, I bought a red one. Red means fast. Red means cool. Red means "look at me, I'm a mom in a minivan!" So much for planning.

But then.....I started to like that minivan. Plenty of room to buckle kids in and out of car seats, plenty of room for the arsenal of diaper bags, snacks, activities, extra blankets, stuffed animals and pacifiers that accompanied us on a long trip to.....the grocery store. Plenty of space in the back for the burgeoning grocery load that came along with my growing family. Plus, the seats folded down for that occasional trip to Home Depot for a large piece of plywood or Toys R Us for that big swingset for the backyard. Handy!

But the true beauty of the minivan is...........the road trip! We started to drive to Idaho a lot to visit family and there was plenty of space for all of our travel needs and then some. As the kids got older, camping trips were included. That van was packed to the gills with camping needs, kids' feet perched on sleeping bags, a cooler separating squabbling siblings. We even added a car-top carrier! Modern-day Beverly Hillbillies.

We still drive that red minivan, although it's on its last legs (wheels?). We upgraded to a brand-spankin' new minivan in 2007. That van has doubled as a bus, a camping vehicle, a hotel, and a truck. On long trips, there's nothing more peaceful than space between siblings and a DVD player. It has something like 843 cup holders and all manner of pockets and compartments in which to lose mittens and french fries. The seats fold down and stow away in the floor of the van. The back has a recessed compartment deep enough to hide a teenager crouching down, waiting to scare the bejeezus out of her unsuspecting siblings when they settle themselves in the back seat. The doors slide open and shut with the touch of a button and there's one on BOTH sides of the van (unlike our older van which has just one, manual sliding door. A neighbor child once stood on the side of the van with no door looking confused and asked how to get in the van. When I explained there was only one sliding door she looked at me disdainfully and said "Oh, you have one of those oldy-timey vans!").

With a minivan, we can cram eight kids, four days' worth of camping gear and three dogs into it's cavernous interior. We can haul six teenagers and two adults to a football game. We can put a movie on, flip a switch and have the kids don wireless headphones while we adults up front indulge in our favorite music or enjoy a conversation in complete peace. If it only came with one of those handy dividers like taxi cabs, we'd be set! The kids could beat each other senseless in the back seat and we'd be none the wiser in our soundproof booth up front.

Our minivan has a handy rack that can hold four bikes, a top that can support two kayaks, and a hitch that can pull our camper over hill and dale to various destinations. It's essentially our second home. I have stashed in the van both food and water, extra makeup, first aid kits, enough reusable grocery bags to last a lifetime, an arsenal of DVDs and CDs, sunscreen, a garbage bag for each row, extra gloves, napkins, an emergency kit, extra dog leashes, coupon books, flashlight, multipurpose tool, extra coats, beach towels and handiwipes. If needed, we could live in the minivan. For six hours. Give or take.

I normally drive the nice, newer minivan, but I occasionally find myself driving the old one. It's the same age as my high school junior. That van holds a lot of memories. Driving my newborns home from the hospital. The time my oldest got mad at me and threw her entire orange soda at me while I was driving (there are still stains on the ceiling). The time I slammed the van in park in the middle of traffic to rush around, yank the sliding door open and kill an ant that was threatening the life of my toddler (or at least it seemed so from the screams). The van that was so stuffed with crap on a trip across the mountains that one of the kids accidentally kicked out a Nintendo DS into a parking lot, never to be seen again. The van that suffered a broken headlight the first month we owned it (likely from someone backing into it in a parking lot) that has NEVER been fixed. That van saved my freezing ass more than once on a camping trip when I was so cold I thought I'd die and retreated to the relative warmth of the van (and it's inadequately long bench seats). I've spilled more coffee in that van than I care to mention. I've hauled so many kids on so many trips - to the beach, park, playground, vacations, school. I once drove that van away while my own daughter was putting her backpack in it, thinking she was already in the car!

The van was purchased when my oldest was just two and it became her first car. I don't even want to know what all went on in that van before she left for college, but I will say I've never seen a dirtier vehicle, nor found so many disgusting things in it (two month old Taco Bell anyone? It's just a little fuzzy). It smelled like a rotting corpse. My daughter consistently ran it out of gas and was involved in a four-car accident last Valentine's day. But the van is still going strong. Scars and all. It has a cracked engine it could "die" at any given moment, but we rather enjoy limping it along until it craps out on the highway one day.

My point is this: if you have three or more children, get a minivan. For your own sanity. So they can bring friends along. So you can drive the carpool. Invest in an entertainment system. So, when you're hauling your offpsring along on a 300 mile road trip, you can enjoy the open road while they are glued to a DVD. It's peaceful. It's fun. It's roomy. Get over yourself. Just get a minivan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cook, drive or clean?

I remember once hearing about a survey where people were asked if they could have ONE household servant for a year would they choose a cook, a chauffeur, or a maid? I decided right then and there that I'd like to have a cook, because what could be more wonderful than having someone make food for you at your beck and call? Like eating in a restaurant every day! But as I grew older (and sometimes actually enjoyed cooking), I realized that maybe what I really want is a chauffeur. I drive my kids everywhere, all the time, and sometimes I just do NOT want to get up from what I'm doing and go pick them up from whatever far reaches of the town they're in. Plus, sometimes there's just not enough time to come back home (daughter's 45 minute dance class on Mondays), and I end up spending money "browsing" at the store, or getting a coffee. Other times there's a big chunk of time in between, which is just enough time to come home, get involved in other stuff, and get tired (daughter's three hours of two different dance classes that ends at 9 p.m.). Other times it's a daily thing (musical rehearsal that starts soon), where I have to drive to the high school every day because my 16 year old doesn't have a driver's license (and only because driver's ed is so damned expensive where we live - not offered in schools and costing, privately, $500-$800 depending on the driving school!). The convenience alone would be worth shelling out the $$ to get her license but it's just not in the cards at the moment. Then, there are all the errands, taking kids to friends' houses, commuting to and from's just a lot of driving. And I prefer to be a passenger!

However, a maid would be most excellent. Living in a house with teenagers and dogs makes for a very messy house. All the kids do chores (the dogs are too lazy) but they are never consistent and it's never enough to keep up with the messes. So, most of the time, the house looks....ahem......"lived in". Walking in to a perfectly clean house would be.....well.........I don't know because that's never happened. I wonder what it's like to have a cleaning person come and make your house lovely while you're at work during the day. I wonder what it's like to walk into a freshly vacuumed and dusted home, lightly scented with cleaning products, with no dog-hair dust bunnies to greet you. So, yeah, a maid would be pretty awesome.

Can't I just have all three? Or one? What would YOU choose?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

When it gets quiet..........

I just read a Facebook post from a neighbor saying she had a bunch of kids over and her house was loud. And then it got quiet. And it reminded me of the times MY house "got quiet" when kids were over. As any mom knows, quiet is a dangerous thing. If your kids are screaming and romping around and you're reaching for the Advil, that's a good thing. At least you know where they are and what they're up to. I remember telling my kids when they were younger that they could "explore" the woods as long as I could still hear their voices. Long after their little tow-heads disappeared bobbing through the brush, I could hear their chatter and I felt secure knowing they were within screaming distance should a wayward coyote or extra-large raccoon cross their path.

Once, when my son was three, I was babysitting a neighbor boy, age four.  I became aware, somewhere between doing a million chores, taking advantage of the free entertainment for my toddler, that things had become very quiet. I went to investigate, and found my son and his friend completely covered, head-to-toe, in shaving cream! In addition, they had emptied the remains of the shaving cream bottle into the heat register in the bathroom. At first I froze, and then I said "don't move!" while I grabbed the camera. But the neighbor boy started crying, afraid he was in trouble, so I had to put the camera down and attend to the tears and the mess. My older kids arrived home in the middle of this and we all got a good laugh out of it (well, they weren't laughing when I asked them to clean out the heat register - I need a long, skinny arm to reach all the way down as far as the boys had foamed it!).

Another time my son and two friends were playing. They were getting along so well, I barely noticed they were around.......until.......the dreaded quiet kicked in and I rushed to find the source. I was especially panicked this time because when I went to the bedroom where they were playing, they were nowhere to be found! But I heard giggling and opened up the closet. There sat three little sneaks, with a bottle of Tums, and each of them had suspicious, chalky substance around their mouths. I'm not sure how many they ate, but all I kept thinking was thank God it was just Tums!

When my daughter was in preschool she had a "playdate" with another child and a good friend after school. My friend and I enjoyed the afternoon kid-free and returned a few hours later to collect our offspring. Nothing seemed amiss until several hours later when my friend called me. "Have you given Hannah a bath yet?" she asked. "Um, no.....why?" I replied. "Well," she said, "you might want to strip her down!" I lifted Hannah's shirt and her entire stomach was blue. Indelible, Magic Marker blue to be exact! Apparently the girls had acquired a marker and used it to draw all over each others' bodies (but, cleverly, only where clothing concealed it). Same with the arms and legs - completely covered in blue scribbles! That one took DAYS, and  many baths, to get rid of.

When my oldest daughter was a pre-teen, she had a friend over to "do makeovers". The friend left with swollen red eyes. Let me explain. In an effort to look "really pretty" my daughter had mistaken gold sparkly nail polish for eyeshadow and painted her friend's eyes. When we discovered the mistake, we attempted to remove it with polish remover, and, well.......let's just say her friend had very sensitive skin. That was fun to explain to her mom.

Once, when my son was home with me in his preschool years, he was playing by himself in his room and I was enjoying the rare peace that comes with NOT having a small child glued to my leg. It got very quiet so I went to check it out and found him asleep on the toilet, folded in half, chest on his legs and balancing precariously on the porcelain throne. Did I rush to save him from what would have been a painful (and shocking) fall? I did not. I grabbed my camera and now have, in my possession, a treasure to share with his future girlfriends, or perhaps include in a photo montage at his wedding.

Not too long ago, I was going through some old videos in an attempt to make sense of the miles of VHS tape we have documenting our children's young lives, when I came across a whole series of newscasts filmed in my  eldest child's bedroom and starring each of my kids as reporter, meteorologist, field reporter, and the like. They had even set up a "news desk" and made signs. I have no idea when this happened. Obviously once when it was very, very quiet.

So, beware, parents! Your kids have secret lives! That, or we're just really clueless. But, if by chance things become really quiet in the midst of chaos, you should probably check it out. It might be the photo op of the decade!