Monday, November 30, 2009

Back and Buried

I'm back. From Branson and Andy Williams, that is. I know--I realize I never said when we were going, but then again, I didn't want to tip off my Internet stalkers that we'd be out of town. It's so hard to find a good bodyguard these days.

Anyway, there is much to tell: a surprise guest on our trip, observations on people who go to Branson (other than me, that is), sickness (it wouldn't be a family trip unless someone was sick), altercations with rednecks, adventures on the road, etc.

I have a crazy work week for clients ahead, plus I start working at the ski school tomorrow AND I'm volunteering at the World Cup Ski Races this week (so I can get a free ski coat, lest you think I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart). So I'm a little frenzied. As usual.

I'll try to be back soon.


Friday, November 20, 2009

OK, So He Is Pretty Cute. . .

. . .but I'm still withholding the hot chocolate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm a Jackass

There's nothing like shooting down your kids' good mood and wrecking their day, is there?

Today Finn lost his first top tooth--you know, one of the big ones in the middle that make them look so cute. It was really loose after school and we were going to the dentist anyway for Declan's cleaning, so the hygenist helped Finn pull his tooth the rest of the way out. He was so excited (and now is expecting the Tooth Fairy to leave $3. He's going to be disappointed).

So while Declan was getting his teeth cleaned, Finn was with me in the waiting room. New on this visit, the dentist had put in one of these little portable hot chocolate/coffee machines. They seem to be the rage in waiting rooms right now. The health center has one, the orthodontist has one, and now the dentist. (Now, I love my dentist, but I'm wondering what sort of shenanigans they're up to. They bake cookies and serve them at the office, and now sugary hot chocolate? I think they're out for more business, those sly dogs!)

So Finn wanted to make hot chocolate. You just choose a little cup of what you want, insert it into the machine, press a button and there you have it--hot chocolate. Or coffee or chai latte or whatever. I hesitated. It was right before dinner. Did he really need all of that sugar and chocolate? But I say no to treats a lot of the time and sometimes it's nice to be the good guy and say yes.

So we investigated the machine, inserted the cup of chocolate, put a cup under the drippy area thingy (as a non-coffee drinker, I'm not intimately familiar with the names of coffee maker parts), and surveyed the button choices for brewing. There were two cup size choices--larger and smaller. I was confounded. The cups in the waiting room were fairly large, but I always have this horrible fear of a cup of hot liquid boiling over and burning me. Or my kids. Of course, I'm worried about the kids. So should I choose the smaller cup button and just have the cup half full? But I was worried the hot chocolate would be too strong if we didn't use enough water.

But the big cup would make so much. And, Finn has a terrible history with hot chocolate. Last winter, we were skiing and went into the Ritz (to mooch free hot chocolate and cookies at 3pm which should probably only be for guests paying a bazillion dollars a night, but we're low class like that). So we're there in this super nice hotel and Finn fiddles with his hot chocolate cup and spills it. Not once, but twice. I'm not really sure how you spill something twice, but there you go.

And you know, not to bash my kid or anything, but he's one of those people where things just "happen" to him. Things break at his merest touch. He injures himself. Shuts his fingers in doors. He falls down things that don't actually have an elevation. It's a little disturbing.

So, dilemma. Little cup of potentially bad tasting hot chocolate or big cup of scorching hot liquid pouring over his hands and scalding him causing thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.

Hmmm, I actually hadn't thought about the scorching and burning and potential medical bills at the time or else I might have chosen differently because I finally faced my fears and chose the large cup.

It was frickin' hot. So we were letting it cool. Finn walked in and out of the room where Declan was having his teeth cleaned, because Sponge Bob was on TV and it was apparently a dead heat between what was more exciting--Sponge Bob or a cup of hot chocolate. Occasionally Finn came out to check the status of the cup. It was still frickin' hot. So he started blowing on it. And moving the cup around and I don't know what else--I was too busy reading (but not clearly not taking any advice from) Parents Magazine.

It wasn't until I heard the telltale tap of the cup going over and a huge splash of liquid--and remember, I had stupidly made the big cup--that I realized what was happening.

I handled it so well.

"FINN!" I said in a terrible voice that is reserved for mothers who are being horrible to their kids in public, raising the eyebrows of the better, kinder, and more understanding mothers around them.

And then I ran and started cleaning it up. It was everywhere. Soaking into the nice doily they had on the table, all over the table itself, on the floor, on the wall, running down the trashcan, pooling under the hot chocolate maker itself (I'm surprised I didn't electrocute myself). It was just a sticky mess.

And all the while I railed at Finn for his carelessness as he sat there, dejected. If we hadn't been in a public place, I feel certain I would have made him cry.

I made him apologize to the office staff several times.

I informed him he would never drink another cup of hot chocolate again.

Then Declan asked if he could make hot chocolate. Are you kidding me? So I railed at him, too, for good measure.

I barked at them to sit on the bench in the waiting room while I had to do the exam part of my cleaning, which was actually a month ago, but the dentist was in a surgery and couldn't pull my tongue out of my mouth with gauze and check it out. So I went off to do that. There wasn't a single sound from the waiting room the whole time.

As I was leaving the exam room, I apologized again to the dentist. "No problem," he smiled. "What kind of person would I be if I got upset over spilled hot chocolate?"


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Memory Lapse

I've written before about how dependent I am on my To Do List. Bottom line: If it's not on the list, it doesn't happen. Unfortunately, I have been the victim of technical difficulties that have made it so that even things on the list aren't happening.

Remember the old days? When we kept everything on a paper calendar? In fact, we loved those cool organizers and all of the inserts you could buy at those Covey stores at the mall. . .and charge them to the company. Life was so easy. And I never missed meeting.

Enter the digital age. The really digital age. Because I had an electronic calendar system way back when, I guess I just didn't really use it. But in the Really Digital Age, I no longer had a paper-based organizer. Nope, I was hip. I had a Palm Pilot and I lived and died by everything on it. I loved tapping the little check box indicating a task was completed. It beeped to remind me of meetings. I had all of my contacts in the palm of my hand.

And then I left the corporate world and a Palm Pilot wasn't really necessary. But I was so hooked on my electronic task list in Outlook. I put everything on it. It was set up to remind me to buy anniversary cards (after forgetting several years running), when to send birthday cards, when to call people and sing happy birthday, when to reorder vitamins. . .and of course, a bunch of work stuff. But who cares about the work stuff?

Apparently, I should care because a few weeks ago I installed the Ofice 2007 upgrade on my computer and it totally freaked out any reminders on my computer and I no longer get them. Nothing about meetings, projects, birthday cards or vitamins. The list is there, it's just that the reminders don't pop up and, you know, remind me.

As a result, I have missed meetings, phone calls, the occasional deadline, and most importantly, birthdays.

I know that I could get in the habit of just going to my to do list in Outlook each day and just looking at what I need to do, but that's not the point. The point is that my computer is supposed to be reminding me. I neeeeed the reminders.

I'm a wreck. It's leaking into other areas of my life and I'm starting to lose it. In fact, yesterday I was out running errands and thought I'd left my sunglasses in a store. I was retracing my steps and then I realized I was wearing my sunglasses. On my face.

Clearly I have used up all of my finite brain cells trying to remember my to do list. This has to stop.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food for Thought

I posted over at Rocky Mountain Moms today so I'm killing two birds (blogs) with one stone. . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Got Me a Case of the 501 Blues

Yesterday I had to go to Denver for a client meeting. As the meeting wasn't until the late afternoon, I went to Denver early and did some Christmas shopping. I try to buy local whenever I can, but sometimes I can't find everything here in the valley (and I'm fine with that Mr. Mall Developer Who Wants to Invade Our Town) and I don't mind going on a little shopping excursion to the big city.

Since I'm going to see Andy Williams (I'll keep mentioning that ad nauseum until the big day gets here) and really only own cargo pants and fleece right now, I felt a few new clothing items were in order. Now, people don't exactly dress up to go to the shows in Branson. Yes, there are a few people who get decked out, but mostly you're out and about running around Branson all day and then you just pop into whatever theater show you're seeing in whatever you're wearing. I had a nice outfit to wear the last time we went and I never ended up wearing it. I went in jeans and fit right in.

So I wasn't looking for anything flashy to wear to the show, just maybe a new pair of trouser-style jeans and a nice top. Something other than cargo pants and fleece. Anything but cargo pants and fleece--my daily uniform.

After all was said and done when I returned home at 10pm last night, I estimate that I had tried on at least a hundred pairs of jeans. OK, that's probably an exaggeration, but I'm guessing I tried on at least 50 pairs in three different stores (Ann Taylor outlet, Old Navy, Kohl's).

It was depressing.

I've been working out.

Thought I was looking pretty good.

Nothing like the three-way mirror in a department store to dispel that myth.

There were so many styles to choose from, how I had so much trouble is beyond me. Personally, I think it all goes back to the whole "jeans conspiracy" that clothing manufacturers have created against women. I think they're in cahoots with the bathing suit industry, frankly.

Nothing fit. Crazy cuts. Huge in the waist, too small around my bee-hind and saddlebags. And skinny jeans? That fad can't go out fast enough for me.

While I'd like to blame it all on the manufacturers, I'm guessing a "few" extra pounds may be the culprit.

I've been on a mission to drop some weight before I see Andy. Who wants a chubby biggest fan? I don't think he wants a biggest fan in the literal sense. So each time I start to eat something that isn't a vegetable, I look at it and say: Is this _____________________ more important than Andy?

Here's how it has panned out so far:

Doughnut: yes
Popcorn: yes
Malted milk ball: yes
Pizza: yes
Cheese: yes
Halloween candy of any ilk: yes

I hope Andy never finds out he was less important than a malted milk ball. And it wasn't a very good one at that.

In the end, I do have a pair of new jeans--in a size I am not happy about, incidentally--and several new tops. When I stroll into the Moon River Theater, I will not be wearing cargo pants or fleece.

But I might have some malted milk balls in my purse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Shoes

But unfortunately, not for my feet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And Now, On a Slightly Happier Note. . .

I'm going to see Andy Williams!

Well, I should say WE'RE going to see Andy Williams. Including my mother. Mr. Christmas! Brace yourself, Andy!

This picture is especially for Lisa, my cousin's wife, who loves Andy in his Christmas sweaters. Who doesn't?

The Williams Brothers. Andy got his start singing with his brothers before breaking out on his own. If you ever get a chance to watch the Biography Channel's Andy Williams episode, do. I own it. And once I accused Lisa of stealing it. She didn't. She would never do that. She loves Andy, too.

So how did all of this come about that we're going to see Andy Williams (and most importantly, how do people with tens of thousands of dollars in health care debt afford to go see Andy Williams? Two words: generous parents :))?

Many of you Finn followers will recall (because I'm sure that's what you do, spend your time recalling my Andy Williams obsession) that in 2005, we were still living in Ohio and I convinced Eamonn to go to Branson to see Andy. Finn was still on chemo and was only 3 at the time, so Mom and Aunt Kathy stayed with the boys so we could go.

I recall the trip's inception something like this.

Me: Can we go to Branson to see the Andy Williams Christmas Show?

Eamonn: Branson? Do you know how long it takes to get there?

Me: 10 hours and 56 minutes.

Eamonn: I see you've already done some planning.

And so we set off on a very fun adventure. It was the first, and only if I recall, time we were both away from Finn during chemo, other than the occasional night out.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we left the house at 6am. We rolled into Branson just before 5pm (you know, 10 hours and 56 minutes after we left).

The town was packed. We stopped at the visitor center to get the lay of the land. The woman working there was very helpful and asked what our plans were.

Woman: What shows are you seeing?

Us: Andy Williams.

Woman: Pause. And?

Us: That's it.

Woman: You drove all the way from Ohio and you're only seeing Andy Williams?

Us: Yes.

She laughed and agreed he was worth it.

And it was. I sat in the audience like a giddy schoolgirl, hands clasped under my chin and a silly grin on my face the whole time.

At one point during the show,

Eamonn: Are you crying?

Natalie: No. Yes. I don't know! Maybe!

And at the show, Eamonn said, "We're totally coming back here with the boys next year." Andy had the kids in the audience come on stage with him. It was so sweet. I could just picture the boys up there--Declan paying rapt attention to the show, Finn dangling off the edge of the stage talking during the whole thing. . .ah, such a picture.

Well, in 2006 we'd just moved to Colorado. In 2007 we'd just come back from England. Last year? Hmmm, I don't know what the heck we were doing last year. We weren't at the Andy Williams Christmas Show, that's for sure.

But this year, we will be. And I will be sitting like a giddy schoolgirl in the audience with my hands clasped beneath my chin. A silly grin on my face. And possibly a tear in my eye.

And now, the only thing left to do before the trip (aside from packing and planning my Andy Williams Christmas Show outfit) is to decide how I will let Andy know his Biggest Fan is in the audience. What do you think? A big placard? I wonder if those are allowed. A giant foam hand that says "Andy! I'm your biggest fan!"? Should I set off some sort of flare or firework? Find a Christmas sweater that matches his and see if he notices? Jump up, run to the stage and throw myself around his legs? I'll be careful--I don't want to hurt him.

Let me know if you have any ideas.


And now, as a follow up to yesterday's health care rampage, I don't feel so alone anymore. Thanks to all of you for your comments and e-mails. The Today Show hasn't called and I haven't been asked to testify before Congress (imagine that), nor has Anthem called and said, "Just kidding! We WILL cover all of that stuff!" but I feel a little bit better after getting all of that off my chest. Thanks for being such great listeners!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So. Asthma. And a Rampage About Health Care in our Country.

OK, so I touched in my last post on the fact that Finn was officially diagnosed with asthma. I'm annoyed. You know, the whole time Finn had cancer, I never asked why. Because really, why anyone? I didn't ask why my kid because it could be anyone's kid. Or husband, sister, mother, friend, etc. It sucks no matter how you slice it.

I didn't ask why when he had to get glasses.

I didn't ask why when he was diagnosed with the sensory issues.

But now, I've had it. Asthma? Seriously? Why? Why does he have to deal with something else?

This kid should have a free pass from now on as far as I'm concerned.

I'm just pissed off and annoyed. I'm annoyed that my kitchen counter once again looks like a pharmacy. I'm annoyed that he has to sit on the couch with a tube in his mouth twice a day so he can know what it's like to breathe freely like the rest of us do. I'm annoyed that his medication is currently running about $150 FOR A TWO WEEK SUPPLY--that's our share after the insurance pays it's share.

I remember when we were paying for chemo. When Finn was ready to start preschool, he was just finishing chemo, so we said to ourselves, "Well, chemo money will now be preschool money." When Finn finished preschool, we found out we had to pay for all-day kindergarten. So we said to ourselves, "Well, preschool money will now be kindergarten money." And then during kidnergarten, we had the added bonus of paying for occupational therapy for his sensory issues. Not exactly a drop in the bucket.

So this year we thought we'd be pocketing some cash for a change with no OT, no kindergarten tuition, no preschool or chemo to pay for. Ah, finally something to look forward to.

Apparently not.

I cannot get over how expensive this medication is. Granted, hopefully we'll only have to pay this outrageous price for a few months, then he'll cut down to taking it only once a day and our outlay will only be half as outrageous.

I just want you to know where I'm coming from right now.

I'm mad at the world.

And, just to get everyone really riled up, I'm so mad at the way our country is being run right now.

I'm not a Republic or Democrat. Seriously, I'm not affiliated with either party right now because frankly, they're all a bunch of crooks (and that is said with apologies to the ONE, and I mean only one, politician that I have ever encountered that I think is the real deal--really working for the people instead of himself, Hank Brown from Colorado, I interviewed him for an article and was amazed by him--but I digress).

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right. I'm in a rage about Republicans and Democrats alike. Nancy Pelosi? I wish a tree would fall on her. Right now. I know, I know, it's such a hateful thing to say, but I don't know how someone can stand up in front of God and country and say how hard they are working for the people when you have as much going on behind the scenes that is total bull as that woman does.

And health care reform? What a crock. What's missing from all of "their" proposed bills, plans and big ideas? Hmmm? Maybe REFORM? If I showed you the tens of thousands of dollars in health care bills lying around our house, you'd freak. Ever taken a look at what big ticket items, like, say cancer or nearly cutting off a few fingers in a saw will cost you? Medical bankruptcy. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

As an example, Eamonn has been working with the local hospital and physical therapy office to deal with the exorbitant payments we owe on his hand (and I'm not telling you all of this because I want you to feel sorry for us; I'm telling you this because it could happen to anyone. We're all just one quick medical nightmare from bankruptcy. And I want you to be mad about it so that something gets done to change it.).

So, back to Eamonn and the hand. We still owe many, many thousands of dollars to cover what insurance didn't cover. Eamonn was talking to the PT place and found out that the PT facility has already received from our insurance company MORE than it would have received from a Medicare patient. Hmmm, so someone who comes in with Medicare pays a different rate then we pay because we have different insurance? And so, because we had "better" insurance, we are left holding the bag for thousands more. Many of you may already know this. We're just discovering the joys of all of it now.

And don't even get me started about how only one person in our house (Declan) qualifies for "normal" insurance right now. The rest of us all had to go on different state plans because no one would give us covereage because of pre-existing conditions. A bad pap smear. Yep, it will keep you from getting insurance, even when the result was wrong and a biopsy proves it. They won't care.

Oh good grief. What a rambling rampage I'm on. I think the frustrating thing is that I see no light at the end of this hideous health care tunnel. If you are anything but a perfectly healthy person, you're screwed. And you may think you're healthy, but that nosebleed you had last week? Well, the insurance company is convinced you have a brain tumor and will send you a letter telling you they'll cover everything except to any current or future ear, nose, throat, brain or cancer issues.

All of these reforms people in our government are talking about? It's all just window dressing so they can say they're doing something for the people. What people???? I think it's the people with nothing. The rest of the "middle class" is totally getting screwed. I just read an article about how the privately insured will still see huge premium increases under "ObamaCare." Huge increases? I got nowhere else to go, people!

And don't get me started on the whole topic of why are our legislators designing a health care program for "the rest of us" when they won't even be using it? I want to be on their plan! Hell, I'm paying for it!

I'm going to go take a valium and calm down. Oh wait. I can't. My horrible prescription coverage makes valium too expensive.

A few deep breaths.

So my point here is to put a face on this health care dilemma. It's not just the homeless and jobless and illegal immigrants who are having trouble. It's people you know. It's my family. A two-income family that just happens to be privately insured, who has worked their asses off and has nothing but boxes of medical bills and fricking EOBs to show for it.

And has a child who has survived cancer, for which I'm grateful, just in case it sounds like I'm not. I'll trade financial solvency for my children's health any day, just so you know.

But it shouldn't have to be this way.

And so what does all of this mean in my twisted mind? Do we need government run health care? No. Why? Because no government run by either party could run it effectively, in my mind. They're all crooks and bandits and couldn't successfully run an ice cream stand at the beach in the middle of July without a whole bunch of paperwork filled out before you could purchase your artificially flavored popsicle, which was approved by the FDA, but is killing you.

What we do need is reform of the insurance industry, which frankly, will never happen because of the lobbying that goes on in this country. We need reform of the medical system simultaneously. They say they charge so much because the insurance industry reimburses too little. So frankly, they both need a kick in the ass and some good penalties to force them to get their respective acts together.

Most importantly, and more important than the ravings of a crazed woman like myself, what is happening with Finn? For now he'll need to use a nebulizer two times a day to get him straightened away and breathing normally. Hopefully we can cut that down to once a day. And then hopefully he'll grow out of it.

But until then I'll be exploring all sorts of other things--changes to diet, accupuncture, voodoo, etc.--to see if there's a better way to help him. Let's face it, did you expect that I'd do anything less than explore some whackadoo alternative medicine? Admit it--you'd be disappointed if I didn't.

Yours in Nuttiness,

PS--I don't know how to make our government see what is happening to the "little people" and make them understand, and my frustration stems from that. Let's see if my blog post can go viral on the Internet. Send every person you can to this post and maybe I'll end up on the Today show talking about the real face of health care!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

This Morning's Soundtrack

So yesterday I was huddled in bed hiding from the world until after 9am (not an easy feat with the boys). I had terrible PMS which was making me totally morose and annoyed about Finn's asthma diagnosis (which, I realize I haven't told you about yet, but I'll post about that another time, AND I also realize that asthma is not cancer and I need to get my head together and deal with it, but again, I'll talk about that later).

Anyway, after consuming my weight in Reese's Cups and Almond Joys last night, today I am feeling better, partially because I took a huge walk this morning and reminded myself how lucky I am to live here:

One of my favorite views--The New York mountain range

And it seemed like every song that was being shuffled through on my iPod was something I wanted to listen to. Even though the iPod is loaded with all of my favorite CDs, stuff comes up all the time that I don't feel like listening to at that given moment. But today, I didn't hit forward once.

So I strolled along, singing (after looking covertly over my shoulder to make sure there wasn't someone behind me to hear), and enjoying the morning.

The picture above shows what I saw this morning. This is what my walk sounded like:

Sick of Myself, Matthew Sweet
Those Magic Changes, Sha-Na-Na
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), Dead or Alive
Hold Me Down, Gin Blossoms
Does She Talk?, Matthew Sweet
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
Looking at the Sun, Matthew Sweet
Born to Hand Jive, Sha-Na-Na
Small Town Boy, Bronski Beat
The Meaning of Love, Depeche Mode
Bodhisattva, Steely Dan
Wild Honey, U2
Love in Itself, Depeche Mode
Get Back, The Beatles
Add it Up, Violent Femmes (OK, kind of not appropriate for a Sunday stroll)
What's the Matter Here?, 10,000 Maniacs
There She Goes, The Boo Radleys
Rhyme & Reason, Dave Matthews
Nikita, Elton John
Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Hmmm, I don't think there's anything in there from the 21st century. Perhaps I need to update my life's soundtrack.