Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh, poopy ...

Dan has scads of toys in the house, but this morning he was playing with an assortment of binder clips, methodically putting them in a plastic container and dumping them out. He did this for about a half hour, quietly.

Then, I caught a whiff of toddler poop. If you're squeamish, stop reading now! Dan has not nursed in exactly one week. Even when I give him the opportunity, he'd rather chew on toy. I've been demoted. That means no more breast milk poops. Toddler poop is the most vile smelling substance ever. Even cow manure, chicken litter and horse turds smells better.

And apparently, now, if I need change, I need only to check his diaper. Several times this week, I've fished dimes and pennies from his mouth.

Faux capitalism

In a country that claims to be capitalist, the phrase "doctor shopping" should not describe an aggravating factor in criminal charges. Tonight at work, I came across this lovely article about two women charged with prescription drug fraud. Police think the women forged prescriptions to get their pill fix. However, police also claim the women visited various doctors to get prescriptions.

I, too, am considering a little "doctor shopping." I don't need prescription drugs, but a doctor whose fees closely match my insurance company's usual, customary and reasonable rate schedule (once I find out what that is). Better keep my nose clean, though. I don't want the authorities to think I'm just collecting scripts or the doctors to label me a difficult patient a la Elaine Benes (CLASSIC Seinfeld episode).

Of course, I'd probably still attract suspicion since no one shops for doctors in this country. I guess the free market applies to everything but health care in this country. Oh wait, primary education is exempt, too, but that's a whole other blog post, and possible a whole other blog.

And since I've gone off on a tangent already ... Somehow, Raman noodles have become a guilty pleasure rather than the mealtime staple of my college days and early 20s. I hadn't eaten Raman noodles in more than 10 years. Last week, I had two packages at my brother in law's house and now I'm eating a bowl at 1 in the morning after thinking about them while I was at work. Thanks a lot, Tim.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Punchline first please

The way newspapers present information is the height of efficiency - if it's done right which is what I try to ensure in my job as a copy editor. Writers top load the story with the essentials - who, what, when, where, why and how - in order of diminishing importance. It's called the inverted pyramid style and it's often the first thing aspiring journalists learn in school. This inverted pyramid style allows the reader to quit reading at any point after even the first paragraph and know the story.

I've worked in journalism since 1994 and read a newspaper and scads of online news every day. Unfortunately for me, real live people don't tell stories this way, even though I often expect them to.

So when my husband announced during the nightly phone report that he found a tick on Dan, it seemed like an eternity before I got the whole story. Editors call this burying the lead. Here's how I would have preferred to have heard the story:

Dan Meehan's father found and removed a tick this evening that had not yet burrowed into the toddler's skin.

His father, Jim, noticed the tick while bathing him and quickly scooped the soaking wet toddler from the tub. He put Dan on the floor while he looked for the first aid kit. An exhausted Dan rolled onto his stomach which allowed Jim to brush the tick from behind Dan's ear.

The tick likely came in on the toddler's clothing.

Of course, Jim has often said that I should experience the story just as he did. He didn't know at the time that the tick had not burrowed, nor that getting it out would be easier than expected since Dan was exhausted. As you probably guessed, I hate suspense movies and I'm not fond of surprises.

Some would say I just have a short attention span, but I like to think that I'm just a good journalist.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Okay, I'm up now, and I'm mad

I was just going through our mail and received an Explanation of (medical) Benefits statement from the insurance company. Or as I like to call it: an attempted explanation of how we decided to screw you this time. As usual, the "usual, customary and reasonable" rates for service is where they get you; that, and the deductible.

So here's the breakdown of what the doctor's office charged the insurance company:
$125 for the physician fee
$156 for ONE immunization
$32 for a second immunization
$20 for a third immunization

The insurance company wrote to tell me that they think my doctor's office overcharged me and they would pick up only about 40 percent of the bill. Oh, but since I've not met my deductible, they applied all of what they would have covered to that.

And I blame the doctors' offices, too. They know they're dealing with a third-party payer with deeper pockets than their patients. The insurance company low balls the doctor, the doctor high balls the insurance company and the consumer gets screwed. I hate going to see my doctors for this reason - weeks of surprises in my mailbox. It's probably all part of the insurers plan to lower costs.

I would be happier just paying the entire bill up front, filing a claim and taking whatever the insurer reimburses. At least, then I wouldn't have to do mental gymnastics every few months to figure out how much of a shaft I'm getting. Think of the time I'd be saving! (I could probably do my own pedicure and give myself a facial and get in a workout or two. HAHAHA ... workout, that's just crazy talk.)

But an idea did occur to me: If I knew the insurance company's "usual, customary and reasonable" rate schedule, then I could shop around for a doctor with rates that closely match that schedule. So tomorrow or maybe early next week, I'm going to call my doctors' offices and try to procure their fee schedule. Then I'll call my insurers to ask them for a list of their UCRs. Am I too optimistic thinking that my insurers and my doctors would just hand me a nice, neat list?

I'll keep (all five) of you posted.

Our March up north

Dan and I took a trip to Maryland and Virginia to visit relatives. We got back today around 5 p.m. Dan did a little better than usual in the car, but traveling with him is still quite a pain. Anyhow, I'm tired, so here is a photo diary of our trip.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Half human, half primate

The video finally showed up. Here it is
Dan's inner human emerges as he uses his fork, but his celebration of the accomplishment smacks of primate behavior. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another hijacked holiday

The tricky thing about Easter is that it falls on a different date every year. This year, it comes early and the mass marketing machine has gone into overdrive to make sure we don't all miss it (and hence retailers miss their quarterly windfall from lemming consumers).

Some people think of the Easter season as a celebration of the vernal equinox (spring), others actually celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Really, it's turned into a celebration of uber-consumerism. What I hate the most, though, is how even churches and religious groups have bought into the commercialism by hosting egg hunts. And if you ever challenge them on it, the response is something like: "Oh, well, it's fun for the children." I've come to believe the most expensive words in politics and the worst excuse for most unquestioned ideas can be summed up in those three words: for the children.

But what exactly are we doing for the children? We're buying a bunch of cheap plastic eggs and baskets made in China by people living on $3 a day, filling them with a concoction of chemicals we'd never eat alone and lieing to our children: "The Easter Bunny brought all this just for you." I guess it's a bribe for good behavior or so that parents can sneak in the message about the death and resurrection of Christ.

If you're a practicing Christian or even a lapsed Catholic, you're not going to miss Easter. Of course, if you're neither of the above, then you really have no business using a sacred holiday as the backdrop for gorging on sugary confections and hiding decorated real eggs or treat-filled plastic eggs. And what really burns me is that Christianity seems to be the only religion that allows this uber-consumerism to infect their most sacred holidays - Christmas and Easter. Jews don't have the Purim bunny who goes around hiding gragg-shaped chocolates nor do Muslims have the jolly Ramadan chef who brings treats after the month of fasting.

My parents didn't think we were too young or disinterested to understand the true meaning of sacred Christian holidays. We never believed in Santa Clause, called him the Red Devil. I don't remember what the story was with Easter. We did decorate eggs, but I never knew why. The highlight of Easter, though, seemed to be sunrise services out at a lake, new hand-sewn dresses (sometimes with a bonnet) and the annual family photo taken on a timer with Dad running to get into the picture.

So this year, we're not starting some meaningless tradition of hiding eggs and plying Dan with candy. I'd just assume he not know this particular consumer-driven story line. I thought about cooking rabbit for Easter dinner as a symbolic gesture, but I coudn't find rabbit at the Harris Teeter and I didn't want to trek to Whole Foods or rely on Bob the dog to catch our dinner.

But maybe for Christmas dinner, we'll have deer.

Friday, March 21, 2008

May the fork be with you

For weeks, I've been giving Dan a little plastic fork and spoon with his meals to see if he'll figure out how to use them. Mostly he would just wave the utensils around, eventually throw them on the floor and continue eating with his hands.

On Wednesday, lunch was on the table - mine and Dan's. I went to fix our drinks and when I came back Dan had procured my fork and was poking his food. This is interesting, I thought. So I got him a smaller salad fork and watched. He put the fork in his mouth and actually got some food on the fork - in that order. Once the food was on the fork, he took it off and used his fingers to eat.

At dinner Thursday, experimentation continued - fork in mouth, food on fork, eat with fingers. Then, he stabbed a piece of food and brought it to his mouth and ate it. We applauded and cheered heartily. Of course, he then got excited and starting waving his fork around. Easy, kid, you'll poke your eye out! And it wasn't just a one time thing. He was able to repeat it.

All this time, I just thought he lacked fine motor control. Call it the curse of the first born - he just wanted to use the same utensils that the adults use, not the baby fork and spoon. Silly mommy - a first born myself, I should have known.

Flashback: Dan's first sweet potato. You've come a long way baby!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dan, otherwise known as his royal toddlerness

Sometimes I forget that Dan has his own agenda and preferences. He doesn't say very many words, he doesn't always obey us, but he understands so much of what's going on around him. He's a very busy boy. What often looks like mindless meandering or frantic activity really does have a purpose.

Every morning, when he hears the toaster pop up, he runs into the kitchen and mills anxiously about while I fix his waffle. When he wants something, he reaches his hand up in what looks like a Nazi salute. It's so cute (can I really say that about my child basically doing a Heil Hitler?) until he adds the whining. He seems to want whatever we have. One day I put something he wanted on the glass top table. Undeterred, Dan scootched up under the table and tried to grab it ... from below.

Dressing him is getting a little easier. I had his socks in my hand one morning; he sat on the floor with his feet facing me. Usually "socking" him turns into a wrestling match. Today I told him to find his shoes. He picked up a shoe and said "Shoes." To lure him inside the house after outside time, I say "Snack time Dan" or "Apricots" and he gladly follows me. It may take a while since his attention is usually diverted by rocks and sticks along the way, but he gets there ... and even faster if I pretend to run away from him. That's hilarious to toddlers. I used that little ploy to get him into church for Parents Mornign Out last week.

And speaking of sticks, Dan is completely infatuated with them. He walks around the yard wielding a stick as if it were a scepter and the yard was his kingdom. He even plays a game of keep away with Bob the dog. Bob tries to get the stick from him, Dan jerks it and runs away, laughing hysterically. Bob eventually gets the stick and tries to keep it away from Dan. This weekend, though, poor Bob got whacked with a stick a few times before I could intervene. Ever the good sport, Bob just rolled over and looked at me forlornly. That dog deserves a medal. I usually let Dan bring a stick in the house, since he quickly loses interest in it long enough for me to dispose of the stick. Jim told me tonight I should probably rethink that. Dan was using a stick to reach things on the counter. He's discovered the world above his head AND is devising ways to reach it. Crap.

Dan is also becoming very particular about nap and bedtime routines. From his crib, he points to the ceiling fan; I turn it on. He points to the blinds; I close them. He grabs his blanket and rolls over. And he likes only the Beethovan track, not the Mozart or Bach track, on his mobile that Aunt Suzy and Uncle Gary gave him. I selected Mozart one day (my favorite) and he stood up in his crib and pushed the Beethovan button. Well, excuse me, your highness!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The opposite of the big bad wolf

A PBS Kids rant

I usually try to avoid a show on PBS Kids called Super Why. But this morning, this was on and I couldn't look away. The underlying message radiating from this seemingly innocuous show was confusing and disturbing.

Super Why uses a superhero team (think Justice League for word nerds) to teach reading skills. In short: there's a problem, the super-readers get together to change the story by changing a word in the story and, of course, save the day. They even do a dance and sing a song at the end. You really shouldn't watch it while you're eating. It really is that bad.

Today's episode was based on the big bad wolf and how to get him to be nice. I thought they would just change "bad" to "good," but instead they changed "big" to "small." The little pig then talks to the small bad wolf and convinces him to be nice. Huh?

Why, when faced with a bully, would you make him smaller before trying to persuade him to be nice?

Seems vaguely statist to me. Cut the big bad wolf down to size in order to make him easier to deal with. For instance, big corporations are never good, they're always demonized. If they're cut down to size with government regulation and excessive taxation, well, then that will make them nicer. Never mind that small companies with limited profits don't employ very many people.

Of course, it's possible that I'm just being paranoid or that my English major analytical mind kicked into overdrive. Being at home with monkey boy all day long does strange things to my brain.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Taming monkeys

Some days I feel like I'm trying to coax the inner human out of a little monkey. Toddlers are often referred to as little primates, and for good reason. They imitate everything you do, communicate through excited hand gestures and utterances, throw food (and sometimes poop, though Dan hasn't done this yet), and climb on anything they can.

Dan is still pre-verbal, but is starting to imitate what we say, even if it is mostly the inflection of our voice that he's copying. At the doctor's office this week, we were doing a little nursery rhyme called "Trot, trot to Boston" and he said "trot, trot" pretty clearly. Even when we don't think he's listening, he'll come out with a word we've just said. It's finally time to watch my mouth. The last thing I need is a little monkey climbing on the furniture saying crap and damn. His favorite word is "Utto" right now. And he says it mostly after he's intentionally thrown something from his high chair. He's also working on walking down the stairs like the adults. He can go downstairs just holding one of our hands. And the climbing ... my heart is often in my throat as I enter a room and finding him standing on the sofa or the hearth or trying to climb the bookshelves or hanging from the edge of the counter.

He studies us both. Dan watches us get ready for work, clean the kitchen, vacuum the floors. If you give him a napkin, he'll wipe his high chair tray. If he sees us vacuuming, he'll go get his little push toy and roll it back and forth like it's a vacuum. When we were brushing our teeth last night, he started using a hair brush to brush his teeth. And he's quite the little dancer. Whenever he wants to hear music, he just grins and bounces. At first, he had only one tempo. But we've been listening to some slow-grooves, like Marvin Gaye, lately and he's learning how to move to slower tempos.

Dan is constantly moving, until he suddenly decides to sit and play quietly for a half hour. It's so rare that last night, Jim just watched him and was afraid to move, fearing any sudden movement would break the spell. I just love getting a hold of him in the early evening when he's got that cool, slightly moist texture on his arms and chubby little hands from a day of constant activity. He sighs contentedly and then squirms out of my arms once again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fear Factor, the baby edition

We entered a minefield when Dan began eating solid food. No honey for your child until 1 year ... botulism and certain DEATH. No wheat ... allergies or inability to digest. No strawberries or egg whites ... DEATH or just hideous splotches as I found out with Dan. No raisins until the age of three ... choking hazard and possible DEATH!

I know doctors mean well, but they've managed to scare the hell out of parents. Consider this little gem from a doctor's Web site:

A child eats every few hours to take in the fuel that he needs for energy, growth, and bodily repair. Usually, eating is both fun and helpful. Sometimes, it is deadly.
Seriously? This is the most ridiculous, over-the-top, lawsuit-avoiding disclaimer I've ever read. And this is from a doctor I actually like because he's a bit more holistic.

There's a theory put forth by Harvard risk management experts that our lives here in the West are so safe that we irrationally fear random and rare occurrences such as fatal allergic reactions and freak accidents. Turns out, food allergies are pretty rare. Researchers estimate the average person's chance of food-induced anaphylaxic, that is a fatal reaction, is only 4 in 100,000. The same number of Americans die from lightning strikes each year.

As for Dan, he's been eating whole raisins since he was about a year old and hasn't choked yet. In fact, he stuffs large chunks of food in his mouth and managed to somehow not choke, despite having only six teeth. Still!! Even after all the drooling and toy-gnawing. Oh, and today, he grabbed a piece of my pants between his teeth and pulled several times. He laughed so hard that he fell on his bum. God, I hope I don't have a biter on my hands. It does run in the family, unfortunately. Moving on ... He's also had whole-wheat pasta and bread since the age of eight months, well before wheat is recommended. I didn't mess around with the honey, though. That one is scary in that once botulism is contracted it is usually fatal. We waited a while on that one. The one time I gave him scrambled eggs for breakfast at around eight months, he loved them, but broke out in hives all over his face and hands. He's okay with eggs as an ingredient and with the little bits I've been giving him at breakfast.

The most recent new food that Dan has tried is peanut butter. Around Dan's first birthday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended waiting until 14 months, not a year, to offer peanut butter. Jim said, only half-joking, that we should offer his first taste of peanut butter in the parking lot of the urgent care center. On Sunday afternoon, I broke some graham crackers into little bits and smeared a tiny bit of peanut butter on it. Jim pulled up a chair to watch him closely and asked if we had any Benadryl.

We watched. He stared back quizzically. No reaction.

He appears to have survived his first encounter with deadly peanut butter.