Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Bill

One of the things I am learning over time is that when you get a bill that doesnt make sense, call the company and ask them why. Especially your insurance compnay. They make mistakes sometimes and they know that most people wont take the time to clarify, they would rather just pay it and be done.

For example, about a week ago I received a bill from the Lennox Hill ER. That is where we took M. for stitches when  he fell and cut himself at the playground one Shabbos afternoon. I had a minor heart attack when the bill said that the visit cost us $1700 dollars (side point- we were in the ER for an hour and a half, how could we rack up such a ridiculous bill!) and that we needed to pay for ALL of it because our insurance had denied the claim. After hyperventilating and telling my poor husband what crappy health insurance we have, I decided to read the fine print. It said that our insurance company won't cover the cost because our car insurance provider is responsible to pay for motor vehicle accidents.
Um, excuse me? This was not a car accident. We don't even own a car. M fell in the park and I had about twenty witnesses to prove it.

So I called the insurance company and explained to the nice man on the phone what had happened. He said it was a computer classification error and he could fix it right. He resubmitted the claim and said we would get an adjusted bill in the mail. That bill came today and we now owe the ER only $75 which is a much more palatable number. And all is well again in the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

To stay or to go

We are back from another weekend away and I am ready for bed at 9pm. It's funny how we take our children on planes halfway around the world yet a 4 hour drive to Maryland (and back) can seem overwhelming.
The truth of the matter is it is always difficult to take kids out of their usual routine and schedule, whether it is a weekend away or a longer adventure. In my mind, it all comes down to the cost-benefit- analysis. Do the benefits of attending an event/taking a trip outweigh the "costs" of inconvenience, stress and being tired. I have found in most cases the answer to be yes.
Still, I do understand the parents who say it is not worth it. They would rather stick to their schedules and bedtimes than to risk all the upheaval. They say they will just wait a year or two or five and travel then, when their kids are older. Some days I don't really want to risk any changes to our routine either because it works so well and why bother. Some days I would rather go to Hippo Park for the 1012th time than find a new unknown activity.
 As an aside, today someone at the park told me that she has never been to the park at a time when I was not there. Which is something I have heard from several other people. Does that make me the mayor(ess) of Hippo Park? Is this a title I should be proud of?
So, I definitely understand the desire to hibernate and stay put and I am guilty of it myself many times. Still, what would life be like without a little bit of adventure and exhaustion thrown in?

Also, watch this video. As much as I dislike the word "special", this story truly is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Husband and the Birth Analogy

Last week, when my husband and I were speaking with a friend, all of a sudden he said: " I have a good analogy. It's like birth. The hospital does all the interventions and then says 'Thank G'd we saved your baby' when really all along they are the ones causing the problem and you would not have needed those interventions without them."
Our friend did not really understand this analogy or how it pertained to the discussion we were having, but I understood what he meant. Even more than that, I was both flattered and surprised that he would use something from my frame of reference to illustrate a point. My husband and I often talk about taking a more active interest in the (for lack of a better word, I will be redundant) interests of the other. Being involved, showing you care. This was such a little thing but it totally made my day...probably my week, because it still makes me smile every time I think about it.
In my quest to educate the world about childbirth, I am glad that I have at least one devoted follower :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parenting- a full time job

In the past 10 days, Y has been sent home from school three times. Once because he was coughing, one time he had fever and this morning because he threw up. Mommy and the school are not happy campers. Amazingly, every time he has come home, he announces that  he is "better" and goes right back to acting totally normal and healthy. There has also been a lot of crying at school and asking for Mommy and to go home, which leads me to believe he is a pretty smart cookie and know what to do in order to get picked up. So I am trying to get to the bottom of this, figuring out if he has allergies or if something is going on at school that is upsetting him. Or both.
Meanwhile, we have some stuff going on with A as well. Nothing major, but enough to keep me busy figuring out plans for next year, the summer, the rest of this year and some reshuffling that needs to get done.
And of course theres M. who hopefully asks every day if maybe today we can "go to park please"- but the weather is not really cooperating. So he is bored, And wants to play and color and drink an endless supply of chocolate milk.
All of which just makes me think that mothering or parenting or whatever you want to call it is a full-time job. Sometimes when you're in "maintenance-mode" you may think that it's not so time consuming but then something out of the ordinary happens and all of a sudden you're juggling more balls. I am seeing more and more how much time, conscious effort, mindfulness, love and attention children really need as they grow. It is a constant effort to remain present and really be there for all the big and little stuff, to be aware of things that need tweaking and things that are amiss.
I know they are plenty of women who do have full time jobs and they have my utmost respect. For me, right now though, trying to do a good-enough job with the care of my kids and trying to build up my doula practice on the side, is about as much as will fit into my life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To-do lists

Some weeks things run very smoothly, at other times life feels very hectic. For some reason, this week I have been feeling a little stressed out, like I am always a few steps behind and not quite catching up. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Y's school made me pick him up from school...2 days in a row...when he wasn't really that sick, if at all. It kind if ohrew a wrench into my daily schedule so I was behind on errands and phone calls/emails. Couple that with several meetings, some unexpected things that came up that need immediate attention and two evenings that I spent out of the home and you have one stressed out Mom.
So I did what I always do when I get anxious. I made a to-do list.  A very long list. Then I divided that list into tasks that needed to be done sooner and some that can wait. I made a separate lists for things I will do tomorrow when I have some help and can run errands more efficiently without M tagging along. Then I spent the two hours of M's nap getting started on my list- making phone calls, writing emails, printing and filling out forms.
At the end of the day, I am still feeling a bit overwhelmed but also I know it will get done. Now that it is on a piece of paper instead of floating around my brain, I feel a bit more in control. Some things, like the water filter that has needed to be replaced for two months already and my wig that has not been washed in a while, will have to wait until the more urgent things get resolved. But it will happen. And by then, of course, I will have started a new list.
What's on your agenda these days? How do you stay on top of lists and errands?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Yachad Family Shabbaton in three words or less

How to sum up the weekend in a nutshell? Exhausting, informative, inspiring. That sounds like the right combination of adjectives.
Exhausting because we had sessions and meals round the clock and did not go to sleep till midnight both nights and were then up early in the morning. While the kids did have a good day camp program, we still spent a lot of time chasing them around the hotel. It was a big place and Y loves nothing better than lots of room to run around. Mealtimes especially were challenging because the kids attention span is about ten minutes and shabbos meals run for much longer than that. My husband and I often found ourselves in the middle of a conversation, which we had to interrupt to go save a child before they ran out of the building or got themselves in trouble otherwise. The sheer volume of sessions was also exhausting but we had primarily to learn, not to relax.
Which leads me to my next adjective- informative. We attended sessions on the topics of family dynamics, how to respond to a crisis, how to advocate for your child and bridge the home-school gap.
I found the latter session particularly helpful because I have really been thinking about that topic a lot. Y is doing well at school but I would like to see more carryover into the home, because sometimes there are skills he has that I dont even know about. The presenter gave some good suggestions about working together with the teacher to choose three areas that we will carry over from school to home. She also recommended trying to model the school environment in language and format as much as possible in those areas. My husband attended a session on mental  health in individuals with Down Syndrome and foiund it fascinating to hear from parents of older children what issues they deals with further down the line.
Some session were meant more for support rather than information. We had a mother's group Friday night where everyone shared about the current challenges with their special needs child. My husband gave a very well received session, speaking a bit about the Jewish/theological aspects of raising a child with special needs. It was poignant to hear him speak about Y. and a bit of a trip down memory lane.
Inspiring- it was so nice to meet and interact with other parents. We met quite a few parents of kids with Down Syndrome but also many families with children with other disabilities. We compared notes and spoke about schools, skills and lawyers.  It sounds so cliche to say that these people are inspiring...but they are. They juggle so many different things and somehow make it work. Some of them have more than one child with a disability yet they still manage to have a smile on their face. It was nice to be with kindred spirits, people who really get it.
It was also nice to be surrounded by young advisors who love all the children and think your kid is the cutest kid to have ever crossed their path. And will watch them for hours on end so you dont have to.
It is a lot to process and part of me is probably still working through it all, but it was definitely a positive experience.
Meanwhile we are back home now and back in our regular routine. I am trying to take care of lots of things on my to-do list this weeks: meetings, reserving spots in camp, paperwork for the Board of Education, writing new goals for Y's reshab workers, etc etc. Just a regular week in the life of. All I would like is some sunshine...hope the weather is nicer wherever you are reading this.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


We are getting ready for the Yachad Family Shabbaton, a weekend retreat for families and their children with special need. A is very excited. She keeps asking when we are packing, what we are taking, who is going to be there, what we will be eating, etc. She is also adamant that she wants to choose her own clothing, fashionista that she is.
I am trying to make lists and pack. I always get nervous that I am going to forget something important. Will definitely pack several changes of clothing and plenty of diapers and wipes.
I am looking forward to a change of scenery and having a bit of a break. I am also looking forward to the different information and counseling sessions. My husband will actually be giving a session and I was asked if I want to participate with and make it a couple's thing. I politely declined. Public speaking is not my thing. I'll gladly blog about special needs but don't put me at the podium in the front of the room.
Besides, I am coming to be inspired by others and to refuel.
I also finally got around to uploading the pictures from my camera. My next step is to actually order prints. As great as digital storage is, I love having pictures organized in real photo- albums that we can look over and return to again and again. The kids love photo albums too although in their enthusiasm they will often be a little too rough with the pages and rip some of them out.
In the meantime I will share two of my favorite shots. Have a wonderful shabbos!

Kids all dressed up for seder. The pic would be even cuter if A's underwear wasnt showing :)

A and I on her class trip to Central Park Zoo

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How babies are born

I am not sure why this classic Cosby video is making the rounds online specifically this week but it is so funny...amazing how convinced a little girl can be about the stork-theory. It made me laugh but also think about how I would explain how babies are born to my kids some day.
A.already knows that sometimes I go "to help a mommy have a baby" but she is not really sure what it entails. For now we will keep it that way. Eventually, though, I would like to have an honest and accurate discussion with her about female anatomy, how women's bodies are made to give birth and how this amazing process works. We will probably just stick with the aleph-bais and math for the next couple of weeks- or years :)
This video is definitely worth watching- enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Today's special day has everyone on the street wishing me a Happy Mother's Day. Everyone is united in their appreciation for the women in their lives and random women on the street who they do not even know...for a day at least.
Alas, I did not spend Mother's Day sipping tropical drinks on a beach or being pampered in a spa. Instead I spent it doing what I do most days- mothering. This included taking all three kids to  a busy, chaotic shoe store to buy sandals for the spring/summer season, taking a subway and then train out to Long Island (that one I would not attempt alone though- my husband was there so we could divide and conquer) and going out to a playground and dealing with a very nasty accident and a lack of change of clothing. After a few hours of letting them run around at my in-laws, we had to then take three overtired children back home via the same route- train and then subway. Arriving home exhausted at 7:15, I then wrestled everyone into baths and then pajamas. We had a quick snack and then I had to convince them that it is way past their bedtime. When they finally agreed to get into bed, they were out within 30 seconds.
In other words, just another busy day.
But then again, I am grateful that everyone is healthy and well enough to make me crazy. M got his stitches out on Friday and thankfully it looks like it is healing nicely. Everyone else is okay too plus or minus some pink eye and a cough but whos counting? So just another crazy day...and hopefully many more like it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The good news edition

I spend too much time complaining/sharing about all the frustrations and crazy events in my life that I figured it was time for some positivity. So in no particular order, here are some great things about my week:
- On Shabbos, Y surprised us by spelling his full name! I was totally shocked and for the past few days I keep making him repeat it for anyone who walks into our home, kind of a like a party trick. He also loves reading all the letters on food labels even if he can't sound out the words. That kid is definitely learning things at school
- The weather has been nice...well not today, but the sunshine is definitely improving my mood. The kids are loving it too, because it means lots of outdoor time and ice-cream!
- On Tuesday, A's class had a trip to Central Park Zoo. I went along and we spent a really nice morning together. I was glad to be able to spend some time just focused on her. It's something I try to do anyways, but this was a good opportunity.
- M is back to his usual happy self. He says the funniest things and is just all-around cute when he is not frustrating me with his insistent demands of "I do it."
- We are finally starting to make summer plans. Nothing is for sure yet but we are hoping to go to Israel again, which would be amazing. Either way, just plotting to get away and have a change of scenery is exciting.
Anything exciting going on in your neighborhoods?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wacky Weekend

Sometimes life runs pretty smoothly; at others it seems everything goes wrong at the same time. Let me tell you about our exciting weekend.
The closest park to our apartment is known as Hippo Park. I have posted about this park before- how we basically move in there in the summer time, how one woman once gave me an earful for "neglecting" M, and how just a week ago, M also managed to jam his head inside a gate there.
Like I have said, my children have spent countless hours at this playground and know it very well. I trust them to maneuver most of the equipment, while still keeping an eye out to make sure I know where they are, that they are not attempting anything dangerous or starting up with other children.
This past shabbos was no exception. It was a beautiful sunny day so we headed out to Hippo Park, accompanied by a family friend, who often comes to play with the kids on Shabbos afternoons. The park was crowded and there were many people there we know, among them a neighbor in our building.
We started talking and he mentioned that although he works as an oncologist now, he had first started his medical career as a pediatrician. We joked around about kids hurting themselves, how you just cannot watch them every second and the crazy things they do.
A few minutes later I excused myself to make sure I knew where all the kids were. A was playing on a climbing structure, Y was watching some other kids play ball and M was right near me, playing with the ball we had brought from home. He threw it and then started running after it. He wasn't really looking where he was going, and I saw him trip over one of the Hippos the playground is named after. I saw him trip and ran over but wasn't fast enough to break his fall. I also watched how he smacked his head against the hippo pretty hard. I knew this wasn't good news. I picked him up right away while he started wailing and his face turned very red. I checked for bleeding and sure enough there was a large gash on top of his left eye, near the eyebrow.
After being a Mom for almost six years now, I am pretty adept at identifying what injuries are minor and just need some kisses and bandaids and which ones require more intervention. I took one look at that cut and knew we were talking stitches here.
At that moment, it was almost like I had a split personality. The rational part of me said:" He is crying and bleeding but he is okay. We'll calm him down, take him home and get in touch with the plastic surgeon we unfortunately know all too well." The emotional part of me said: "He's bleeding profusely, hes screaming. How am I going to get home with the kids? Do I need to go to the ER right away? What do I do about shabbos? What the heck do I do first!" I was also aware of all these people watching me, some wanting to help but not knowing how, others just curious about the spectatcle.
I managed to stay pretty calm. I asked the girl who was with me, to make sure to get the other kids, then grabbed some wipes and tried to clean up the bleeding. M was fighting me, because he was upset and in pain. Thank goodness, someone called over the neighbor/doctor I had just been speaking to. He helped me get M in the stroller and to put some pressure on the cut. He looked at it and told me he definitely needed stitches, which I already knew. I told him of my plan to take him to a plastic surgeon rather than a general emergency room and he agreed that it was a good idea. We got ready to leave and M calmed down in the stroller. Even though everything was under control, I had started to cry, so my neighbor walked us all home. The other kids were grumbling that they had to leave the park early but I explained that this was an emergency.
M fell asleep on the walk home. He had not taken a nap and was exhausted. I let him sleep, knowing that he would have to be up later to go get stitches. Thus the waiting game began. A Jew is permitted to do "work" ie use electricity, the phone, drive, etc  on shabbos if there is a medical need, for example if a woman is in labor. But if the issue is not pressing, it is preferable to wait. It was 4 30 and shabbos was ending at 8 30. The bleeding had stopped and although we knew M needed stitches, we also knew he did not need them immediately. My husband promised to come home early from synagogue so we could leave right after shabbos was over.
As soon as I could, I called the plastic surgeon we know. I spoke to his answering service and he called back just a few minutes later. I explained what happened and he told us to meet him at the hospital he works in at 9 30. We got there a bit before then, signed in and waited. M had had a long nap in the afternoon and seemed to have fully recovered. He was in a great mood, climbing all over the pediatric room we were in and exploring, making us worry he would get injured again.
When the doctor came and the actual stitching began, he was obviously not as happy. My husband, a nurse and I all held different parts of his body still so the doctor could work on his cut. At first he screamed and struggled but then he calmed down and let the doctor finish. It was a deep cut, so althogether he got 5 internal stitches that will dissolve plus 10 small external microsuture stitches. Quite impressive. As soon as the stitching was done, he was in great spirits again. We got home around 11 pm and went to bed both physically and emotionally drained.

M conked out on the couch. Can you see the stitches?

M playing with the Hippos in the park on happier days

If that had been all my friends, as we say on pessach, dayenu. But G'd has a funny sense of humor and had more in store for us this weekend. The kids woke up ridiculously early on Sunday and I got out of bed to put on a DVD for them,  so I could sleep another half hour. That is when I discovered that we were locked in. We have a door that seperates the hallway with out bedrooms from the rest of the apartment. My husband likes to close it every night, although obviously noone is outside. Somehow the door had gotten jammed and would not open. I pounded and shook but we were stuck. This had happened one time before, the first night we had slept in our apartment after our move. I had no choice but to call the super and ask him to rescue us. I apologized for waking him up at 7 am on a Sunday but the kids were clamoring that they were hungry. Thankfully, he has a spare key so he let himself into the apartment and was able to open the door with a screwdriver. He was not sure what had caused the malfunction. But we were free again.
 What's funny is that my kids are obsessed with Dora. They read the books and watch her videos obsessively. So when the door was stuck, Y had the brilliant idea to do what Dora does when she wants to open a locked door. He said "Abre" (which means open in spanish) several times, but unfortunately it did not work. We still had to wait for the super.
The rest of the morning progressed pretty smoothly. After a short stint at the park (getting right back on the horse as they say) and pizza-lunch, I sat down to read on the couch while the kids were playing in their room. All of a sudden M ran out of the room and said, "Mommy, look at me!" His hand and face were coated in a white substance that looked like flour. I followed him into the kids room and found a whole tin of potato starch poured all over the floor. The children were rolling around and "swimming" in it. It was literally everywhere. They were having a blast. I, on the other hand, was not amused.
This is one of these scenarios where you either cry or laugh. My husband, who I called to the crime scene decided to laugh about it. At this point I had had it and so I screamed and yelled. Not the very best parenting, I must admit, but we all have "those days" and this was definitely one of them.
My husband sent me to calm down while he started to sweep.
It is several hours later. The potato starch is mostly gone. We managed to get out of the house for a bit. M is thankfully feeling great and seems to have completely forgotten about his fall or injury. Everyone is sleeping and I finally have some quiet. I am not sure what the message of all these incidents is. I am grateful that M is okay and am starting to see the humor in being locked into ones home and a room full of potato starch. I guess it is mostly that we never really know what our day is going to look like, and we can only control so much. In all the ways I have worried about my kids injuring themselves in the park- falling off the monkey bars, being hit by a swing, I never really thought about anyone splitting their eyebrow open on a hippo. But I guess you never know. And I could not make this stuff up if I tried!
Thanks for reading my long saga...I hope you at least found in entertaining. Here's to hoping for a quieter week.