Saturday, January 27, 2007

The State of the Union

I didn't get to watch much of the President's address to Congress on Tuesday because I needed to help my daughter and her science project partner make a chart. Silly me, I thought the fact that the school required the charts to be computer-generated meant that the school had taught the kids how to do that - no such luck. I did catch some of the speech and commentary, though, and I got all teary-eyed watching Speaker Pelosi up there and hearing the President address "Madame Speaker" - wow.

On the other hand, I got a real chill when the President started talking about more taxes on "gold-plated health insurance". I wonder what that means. I have, as a government employee, really good coverage but I pay a whole lot for it and I still have co-pays that can really add up if both kids need doctor visits and a medication - and don't even mention the costs of an ER visit! I doubt I pay as much as a private sector employee would pay for comparable coverage, but any private sector employee of a company that offered a good PPO would also be making much more money than we are to begin with, you know? That is sort of the way the whole govt. compensation package works - bad pay for such high levels of education but decent benefits...a trade-off. We have always both needed to work, largely for health insurance, as middle class families tend to need to do. At this moment, our highest monthly bill is our mortgage, at about $760, followed closely by child care, at about $725, followed closely by health insurance, down to about $600. The second and third place rankings of child care and health insurance flip around a bit depending on what health plan our employers contract with in a given year - this is much lower than it was in just the summer. We really cannot afford for our insurance to be taxed more and I expect we are better off than most. Argh.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Barf Day

In the wee hours of the morning, the Lone Star Girl awoke barfing all over her room. I stayed in bed with my nursling while Lone Star Pa took care of her, as I could hear that there were things that would have to be thrown away in her messy room and felt that it would just get quarrelsome if I were to have input in that process. A few hours later, still way too early to arise, the Lone Star Baby started on her own barfing. I am an expert at hearing in my sleep when this is going to happen with a child next to me, so I had her propped up right away and thought I had caught all the barf in my hand (yeah, motherhood), but I missed some, so it was then bath and laundry time for us. They've both continued to barf on and off today. The Lone Star Girl seems to feel much crummier than the baby but this is only the second time the baby has ever had a vomiting virus and she is a little freaked out when it happens. She does not want the mixing bowl barf bucket we are keeping on hand (we clean it between times for heaven's sake!) anywhere near her and still has, I think, sneaking suspicions that the bucket plays some role in the cause of the throwing up, so we have to struggle a bit to use it. I hope that this is no more than one of those miserable 24-hour affairs.

HipMama Fans: Read Ariel's Blog!

Ariel's blog address is Such exciting news!

MLK Day March

On Monday, I was off of work and both girls were out of school. The Girl Scout troop was planning to participate in the annual local march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at mid-day. It turned out that the day was very, very, very cold and that Lone Star Pa had to work so I could not leave the just-recovered from-bronchitis Lone Star Baby with him. I had some real doubts about dragging her out there, but we went and marched and I think it was worth it, even though most of the folks there probably were eyeing me for the Bad Mother of The Year Award in honor of having the youngest child out in bad weather. She did great and seemed quite taken with all the excitement, until after the march, during the last speaker at the ceremony that followed in a local church, when she had had enough and had to be taken about outside in the cold some more until he was finished speaking. I think our big girls were very pleased to be part of honoring Dr. King's important work, though, so I am glad we went.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cookie Season!

Girl Scout Cookie sales started Friday. This is a rather hectic time of year for us, but I do understand the importance of it. Our local Paisano Girl Scout Council actually just dissolved, as finances required the Girl Scouts to do some consolidation. Now we are part of the Tip Of Texas Council with the Rio Grande Valley, which is pretty far away in terms of convenience, so cookie sales really do matter in terms of what the Girl Scouts can do...I guess we didn't do well enough before, though we sold a bunch. Taking orders really isn't's February when we have to deliver them and collect the money that things really get hectic. Most of the Lone Star Girl's sales have generally come from my City Hall colleagues, so we are kind of starting over this year. I got a good 60 orders at school on Friday, though, the first day of sales, so I am not worried.

The Girl Scouts have finally caved and added a sugar-free cookie this year, which I am a little disappointed about. We've been hassled to add one for years, but until now, the Girl Scouts held out because the cookies are made with all-natural ingredients, which you really can't do with a good sugar-free cookie that will sell. This year they added one with an artificial sweetener, though - bleh.

We are also collecting pennies for the Juliette Gordon Lowe Fund to help with Girl Scout activities around the world. World Thinking Day is in February and that is when the pennies all get turned in. Busy, busy!

Sometimes I Really Hate Doctors

Not hate, really. But they piss me off.

We have been a bit under the weather lately, playing musical colds and bronchitises since, like, November, and things kicked up a notch for the girls and Lone Star Pa in time for school to start again. As a result, we have been playing the is-she-too-sick-to-go-to-school-tomorrow-or is-she-okay-so-we-can-go-to-work game around here a bit, although things seem to have settled down now, if the Lone Star Baby would just start eating reasonable amounts of real food again before all this milk-subsistance she has been doing wears me clean out. I expect it is often difficult for parents in any work/life situation to deal with doctors, but I have found the working mother-doctor communication thing to be just impossible lately and I am so very frustrated.

It all started in the summer when the Lone Star Girl seemed quite ill for awhile. She was having some really nasty GI symptoms on an almost daily basis and was tired and anemic and sleeping a lot. I started torturing her with leafy greens and gave her iron supplements but I wanted to know what was going on, besides the obvious impending puberty, because she really felt crummy. Meanwhile, the doctors had tested the Lone Star Baby for everything under the sun due to her slow growth, and one test they seemed to pay special attention to was the blood test for celiac sprue, a serious intolerance to gluten found mostly in folks of Irish descent (ding) that can have really bad consequences, starting with the sort of symptoms my kids were having. The Lone Star Baby's tests came back normal, but I read that they were often falsely normal in kids under 5, so when she stayed small and my older daughter stayed miserable, I was concerned. The gold standard for diagnosis is an upper GI scope and I didn't want to do that without a super-good reason, but I wanted to find out. I got the blood test on my older daughter and myself, and our results were not normal. The test measured two antibodies and the ones that were supposed to be most accurate were not higher than normal, but the other set was higher than normal for me and dramatically higher than normal for the Lone Star Girl. I read that the first antibody, although more specific to celiac disease, often was not high in celiacs due to the fact that many celiacs are deficient in it and did not make it. One could tell if one was deficient in it and therefore should pay more attention to that second number by getting a total count of the first number.

I set out trying to get my daughter a total count of the first number ordered and entered a maze of bad phone message communication in which I would leave detailed messages and ask for specific info. to be left back on my message and then get messages like "I'm returning your call". It was very frustrating. The only thing I could tell for sure was that the doctors thought I was a total wack job to be worried about this, but, meanwhile, my kid felt worse and worse all summer long. One day, when my kids' regular doctor was on vacation, another extraordinarily rude pediatrician told me that the original blood work had already included a total IgA count and that it was normal. HELLO. I had been trying to get a total IgA count for a month and they had already done one, that was not on the lab work results they had given me, and it was normal and they never bothered to tell me throughout all of those questions and messages and all of that pleading?! Argh! I was enormously relieved, but angry.

This doctor, who was even more specific about what a wack job she thought I was, ordered a blood test for common food allergies, which I took the Lone Star Girl to get. A couple of days later, the doctor called me to say that the results were positive...for every single food on the test. She said allergies like that could definitely cause the sort of GI symptoms my daughter was having. She said they were mostly very low-level allergies but that the reactions for walnuts and shellfish were higher and that I should probably take her to an allergist. So. We went to an allergist. He did a skin test and said she did react slightly to most everything but not to walnuts at all (the Lone Star Girl now says she feels sort of like she can't breathe after she eats things with walnuts in them). He said these were not serious allergies and pooh-poohed my concern that food allergies have been known to get increasingly serious with repeated exposure. Of course, it is true that the Lone Star Girl could hardly avoid eating everything, so he said that she could eat whatever did not make her feel bad enough to want to stop eating it, essentially. We put the Lone Star Girl on some over-the-counter acid reflux medication, which handled the worst of her symptoms and that was pretty much that...except that she still has a lot of stomach complaints and I still worry about walnut flour, which is found in lots of things you would not expect it to be in. I do not really feel like she is totally okay, or like I have the information I need to really see to her needs, but I cannot find any doctor who seems to want to help, and I do not feel like there is anything acutely dangerous going on at this very moment so I am sort of at a standstill.

Trying to get info. on whether I should give the Lone Star Baby an antibiotic for her worsening bronchitis this week was a mess of phone tag that brought back those memories. It seems to me that far too many doctors have two main problems:

1.) They think no one else is as busy as they are.
2.) They think mothers are silly and do not need to be listened to.

I think they need to get a clue. I'm rather sick of the anti-mother sentiment that I think drives this lack of respect.

Texas Speaker Stays

We had a touch of excitement with the beginning of Texas' 80th Legislature. Some of his former Republican supporters tried to oust Speaker Craddick due to his iron fist style of management. This would have been the first time in Texas history that a sitting Speaker had been removed by his own party. Representative Pitts hoped to take his place but backed down when it was decided that the vote could not be anonymous, out of fear that everyone who voted for Pitts would face...consequences...if Pitts lost. I fear it may be too late for the South Texas delegation, though, several of whom publicly gave Pitts their support on TV when it still looked like the vote was a go. Representative Herrerra was later seen on TV saying that he was not worried and all, but man...he should be worried. Ah, well.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back to School, Back To Work

Lone Star Pa went back to work at his school on Tuesday for a teacher work-day and then his kids started up again on Wednesday. I started back to work yesterday, with staff development days yesterday and today. Conveniently, the Lone Star Baby's school also started back yesterday, and she is happy to be seeing her amigos again. The Lone Star Girl has been hanging out in my classroom reading and cutting stuff out for me since I've gone back and she'll do so on Monday when I have a teacher work-day, too. Our kids come back Tuesday, and she goes back to school then, too, as she attends school in the district where I work.

Congress is back at work, now, too, and what a different Congress it is under the herstory-making leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi! They are already hard at work to increase the minimum wage, end the war in Iraq and decrease corruption. Wowza!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Peace on Earth

I dragged both girls to an interfaith prayer service for World Peace Day at the Catholic convent near our house today. It was very nice, with readings from the Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Hindu traditions and lots of singing. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word are very active in our local peace and justice efforts. I think it is especially important for the girls and I to attend as many of these events as possible as most of the peace activists in our community are older people, much older than even I am for the most part, and it is important both to raise up young ones to the cause and to lift the spirits of the aging activists who worry that no one will carry on their work when they are gone. It warms my heart to see the looks that the frail nuns in wheel chairs give to my nursing toddler and my growing young lady...I think it means a lot to them.

The death toll of American soldiers just surpassed 3,000 today, though, and the three-thousandth soldier killed was even a Texan, as many of those killed have been, bringing it very close to home, so later the Lone Star Girl and I joined some others on a busy corner with our signs to demonstrate for peace. These days, most people driving by are very receptive to these acts of witness - not like early in the war. Hopefully, our troops will come home before the numbers rise higher still .

Happy New Year!

I hope you and your family are having a very happy holiday! I have been thinking about New Year's Resolutions. For the last few years, I keep resolving to complete various writing projects, but have not been able to truly prioritize the time to finish any of them, so this year I am going to try something else...focusing on little, tiny, manageable bits of progress instead. Here are my resolutions:

1.) To increase our time spent together as a family.
2.) To maintain control of my own emotions in the classroom so that peace and confidence shine out from me.
3.) To spend at least ten minutes a day on at least 4 out of seven days of the week working on my books.

I have begun on #3 already and in the last three days, I finished a whole essay for a book I haven't worked on in months and months and months. The book is supposed to be comprised of 31 essays plus a pretty substantial intro. and a resources chapter. So far, I have finished 17 essays, so I have 13 essays, an intro. and a resources chapter to go! I will include regular updates on my progress on this blog, so please be prepared to cheer me on! Happy New Year!