Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Christmas Spy

This year, instead of doing a large family gift exchange with my husband's side of the family, it was decided that everyone would share some favorite memories from Christmases past. So, I'm going to share my memories here.

I don't recall any amazing memories from Christmas times as a child, but that's not to say it wasn't wonderful. In general, it was a fun time with family and new toys. For years and years my sister and I would wake up in the middle of the night to hang a secret Christmas banner we'd made in the days preceding Christmas. We'd sneak out to the living room and ever so quietly climb up on chairs and furniture to tape our grand "Merry Christmas!" banner with exquisite holiday artwork to the wall. We always loved to observe my parents surprised expression at 5:30 AM upon feasting their eyes on our glorious homemade decor. "Oh, Wow!" they would comment, robes wrapped snugly around with eyes squinting in the brightness of the fully lit house. Teresa and I were always a lot more awake than they were (OK - until Teresa became a teenager and, much to my horror, found sleeping in to be just as nice of a Christmas present as anything wrapped under the tree). "Did you make this?" they would ask us in feigned utter confusion as they took the opportunity to wake up a bit more by pausing and staring at the wall. As I recall, there were some years which we fully took credit for the hanging artwork, but other years we played along with the whole Christmas charade and claimed Santa must have hung it.

After my parents had their coffee in hand, the moment we'd been waiting for for at least a month or so was finally at hand: present opening time! Most of the gifts were things we wanted or loved, but none stands out so much to me now as the SpyTech toys we received. With all of our favorite TV shows being spy shows, my sister and I could desire to aspire to nothing more than a top American spy. Through the years, our television line up included such programs as Scarecrow and Mrs. King, McGyver, Mission Impossible and Get Smart. We were simply fascinated with this idea of having a secret identity which nobody but you and the government new about, and going on undercover missions to ensure the continued peaceful existence of our fellow Americans.

I remember having opened all of my presents one year and being relatively satisfied with my haul, when my dad uncovered a present tucked under the tree skirt. Had it not been for his observant spy-type eyes the present would have gone fully unnoticed! "Oh look! There seems to be a couple more presents here. . " he commented as he handed Teresa and I each a couple more gifts. As we tore into them, I couldn't help letting out a few shouts of sheer sugar and commercialism induced delight. SpyTech! We knew just what they were the moment we opened them!

Over the years that followed, my parents were graced with my eavesdropping on their conversations from a distance via my handy spy- microphone. I was always hoping to catch some juicy bit of truth (maybe that they were really Russian spies, or that Teresa and I were really princesses adopted from a war torn country and whisked away to safety), but instead found out nothing of any consequence. More disappointing than my parents rather predictable existence was my sister. I remember ever so quietly opening my bedroom door and pointing the spy microphone at her door - hoping to catch something secretive happening. When after a minute or two, I heard nothing, I tiptoed over to her door and again pointed the microphone at her door. Nothing. Eventually, I wedged the spy microphone under the door and at last could hear something every so often: the page of a book turning.

Another exciting SpyTech toy we got was a fingerprinting kit. I used it to "lift" fingerprints off of various household items: glasses, the remote, the sink. At first, it was quite invigorating to be able to match prints; "So Mom was drinking out of THIS glass!". When I realized this information was of relatively useless to myself or anyone else in the family, I resorted to collecting fingerprints simply for the sake of getting in plenty of practice before my career with the CIA began.

The message rock was probably the most annoying, perplexing and comical toy of any of the SpyTech toys we received. It was a rock with a hidden door underneath it that could be used to place secret messages or valuable items (like stolen diamonds!). The rock could then be situated outside or in any sort of garden setting (NOT near water or rain), and when someone blew the corresponding whistle, the rock would begin beeping to alert one's fellow spymates of the location of "the rock." This was great fun; we'd hide acorns in it or messages (such as "Hi") and then strategically place the rock and blow the whistle so the other one could locate the rock and it's valuable contents. When the rock was not being used, it was stored in my closet with the rest of my toys. While I thought the special whistle the rock came with was the only sound the rock would respond to, I came to find out otherwise. At night while laying in bed, periodically the rock would randomly begin its neurotic beeping. At first I thought my room was haunted, and then I thought my sister was playing mean tricks on me. One night I finally got up to investigate and found the rock and whistle unmoved in my closet. Strange. . . When I climbed back in bed and began coughing some from a cold, the rock went off again. It then struck me that the rock went off whenever someone made a pitch similar to the whistle's. After that, I noticed it going off when there was seemingly no noise, or when there was a large crash (per say the shelves falling in my closet) or when the dog barked. . The list went on.

From hanging banners in the middle of the night, to unwrapping tools for our future trade, spy work was an exciting part of Christmases past for me. While I didn't end up becoming a spy (at least not yet. . and not that you know of. . ) I still get quite the thrill out of anything which might be distantly related to spying (per say, listening to and occasionally randomly dropping in on the conversations of fellow drivers on the road via my parents' handy walky-talkies - this done during our recent trip back from North Carolina for Christmas. . . )

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I felt the need to respond to the recent comments of one of my readers regarding my new sewing endeavors.

And I quote from Cindy, on 12/18/08: I take it that no one is going to openly tell you that these blankets are a bit on the fugly side ;) I'm just saying Martha Stewart's empire is safe for a little longer hehehe Actually, I think it's great. You'll be a sewing genius in no time at all :)

While Dr. Phil and George W. both agree that even responding to attacks of this sort is a waste of time, I'm simply not of the mental fortitude to just let this one slide. With that said, my retort will begin.

Such audacity. For a person to think such a thought about another's hard fraught effort is one thing, but to fully verbalize this thought in a public arena is a whole nother ball game. Being the somewhat un-hip individual that I am, I've actually had to look up the word fugly on Wikipedia. In its censored and comprehendable meaning it translates roughly as: Very ugly. Nice, Cin - way to encourage your *friend* in her new undertaking.

Cindy is one who's been raised in an artistically and craftily gifted family (this includes but is not limited to professional: crocheting, sewing, knitting, crafting, penmanship, fudging, writing, cooking etc). I personally have not had such a privilege. My mother is quite blunt in stating that she struggled to simply braid our hair as children. So to Cin, it's obvious that this might be considered fugly; but from my young innocent sewing eyes' perspective - it's a work of art - a stroke of pure genius!

And what is with this whole back-handed complimenting thing anyway? I mean, who says in effect: "Gee, that's the ugliest thing I've ever seen, but someday you may be alright. . with a LOT of work. . ." My mother may not have been very crafty, but she did teach me pretty clearly the lesson of 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!'.

Further, this is one of my first *pieces,* and I utilized a wide variety of techniques simply to gain experience. In the process, I learned a number of important lessons: measure CAREFULLY, when sewing various squares together all the hems should face the same direction, use a strait edge, make sure the material is fully under the needle when you begin sewing, making cute rounded corners is easy (though not always intentional), silk unravels very easily, and my kids will absolutely LOVE whatever it is I make them.

This brings me to my final point: know your clientele. My clients are obviously not as demanding as say, a certain Ms. Windy might be. I'm gearing my product towards my client. I know with something as generic as sewing it would be impossible to please EVERYbody, so I've honed my services to a select group of individuals whom I know will find great satisfaction in my seamstressing.

In conclusion, I feel it's entirely relevant to post a brief video clip detailing the sheer delight displayed by a client today upon receiving my most recently completed item.

The Combo Creation

I have just completed my third sewing project on my new machine! Because I'm too impatient to do one project at a time, I combined projects; now I have a blanket, a quilt and a taggie - all in one! While the end result is far from perfect, it was a lot of fun to create, and I learned a bunch in the process!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Saturday, I achieved the status of *hero mom*. Though I wasn't officially titled in this way, I know it's how my kids feel about me at this point. How do I know? - just the way they look at me and my handiwork. To be precise my handiwork is machine sewn 'blankets.' That's right, I've begun sewing. My mother-in-law just purchased all of her daughter-in-laws beautiful new sewing machines. These puppies are the bomb, let me tell you! They each do 70 different stitches (think flowers and snowflakes etc.) with the flip of a button.

I've never been a sewer in my life; I've tried it a couple times in the past and failed miserably, but this experience was far too positive for me to feign any sort of sewing disability. Not only was my mother-in-law encouraging me and guiding me along the way with my very own machine and some different scraps of cloth she'd brought for me to practice on, but my kids were too! Little Jimmy couldn't have been more eager for me to sew him a 12" X 5" *blanket* if he tried! He picked out a scrap of fabric his Mima had brought, then selected various little animals or people from other scraps to be cut out and sewn onto his blanket. For each little person/animal that was sewn onto his blanket, he got to pick the stitch. And for all of his instruction and decision making, he was a very encouraging boss: "You're doing a great job, Mommy!" or "I'm so proud of you!" or "This is the best! I love it!"; all this coupled with screams of joy and jumping around. For Kyla, I took a little square (maybe 5" X 5") of fleece material and sewed this nice satin trim around half of it and some girly pink lace around the other half of it. To say that she felt honored to receive this hot-pad sized blanket from me would be a massive understatement. Yesterday evening as she was getting sleepy, she was found laying on the floor, her head solely resting on the small swatch of material that was her new blanket.

All this adoration for my sewing has left me with the desire to learn more. My next projects to experiment with are (and not in any particular order): baby leggings, a taggie book/blanket, a quilted blanket (2'X2'), and a pillow. I was so excited about it all that, I nearly drug my extremely sick daughter to Wal-Mart today just to get some fleece (fortunately, I quickly regained my composure before actually acting on this absurd idea). I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me - you know, the fabric world, encompassing various sections of stores and even whole stores themselves! Now I can find a use for these sections/stores too! Hooray for my exciting new hobby!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two is Too Many. .

Sometimes. .

Jimmy has been home sick for the last two days with a cold. Suffice it to say that between Jimmy's snotty nose and non-stop coughing, and Kyla's early onset of the two's (I won't even fully define that age lest I solidify it's arrival in any way) my life has been pretty crazy.

Yesterday was rough. Both kids were up and about, each demanding my 100% attention, before I'd even gotten up and ready for the day. That's the worst really -when they beat you off the starting line; it's kind of like you spend the rest of the day trying to catch up and paying for the sin of your early morning REM sleep. Trying to sneak in and wash your face and brush your teeth guarantees that some mishap, atrocity or destruction will soon be occurring. Stupid me - I decided to try to get up and get dressed and carry on as normally as possible. This is when the mayhem began (just for a point of reference, this was just before 7 AM) - Kyla's screaming because she wants Jimmy's toys or our toothpaste, and Jimmy's yelling at Kyla to give him back his toys. Then the breakfast fiasco commenced - the kids alternately searching the fridge or cupboard for new and exciting breakfast foods followed by their own unique preparation of the food before heading off to eat on the run (this leads to an almost instantaneous housewide mess).
All this by 7:10.

After breakfast Jimmy brushed his teeth, and I helped Kyla brush hers with her special toddler toothpaste. Kyla LOVES brushing her teeth. She doesn't care what toothbrush she has or whether or not there's toothpaste involved, she just loves scrubbing those teeny pearly whites. Unfortunately, not long after I finished brushing her teeth, and just as I'd set up some crayons and paper for all of us to color with, I noted an odd quietness in the house. I ran back towards the kids bedrooms to find Kyla in the bathroom brushing her teeth in the toilet - with dirty toilet water - and then using her toothbrush to scoop large soggy clumps of toilet paper into her little pink potty chair. . . Vomit. I hurried Kyla out of the bathroom grabbing her toothbrush from her hand as she exited screaming angrily. "Jimmy! How many times do I have to tell you to flush the toilet every time you use it?" I called to Jimmy, but immediately realizing I was just quibbling over the details; I really don't think I'd have felt a whole lot better about any of this even if the toilet was not filled with bodily fluids and particles of toilet paper.

Later, Jimmy flushed this same toilet, only to run screaming from the bathroom that the toilet was overflowing. I again mopped up the mess while noting to myself just how nasty this bathroom is. Just a year or two ago, I would've easily mopped up the floor and then bleached it and scoured the toilet, tub and surrounding cabinets. But now, it's wiped up with an old towel which is thrown in the dirty clothes basket, and that's it. I tell my closest friends that the bathroom is probably not a place you want to be walking barefoot or practicing the two second rule for dropped snacks, but aside from that, it really looks OK (no one needs to know the extent of the germs and bacteria growing on the floor. . )

Not long after I'd closed and locked the bathroom door (not that it does any good. . Kyla's figured out the childproof locks. . ) I entered her bedroom where she and Jimmy had previously sounded as though they were playing quite nicely. Upon entering though, I realized they had been playing WAY too nicely, and it was WAY too calm. Kyla had gotten into the Desitin (which is actually kept out of reach. . but I guess the standard for out of reach has changed) and had it smeared all over her face and hair and hands and the carpet, while Jimmy laughed at her and played by himself a few feet away.

Today has been better. I didn't let the kids beat me off the starting line, and I scheduled Jimmy for a doctors appointment. We were told he has a cold, but no infection. I'm taking that to mean he'll be ready for school tomorrow. One child at home at a time really works better for me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Vagrant in Me

That's right. . . It's not uncommon for certain persons (namely my spouse) to compare me to an old vagrant woman, or, more precisely, a little old homeless lady. I think this has a lot to do with some of my personal habits (which you may have already read about). And while I have gotten much better about showering every day or two (. . or three or four) it seems to have done little to alleviate this brutal labeling which I've been subjected to. Still, I can't help but feel this is not entirely my fault. Yes, it isn't abnormal for me to eat the old cheerios/fruit loops/cheez-its from off the floor instead of just picking them up and carrying them to the garbage (and no, it's not because I'm hungry, but rather I'm just a wee bit lazy. . .look, when the vast majority of your day is spent cleaning up, you learn to cut corners!). But sometimes I feel I'm more a victim of my vagrant personification than I am so much a creator of it.

This morning, for example, Jim decides he wants to make eggs for breakfast. OK - whatever floats his boat. So, as I'm attempting to drink my first cup of coffee and clean-up and get ready for the day, he feeds the kids. By the time I make it to the table, I'm served a single egg on a paper plate that has already been used by one of the kids. As I observed the table covered in various odds and ends (a screwdriver, toy cookware, empty plates and crumbs etc) I couldn't overlook the feeling that I'm more a product of 'nurture' than 'nature.' In other words, I've been made into the freak that I am by being around my family(imagine the effects this will have on the children - still so young and formative!). Really, it just seems that the old homeless lady lifestyle just comes so naturally to me in this environment.

Another notation Jim has commented on (which has less to do with the homeless thing and more to do with the little-old-lady thing) is my unending infatuation with the heating pad. I heart the heating pad. I just crawl into bed, push a button, and no sooner does that puppy heat right up than I drift effortlessly off to sleep. Living in Florida, and using this item year-round, Jim seems to find perturbing. Still, I hold resolute to my opinion: hats off to the inventor of the heating pad!

The commentary which I've endured on this subject in recent months has caused me to do a little introspection. I've wondered to myself: "If this is what I'm like at 28, what will I be like at 78?". . . Hmmm. It should be interesting to observe the digression and deterioration I'm bound to experience as the result of the ticking clock. . Time will tell!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Blame Game in the Medical Community

My question today is this: Who's to blame for the exorbitant prices I pay for routine doctor's visits and routine prescriptions. Quite frankly, I'm horrified by all parties involved in my medical care - from the insurance companies to the pharmaceutical companies to the doctors themselves. I'm annoyed that I can go into the doctor for a simple problem and be given a halfway thought over answer, and be expected to pick up my non-covered prescription which will in the end cause far more harm than good. Why is this the way our health care in the United States is? Granted, I know that there are myriads of countries with far worse or even no health care, but it truly astonishes me that our government has seemingly in absolutely no way intervened to provide for the genuine well being of it's citizens.

Not to get too personal here, but allow me to broach a more feminine topic: birth control. Why is this drug not covered on the vast majority of policies, but is pushed so heavily by doctors? I assume the insurance companies believe we the people will be motivated to purchase it from our own pocket out of sheer desperation and not wanting a family as large as say, the Duggar clan. I'm not even going to get into just how asinine this thought process on behalf of the insurance companies is - particularly with pregnancies and deliveries like my own which have easily gone into the hundred of thousands of dollars (. . .ya, just deny the pill and we'll make sure to not get pregnant on our own; but if we do, OOPS! - that's quite the costly mistake for the insurance companies!).

And should we not desire to purchase the pill solely on our own dime, rest assured that our doctors will try to convince us too. Why I've been told by any number of doctors that it can quite nearly cure just about any female ailment you could ever conceive of. . . Unfortunately for all of my doctors, their credibility is completely shot with this one statement. I've had to look no farther than my own mother to see that birth control has many risks in the long term; she had to have her gallbladder removed because of taking birth control, and I've noted that MANY woman when they get older require the same operation (which, if left too long can be incredibly dangerous). When I commented on this to my latest doctor, she informed me that gallbladder problems are in no way connected to the pill. I wasn't going to debate it with her, but for the benefit of my readers, I'll publish my findings. According to Mercola.com: Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones that your body is not designed to be exposed to in any way, shape or form. Long-term use will invariably increase the user's risk of developing serious chronic illness, including blood clots and other problems.

I just love how doctors conveniently blot out this rather critical bit of info when promoting the fabulous effects of the pill - particularly for me, who in fact already has a blood clotting disorder (if they might take a glance at my record they'd clearly see that.) Or what about this research documented by the NDDIC: people at risk for gallstones include woman who are pregnant, use hormone replacement therapy, or take birth control pills, or are over 60. Emmm. . Ya, it would appear that there's a pretty strong connection between messing with the natural hormones given to us by mother nature and gallbladder problems (but don't ask you're doctor this; you'd most likely get a more accurate answer from people working in the ER. . I would guess they see woman coming in quite regularly in excruciating pain from the afore mentioned problem.)

So why is it then that doctors are doling out prescriptions for these drugs which they know full well have a very defined record of long term serious health problems? The answer can be found at the ever popular About.com: Drug makers have readily admitted that they routinely pay insurance companies to increase the use of their products and to be added to the recommended list of drugs. They admit that they give rewards to both pharmacists and doctors for switching patients from one brand of medication to a rival. Finally, they admit that they provide all sorts of gifts and gratuities to doctors, ranging from financial aid to educational programs to bags and writing pads, in the hopes that they will encourage doctors to remember and perhaps prescribe their brand of drugs.

Need I say more? All that leaves me with an insurance policy which covers very little of what I really need, and doctors who quite blatantly lie to my face in order to get a sweet little kickback from the pharmaceutical companies. Now, I know not all problems can be solved without the benefit of prescription drugs (particularly antibiotics etc.), but a great many of them can. I've treated myself frequently over the years by simply researching natural treatment for various symptoms, and in the process I've discovered healthier alternatives that treat the real problems and not merely the symptoms, and without long term side effects . Personally, I'd love to see America transform their health care system to one which promotes true health through doctors educated in both eastern and western medicines. I've heard this thought echoed by numerous acquaintances, and feel it's high time our leadership took a real, hard, long look at the effects of treating sick persons in the sick and money-hungry fashion which has hurt us all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Money for Mistakes

Yesterday, I heard a fabulous bit of news I just knew everyone would be excited to know about. As it turns out, Medicare has decided they will no long be paying doctors for blatantly erroneous surgeries they perform. For example, if you go in for a hip replacement, and they give you a c-section instead (much to their confusion when they discover no baby in there), medicare will NOT pay the doctor. Now, in order for this to not make too much of a stir amongst the medical community, there will be a waiting period whereby doctors and any other concerned soul, can address their fears about practitioners no longer receiving payment for their faulty labor. I find this 100% completely mind boggling. What if I requested or even demanded payment for a service which I did not provide, and in fact actually did quite a bit more damage than good? Why can't I, the average Joe (to coin a popular term) get away with this too? I mean, suppose I forgot that I have children to care for in the daytime, and instead opted to go shopping all day; though my children could be lost or seriously injured, coming home and expecting the standard pay (were I in fact paid for this) would be ridiculous, right? No, instead I'd come home to a house full of police officers and social services workers. Yet, it seems that Medicare has deemed the doctors performing the same such behaviors as worthy of the taxpayers' dollars. . . WOWOWOWOWOW! There's a LOT wrong with our medical system - but this sort of absurdity and waste seems to summarize where all the money is going when I go to the doctor for a standard check up which ends up costing the insurance company $200+. .

I've also considered this situation from the perspective of the patient. Having had 2 surgeries myself, along with each of my children having gone under the knife, I've observed or participated in 4 surgeries over the last few years. It has always annoyed and perplexed me when no fewer than five doctors approach me prior to surgery to ask me what "we're doin' today." I'm not kidding you. At first I thought it was some sort of questioning of my mental ability, to recite to different anesthetists and doctors and nurses the ins-and-outs of each procedure, but later I realized, they were just being overly cautious so as not to perform the incorrect procedure on their patient. Yet, with all their checking and rechecking, insuring that the everyone is on the same page, it seems that patients are still having the wrong limb amputated, or the completely incorrect procedure performed. Again, if only I was given liberty to question Jim five or so times every morning before he left for work, "So, what am I doin' today?". . . I mean, I guess I could, but when you see someone day in and day out, it's not a good idea to perturb them with your repetitiveness - particularly in the morning when they're trying to leave in order to be on time to their place of employment. But really, in the same fashion the doctors do, I should be directing my questions towards my patients, or in my case, my children. . . I can totally see that going over really well.

The next time I personally am in for surgery, I'm going to tell all the medical personnel that I'm there for the obvious procedure, but I'm also going to tack on there a little cosmetic surgery. . . Hey, if they're capable of naively doing what the patient tells them, then I'm going to use that to my advantage! And NO, they won't be paid with my tax dollars for their lack of basic information.