Lessons from an adenoidectomy

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Jacob playing before surgery

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These instructions failed to mention that my child would still be miserable after a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been a week since Jacob underwent surgery to remove his adenoids – an Adenoidectomy.  I still don’t really understand exactly what adenoids are, where they are, and precisely how/why they are removed, so I will refer you to google or wikipedia if you would like more information.  I do know that at least four different medical professionals that have cared for Jacob over the past three years have told us that we should do this surgery and that removing his adenoids could help his breathing, sleeping (at least having more restful, restorative sleep), and even improve his speech.  Everyone we talked to, and everything I read on the internet, made this surgery seem like a fairly minor ordeal, with the inherent risks of anesthesia and an invasive procedure.

The surgery was originally scheduled in August, right after our trip to Philly for the Livestrong Challenge.  Sometime at the end of that trip, and especially on our first day home, Jacob started limping.  He also had a cold – runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and one low-grade fever.  I was paranoid about putting Jacob through surgery when he was not well.  As I have said before, Jacob is my child who has endured the most  in his young life.  Between the reflux, the stomach troubles, hypotonia, physical and social delays, food allergies, and his ongoing speech delays – nothing has seemed easy or typical with Jacob.  I am usually not a big worrier, but I just had a bad feeling about him undergoing a somewhat elective surgery while he was sick and mysteriously limping.  Jacob’s cold improved before the scheduled surgery, but the mysterious limp continued.  I did what all of us crazy moms do when we are worried – I looked on the internet for answers.  Yes, I may be married to a doctor, but doctors don’t know all the answers and Les was working the night that I was desperately searching for answers on the internet.  The internet as medical resource is a tricky thing.  My research told me that he could have a fairly benign condition called toxic synovitis or he could have something frightening like septic arthritis or leukemia.  Of course, I started obsessing about the worst possible cause of his limp and begged the pediatrician to do a CBC to rule out leukemia.  The pediatrician, and Les, agreed that he probably had toxic synovitis, but thankfully everyone also wanted to do the CBC, an x-ray, and a hip ultrasound just to be safe.  To our relief, all the tests came back normal and I guess we’ll just attribute the mysterious week-long limp to toxic synovitis.

Once Jacob was finally healthy and ready for surgery, I actually was not that worried.  As I said, most people we talked to and everything I had read made the surgery and the recovery seem very straightforward.  The patient instructions even told us that he could eat whatever he wanted and resume his normal activities, as soon as a wanted after surgery.  The surgery was on a Thursday, and I figured he would maybe miss a day of school and be back to himself by Monday at the latest.  The doctor was wonderful and the facility – CHKD Princess Anne – was top notch.  Jacob did pretty well during the surgery and immediately after.  He was tired and fairly clingy that first night and next day.  It was a struggle to get him to drink anything, and he had no interest in eating.  He had a fever over the next 48 hours and was pretty wiped out.  We have been giving him Tylenol or Motrin (usually not recommended after surgery, but ok by our doctor) every 8 hours or so every day for the past week.  Without the medicine he is pretty unhappy and runs a low grade fever.  He is finally drinking more, but is still not really eating much.

It is so hard to truly know if and where a toddler is in pain because he can’t quite verbalize what is bothering him.  It has been exactly one week since the surgery, and Jacob is not as well as I thought he would be by now.  He missed the entire week of school.  I tried to send him on Wednesday, but the nurse called after 2 hours and said he was pretty miserable and should come home.  We have a follow-up appointment tomorrow, so we will find out if all of this is within the realm of normal.  I suspect that it is, but I just wish my sweet little boy would hurry up and get better.  I just hope that this surgery leaves Jacob better than he was before and that we will feel like it was worth it.  I just want Jacob to be the best that he can be.  I just want Jacob to be healthy and happy.  Oh yeah, I would also like his breath to stop smelling so horrific.  Bad breath is a common side effect of this surgery and it should improve after 1-2 weeks, but this is some really stinky stuff.

In hindsight, I probably should not have expected an easy recovery.  I am glad I was not overly worried and stressed about the surgery, but I also could have prepared myself a little better for the possibility of a slower, longer recovery.  After all, everything up to this point with Jacob has been on a longer, slower timeline.  Nothing has been easy for him, so I am not sure why I expected that this would be.  I would just like to see Jacob’s recovery start picking up the pace a bit.  Once he starts sleeping better and eating and drinking more, his demeanor and mood should improve.  Once all of this gets going, I’ll finally feel like we are on the road to a real recovery.

It is about so much more than the bike – In defense of a hero

It is about so much more than the bike – In defense of a hero

I was never one to worship celebrities or have a hero growing up, but in the most desperate of times, I found my hero – Lance Armstrong. Shortly after Les, my husband, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age … Continue reading

Livestrong

The famous yellow wristband that has helped raise millions for cancer research and services, in addition to being a visible symbol of strength and hope.

Seeing Lance for the first time during cancer treatment. The Tour of Hope was a great event sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Very inspirational to us before the month-long hospital stay.

In the Pyrenees waiting to see the Tour de France riders. Camped on the side of the mountain to make sure we had a great spot.

Discovery Team – Lance winning #7

Celebrating Lance at the Tour de France in Paris

Ride for the Roses in Austin, TX in October, 2006. This was our first, and best, year of fundraising for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. We were part of a select group of cyclists/fundraisers that got invited to the Ride for the Roses.

Meeting Lance was the highlight of the Ride for the Roses

Getting a poster autographed – We have six autographed Lance items and display them proudly in our guest room

Completed our 1st Ride for the Roses – in the rain

Hanging with Jake Gyllenhaal at a fundraising dinner for LAF

Getting to hear Lance speak

Meeting other cancer survivors and fundraisers is always one of the most fun parts of these rides

The yellow survivor rose

Our second Ride for the Roses in Austin. Our second best fundraising year.

Lance crossing the finish line at Ride for the Roses

Les crossing the finish line

One of my favorite images – Les giving our daughter a high five – the yellow survivor rose and Livestrong shirt make it even sweeter.

Les with his parents – they joined us in Austin for their first Livestrong event

Our best friends Zach and Parul joined us for the Livestrong Challenge Philadelphia. Zach was a loyal and generous friend during Les’ cancer challenge and has been a great training and fundraising partner for the Livestrong Challenges

Les and Zach starting the ride

Go Les!

Isabella standing by the yellow survivor roses

Introducing Jacob to the Livestrong Challenge

After the second Livestrong Challenge Philly – another rainy ride

My Livestrong kids – what little miracles

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2012 – days before the USADA announcement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I just want you to comfort me”

Sometimes Isabella is four-and-a-half going on fourteen and sometimes she acts exactly her age. Tonight we had a little of both. Isabella is my oldest child, my daughter, and probably the one I worry about the least. We had a rough start with a difficult delivery, lots of trouble nursing, and three to four months of colic, but after that it was pretty smooth sailing. She is sweet, smart, generous, imaginative, playful, and sometimes sassy. She hit all of her developmental milestones early or right on schedule and has blossomed over the past two years in Montessori school. She is starting to read already and has wonderful critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Isabella is polite and a fairly good listener. Although she looks just like my husband, she inherited quite a few of my personality traits including being a good negotiator and debater. She can be very convincing in arguing her side and trying to get what she wants. Les is in trouble when the two of us team up and try to get what we want (new shoes, a vacation, a pool or new car one day????). She can also be sensitive and emotional. This could be inherited, since I can be emotional and overly sensitive at times, or it could just be a girl thing.

With two mischievous, and very needy, young boys constantly demanding my attention, Isabella, unfortunately. is the one that often has to fend for herself. I count on her, as the oldest and as my most responsible child, to make safe and smart choices. I rely on her to speak up if something is amiss or if she needs something. Isabella is very good about playing on her own or with friends, requiring the least amount of my hands-on time between my three children. She is so outgoing and eager to make a friend wherever we go. We were at the park the other day and she did not hesitate to run over to a young girl that was swinging on the swing set and ask her to play. She is young and innocent enough to not know the sting of rejection or the arbitrary social constraints that prevent so many older kids and adults from going up to a stranger and inviting them to join us in play or engage in conversation. We are lucky to have some great kids in the neighborhood with whom Isabella loves to play, especially two of her best friends that live next door. The three of them enjoy playing outside, dressing up, doing arts and crafts, and playing with Barbies and American Girl dolls. They get along very well, with only the occasional hurt feeling or disagreement thrown in for good measure.

After a busy four-day family trip to Philadelphia, Isabella could not wait to play with her friends. She got to go to Gymnastics camp with a school friend this morning and got to play with her neighbor friends all afternoon. By the time I got home from work today, dinner needed to be made and I had to go next door to pick her up from her playdate fun. After little sleep the night before (due to our long drive home from Philly) and a very busy day of activity, Isabella was tearful and exhausted. She started crying about a seemingly trivial issue of whether she had missed her American Girl doll’s birthday. I am not sure if she thought of this or if the birthday question came up while she was playing dolls with her friends, but she was inconsolable.

I tried the rational approach, telling her that she could choose any date for her American Girl doll’s birthday. I tried to reassure her that we had not missed her doll’s birthday. I even got out the computer and tried to look up the actual birthday of her doll. I tried to ask questions to see if she had been in a disagreement with her friends and attempted to coach her on standing up for herself if she did not like what her friends were telling her. The more I talked and tried to reason with her, the more she cried. I did not know what else to say. Frankly, I could not believe I was even going to these lengths over such a silly issue. As I tried another approach of reasoning with my very unreasonable and overtired 4-year-old, Isabella threw her hands up and said, “Mommy, I just want you to comfort me. You keep talking and making me more sad.” Wow! She was right. I was so busy trying to make dinner and give advice and offer solutions, I had not stopped to simply wrap my little girl in my arms and smother her with hugs and kisses. I stopped what I was doing and sat her on my lap and just held her. I rubbed her head, held her like the child that she still is, and just let her cry for a few minutes. I waited until the tears stopped and she was feeling better – maybe five or ten minutes. Bedtime followed shortly thereafter.

Tonight reminded me of a couple of important lessons. Four-year-old girls are not that different from thirty-four year-old women. I know when I am tired, sad, and frustrated and just need a good cry, I don’t want my husband to offer advice or solutions. I usually am just looking for an understanding shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear to listen to my woes. Once I finish my good cry, I am usually fine. Although I have never said the words “I just want you to comfort me”, that is exactly what I have thought on numerous occasions. Isabella is growing up, sometimes faster than I would like. As she gets older, the problems and disagreements she will encounter will only multiply and become more complex. I have so many things I want to teach her, and my initial instinct is always going to be to try to help her navigate the world and find solutions to the challenges she faces. I need to remember that she is still my little girl, and I always need to give hugs and just listen before I start doling out advice. Parental guidance and problem-solving usually goes down better with a healthy dose of comfort and empathy mixed in.

Apologies

This is the start of what may become a regular series on the blog entitled Apologies.  I feel the need to apologize a lot lately – to the kids, my husband, my friends, my boss, my coworkers, and complete strangers.  I am usually either failing to live up to expectations, doing too much of something (usually yelling), or not doing enough (work, time with my husband, attention to the kids).  Sometimes I am apologizing for my own shortcomings and other times for the shortcomings of my children.  Today I have to apologize for both.

I apologize to Moe’s for the awful tantrum my 17-month old threw in your dining establishment today.  We were just coming in to pick-up a big to-go order and this 5-minute trip turned into a 15-minute nightmare.  I know I tried to say that he never acts like that, as if that would excuse  the scene he was making, but that was not a total lie.  He has never acted that way in a restaurant.  He usually only throws those tantrums at home.  What was I supposed to say – “Sorry, my kid is acting like an out-of-control little monster, and I am a terrible parent for not knowing how to get him under control”?  I guess that would have been more accurate at that moment.

I apologize to the hard-working employees, especially those that helped clean up the messes we made along the way.  Sorry about the entire snack container of pretzels Noah threw all over the floor.  I did my best to clean up, but I am sure that we left some pretzels under tables.  I am sorry about all the napkins my 3-year old pulled out and left all over a table as I ignored him, while trying to gain control over my flailing 17-month old.  I apologize for leaving a very messy, stinky diaper in the bathroom trash can.  I usually try to take those outside in a special bag, but it was all I could do to just escape the bathroom with my tearful, poop stained baby and very restless toddler.

I apologize to the other patrons that were witnessing the screaming, flailing, crying, and hitting debacle in front of them with a mix of disgust and pity.  Noah threw himself on the floor kicking and crying for no good reason at least 3 times.  To keep him from hurting himself and to get him off the dirty floor, I thought it would be slightly better to let him lose it in my arms and hurt me instead.  Of course, I tried to soothe him, distract him, and calm him down to no avail.  I was well aware that all eyes were on me, wondering why I could not gain control over this tiny, emotional person.  I especially apologize to the little boy who put his hands over his ears and did not take them away until we left the restaurant.  I know that we were interrupting your nice, peaceful lunch out on a Sunday.  Sorry!

I apologize to the two nice ladies who approached me asking if I needed any help.  I know it is hard to watch a miserable little baby and be so helpless to quiet him down.  Unfortunately, there was not much you could really do to help, other than putting the lids on my salsa cups and helping me out to the car with my bags so I could contain my miserable child.  I especially apologize to the second kind woman who saw me burst in to tears as she was helping me at the salsa bar.  I hope you don’t think I am crazy.  Your innocent question was just the final straw that sent me over the edge.  My tears were a result of a long, frustrating morning with a grumpy baby and an even more frustrating and embarrassing 15 minutes at the restaurant.  I know you were judging me, at least a little, but just know that we were simply having a bad moment – both of us.  I am usually much more calm, composed, and in control.  Noah is usually not such a terror, at least not to that degree.

Lastly, I apologize to Noah.  I know you are still a baby – barely able to handle your emotions, especially on command.  You are usually a sweet, happy guy and love to run errands like this with me.  Maybe you’re not feeling well today (hence the awful diapers) or maybe you just did not want to be on this particular errand.  Either way, tantrums are never acceptable, especially in public.  At home I can employ my usual defusing strategies like ignoring, time-out, or redirecting you with a toy or food.  Those strategies are much more difficult when waiting in line to pay at a crowded restaurant.  I am sorry for losing my patience with you and for putting you in that situation in the first place.  That still does not excuse the tantrum, especially the hitting (we are working hard to discourage this particular behavior).  Even when I don’t like your behavior, I still love you and always will.

Enough apologizing for now.  Noah calmed down once we were in the car driving home from Moe’s.  He went down for nap and slept for three hours.  Despite the public humiliation earlier in the day, I braved another outing to the mall with all three kids after nap.  I am proud to say that everyone behaved.  I maintained control of myself and them, and we had a good time playing at the mall playground and shopping at Gymboree.  I know this won’t be the last time I feel the need to apologize for a bad tantrum or less-than-ideal behavior from one of my kids, but hopefully this won’t be a regular occurrence.

Hang My Art

What do I do with all the art and the crafts that my kids make?  This is a question that I have often asked myself.  I had piles of stuff throughout my house that the kids would make at school or at home.  You hate to throw that stuff away, even though I do throw lots of it away.  I try to save the good stuff, the cute stuff that only a 3 or 4 year-old could come up with, and the stuff that makes me laugh or reminds me of something.  The rest of it goes in the garbage, and I pray that it does not get discovered there.  I have a storage bin for each child that I keep in the attic and some of their stuff goes there.  After 2 years in pre-school for Bella and 1 year for Jacob, their bins were filling up fast and I knew I needed another solution.

We are fortunate to have a playroom in our house – a 1st floor room filled with toys, books, a train table, and even a television.  The playroom is painted bright green and has white cube shelving with wicker baskets for storage.  The planets of the solar system are hanging from the ceiling (in inflatable form), reminding us of Isabella’s obsession with all things space from the age of two and a half to just after her third birthday.  The kids love playing in this room, and I love having a place to throw all the toys and kid related stuff that we have.  The playroom features a large wall, perfect for this idea I saw  on Pinterest.

                            

The only problem is that I am not especially handy.  I also did not want to spend a lot of money on wires and I could not get Ikea to ship me the cool looking metal and wire hanging system in the picture on the left.  I went to the garage and gathered some heavy-duty string, nails, and thumb tacks.  I hung the string horizontally using nails to secure the ends and thumb tacks evenly spaced across.  The goal was to make sure the string stayed secure and taut, but to also leave space for clothes pin hooks to hold the actual art.  I could fit three strings of hanging art on the wall.  I have since added a fourth string and I plan to alternate the art on this fourth string the most frequently.  This solution worked for us.  It was cheap, easy to put up, did not take very long, and works.  I love the bright colors and variety of pictures featured along this wall, and my kids love seeing their own art work on display for friends and relatives.  I have another friend who takes pictures of the preschool art work and projects and saves them that way, saving memories and storage space.  This picture below shows a creative and adorable way to display these photos of artwork in a way that does not take up very much room on a wall.

There are a lot of great ways to achieve the same end result – preserving and showing off your child’s masterpieces.  I am thankful to Pinterest for exposing me to a few of these awesome ideas.  I am proud of my makeshift version of  a gallery and look forward to hanging many more new creations from summer camp and school in the future.

This post may make you itch

 I am suffering from PTSD.  We are finally done with the four letter word parents dread – LICE.  There, I have admitted this simple, yet ugly reality that we were facing almost two weeks ago.  I know – Yuck!  I was almost too disgusted and embarrassed to write about it, but there really is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Head lice can strike anyone, regardless of how “clean” you are, regardless of socioeconomic status, and no matter how careful you are to avoid getting lice.  We suffered through lice several times as kids.  When one of us would get lice, the rest of us would get it.  My mom would line us up for the hours long process of shampoo and combing out the hair.  Unbeknownst to me, she was also suffering through the endless laundry and bagging up stuff as well, usually on her own while my dad was away at sea.  I had also watched my sister-in-law, a working single mom of three beautiful girls with long flowing hair, go through the awful lice drill.  My sister-in-law is one of the cleanest, most protective, and vigilant moms I know and seeing her girls get it really showed me that anyone can become a victim of these nasty little bugs.  When she was going through the first, or even the second bout of head lice, I remember thinking that she was overreacting or going to extremes to get rid of it.  As with many things you think or say before kids – I get it now.  She knew exactly what she was doing and had every right in the world to be upset and a little traumatized, in addition to being extremely cautious to make certain that they never have to deal with lice again.

We had just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Outer Banks complete with great friends, lots of cute kids (9 kids under the age of 7), an abundance of beach and pool time, terrific food and drinks, and plenty of relaxation and fun.  When we finally arrived home from our trip and put the boys to bed, I was tired and felt like I needed a good shower.  As I combed my hair before the shower, I saw it – a tiny, disgusting, live white bug on the teeth of my comb.  The panic set in and I began to furiously comb my hair searching for others.  I found three little suckers in all, but it was more than enough to make me itch from head to toe and imagine nothing but hundreds of these gross things crawling all over my head.  I interrupted story time with Les and Isabella to inspect her head, thinking that she must have it too.  I did not find anything on her head that night so I let her go to sleep.  Les was clean too.  It appeared that I was the only one with a bug problem, for now.

The next six hours involved an expensive trip to Walgreens for lice killing supplies, lots of laundry and bagging of anything that could not be laundered, cleaning. vacuuming, and hair washing and combing for me.  Les was going back to work at 6:00 AM the next day so he was somewhat limited in his ability to help.  I called my mom and asked her to come over the next day.  She thoroughly inspected my head and found no more live bugs.  I treated my head a second time and let her comb through my hair.  We decided to check Isabella’s head again and lo and behold, we found several eggs and a few live bugs.  We spent all of the boys nap time shampooing and combing out her hair – trying to remain calm and not totally freak out (which is what we were really doing).  I had completed 5 loads of laundry (on hot cycle that takes 1.5 hours and hot dryer setting) and had another 8 loads on deck.  I sprayed and cleaned furniture, carpets, and cars.  I stripped everyone’s beds and bagged up all pillows and stuffed animals.  My mom was a lifesaver that day in helping me go through hair, clean, and most importantly trying to help me not lose my mind.

I was close to losing it.  You become paranoid about getting all the eggs out and making sure that they are all dead.  I followed my sister-in-law’s advice and treated Isabella and myself with something every day for a week.  The harsh chemical shampoos are too strong to use daily, but I tried tea tree oil, LiceMD (non-pesticide shampoo), Cetaphil, and olive oil.  We used over-the-counter pesticide shampoo and one of the very expensive new prescription shampoos.  Even though we did not find anything on the boys, we treated them with Cetaphil and with LiceMD for a few days in a row.  Jacob, my hyper-sensitive kid, is now probably forever afraid of combs and won’t let me near him for even the nightly brushing after bath.  I slept apart from Les for the past week to make sure that he did not get anything.  I have never done so much laundry in my life – every day washing all clothes, towels, and sheets. We had no pillows on the couch, no stuffed toys, no Barbies or American Girl dolls.  I threw out all brushes, combs, and probably $100 worth of bows, headbands, and hair ties for Isabella and myself.  That hurt.  I could have probably bagged them up for a few weeks or washed what I could, but I was taking no chances.

I think we are finally through the worst of it.  I am sleeping in the same bed as my husband again.  We now only have to do laundry every few days, the typical amount for a family of 5.  We aren’t boiling the brushes and combs for now.  We will begin taking stuff out of bags soon and again have pillows, stuffed animals, and Barbies to play with.  The PTSD may linger for a little while.  We are still not doing story time in the kid’s beds with them, doing it on the floor instead.  We still put Isabella’s hair in two braids for camp and on weekends.  We continue to look through everyone’s hair at the end of the day during bath or shower time.  Right now, I am debating on whether to Let Isabella go on the camp field trip to a bounce house on Friday.  One of the kids in the neighborhood thinks they got lice from the bounce house last year, and that is stuck in my head, feeding the paranoia and fear about going through this again.  I hate to make her miss her first field trip, but I just don’t think I can handle that right now.  I might just have to take her somewhere better, maybe Busch Gardens or Water Country instead to make up for not being able to go on the field trip.

I know I’ll have to get over this and eventually return to normalcy.  I mean, I was a pretty careful mom because of my history with lice as a kid and my sister-in-law’s experience.  I never let Isabella share brushes, hair things, crowns, hats, or anything.  She knew these rules from a very young age and even independently told a little friend at a dress-up birthday party that she could not put anything on her head that was not hers.  What a good, responsible kid.  It doesn’t matter though.  I still don’t know how Isabella and I got lice.  No one else staying in the beach house, 16 other people, had any lice or even any sign of eggs.  The only thing we did that was different is that Isabella and I went to a movie theater the day before we left the Outer Banks.  It is completely possible that someone who sat in those movie theater seats before us, even days before us, had lice and an egg or a bug transferred from the seat to my head and then to Isabella’s as we snuggled.  I know that movie theaters were one of the popular ways that bedbugs spread throughout major cities and maybe lice can be the same way.  Who knows?  We will never know, and that is part of what can drive you insane with lice.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the last time we have to confront this dreaded pest.  The kids will go to school with other kids, sleepovers and birthday parties will happen, a bounce house or gym will happen again (maybe just not this Friday), and we will go to a movie theater again.  We might just have to bring a towel to put on the seat at the movie theater, and I’ll know to have plenty of wine on hand to get me through if there is a next time.

Happy Birthday to me and Happy Independence Day to you

Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Independence Day to America.  I just turned 34 and had an awesome birthday celebrating with family and friends in the Outer Banks.  Growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with my 4th of July birthday.  My parents always made sure I had a party, even if it was not on my actual birthday.  I received generous presents and my mom always made sure I had a delicious cake.  I always got to see fireworks on my birthday, and I even believed that the fireworks really were just for me for a long time.  My birthday usually meant a day spent with family at a park, a lake, the beach, or a backyard BBQ – all fun things, but not the number one way that a 12 or 14 year-old wants to spend their birthday.  All my friends were usually doing their own family thing, so my friend party usually needed to be on a different day.  I used to complain about not getting to celebrate my birthday at school (cupcakes brought to class, decorated locker, etc.), a plight shared by many kids with summer birthdays.  My birthday was never just my birthday, it was everyone’s special day – a day off from work and a day to do something other than celebrate my birthday.  I imagine that any kid with a birthday on a holiday has felt this way at one time or another.

The things that used to bum me out about my birthday seem pretty silly and self-centered now, but hey, I was a kid and those feelings are not totally abnormal.  As I got older, I started to appreciate my unique birthday.  I love that everybody is in a festive mood and ready to party on my birthday.  Since meeting Les, he has always made a genuine effort to make my birthday extra special and make sure that it doesn’t get lumped into a generic 4th of July party.  I always feel like the day is both a celebration of America and a celebration of my birthday.  We can always count on our friends and/or our family to be there to help us celebrate.   Last year and this year we enjoyed the holiday week with our neighbors at their beach house in the Outer Banks (thank you again T&K).  This year, my husband’s family came to the Outer Banks to soak up the sun and mark the holiday and my birthday with us.  We had an outstanding 4th of July , complete with a morning run, the beach and pool time, paddle boarding, a BBQ, cake and chocolate covered strawberries, and fireworks with my daughter.  Upon our return, my mom came over with a yummy strawberry cake to celebrate my birthday since she was not with us on the 4th.

Prior to the past two years in the Outer Banks, we had hosted a big 4th of July/birthday party at our house for 5 years in a row.  I liked having the party at our house because we could be around all the people we cared about, but it was a lot of work for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to plan a good party, but that got a lot harder with one, two, and now three kids.  The idea of planning and preparing for a big Independence Day bash (aka: my own birthday party) became stressful and overwhelming as I had to also juggle several children.  My last two birthdays in the Outer Banks have been relaxing and fun – the ideal way to spend a birthday.  I definitely miss being able to have all of my family and friends around, but I do not miss the planning and preparation for a party at our house on my birthday.  Rather than cleaning up and worrying about everyone getting to fireworks, I was able to simply take a lovely evening walk down to the beach to watch fireworks with Isabella, my nieces, and some family and friends that were in the Outer Banks with us.  It was pretty perfect, especially listening to Isabella ooh and aah over every firework as it exploded over the serene ocean.

I don’t feel thirty-four.  I probably never will feel as old as I keep turning, at least I hope I don’t.  I still feel young – in mind, body, and spirit – at least on most days.  I have grown-up.  I don’t mind growing up, as life experience and child rearing will do to you, as long as I don’t grow old before my time.  I no longer mind sharing my birthday with America.  I am honored to share such a historic and special date in the history of our great country.  This is going to be another great year, and I look forward to another great birthday and 4th of July next year.  We already have an amazing vacation planned to Turks and Caicos next year over the 4th of July week.  Sounds like a pretty incredible way to celebrate my 35th birthday!

What is at risk with the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling today?

I continue to be surprised and disappointed by the lack of knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and lack of support by the general public.  Polling shows that President Obama’s healthcare reform remains unpopular, despite pretty broad public support for the individual items contained in the Affordable Care Act, with the exception of the individual mandate.  You see, when you ask people if kids should be allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance until 26, or if people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance coverage, or if there should be no lifetime dollar caps on what your insurance will pay for your care – most people are all in favor of these things.  What most people fail to understand is that you can’t have all those things without the individual mandate.  Those go hand in hand, at least if we want to have a free-market healthcare system.

I understand how people who have never been really sick, or never had a close family member with a major medical problem, might wonder how the Affordable Care Act helps them and therefore be against it.  I think that is a short-sighted view since almost everyone will get sick at some point, but I can sort of see where they could be coming from.  Almost everyone else who is against the Affordable Care Act falls into one of two camps:  1)  They are misinformed about what the reform does and/or does not do.  There are a lot of lies and misrepresentations about this issue out there.  If you are against the Affordable Care Act because you don’t know much about it or because you only watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh, please do me a favor and take 5 minutes to learn the facts (links to a few good sources below).   2)  They are against it because it came from the democrats and/or Barack Obama. I hope that this does not represent too many people, but I do believe some people are against it based purely on ideology – kind of ironic considering that the individual mandate idea originally came from a conservative think tank and was a central part of a Republican plan presented against the Clinton healthcare plan.

Today we will find out if the Supreme Court upholds all or part of the Affordable Care Act.  There is plenty of speculation about which way it will go – will they strike down or uphold all or part of it?  What will the ruling mean for healthcare reform and for the presidential election in the fall?  I will leave that talk to the journalists and political pundits.  I am interested in what this ruling will mean for me, for my children, for my family members.  I have a personal stake in this decision and so does every single one of us.  The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and it probably will not solve all the problems with our healthcare system, but it is a huge step in the right direction, in my opinion.  The Affordable Care Act will help me, my children, my family and friends, and you too.

Here are 10 things that the Affordable Care Act does that can help you or someone you love, and all of this is at risk today with the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Much of this information came from the Healthcare.gov site and from Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at the Washington Post.

1.  Making healthcare more affordable to those that can’t afford it.  Ezra Klein describes that “Families making less than 133 percent of the poverty line — that’s about $29,000 for a family of four — will be covered through Medicaid. Between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line —  $88,000 for a family of four – families will get tax credits on a sliding scale to help pay for private insurance.  For families making less than 400 percent of the poverty line, premiums are capped. So, between 150% and 200% of the poverty line, for instance, families won’t have to pay more than 6.3 percent of their income in premiums. Between 300 percent and 400 percent, they won’t have to pay more than 9.5 percent.”

2.  The individual mandate is not really much of a mandate at all.  Ezra Klein explains, “When the individual mandate is fully phased-in, those who can afford coverage — which is defined as insurance costing less than 8 percent of their annual income — but choose to forgo it will have to pay either $695 or 2.5 percent of the annual income, whichever is greater.”  So, there is an out for all those that don’t want the government telling them what to do with their healthcare or making them buy something they don’t want to buy.  You won’t get thrown in jail or have your house taken away if you don’t buy health insurance.  Pay the small penalty and guess what, you still get the benefit of being able to get health insurance when you really need it – because you are hit by a bus or have a baseball size tumor in your chest – thanks to the Affordable Care Act mandating coverage for people with preexisting conditions. You know what though, the individual mandate works because people generally want to buy health insurance if they can afford it and if it provides adequate coverage.  Based on the individual mandate in Massachusetts, about 95% of the residents are now covered thanks to the individual mandate.

3.  Insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate based on preexisting conditions. They ARE allowed to discriminate based on age (limited to 3 to 1 ratio), premium rating area, family composition, and tobacco use (limited to 1.5. to 1 ratio).  Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny you coverage because your kid has a developmental delay or autism, because you were pregnant, because you had cancer 10 years ago, because you have high blood pressure, or because you have a history of back pain.  Insurance companies could also choose to cover you, but charge you insanely high rates because of anything they deemed a preexisting condition.  For example, A 22-year-old woman could be charged 150% the premium that a 22-year-old man paid, just because of gender.  Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can’t charge women higher premiums than they charge men.

4.  More of your premium dollars will be used for your care.  Ezra Klein explains that “The law requires insurers to spend between 80 and 85 percent of every premium dollar on medical care (as opposed to administration, advertising, etc). If insurers exceed this threshold, they have to rebate the excess to their customers. This policy is already in effect, and insurers are expected to rebate $1.1 billion this year.”

5.  Insurance Plans will be required to cover preventive services without out-of-pocket costs.  This means you will not have a co-pay or any out-of-pocket expense for things like mammograms, well-baby and child visits, breastfeeding support and equipment, vaccinations, and colonoscopies.  To see a more complete list of preventive services that will be covered, go to the healthcare.gov site.

6.  Kids under 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance policy.  This makes very good since so many young people are still in college or technical school, graduate school, or trying to get established in a job or profession during their early 20’s.  This allows many more young, healthy people to be covered for a reasonable cost.

7.  Insurance companies can no longer put a lifetime cap on your medical expenses.  Before the Affordable Care Act, many plans put an individual dollar cap on lifetime insurance payments , often around one million dollars.  That may sound like a lot of money, but anyone who has ever really been sick can tell you otherwise.  Healthcare is expensive –  insanely expensive.  For example, if you get cancer and need a stem cell transplant in your 20’s, you could use $500,000 of your lifetime benefit – not leaving much room for another major medical problem.  If you have a baby born prematurely, you could easily rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs, before that child even leaves the hospital.  The Affordable Care Act prevents lifetime caps on insurance benefits, meaning you will actually be able to use your insurance when you really need it, even if your needs exceed some arbitrary dollar amount.

8.  The Affordable Care Act helps people with Medicare by protecting current benefits and offering new ones that will reduce costs.  It also helps to close the “donut hole” (gap in pharmaceutical drug coverage) for seniors by cutting the cost of prescriptions in half, saving them money.

9.  Increased coverage for workers at small businesses and tax breaks for small businesses that provide health insurance to employees.  Ezra Klein describes that “small businesses that have fewer than 10 employees, average wages beneath $25,000, and that provide insurance for their workers will get a 50 percent tax credit on their contribution. The tax credit reaches up to small businesses with up to 50 employees and average wages of $50,000, though it gets smaller as the business get bigger and richer. The credit lasts for two years, though many think Congress will be pressured to extend it, which would raise the long-term cost of the legislation.”

10.  Healthcare reform without increasing the deficit?  There is widespread disagreement and conflicting reports all over the media on this, but Ezra Klein noted that “the law is expected to spend a bit over $1 trillion in the next 10 years. The law’s spending cuts — many of which fall on Medicare — and tax increases are expected to either save or raise a bit more than that, which is why the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will slightly reduce the deficit. (There’s been some confusion on this point lately, but no, the CBO has not changed its mind about this.) As time goes on, the savings are projected to grow more quickly than the spending, and CBO expects that the law will cut the deficit by around a trillion dollars in its second decade.”

We’ll find out very soon what the Supreme Court decides on the fate of healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act.  Even if you disagree, what do you think about all or part of these 10 features and benefits of the reform?  If you agree that our healthcare system needs reform, but are not in support of the Affordable Care Act, even after educating yourself about what it includes, how would you propose we reform the system?  As a family with several preexisting conditions – cancer, developmental delays, 3 pregnancies and c-sections – I need the Affordable Care Act to be upheld.  As a citizen, taxpayer, consumer, and part of the health care delivery system, I anxiously await this important decision and hope it is upheld.

A few links to read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/06/24/11-facts-about-the-affordable-care-act/

http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/women.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/06/26/the-irony-of-the-individual-mandate/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/health-reform-with-a-mandate-the-massachusetts-story/2012/06/18/gJQAfohImV_blog.html


Happy Father’s Day Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there, especially my dad!  I am so incredibly proud of my dad this year because of his remarkable physical transformation. He is a new man. I was worried about my dad for a long time. He has spent much of his adult life battling his weight and other health issues including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes.  He never had the healthiest diet, and I only really remember him exercising when he had to for the military.  About 69% of adults in America are either overweight or obese, so he was not in the minority with his weight or poor lifestyle and health history.  My dad’s weight and medical concerns only increased since retiring from the Navy, until he was forced to make some serious changes or risk loss of his career or even his life.  My dad’s side of the family has a pretty bad track record with a number of deaths from heart attack or stroke, things that probably could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.  I think he probably knew that he would face a similar fate if he did not take control of his weight and health.

My dad also had a lot to lose if he did not make the necessary changes.  He is a husband and a father to four grown daughters.  Perhaps most importantly, he is Grandpa to my three kids and now to my sister’s newborn son.  With a 20+ year career in the military, my dad was gone a lot, too much with young kids at home.  He missed plenty of big and small events in our lives, and I still really don’t know how my mom managed so much on her own while my dad was deployed.  I also know, although he has never said this, that it must have been hard on my dad to miss all those precious moments with us.  I know that this is the fate of so many military families right now while our country is at war, and it breaks my heart because I know firsthand how hard it can be on the members of those families.  Since retiring from the military, I have seen so much more of my dad and been able to get to know him so much better as an adult.  All of my sisters are probably closer to my dad now as grown-ups than we ever were as children.

I have also been able to watch my dad become a Grandpa, perhaps one of my greatest joys over the past few years.  I know my father loves each one of his daughters, but I also know that my parents always wanted a boy.  They had a name picked out and everything.  My dad is naturally the strong and silent type, but having five women in the house (all fighting to get a word in) left him without much to say.  I don’t think he quite knew what to do with Barbies, dolls, make-up, boy trouble, and the hormonal teenage angst that was ever-present in our house for years.  Now there are three grandsons in our family, some sort of poetic justice in my opinion.  My boys, especially Jacob, adore their Grandpa.  Jacob loves all of his grandparents, but there is an amazing connection between Jacob and my dad.  He loves to take Grandpa on walks in the woods, play choo-choos or cars, and go to the park.  My dad enjoys following Jacob around wherever he leads, making him #1 in Jacob’s mind.  Jacob even resembles my side of the family, especially my dad.  Before my dad lost all of the weight, he had a hard time getting down on the ground to play with the kids and struggled to keep up with my active toddlers.  He could not physically be the Grandpa he wanted to be – active, engaged, and playful.  I am so appreciative of my parents and the role they play in my children’s lives.  Yeah, the babysitting is nice, but mostly I just love to see the way my kids get so excited to see them.  My dad needed to get healthy so he could be around a lot longer, especially for Isabella, Jacob, and Noah.

I always admired my dad’s work ethic, tenacity, and pride.  These are traits that I hope I have inherited and learned from him.  He relied on these character traits to totally transform his weight and his health.  My dad underwent gastric bypass surgery a year and a half ago and has lost over 100 pounds since that time.  Some people feel that this is “the easy way out” or somehow not as impressive as losing the weight without surgical assistance.  I understand where some of those people with that opinion are coming from because there are plenty of examples where surgical weight loss does not work as a long-term solution.  I do not feel that my dad will be one of those people.  He committed himself to long-term success.  He is doing it for the right reasons.  He did the mental work to prepare for the lifestyle changes and has followed through on those changes even after the weight loss.  My dad is a runner now – a real runner who belongs to a running group and does 10K and half-marathon races on weekends.  He does not take any medicine to treat health problems anymore.  He actually managed to get off all his blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medicines before the surgery, as a result of the significant dietary changes leading up to the surgery.  He makes better choices about the foods he eats, liquids he drinks, and portion sizes.  He looks awesome and I know he feels great too.  He has a new lease on life and is making the most of it.  He has always worked hard for his family and for his job, but I am so proud to see my dad working so hard to take care of himself.  I admire my dad for many things, but I am inspired and moved by the complete transformation he has made over the past 18 months.

Congratulations on your remarkable accomplishments Dad!  Thank you for taking charge of your health so that you can be around for many more years.  Keep up the good work with your diet and running.  We are all so proud of you!  Lots of love to you on Father’s Day and every day!