Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thanks for nothing, Aetna

So, as part of their marketing-to-our-captive-audience campaign, Aetna has been spamming us with sending around glossy four-color booklets every so often during our pregnancy. They have information on how to stay healthy, what to watch out for and so on--nothing I couldn't get from reading the front covers of all the parenting magazines in any good newstand, but if that's what Aetna needs to do to spend our premiums make themselves feel good, OK.

The one we got today had tips for what to with a newborn, what are dangerous symptoms and what are normal activities for them. Aetna doesn't use quite the same language as I do, but I guess that "endlessly crap green lakes of fire" isn't a description that everyone would find useful.

Now, I know that Aetna has money to burn on these tracts because they sure as hell aren't spending it on our pregnancy. Since week 20, which is almost 20 weeks ago now, they have refused to pay for our initial ultrasound. You know the one--it's the standard one where they check for Down Syndrome, spina bifida, extremity development, organ development and all that other stuff that's kinda nice to know not only for parents but also for the doctors who will deliver the baby.

So I found it of particular interest that the centerfold--yes, a two-page, foldout spread--in the latest spamphlet they sent us was a lovely photo of a couple cuddled up around and smiling over a beautiful ultrasound of the baby they're expecting. Must be that Aetna licensed that photo from another insurance company that actually covers pregnancy, or perhaps one that actually pays for what it promises to pay for in their plan description, or maybe even one that has a shred of humanity and common sense buried deep in its sclerotic bowels.

Thanks for nothing, Aetna.

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Best email of the week

Your son likes to sleep under pillows.


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Monday, July 27, 2009

Blair Bike Project

Inspired by L.A. Daddy (I can't find his original post with the video of his motorcycle commute--comment with the URL if you can), I thought I'd bring you along on my bike commute.

It's one of the best, most stressful and hardest parts of my day. It clears my mind--and hopefully my arteries--and relaxes me. It gets me outside and it gets me moving, and I'm always better when I'm outside and moving.

I wish that I could say that this was a standard commute, but there is no standard. You'll see that I bump into a detour part of the way in, decide the detour sign is bogus, get back on the trail, then get told by another biker that the detour is real and follow him up a torturous hill on the side trail--the downhill through the forest is fun, however.

Also, at the end, I typically ride in the street, but the way the signals turned for me, I took the last stretch on the sidewalk.

I sped this up, because really, who wants to watch 40 minutes of some old guy huffing and puffing his way to work? But also, it helps smooth out some of the bumps to speed it up. I also added music, even though I don't listen to any--that should help cover up my huffing and puffing. Despite my masterful editing, however, it still has that Blair Witch Project feeling to it--you know, that seasick feeling from the shaky camera work.

Maybe next time I'll throw down for some real gear to do this with, but this time around I just strapped our flip camera onto my handlebars with a Gorilla pod and let the good times roll. I doubt that you will enjoy it as much as I do, but it may help your experience to point your desk fan at your face, raise the room temperature to 85 degrees and the humidity to over 80 percent, and for the first half pipe in some car exhaust to huff as you watch--for the second half, fill the room with gnats, bees, flies and assorted other flying nuisances. You'll know you have enough when you hoover one to the back of your throat every 30 seconds or so.

And you thought I didn't know how to have a good time.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Big Head Baby and the Ultrasound

Update: For those of you who found this page when you were searching for more information about a baby who measured large, or whose head measured large, in an ultrasound, our daughter was born vaginally, and the recovery was much easier than for our son. If you have questions, remember that we're not doctors, but you can leave them in the comments, and if we ever catch up on our sleep, we'll respond.

At Mama's last appointment, the doctor was a little concerned about the size of our (apparently not so) little girl and so had Mama schedule another ultrasound to measure the size of her head. This, of course, caused some concern for us, but according to the innernets, it's rarely the case that a baby's head is big enough for a doctor to prescribe a prophylactic caesarean section.

And if Mama is chilled out about it, that's good enough for me so I'm looking at it as another opportunity to take a look at our little girl. This time around, there will be a full observation gallery because Grammy and Cousin S are here, and by the time of our appointment, my brilliant cousin will also be here. Our little girl will almost have more eyes on her during this ultrasound then when she arrives, although if my memory serves me well, hospital regulations require enough staff to field a baseball team be in attendance at any birth.

This development highlights how different it has been for us to have a second baby. When we got this news, we didn't pull out our 16 pregnancy and birthing books, catalog URLs of relevant websites and cross-reference all these answers in a spreadsheet. In fact, I'm not even sure where our pregnancy books are. I think that might be one between Fox in Socks and the Richard Scarry Storybook Dictionary...

OK, honestly, we never did that about anything with 3B, even when he came out with one man down--or is that up? But still, we are much more relaxed about any little bump in the road like this. In fact, we may be too relaxed about some things.

For example, I believe that we need some sort of contraption in the car to keep the baby safe while driving. Apparently, an empty diaper box padded with some receiving blankets is not enough. We need to get another SnugRide. After asking the most reliable sources for advice--and by that I mean posting an update and waiting our Facebook friends to respond--we settled on the one model of SnugRide that is harder to find than hen's teeth, and so I have spent the last three weeks ordering it, being told it's on backorder, canceling that order, placing another order somewhere else...rinse, repeat.

Oh, and there's the matter of 3B's killer crib which has been recalled for the second, third or twelfth time. Since the company is bankrupt--fiscally now, not just morally--they aren't offering replacement parts to fix the problem, so we're getting our little girl a new crib. I was planning on this anyway, since finding that, even after the last recall and fix, the bolts on 3B's crib still loosen over time.

Besides, I want our little girl to have fresh paint to chew off the top rail of the crib, just as 3B had.

As we did with the car seat, the crib model we picked is out of stock everywhere, well, only if you want it in white, which we do. I guess the Obama boom is full of girls, although, honestly, we're just getting it to match 3B's existing furniture.

Yes, it's true, you're only allowed to buy white children's furniture for girls. Boys get brown, dark brown, or light brown. Blah, blah and blah. Besides, markers don't show up nearly as well on brown as they do on white, however, I can attest to the ability of brown to camouflage poop smears.

We learned about this brown/white divide when we ordered 3B his bunk beds--which are working as planned this week, with Grammy on the bottom bunk, Cousin S on the top and 3B still in his crib--and asked for the white beds.

3B was with us and the salesman looked straight at him and said, "You don't want white for him. For boys, there's brown." Actually, jackass, unless you've been in our house and seen his room, his color scheme and his existing furniture, oh, and Mama's master's degree in women's studies, you'd do best to keep your fat mouth shut about colors. And if you had seen all of that, you would have said, "Yes, white is an excellent choice."

Seriously, what decade is he working in?

Oh, I'm sorry, did my Papa Bear protective instinct kick in? That brings me back around to baby girl and her theoretically large noggin. My first reaction to that was that nobody is going to take a knife to Mama without dire need and her clear consent, and if they think they're going to, they'll have to come through me to get to her. I've had someone cut into and mess around in my abdomen--right inguinal hernia repair, thanks very much--and it's no joke. And that was a much smaller incision and less invasive procedure.

So, in our hospital bag, I'm remembering to pack my bat for kneecapping anybody who tries to get to Mama without permission. OK, so the Papa Bear part hasn't changed from 3B to baby-to-be.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

3B goes to commando camp

This week, seeing as how he wasn't a little coxsacker--no, seriously, he had coxsackie virus, which he then gave to me, leaving Mama with two coxsackers to tend to...wait...where was I?

Oh yeah...this week, 3B got to go to the second week of his first session of camp. Camp? Really? In the woods, with furry animals and tents, not so much. Camp is what the call summer sessions at his school.

School? Really? All day with books and lessons and homework and tests? No, not so much. Now that he's (almost) three (in three days), 3B goes to three half days of school every week. There is learning--there's a music teacher and a creative movement teacher (didn't they used to be called gym teachers?)--and they do crafts and learn songs and games, but he's not getting into trigonometry.

And so camp is much the same, although there are more instructors and there is water. Every day they get to play in the big wading pool with sprinklers and toys and things. And there seems to be more time dedicated to play. Friday was Messy Mania, with pools of shaving cream and Jell-O and "all kinds of things," according to our little man.

Apparently it was lots of fun, although I think 3B reveals so few details about his day, I'm afraid he spends it at CIA training. At least he's got the hat for some jungle commando work.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Paddling up the River Why

After a nice bike ride in to work on this beautiful summer morning--thanks to all you drivers out there for climate change, which seems to be making northern Virginia summers tolerable--I got to my desk and saw my voice mail light was on.

That's not good.

I called in for my messages. It was from Mama's number.

That's not good.

My mind was racing: today is a school day, were they in a crash? Are they on their way to a hospital? Which hospital is closest? How fast could I get there? Who could drive me there?

And then her voice came on...

"Hi, it's 3B and Mommy calling. And we're calling...can you ask Daddy the question?"

Then I could hear 3B's voice say loud and clear, "Did Lucky Lindy fly in a plane called a Mosquito?"


I suppose I can cancel the red alert.

For the record, the answer, which I somehow know, is no. Lucky Lindy flew in a custom built plane--with no forward-facing window, by the way--and the Mosquito was a WWII bomber.

The question is in keeping with this week's theme, announced by 3B on Monday when he began asking Why? I noticed when I accompanied him on a bike ride after I got home from work and a motorcycle pulled in and parked in front of us. The rider commented on how nice 3B's motorcycle is before going in to his house.

Of course, we had to sit and admire the motorcycle for a moment. I asked 3B what sound it was making.


There was a pause.

"Why is it ticking?"

"Because the engine is hot, like he told us, and now that he turned it off, it's cooling down."

"Why is it hot?"

Dang, I hadn't even gotten a chance to get to the metal contracting part of my answer, but OK..."It's hot because engines burn gasoline and when gasoline burns, it's hot, like a flame on a candle."

"Why does it burn gasoline?"

"Because when gasoline burns, it explodes, and when it explodes, it pushes the motorcycle forward. When it explodes, it goes from very small to very big, very fast."

I then used my hands and the pedals of his trike to show 3B how this worked, after which he decided that was enough asking Why? and started to pedal home, but not before one last look at the spare helmet on the back of the motorcycle, "Flames!"

"Yes, nice flames on the helmet."

It's not all pleasant curiosity, however. Mama said that yesterday, the River Why ran through this soliloquy, delivered in full voice:

"Why are you yelling!? Why are you hitting me!? Why are you yelling!? Why are you hitting me!?"

I believe the stage directions for the his majesty at that moment read, "Exeunt little king to time out."

We've done a little of our own asking Why? after Mama's 34-week appointment yesterday. The doctor remarked that the baby seems a bit big and after checking 3B's birth weight--8 pounds, 15 ounces for those of you keeping score at home--decided that she wanted Mama to get another ultrasound to measure baby sister's head.

So, actually our questions have been more along the lines of What if...?

But we don't have any daddy at his office to call for an answer, so we'll just wait two weeks for our 36-week appointment.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to...what's your name again?

They say it's your birthday, well, it's my birthday of, but, like, three days ago.

OK, those lyrics aren't as good as John and Paul's, but it's true that it's my sister's birthday today, as all of France knows, based on their celebrations today.

She's lucky enough to have her birthday when 3B is old enough to give her this gift--and on a day when I'm awake enough in the morning to capture him when he's at his best.

So, everyone sing along...Happy Birthday to Aunt someone, Happy Birthday to you!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Complete sentences are foreplay

This was a spectacular birthday weekend because Mama loves me and knows me better than I know myself, which means that it was a mellow weekend from start to finish without any party, shindig or celebration--and no, I'm not counting that unfortunate episode with the huge gold sombrero and the free shot of tequila with a candle in the lime slice at dinner. The mellowness was also nice since I was still recovering (read: cranky) from my fever and sore throat.

The day started with a nice set of gifts and cards from Mama and 3B, which came with some donuts--I told you she loves me. We headed off to the "other" playground, meaning the one down by the river with sand to dig in and ropes to climb and some of the highest and fastest swings around. On the way there, we had stopped at the bagel shop, where I got a nice birthday gift--a parking spot directly in front of their door.

So, when we got home, we were ready to sit down for lunch and get right to our nap. And then, all through the Bradstein house, not a creature was stirring, except this little mouse. Nap time was short for Mama too, thanks to 3B's verbal outburst, the house being too hot, and her having a six-pound child in her belly. She came out to the living room and we talked through some of those things I wrote about, then got ready for our hot date.

And by getting ready, I mean doing what all married dads do: trying to remember when I last showered, failing that, sniffing my armpits, wondering when I last put on deodorant, wandering back to the bathroom, getting distracted, ending up in the car, again sniffing my pits, wondering if that smell was me or an old snack of 3B's that he had left festering under the driver's seat.

It was a hot date. We did such things in public that we haven't been able to do in public or private for years: completed sentences. Sat in silence. Chewed our food. And I got some flaming hot fajitas to help with my sore throat, an old trick that I learned from a good friend in high school. I ruined the trick by getting some frozen custard at Obama's our ice cream shop, but it's not my fault. Not even the President can resist the charms of the Dairy Godmother.

Then we headed down to the water to listen to our fair city's symphony orchestra play the 1812 Overture, accompanied by fireworks over the river and four cannons fired by Marines from just down the coast. We got there late, but ended up about 50 paces behind the cannons--that's the side you want to be on, in case you're wondering--and so got to see them fire in rapid succession as the score requires. Impressive. Loud. And...what? I can't hear you.

Today we took a trip to our farmers market to get some fresh food for a lunch salad for KC, 3B's babysitter while we go to hypnobirthing classes these last three Sundays. 3B wasn't as psyched as he usually is to see the farmers and their flora, but he was happy to go to the playground right next to the market, even though the slides were hot enough to fry eggs--or legs--on.

Of course, we couldn't let all that healthy eating stay with us, so after hypnobirthing class, we went to get more frozen custard with some of the other couples from class. We did bring some home for KC and 3B--I assume that because of our goodwill we can deduct the calories from theirs from the calories we ate at the shop, right?

By this point, however, Mama and I were no match for 3B, who had enjoyed a four-hour nap. Yes, all you other parents out there, you read that right: four-hour nap. That's longer than his standard, but not unusual. It's OK; you can be jealous. Of course, I have nothing to do with his nap habits, since I'm at work five out of seven days that he takes one, but I'll still gloat about it.

So, when 3B did "his privacy" in the bathroom with Curious George and Mickey Mouse--they sat on the potty, he squatted next to it and deposited his "privacy" into his diaper--then went to dump it in the toilet, leaning on the bathtub, smearing poop on the tub while I managed to smear some on my thumb from the diaper just before trephinating myself on our towel rack...well, let's just say that wasn't my finest parenting moment. Fortunately for all involved, Mama is full of grace and took over for me while I stomped about the house.

I did eventually settle down. After all, now that my illness and birthday are behind me, it's back to the same old shit. Might as well get right down to it.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy birthday to a pain in the ass: me

It's naptime here in the Bradstein Household, so I should be in bed now, curled up with Mama, not curled up here on the couch, roasting my chestnuts under an open laptop. But I'm cranky right now, not at all in the mood for rest or comfort.

In fact, I believe that I'm downright ornery. Cantankerous. A real pain in the ass.

...oh hell, I don't feel like going through all of this again. Go read it where I first wrote it, over here.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

3B: Baby boy bodhisattva

I'm breaking a promise to myself here. I had sworn that my next blog post wouldn't mention Barky. That I would move on, take a small step forward and get back to blogging about 3B and his baby sister and Mama and all of those still with us.

I can't separate the past from the present, however--a point that 3B made for me this morning. As we were getting out of the car for his last day at Mrs. K's, he again picked up Barky's foot long steel screw in tiedown from the floor of the back seat. It's been back there since we returned from Grammy's farm. I just never got around to taking it out, so Mama had already warned him that it was sharp and dangerous.

It's actually more of a hassle to get away from 3B than it is sharp or dangerous, but those words work when we want him to put something down, and it is marginally sharp and could be dangerous. As Ani sings, any tool is a weapon, if you hold it right.

So, I repeated the warning to 3B at Mrs. K's house. He replied to the effect that he was taking it out of the car for Barky or that Barky needed it. Gently, in a soft voice, I said, "Barky can't come back, sweetie, so let's just leave it in the car."

3B set down the tiedown and stepped down out of the car and said, "Barky has his own space ship."

"That's right. He has his own space ship up in the stars." I had never heard him say this or mentioned to him anything about a space ship, however. When I told him that Barky wasn't coming back, I just said that Barky had gone up to the stars and that we could go outside at night and look up to see him, to find a star where Barky was.

We kept walking across the lawn and 3B repeated to me a warning I'd given him a few weeks ago, "Watch out for that big hole over there." And then he went on about Barky, "I don't see any stars."

"That's right. It's day time now, so we can't see any stars. But tonight we can see the stars. Do you want to go out and look at the stars tonight and see the stars and look for Barky?"

"We can talk to him. Barky! Barky! I can't hear him."

"Yes, he's too far away for us to hear him right now, but he can hear you. Maybe tonight we can go outside and look for him and talk to him some more."

"And he will hear me."

"Yes. He will hear you."

And then we were at Mrs. K's door, mercifully. I wasn't sure how much longer I could carry on that conversation. My preferred form of mourning is conscious ignorance of the situation, so talking about it was breaking down my defenses.

All the while, however, I was wondering if Mama had talked to him about a space ship for Barky, because, if not, 3B had placed Barky in that space ship on his own, had built Barky his own little heaven up among the stars. A space ship that I'm sure has a couch, a lawn with a sunbeam, an ever-full food dish and a little boy who always drops food when he eats.

On the walls of that spaceship, there might even be a picture from an ultrasound of another baby who will soon need Barky's protection--but hopefully not too soon, since we still have to get her a car seat, a crib and a few other items.

But even before we get to meet her, we did get to see her again, and this time we took 3B along. It wasn't easy since it was a daycare day for him, so we had to shuffle all of our schedules to make it happen, but Mama was nice and humored me in my desire to have 3B there, even though it was a hassle for her. In the end, I'm not sure how much difference it made to him, although it made a difference to me, as is so often the case with activities at this age.

The good news is that baby sister's placenta has moved up out of the way for delivery, which is what we were checking on in this extra ultrasound. Baby sister is also developing well--on the day of the ultrasound, she was measuring one week ahead in size, taking after her big big brother.

After that was determined, the tech took some measurements and gave us as good a look at baby sister as she would allow. For most of the appointment, her umbilical cord was covering her lower face, but Mama did get to see her yawn--I was talking to 3B at the time--and we did get a glimpse not only of her lips, but also her open eye.

Unfortunately, it was black and white, so no idea what color her eyes are yet. Oh, and Quaatchi got a free ultrasound out of it too, after we returned home.

Although baby sister will never get to see who was making all of those barking, groaning and whining sounds she heard before she was born, her big brother will be able to tell her all about him and take her outside to show her where his spaceship is, up amongst the stars. He knows. He knows that as we walk into the future we carry the past with us, that death doesn't mean departure, and that the living create heaven for the dead.

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