Monday, April 24, 2006

Silent Hill = Little Thrill

I must be feeling better, because I find myself wishing for the cold embrace of death less and less. I don't remember that particular item being listed with the rest of the side effects on my antibiotics bottle, so something must have worked.

Denver Mom and I got a rare treat yesterday. After begging and crying and threatening to entice a situation that could inspire a movie of the week, Chunk's grandma agreed to drop in and watch the little guy while we escaped off to the movie theater.

Have I mentioned how much I love movies? Going to the theater is the one thing I truly miss from our childless days. Everything else, from sleeping in, spending irresponsibly, and skiing every weekend were easy enough habits to break, but movies... every time I see a theater, I find myself a little heartbroken.

Why is that? I rarely have a good time at the theater. Watching movies at home on our small hi-def set (see "spending irresponsibly" in the space above) is usually a much better and more enjoyable experience, but there's something about that quick dim of the lights and the thrill of coming attractions that just gets to me.

So, Denver Mom and I went down the hill and bought a pair of tickets to see "Silent Hill." We went in knowing that it wasn't going to be "Citizen Kane," but I like horror movies and wasn't hoping for much more than a creepy time. Giddy, I waited for the movie to start, and... and... and... it was terrible. Even with my standards as low as they were, with my desperation to see something... anything... so bright and burning and irrational, it was still horrible. Our first date in months was a total failure thanks to a miserable time of loud, dumb, and dull.

And then, we came home. Chunk and his grandma were at the park, so we went out after them, walking along the path as they were walking back to meet us. Seeing the look of recognition spread over Chunk's face as he first saw, then understood, who was coming his way... that was great.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Too Tired For A Clever Title (And Not All That Clever To Begin With)

Like all good plagues, this one has spread to everyone, incapacitating our entire household with fits of coughing, running noses, and strangely persistent fevers. I wish I were exaggerating, but there were a few days this week when all three of us were taking the same antibiotic.

Chunk is feeling better, having enjoyed the benefits of being on antibiotics for much longer than either of his poor, hacking parents. This should be a cause for celebration, as a happy child is much easier to handle than a crabby, miserable child, but the imbalance of sick parent and well child is a troublesome one.

Well Child wants to go outside and run in circles around the block. Well Child wants to wrestle and giggle and play hide and seek, which usually requires running and hiding and jumping out and yelling "boo!" Well Child doesn't take three hour naps that let Sick Parent work from home/recharge/do the dishes/nap himself. Well Child likes to grab you by the hand a drag you to whatever task he has for you, all the time babbling on and on about it, his expressive eyebrows reminding you that this is all very serious business and he wouldn't ordinarily bother you with this sort of thing, but after evaluating the situation, he determined that your intervention was truly necessary.

And, as all of this happens, these subtle and not so subtle requests for attention and invigorating play and whatever else, you are coughing so hard the even your tongue hurts. You are coughing with such force that your stomach muscles are sore. And, even then, he smiles and coaches you along with some spirited babbling for which you have no translation, but still somehow understand, and you play... and run... and hide... and boo... and yes... cough.

What is the point of all of this? No point. Just more surprise at the strange things that parenthood has done to me, has likely done to every parent. No matter how bad I feel, I still manage to be present for Chunk when he needs me. Its comforting, in a way, but also exhausting.

I'm going to bed early tonight.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Another happy customer... the health care experience!

I was thinking about my latest post and was feeling a little down on myself for not seeing the doctor. So, I called our clinic and explained that I have been sick all week and I would like to see a doctor today. I was told, very quickly, that it wasn't possible to be seen today. My only options were to, "find another clinic that might have openings or try urgent care."

My wife is paying $400 a month for the basic health care plan for all three of us (my current employer doesn't provide health insurance). Since it's just the "basic" plan, as opposed to something much more costly, our co-pays are a bit higher than the premium plans, and medications are barely covered at all. Also, we have more limitations in terms of which health care providers we can choose.

That last bit is interesting. Our selection of doctors is smaller in the basic plan. Why is that? Is the reason I can't see a doctor when I'm sick because the basic plan doctors are overloaded by requests for appointments?

As I mentioned in an early post, "urgent care" doesn't really exist. It's just another way of saying, "Go to the emergency room." For pink eye? Sure. Not only is a huge time commitment, but it's just ridiculous to go to the emergency room for something that doesn't really qualify as an emergency. Even worse, the co-pay for an ER visit jumps from $30 to $150.

Basically, what this boils down to is this: you can see your doctor when you're healthy and have the luxury of being able to plan ahead, but don't expect to see him when you're sick. If you find your sickness to be bad enough that you still feel that you should see a doctor, your best bet is to go the emergency room and sit for several hours, feeling guilty about taking up valuable time for something so trivial. What makes this even more ludicrous is the fact that we're lucky that we even have health insurance. An alarming number of families don't. If I can't see a doctor when I'm sick, what about the people who don't have insurance? If a $150 co-pay for an ER visit is high enough that it causes a financial hardship for me, what about the people who don't even have a co-pay? Either they don't pay at all or they spend months, maybe even years, paying off a visit for their son or daughter's persistent earache.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I don't think anyone does, but it's clear, not just from my story, but thousands of others, that there is something deeply wrong with our health care system. Other countries have figured out something a little more workable. Why is the United States, the so-called "greatest country in the world" so poor at taking care of the needs of its citizens? I have some theories, but they'll have to wait for another day and another post.

Hazmat Teams Are Camping In The Front Yard

What started out as a mild case of ear infection has turned into the Black Plague. Chunk has antibiotics. He's fine. It's Denver Mom and I that are constantly chasing people in environmental protection suits off our lawn.

"I don't care what kind of doctor you are, you can't take my water glass!"

Chunk is only sixteen months old, so there's still a lot of "this is what it means to be a dad" learning going on. The latest lesson? My healthcare takes second to Chunk's every time. I will move mountains and break rivers to get him to the doctor, but I won't go myself, especially if it means upsetting his nap schedule.

Yes, it's crazy. If I'm feeling better, I can be more attentive as a dad. I can be there for him, while he's trying to feel better. I can be up when he's up, instead of locked in the bathroom trying to pry my eye open.

Yes, I have pink eye. I've never had it before, even as a kid. And yet, here it is, like some swollen, puss-filled thief in the night. How embarrassing. A man in his thirties, fighting off a serious case of pink eye. If I'm lucky, maybe people will just think I'm a drunk.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Easter Eggs and Bodyslams

We ended up going to the Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, despite all the coughing, snot, and eye puss. Chunk wasn't his usual charming self, thanks to a restless night before and an exaggerated distaste for getting his nose wiped by either parent, but he had a fun time. He even found (with a little help from Denver Mom) an Easter egg and couldn't be more happy.

It was actually kind of neat. There were a ton of kids who were carrying around plastic bags filled with ten to twenty eggs, but Chunk walked around like he had won the lotto, clutching his one, purple plastic egg. Some kids were crying about their lack of eggs. Not Chunk. He was pretty pleased with himself and having a great time just running around, egg in hand.

The highlight, in that horror-tinged "oh my god!" way, was when another little girl came over and gave Chunk an unexpected, impromptu hug. With both sets of parents standing around, oohing and aahing, it was a sweet moment that made everyone in attendance reconsider that world peace could be a reality in our time, then the little girl broke the hug and slammed Chunk down, pro wrestler style.

What's the right response to that? I scooped him up immediately, trying to calm him down, and the mother of the little girl kept trying to force the little girl to apologize, when really all she did was look very self-satisfied. Was the little girl a hoodlum? Of course not. Kids do weird stuff like that for reasons even they don't get, but it still sucked that it was my (reasonably innocent) child on the floor, skull against the tile, with tears streaming down his face.

Unfortunately for Chunk, the egg was the highlight of his day. He just kept getting more and more sick and by bedtime, we were convinced he had pink eye. So, I called the pediatricians office to talk to their on call nurse and asked if there was anything I could do to help relieve some of his discomfort. Parents who have been around the block a few more times probably know where this is going....

"He needs to be seen within 24 hours. It might not be pink eye, but might be a dangerous infection."

I may have made up the "dangerous" part. I'm not really sure. Every time I talk to a doctor about my son, these words either get used by them or my subconscious. Of course, this conversation exchange happened Saturday night, meaning we were somehow supposed to get him seen on Sunday.

Not to worry! We have a referral! We'll just zip over to the nearby hospital, as directed, and everything will be fine!

Yeah. Well, for people who don't have children (why are you reading this?!), let me explain a few things. "After Hours Pediatric Care" is medical speak for "Emergency Room." And "Urgent Care" is insurance speak for "doesn't really exist, just getting your hopes up." Oh, and "referral" is medical speak for "I'm playing minesweeper while I'm talking to you, but it sounds like I'm actually taking this information down." So, taking Chunk in to get his eyes looked at cost us a $150.00 co-pay.

Turns out it wasn't pink eye or the flu. He has a double-barreled ear infection. The medicine is slowly helping. This is day two and he's acting a lot better. When he woke up this morning, he couldn't open his eyes, but as I said, he's getting better. I guess I owe my coworker, who I affectionally called "Janey Anthraxseed" an apology.

Ultimately, I know I shouldn't get too excited about this stuff. I mean, there's controversy stirring in the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" championships and we really should concentrate on the important stuff in life.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Janey Anthraxseed

Chunk and Denver Mom are both sick... again. One of my coworkers, who had the flu and spoke about its trials with excruciating detail, came into the office on Wednesday while still sick and I'm afraid I might have brought it home with me to inflect my family.

I mentioned to a different coworker that I probably wouldn't be able to make the Easter egg hunt today and the coworker that was sick overheard, asking, "I hope they didn't catch it from me!"

I don't have proof, of course. I can't generate "disease vectors" or whatever those kinds of pathways are called in all those end-of-the-world virus movies, but OF COURSE it came from her. At least, I think so.

Want to feel better about yourself as a person? Stay home when you're sick. Yes, I get it. We all have deadlines. Some of them are pretty scary and intimidating, but don't come into the office with your germy self and spread the plague around like you're Janey Anthraxseed.

The good news is that for once, I can't blame day care. If it was day care, he probably would have been sick on Tuesday or Wednesday. So, all he brought home from day care this week was a stuffy nose and tear stained cheeks. Nope, this one gets pinned on me and my Typhoid Mary coworker.

Disclaimer: Janey Anthraxseed/Typhoid Mary is actually really nice. I like her a lot and I know she didn't mean to infect anyone else with her virus. I'm not angry with her, just disappointed. I do the same thing when I'm sick, so maybe this is a good lesson for me about disease-ridden etiquette.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Telecommuting... sort of

I know. I know. I know. This is supposed to be a "daddy-blog," filled with stories about a not-so-young father and his awfully young son, but I just have to get this out of my system... USB drives are really, really cool. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you do the bulk of your work in more than one place, you really should get one of these things.

Just having one doesn't really guarantee success as a roving worker bee. The trick is figuring out an efficient way to use it. This is what I've done with my USB drive after a year of perfecting my system....

Applications: In this folder I have Portable Firefox, Portable Thunderbird, Portable Gaim, and Portable Sunbird all sitting on my USB drive (check out for details on these programs). I also have a small text editor that I use to do the majority of my writing in (Haxial's really excellent and simple TextEdit), which later gets cut and pasted into Word for formatting and spell-checking. And, I've just started using Portable Open Office, for when I don't feel like messing with Word and Excel.

Work Files: This usually contains two folders: Backup and Things To Be Filed. The Backup folder holds copies of all of my work files, so that I can reference them whenever and wherever I want. Since a lot of my work revolves around writing, I like to be able to go back to previous reports, proposals, letters, whatever, to check how I might have described something in the past, what I may have said to someone in a previous letter, etc. Having all of those files available wherever I go is a huge help.

The "Things To Be Filed" folder contains things that I've been working on that are complete and need to be merged with my files at work. The first thing I do in the morning, when I'm in the office, is go through my "Things To Be Filed" folder and move files to their appropriate place on my work PC. Then, the last thing I do before I leave the office is copy everything on my work PC into my "Backup" folder on my USB drive. This keeps both places up-to-date.

Dropped around the "Backup" and "Things To Be Filed" folders are whatever files I'm working on at the moment. As I said, these are usually Haxial TextEdit files and are basically just raw text. When they get finalized, they're usually moved into the "Things To Be Filed" folder.

Home Files: This is my miscellaneous folder where I keep my personal stuff. It's not nearly as organized as my Work Files folder, but it's a good space to store the weird and varied stuff that doesn't really fit in the work folders. PDF articles, photos, MP3s, e-mail attachments, recipes, whatever. It gets dropped in here until I can get it home for storage on my computer there.

The only problem I'm really having is that I typically use my iBook at home, rather than my PC. Working with specific files isn't an issue, because the Mac is great at reading PC files without having to jump through any extra hoops. This is especially true of Haxial's TextEdit, which is available for both the PC and Mac (a big part of why I use it). The problem I'm running into is how to manage my calendar and e-mail. Portable Sunbird is a great beta and I really like it because of its calendar and to do lists, but I can't use it on my iBook. I have the same problem with e-mail. I haven't figured out a way to use the same data files using two different platforms. I'm thinking about sticking with web mail for my work address and finding a useful online calendar application that I can use to keep myself organized. There's a lot of good, online programs out there... I just need to find one I can work with.

There you have it. That's my recipe for staying sane, despite working in two different places throughout the week.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Inside the Secret Toddler Meeting...

Chunk is at day care today.

I kind of wish that our day care had a web cam, because I'd like to check in on him throughout the day and see how he manages without mom or dad around. I'm not worried about him. I don't feel like I need to spy on things to make sure he's not being beaten or kept in a cage, but the day care is reporting some really strange behavior that I'm having a hard time believing. For example, he lays down on his own to take naps and they don't even have to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart, like we do at home. They just say, "Night night!" and he lies down. No slipping a "mickey" into his sippy cup. No duct tape and ball gags. He just lays down on his mat and sleeps.

And apparently he actually eats his lunch. They circle "some" on the "He ate ___ of his lunch today" portion of his daily report. I've never seen them circle "he chewed on some of his lunch, pulled it out of his mouth and put it back on his tray, then later threw it on the ground." They never circle "dropped his lunch down the front of his onesie and somehow got peas in his diaper." And, I have yet to see, "He flat out refused to eat anything until we let him get up from the table, then he grabbed a handful of food and stuffed it in his face, while running away from the table laughing."

So, I'm sure you can understand my skepticism.

I'd also like a web cam so I could get a peek at the meeting going on between him and the other kids right this minute. I don't have any proof to back up my suspicions, but I'm pretty sure this is how things are going down:

Chunk: This weekend I started screaming at the top of my lungs.

Other Kid: Oh? When exactly did you do that?

Chunk: Whenever. When I was happy, when I was mad. When I'd hit my head on something. When I'd hug my teddy bear. You name it, it made me scream. And, it wasn't just your garden-variety screams, either. I gave it my all. It was the kind of scream that could turn milk into butter.

Other Kid: I don't understand what you mean by that. Milk into butter? What does that mean?

Chunk: Heck if I know. The point is, the screaming went on for days. Several screams an hour, usually. I'd even wake up in the middle of the night and let it rip. Of course, those bozos who call themselves my parents thought I was teething and tried to give me Tylenol. I refused it.

Other Kid: Dude! That's brilliant!

Chunk: Oh, I know! They were on edge all weekend. But, the coup-de-grace was the temper tantrums.

Other Kid: The temper tantrums? You started those too?

Chunk: Oh, yeah. I'd stomp my feet, hit and slap stuff, everything.

Other Kid: Wow! Sounds like you went all out.

Chunk: I did. It got to the point that I heard them talking about how they thought I might have been possessed or switched with a pod baby or something.

Other Kid: Dude... you're amazing.

Chunk: It's a gift.

Other Kid: So, what's next?

Chunk: I don't know. I mean, I've almost broken them. I can see it in their eyes, but I want that final moment when I shatter their wills to be BIG. You know... something really dramatic and grand.

Other Kid: The big Broadway finish.

Chunk: Exactly. Say, you know how to sharpen knives? I was thinking sharp knives might be just what I need.

Other Kid: No, man, you need to talk to Hunter. That kid is bad news.

Chunk: PUH-LEASE. That kid's an amateur. Stick with me... I'll show you a thing or two.